Okay, we love guitars. Mostly it’s the sound and the feel and what they allow us to express and achieve. But sometimes it’s their beauty that first captures our imaginations and our hearts. Fine craftsmanship is only the beginning in this golden age of lutherie; most guitars being made now have a better fit and finish than ever before. But the tantalizing and mysterious arts of fine inlay and marquetry have in recent years entered a golden age of their own, making already gorgeous instruments beyond drool-worthy.
There are two ways to do inlay: hand-cutting
and CNC; marquetry is done strictly by hand.
The process begins very much the same
either way: a customer calls with a commission
or an idea, and there is a conversation
about what they want, how much they want
to spend and when they want to see it.
A discussion is had about materials to be
inlaid, whether it’s abalone, paua, laminate
sheets, plastic, glitter, diamond chips, rare
woods—it’s almost all fair game, and artists
are increasingly willing to mix and match the
commonplace with the lowly or the exotic in
order to make a project work.
These artists are putting guitars in the same
context as other visual arts to create gallery-worthy
pieces that remain uncompromisingly
playable and listenable. Meet Harvey Leach,
Larry Robinson and Judy Threet, three
hand-inlay artists; David Petillo, a marquetry
artist, and Tom Ellis, one of the pioneers of
the CNC inlay process and the founder of
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