Steven Mather is lead instructor at Guitar Craft Academy.
Inlay can be a difficult process to execute properly. I did a demo of inlaying a block inlay into a bass neck to demonstrate how I go about this process.
Step 1: The first step is to measure the inlay and carefully map out where it will be on the fretboard.
Step 2: Following that, you can lightly glue the inlay down on the fingerboard within your measured lines.
Step 3: From there, take a sharp razor and score/cut around the outside of the inlay. When you remove the inlay, you will be left with a fine razor cut of the outside of the inlay.
A helpful trick is to use a light-colored chalk to fill in your cut lines, which gives you a highlighted perimeter of where the route will be.
Step 4: With everything mapped out, take a dremel with a small end mill bit and route out within the highlighted chalk line.
Step 5: Once the majority of the route is done, you can use a sharp chisel to clean up the edges of the route. Make sure to use the chisel to add square edges to the corners.
Step 6: Before you glue in the inlay, find a permanent marker that’s a similar color to the fingerboard. Use it to color the outside edge of the inlay, which helps hide any gaps caused by a loose route.
Step 7: Glue down the inlay with super glue, then fill in any gaps around the inlay with sawdust that matches the fingerboard.
Step 8: Dab thin superglue around the route on the sawdust and sand the inlay flush with the fingerboard.
Step 9: Finally, sand it to a high grit and polish with steel wool.
If the process is done right — and it’s definitely something you get better at over time — the result will be an inlay that fits seamlessly and looks great!
– Steven Mather