Steven Mather is lead instructor at Guitar Craft Academy.

guitar inlays

“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. The first step is to measure the inlay and carefully map out where it will be on the fingerboard

Following that, you can lightly glue the inlay down on the fingerboard within your measured lines. 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. With everything mapped out, take a dremel with a small end mill bit and route out within the highlighted chalk line. 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. 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. Glue down the inlay with super glue, then fill in any gaps around the inlay with sawdust that matches the fingerboard.

Dab thin superglue around the route on the sawdust and sand the inlay flush with the fingerboard. 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