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Review: Advanced Inlay Techniques by Larry Robinson

Review: Advanced Inlay Techniques by Larry Robinson

Reviewed by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #59, 1999 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Five, 2008

Video: Advanced Inlay Techniques
Larry Robinson
Robinson Custom Inlays, 1998

After a book and two videos of inlay instruction you might wonder if anything is left for Larry Robinson to teach. Well, there’s plenty, including some leftover stuff if Larry ever decides to make a fourth video. Robinson’s book gave scant coverage to inlaying signatures, and that’s where the bulk of instruction is placed in Advanced Inlay Techniques. The signatures start as mere pencil lines, and by the time they are reduced to fit on the fingerboard at the 12th fret, they are very thin lines indeed. On work of this delicacy he tries to talk each customer into inlays of gold or silver, rather than shell, and the signatures inlaid in the video are cut from gold sheet stock. The signature in cursive is narrower than the cuts made by the 000 jeweler’s saw blades, less than .010". Cutting such work from shell might well be left to lasers. There is also a trick method of routing for such intricate work that pretty much guarantees accurate results and prevents the tearout of ebony where only dots and bits are to be left. A side excursion is made to examine the use of computers to lay out and alter signatures and lettering, which may be eye-opening for anyone still trying to fight off computer literacy. Robinson maintains that this one program has more than paid for his computer, as well as having brought a measure of ease to his work life. The lettering segment goes on to address block lettering, shaded letters, and the use of various fonts inlaid in a variety of materials.

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