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Pearly Shells and Nichols

Pearly Shells and Nichols

by David Nichols

from his 1984 GAL Convention lecture

Originally published in American Lutherie #1, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume One, 2000

My shop recently did two guitars for the Martin Company which are elaborate enough that they encompass basically all the different techniques used in pearl inlay. We inlaid the tortoise shell pickguards, the rosewood headstocks, ebony fingerboards, and all edgebinding. I photographed many steps in this process, and we can look at these as examples.

Here’s a picture of where I’m going to cut the pearl and do the inlay work (Photo 1). I have taken an extra liberty with our cutting board, drilling a series of holes in the back where I can stand all the little Dremel attachments that I’m going to need. When we cut pearl, it is either filed, or ground with the Dremel to an exacting contour after we saw it. It gives you a much better looking job if you touch up the sawn edges of the pieces before you put them in.

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