Building a guitar by hand is very time consuming, detail oriented and very rewarding when the end result surpasses your expectation. So when a guitar is constructed at the hands of a fine craftsperson, it can quickly turn into a piece of art, and specifically when there is inlay on it. When you add an intricate inlay, you have not only compounded the beauty of the finished instrument, but you have also increased the instrument's value. Even a "simple" inlay increases both the value of the guitar and the aesthetic appeal. Inlay undeniably adds a characteristic of a high valued piece of art. And for the most part, it is an extension of the inlay artist and can be of the owner too. Just like musical styles, the passion of the builder unquestionably comes out in the final piece.

Simply put, inlay is art. But what is an inlay, be it wood or shell? Inlay is a pattern that is cut out of one or more materials to characterize a pattern or a picture, much like a puzzle. It is like putting a puzzle together, only the inlay artist creates the puzzle pieces first. After all the pieces are cut, they can be assembled to reveal the picture, scene or subject.


It is probably because people have a hard time understanding how it is done. And they appreciate and can see the level of patience and detail in the work. How is it done? First, you take a pattern or drawing of the inlay subject and put it on paper. Next is the selection of the materials. You have to consider the materials so that your choice best depicts that part of the puzzle. An example of this would be white hair. Mother of pearl is white and would be a great choice for that piece of the puzzle. That is what is so cool about inlay — you can choose your own things. Some people would not pick what you would…but that is the great thing about this art. You can say, "This is what I would do".

Once you have all the pieces cut, they have to fit together. Sometimes you want a super tight fit, other times, you might want some gaps where they might better represent part of your inlay. For instance, I did an inlay once with nails, and I left some gaps around one side so it looked like part of the shadow of the nail. Simple things like that can have a huge effect.

Cutting and fitting the pieces together is only part of the job…after that you have to transfer the "puzzle" — the inlay, into the guitars fingerboard getting a nice tight fit. A huge part of a successful inlay artist is getting the inlay to fit nicely, leaving a tight fitting appearance. My first few inlays weren’t that great. But with time and experience you will get better. Practice, practice practice — there are few short cuts.


We work with you to find or explore your ideas.
We draft up what you might want.
If changes are needed, the project can be re-drafted.
If you have a supplied drawing, we can work from there to resize.
If you only have a picture, we can draft it from there.
All the pieces are hand cut.
All the pieces are hand inlaid.
We offer engraving when needed.
You can recommend material for the inlay if you know what you want.
We can select materials for the inlay if you don’t know what to use.

As I said before, inlay is an extension of the artist, but it can also be an extension of you. Your ideas and your passions can be translated onto YOUR guitar. If you have ideas but not complete ones, all you have to do is run it by me, and we can start working on something that you will love.


II can do inlay on the fingerboard — this is the most widely accepted place for the inlay to reside. I have also put inlay on the headstock, and lately I have been able to do it on my arch top guitar’s tailpiece. We can also put inlay on the body wherever you want. I have put inlay on the bridges before on acoustics and even the arch top bridges. I have inlaid on the side and back of guitars and on the top. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

I am not committed to one subject either. There are a lot of Christian-based inlays on my site, but I can do and have done scenes with bears, cubs, birds, waterfalls, mountains and just about everything else. I have done plain inlays at the 12th fret or inlays that span from the 12th to the 15th fret. I have done complex vines and simple vines.

My Limited Edition inlays include The Last Supper, The Crucifixion and The Ascension guitars. These are model specific inlays, and I will repeat them on those models. The Presentation Elect models are typically one-off, non–repeatable ideas. Please note there are certain things I probably won’t do for inlay jobs.

I do the entire inlay — all the cutting and drafting — and none of it is sent out of my shop. Many other builders and manufacturers send out all their guitars for inlay work. They don't have a guy "in house" doing it. But we do. And it is all done BY HAND!







NDC, NSII, J2, J3, Presentation Elect, P1, The Last Supper, Ascension, Crucifixion, and The Revelation are all trademarks of of Pederson Custom Guitars (formerly Abyss Guitar Company), © 1996–2008