5 Best Tips for Inlaying Your Acoustic Guitar

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This is the 5 Best Tips for Inlaying Your Acoustic Guitar. In this post, you’ll learn several good ideas about inlay for your guitar, and some things that you should think about before you get started.

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Inlaying Your Acoustic Guitar

5-Best-Tips-for-Inlaying-Your-Acoustic-GuitarInlaying the guitar is one of the most fun, and the most frustrating parts of the entire acoustic guitar building process. It’s also where a lot of beginners fall into a huge trap, because you think that a custom guitar needs to have a ton of inlays.

You may also think that because it’s your guitar, and you are going to be doing the inlays, that you’ll be fine just tackling them one after another. In reality, inlaying is a difficult subset of woodworking, and it’s definitely time consuming.

However, you do need to have some inlays in order for your guitar to look correct, but you don’t need as much as you think.

I’ll show you several different tips to get you started on the right path, and by the time you’re done with this post you’ll know exactly what to do with your guitar.

See Also: The Easiest Wood Inlay Ever

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Don’t Go Nuts With Inlay

The absolute biggest advice I can give you on guitar inlay is don’t go nuts with your inlays. The more you plan, and the more you add, the more difficult it’s going to make your build.

Especially if you are a new guitar maker, and this is one of your first few instruments, you definitely want to keep the amount of inlays down to a minimum. This is important, and it will help you become a better guitar maker.

The first reason is that making a guitar is about making a guitar, not about inlaying a guitar. If you book 90% of the work as inlay, you may end up quitting before you finish your guitar. That would be awful, because it wasn’t your desired outcome.

In the beginning, you want as few barriers as possible to finishing your project with a completed guitar. The more things you put in the way, the more difficult you make your main project, and the larger the chance that you will quit before it’s done.

See Also: The Secret to Guitar Making

Inlay Adds a TON of Time to the Build

Next, inlays add a ton of time to the build. With just a few complex inlays, you can easily double the time that it takes you to make your acoustic guitar. If that’s your thing, then go ahead, but understand that you’ve been warned.

As a beginner, the amount of time that you are going to have to build your acoustic guitar might not be very much. Instead of weighing yourself down with tons of elaborate inlays, stick with simple inlays that look better most of the time anyway.

If you don’t have very much time to work on your guitar, then definitely skip any additional inlays because it will make the process take far too long for most people.

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See Also: How Taking Practice Breaks Can Help You Make Better Guitars

Beginners Should do Minimal Inlay

As a beginner, select minimal inlays and execute them really well. For the minimum acceptable amount, you should do fret dots, a headstock inlay, and dots on the side of the fretboard. Anything beyond that is unnecessary.

Basic inlays for the headstock are super easy, and you can buy them pre-cut and simply create a cavity with a Dremel and glue them in place. Sand the inlay level after the glue dries, and you have a great looking inlay with a minimal amount of effort and time.

Fretboard side markers and go in just as easily, and a very basic dot inlay pattern on your fretboard face is also a simple accomplishment. Get these few areas done, and your guitar will look like it should, even without any complex inlay work.

See Also: How to Make Fret Dots

Stick With Simple Inlays Like Circles

In the beginning, stick with simple inlays like circles. The little secret behind inlaying a circle is that if you can drill a hole, you are more than qualified to inlay a circle.

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Basically all you need to do is find round material of different diameters, drill a hole, and glue in a piece that you cut off of the end of your material. Sand everything flush when you’re done, and you have an easy to create round inlay.

You can also use plug cutters of varying diameters to create additional small round inlays that you can also use for fretboard markers. This is a really easy process, and allows you to create custom inlays from any piece of wood you have in your shop.

See Also: Hardwood Fret Dots

Guitars Need Very Few Inlays to Look Right

In the end, and acoustic guitar really needs very few inlays in order to look correct. Look at the guitars that you already have, and other guitars that you seen in the stores. Other than the headstock and the fretboard, that’s typically it when it comes to inlay work.

One of the simplest things that you can do on your headstock is just inlay a letter. Start with your positive side, and then cut a cavity to match. Mix up some in two part epoxy and tint it the same color as your background wood, and then use that to glue the inlay in place.

The colored epoxy will fill any minor gaps that you have, and they will match the background color, helping the inlay look seamless. After that, install your fret dots, and you’ll have all of the inlays that are expected acoustic guitar.

See Also: 25 Simple Ways to Customize Your Guitar Without Changing the Tone

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know all about inlaying your acoustic guitar, and you know that you can do as much as you want but you don’t have to do a ton, it’s time to take some action and move your build forward.

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If the inlays have been holding you back from getting started, they no longer need to do that anymore. If you can drill a hole, you can do lots of easy inlay work. Beyond that, you can do a simple inlay on your headstock, and that’s really all you need.

If you have any questions about inlaying your acoustic guitar, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.

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  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
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