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Ten piece, ‘five pointed star’- Abalone and Mother of Pearl

The Idea

We recently had Fiona on our build your own acoustic guitar course and she had an idea for an inlay design for the 12th fret. I had to make a blog about this because we discovered a really easy way to make it look stunning and it only took about half an hour!

Her five pointed star design was drawn on a computer and printed out to use as a pattern.

We decided that the inlay would be made from ten triangular pieces – five each of abalone and mother of pearl to make up the star. Alternating them makes an almost 3D effect and is much more pleasing than if we made it from one large piece which might look a bit flat.

The problem was how to make ten identical triangles that would fit together perfectly to make up the desired shape. It’s not easy to do that if they are hand cut one by one but I was struck with a flash of inspiration which I wanted to share.

How it was done

I realised that using a mitre block which guided a saw to cut at the correct angles, the same shape could be cut repeatedly and accurately with ease.

Making the jig

I used a router and edge guide to make a shallow slot down the centre of a block of scrap maple. Then I cut the two angles into the block to guide the saw when making the actual inlay pieces. To find the angles I cut one of the small triangular pieces from the paper pattern. This was placed into the routed slot and used as a guide to make the two saw cuts . It only took about ten minutes to make and we found it really easy to use.

Using the jig

The inlay material must have one flat side which makes up the first and longest side of the triangle. This is easily sanded on with a flat block if necessary. The second and third side are cut by placing the inlay with the flat edge against the edge of the routed slot and running a modellers saw through the guide slots. We found that even very small offcuts of inlay material could be utilised by using the rubber end of a pencil to hold them firm. For consistency it is important that the pieces do not move between the first and second cut.

About 20 mins. later Fiona had made all the pieces and laid them out on the pattern to check they fit together OK (The original pattern was destroyed to make the jig so we printed it out again).  It is now ready to be inlaid into the fretboard.

Read Part 2