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First Vcarve fretboard inlay

In the past, I have used a plug cutter to make simple round fret board markers out of a contrasting coloured wood. I never attempted a more complex inlay, but assumed I would eventually try it.

Well now that I have a CNC, I figured it was time I tried it. The fretboard in my son’s kit is Walnut, pre-slotted, and inlaid with round pearl-ish inserts.


For mine, I made a fretboard out of Bartlet Pear. I laid out the lines in Vcarve using the offset tool and the fret calculator on Stewart McDonald’s site. Then I cut them using a .021 endmill.

For the fret markers I wanted to use a Sycamore leaf, for Sycamore Luthiery. I wasn’t able to edit out the leaf from my logo, so I looked around the web for clipart. I found one that actually looks more like a sugar maple, but what the hell.

I used the vcarve inlay technique. For the male part of the inlay I found a nice piece of scrap bloodwood, one of my favourite woods.

Unfortunately it ended up being a little too chippy for an inlay with this much detail. I have a couple little pieces of Corian from an install I did at a Petro Canada gas station. They’re two cutouts from a hole saw. I saved them only because they are Corian, and I don’t have a source for it and I wanted to experiment with making a nut out of it. Fortunately Corian machines very well and holds detail well.

I used up all the CA glue I had, and ended up having to use epoxy on the last inlay. Once dry I ran the fretboard through the drum sander slowly sanding away the extra material. It turned out pretty well. I will have to fill in some of the voids with CA glue and Corian dust once I get some more superglue.