I finally had my 1899 Washburn guitar re-fretted (some had been filed as low as 0.015").  I picked it up last week and the new frets are wonderful.  It is now 10X easier to play.  However, I had requested (in writing) 1) that if the nut is replaced, used unbleached bone (to better match the 121 year old celluloid fretboard binding) and 2) be careful not to damage the engraved inlays.  So, of course, the guitar now sports a very, very white bleached bone nut and there is no longer any trace of the engraving on the 7th and 9th fret MOP inlays, they were sanded completely away. This is the best "before" picture I have.  If I had known I was going to lose them I would have taken better pictures.  So now I would like to know 1) can I stain the bleached bone nut to make it look like unbleached bone and 2) is there a person in the SF Bay area who can restore the engraving on the inlays?

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Since you had the specifics in writing, it sounds like a generally reputable shop?  I'd take the guitar back to them and give them a chance to make things right.

Replacing the nut with what you'd asked-for should be easy, but it'll take them a while to replace the two inlays.  No matter how it falls, it's the shop's responsibility to do the job that you asked (and paid) them to do.

I've been collecting pictures of engraved inlays and have attached some.  I've seen the same outline, but there handmade and the individuals who etched them can make slight variations in each.

Hope it can help a little.


Someday I'm going to try to learn how to make etched inlays.

Thanks for the pics.  I've also collected several pics (your 3rd one looks a lot like one I pulled off Reverb).  And 3 of the 4 are from the same 1896-1905 Style 123 as mine.  The style 123 seems to have been fairly popular.  It is essentially like a Martin 2-27 but with the fancy engraved inlays and cost about 1/2 what a Martin would have cost.

I also suspect some, if not all of those inlays have been touched up over the years.  I kick myself for not taking better pictures before handing the guitar over to the luthier.  I'm also waiting to hear back from Santa Cruz Guitar Co (I have a 2015 '00' and they are located 10 miles from me).  You can get custom engraving from them and they have promised to pass along my request to the artists they use.  Perhaps one will be willing to help me.

My fall back will be to order engraving tools and filler from Stewmac and attempt myself.

Check out this YouTube video. 

Engraving Pearl Shell and Creating Inlays for Luthiers .mov

Look at his etching tool.  Watch what a professional can do.

I bought some soapstone to practice on, then some cheap Chinese mother of pearl LP style inlays ( could get sheets ) and plan to give it a shot. I have a friend making me that high carbon knife out of an old broken Vermont brand file.  A new adventure awaits.


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