Home Mandolin Inlay & Edging Hospital


   The scratch plates are another area of damage from the plectrum during play. In this example, not only was it very dirty, but several small pieces of MOP were missing from the inlay as well.

Inlay is usually made from Mother of Pearl and/or Abalone, with a variety of plastic or 'german silver' lines.


Steps in Inlay Repair

The first job is to clean up the area to be repaired. In this case it also involves the removal of the left-hand grapes, as the other set was missing. After cleaning up, all recesses are taken back to wood, to allow new glue/paste to fit under the new pieces.
I decided to do the leaves in abalone, so made small patterns by gluing a little paper over the hole, rubbing over with a pencil, cutting out the outlines, and sticking to the abalone. The abalone is then roughly cut following the lines of the pattern using an Xacto saw, then the edges smoothed with a file and sand paper. It does not have to be a perfect fit, which is just as well, as this is very difficult to achieve with irregular shapes, and rough recess edges.
I decided to rebuild the grapes from MOP position dots. It was necessary to widen the existing holes in a couple of spots to fit the dots in. All the pieces were fitted into the ebony paste, and then further paste applied to the edges and crevices.

Paste is made from ebony dust and cascamite glue, which sands well

The whole area was then flattened under light pressure, to ensure the levelness of the inserted MOP and abalone pieces. Once the paste is dry, I use a small sanding block to sand level, using progressively finer paper.
It is still possible to pick out where the filler has been applied to the original inlay material...... but the whole surface is now flat and smooth. After finishing, the new pieces are much more difficult to detect.


Edging Repair

Clean up the gaps where the edging has been lost. Cut and fit new edging pieces, then glue in. Sand down to an exact fit. Tape up any vulnerable areas first.

  These instruments display typical problems of missing edging, in one case MOP and the other rosewood, but it could easily have been ebony or maple. Most of the wood used is off-cut wood, but the MOP is salvaged and quite thick, so suitable for edging. Most of the MOP and abalone you can buy from luthier suppliers is far too thin for edging pieces.


New pieces need to be cut and glued in. To do this I have a set up for cutting these small lozenges. For delicate work I use the set up left, enabling me to hold the piece in place over the hole, while cutting using vertical strokes of the Xacto-saw. For less delicate work such as cutting lozenges, the centre set-up is sufficient.