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Solar Stick

Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick

Ran into Steve Adelson and his Solar Stick at the 2007 NAMM show. It's his #1 instrument now.

Video of Steve showing off stick
Video of Steve Playing - Cool Stuff 1
Video of Steve Playing - Cool Stuff 2
Video of Steve Playing - Cool Stuff 3
Video of Steve Playing - Cool Stuff 4
Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick

I know this project isn't as fancy as a lot of my workshop projects, but I still think it is special enough to talk about. If you want to see some of the more fancy projects click here.

So what makes this project so special? Well first off, it's a Chapman Stick. How cool it that? I don't get to inlay one of these everyday. Huh? What's a Chapman Stick you ask. Well, let me enlighten you. This is the invention of Emmett Chapman and has been around since the late 70's. The Chapman Stick is sort of a cross between a guitar and a piano. It's a stringed instrument with between 8 and 12 strings. This one is a 12 string model. It sort of looks like a really big guitar fretboard. The big difference between a guitar and a Chapman Stick is that the Stick is tapped, not strummed. You press down on the strings to make the sound. This allow you to play notes with all ten fingers like a keyboard, greatly expanding the potential of the instrument.

Although it sounds guitarish, the Stick has a special sounds all it's own. To find out more about the Chapman Stick click here.

This stick is being built for Steve Adelson a famous Stick player from New York. To hear him play or find out more about him, click here.

Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick Artwork

Steve came to me with a very special situation. He wanted to dress up his Stick, but with 12 strings on an instrument this large, he really needed to make the fret markers extremely identifiable. He wanted a Solar theme and it took a while to figure out a way to put all the planet on the Stick and keep the integrity of the fret position markers, but we did it.

The first step, as always, is the artwork. Since most of the shapes are geometric designs, I skipped the sketch phase and did all the art on the computer.

With the sun at the bottom of the board, the planets work their way up the fret marker chain, with Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto on the headstock. A couple of comets and Steve's initials were add in the final draft.

Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick Shell

Next I cut all the pieces out. In total there was twenty-nine pieces of shell and stone. Here is a list of the materials used by planet.

The Sun - Gold Mother of Pearl
Mercury - Coral
Venus - Oriental Jade
Earth - Paua and White Mother of Pearl
Jupiter - Korean Awabi
Saturn - Red Abalone and White Mother of Pearl
Uranus - Mexican Turquois and White Mother of Pearl
Neptune - Clear Turquois
Pluto - Black Mother of Pearl
Commets - White Mother of Pearl and Green Ripple

Cam Machine Inlay

Next it's off to the CAM machine to have the holes perfectly routed out and ready for the pieces to be glued in.

This is a close up of the CAM machine routing out the hole for the sun pieces. This hole is being cut to a tolerance of .005". If you don't know what that means, just think of it as a perfect fit.

Cam Machine Inlay
Chapman Stick Inlay Technique

The pieces are then hand fitted and glued in with a powerful, industrial epoxy. They are never falling out.

Cliff Suttle Working on Chapman Stick Inlay Cliff Suttle Working on Chapman Stick Inlay
Cliff Suttle Working on Chapman Stick Inlay

The inlay now has to be leveled with hand files.

We're just about done.

Cliff Suttle Working on Chapman Stick Inlay

Here are some close up details.

Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick
Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick
Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick

One last step. The fret slots have to be reopened so that the luithier (Emmett Chapman) can finish the instrument.

Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick

Here is the finished inlay. Steve told me that he has six Sticks, but expects this one to be the prize of his collection.

"Your purple heart Stick arrived and it is magnificence, with larger and more colorful inlays than we expected." Quote from Emmett Chapman himself.

"Yes, in fact everyone was oohing and aahing about the custom solar inlay work", added by Chiz another employee at Stick Enterprises.

Cliff Suttle with Steve Adelson Solar Inlay Chapman Stick

Here is a picture of the finished stick courtesey of Stick Enterprises, Inc.