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The Wizard Of Skulls

This project is going on a Washburn custom shop guitar. The guitar is airbrushed with dark skulls. When Chris called me up and described the guitar to me, the first thing that popped in my head was "The Wizard of Skulls." When I do a theme guitar like this, I always like to start with a name for the guitar. It really helps me dream up the crazy stuff I have to dream up.

Here is a photo of the guitar that this inlay will go on. It is a one of a kind Washburn from the custom shop. If you look closely, there are lots of skulls lightly airbrushed over the wood surface. The buyer wanted to make the skull theme go on the neck as well.

Washburn Custom Guitar

The next step in the process is sketches. This is where the real art happens. Here are my early sketches for this project. You can even see the eraser marks where I changed my mind.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Artwork
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Artwork

From there, the sketches are computer inhanced and vectorized so they can be laid out on a sample fretboard. Sample shell, stone, and metal colors are added to the design so the client can get a better idea of what the final product will look like and sign off on it before cutting begins.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Artwork

To go along with the deep red of the guitar body, the wizard and his reaper sidekick below him will be made of Bloody Jasper and Crushed Coral. All the bones will be Mother of Pearl and the flame will be blue Paua. Other materials will be added for accents such as Silver, Brass, and Malichite. If you want to see these materials in more detail, check out the Materials section off of the side bar menu on the main page.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Artwork

Once the guitar arrived in the shop, I encounted my first problem, there were "Dots" on the fretboard. Original inlay on a fretboard present problems for the inlay artist. The orginal inlays have to be cover by the new design or pluged with matching wood. On an ebony fretboard plugs are barely noticeable, even close up. On a rosewood board, which this guitar has, the plugs show. SOOOO . . . I needed to make some changes to the design in order to cover the original dot inlays. Note the changes from one fretboard design to another. Can you see them? Some changes are pretty obvious and other are quite subtle. There are seven changes in all.

The next step in the process is to cut the pieces. From there they go to the "proofing board." This is where the design is cut and any final finishing of the piece is done. In the photos below, the design is routed into some scape wood so the design can refined and perfected. At this point in the process, the material is unpolished, has machining marks and is often covered in glue.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar ShellWizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell

From here, the next step is to route out the holes in the neck. This is done with our CNC (computer numeric controlled) machine. This will allow for a perfect route, something impossible by hand.

Cam Machine Guitar Inlay Technique
Cam Machine Guitar Inlay Technique

Here is the finished routing. The neck is now ready to accept the shell and stone.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell

The inlay is complete. Now, it's time to refret the guitar. It came out great.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Shell

All Most Done

Only a custom made truss rod cover is left. The guitar has be refretted and set up by a master craftsman.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell

All Done

The last step was a custom truss rod cover. The cover is a bone dragon head made of two piece of pearl and then 3D carved.

Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell
Wizard of Skull Custom Inlay Washburn Guitar Fretboard Shell