Inlaying Cues by Hand
In the early years Palmer bought mother of pearl inlays from the H.L. Wild Company in New York, a supplier to guitar makers. These dot and diamond inlays have been used for centuries to mark the fretboards of guitars. They are shallow because they are also used to decorate the thin bodies of stringed instruments.
The inlaying process had to be extremely precise with these guitar inlays. If the pocket edges were not sharp and tight, glue lines would be obvious. If the pocket wasn't flat and at the correct depth, the edge of the inlay would be sanded though since the cue had a rounded surface. Eventually Palmer was able to order thicker inlays directly from Germany, making the job much easier.
Step by step:
1. The pattern of inlays was laid out with a pencil.
2. The centers of the inlays were punched with an awl to prevent drill bit drift.
3. The holes were drilled to size to accommodate round inlays.
4. The holes were drilled for the center of the diamond shape inlays.
5. A punch the size of the diamond shape inlay was tapped over the hole to mark the sides of the diamond on the wood.
6. The wood would be dug out by hand with a small chisel and hammer to allow the proper size cavity for the inlay.
7. Inlays were fitted and glued by hand, then filled with Plastic Wood stained to match the wood color to fill any tracks.
There were two people who did this operation. Gene Balner did the lay out and formed the cavities, while Ilona Balner usually handled the final placement of the inlays and filling. This was the part of the operation Mr. and Mrs. Balner seemed to have enjoyed the most and it certainly showed in their work.
Please examine some of the examples that follow and consider these images are magnified at
many times their actual size to reveal details not visible to the human eye.