A Simple Way to Inlay Mother of Pearl

comments (16) December 8th, 2010 in blogs

Ed_Pirnik Ed Pirnik, Senior Web Producer
thumbs up 93 users recommend

Learn how Craig Thibodeau uses musicians fret dots to embellish fine furniture. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Learn how Craig Thibodeau uses musician's fret dots to embellish fine furniture.

San Diego-based furniture maker Craig Thibodeau is an accomplished artisan whose inlay and marquetry work is a force to be reckoned with. That said, Thibodeau knows when to employ complex techniques to get the look he's after and when subtle embelishments are all that's needed to get the job done. Case in point: his ingenious re-purposing of mother of pearl fret dots.

Fret dots, those white circles found along the necks of guitars, are used by musicians to aid in placing their fingers accurately while moving from chord to chord or note-to-note during a song. Watch the slideshow to learn about Thibodeau's technique.


More on Inlay and Embellishment

• Dress Up Your Work With Creative Stringing 
• Boulle Marquetry Basics 
• A Convex Decorative Edge Banding 
• Veneering Tight Curves 
• Give Legs a Kick With Dazzling Inlay 

posted in: blogs, how to, inlay, thibodeau, mother of pearl, fret dots

Comments (16)

RLorimor RLorimor writes: Duh- Im not seeing anything. Link is busted?
Posted: 6:42 pm on July 4th

HullBayRuss HullBayRuss writes: This video link is broken! Can someone fix it??
Posted: 3:12 pm on July 4th

miniaturehome miniaturehome writes: I'm not seeing any video or article. What am I missing?
Posted: 2:25 pm on May 6th

Thomabubinga Thomabubinga writes: Has anyone tried finishing a pearl-inlaid piece of wood with oil (Danish, or whatever)? Graig mentioned that laquer does the job, but how about oil?
Any shares are apreciated
Posted: 4:54 pm on January 22nd

decarlowoodworks decarlowoodworks writes: Wow, nice work! Something I want to do when I get some time!

Mike -
Posted: 4:17 pm on December 28th

Craig_T Craig_T writes: Hacker, I buy all my mother of pearl, abalone and reconstituted stone from JoAnn at Rescue Pearl She also has some of the necessary tools though Stewart-MacDonald has a wider selection of tools for doing inlay. The acrylester and other plastics are available from Rockler, Woodcraft and several online sources, just search for pen turning blanks. Good luck.
Posted: 9:48 am on December 20th

Dr_Hacker Dr_Hacker writes: WOW what a beatuiful craft. I am just learning woodworking and plan to start dabbling w inlay. Where can one get mother of pearl or other other fine shell materials?

Posted: 4:26 pm on December 19th

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: JYA: The material is called "Acrylester."


Posted: 9:26 am on December 15th

Wade01 Wade01 writes: I've used mother of pearl for many years as inlay and especially the fret dots. A tip is to use the brad point bits from Lee Valley for the frets. They are the most accurate I've found & the sell metric and sae sizes. The frets from I use are metric except for the 1/4" one's. Valley carries the sizes for all them. The frets fit the drilled holes perfectly. Only thing that can mess it up when using these mentioned tools is a worn drill chuck.
I don't use epoxy though instead a glue called E6000 which is made for inlay work when two different materials are involved. It stays flexible, not brittle like epoxy, as wood moves the 6000 moves with it. As stone, mop and wood all move at different rates, this becomes important.
I have no affiliation with stewmac nor Lee Valley, just happy customer.
Posted: 7:21 am on December 15th

2kidsnosleep 2kidsnosleep writes: Really cool and informative.
Though early on in the woodworking learning curve, I enjoy adding interest and detail with inlays.
Good idea of using the acrylic/plastic pen turning blanks. I have to pry my 9yr old son away from those blanks when we visit our Lee Valley store, so maybe I will let him pick one to use in a project for himself.
Posted: 12:26 am on December 15th

JYA JYA writes: What does he call that blue stuff he used to make the butterfly wings? Aqualuster?
Posted: 12:22 am on December 15th

petenoffke petenoffke writes: Wow Craig, my compliments indeed. A master craftsman you are to say the least. Good imagination and quality. I can only aspire to such work. I get down to San Diego occasionally and would love the opportunity to see some of your work up close and chat with you. If I can find where you are expect a call. Absolutely gorgeous.
Posted: 6:24 pm on December 14th

Craig_T Craig_T writes: The file is also called a 'smooth finish milled tooth hand file' or auto body file and is available from McMaster Carr. Just do a search for 'hand files' and scroll down to get to the smooth finish file area. They are about $25 each and last a very long time. Lie Nielsen has begun selling smaller versions for hand work that have handles on them but they are smaller and more expensive than a full size file. They do have several different shapes that would be useful for joinery work though.
Posted: 9:28 am on December 14th

Ras Ras writes: @bmyyou.....its a float
Posted: 7:14 am on December 14th

bmyyou bmyyou writes: What is the name of the file that he mentioned in the video for filing the mother of pearl?
Posted: 12:32 am on December 14th

a_Furnitologist a_Furnitologist writes: Furniture design always gets back to using materials. Best line from Thibodeau stresses furniture makers being behind the curve and need to catch up...EXCELLENT POINT.
Posted: 9:31 am on December 9th

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker


GlueTube is's video blog that features self-produced videos about woodworking submitted by woodworkers around the globe. The videos featured here stream direct from video file-sharing Web sites including YouTube, Howcast, Vimeo,, and Google Video.

Learn about our new format!

Archive: Temporarily unavailable. Stay tuned and sorry for the inconvenience.