Swank's Shell Inlay, Inc.

phone (301) 843-2192
e-mail bill@swanksshellinlay.com

If you don't see it, contact us and ask!! This site will have more information shortly. Thanks for looking... Bill Swank

Swank's Shell Inlay, Inc. welcomes YOU !

Welcome to Swank's Shell Inlay, Inc where Swank's artists and craftsmen can restore the beauty and value to worn or damaged antiques and musical instruments. We create inlay parts and designs from Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Sea Snail, and other shells for custom or restoration inlay work. We stock tools and shell blanks for inlay craftsman and hobbyist, and we can do complete custom inlay work and restorations.
As you look through the site, double click on any of the graphics to see more detail of the natural materials and the inlay work.

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Products and Services

Swank's Shell Inlay creates and stocks a range of Ready-To-Go images in a variety of natural mediums including abalone, sea snail, mother of pearl, ebony, and ivory. See the shell blank section for a listing of available shell blank inlay materials. Swank's is the best shell inlay facility in North America. We provide our customers with OEM standard and custom inlays, musical instrument, antique, and heirloom repair and restoration. Swank's has both online and downloadable catalogs. We can also deliver custom work to your specifications for you to inlay, or we can create the inlay, set it, and complete your project or repair. Swank's Shell Inlay sells tools and supplies for the inlay cutting and mounting craftsman and hobbyist.
Get our Swank's Shell Inlay Catalog or e-mail us with your custom requirements for a quote and estimated delivery time.
Swank's Shell Inlay has daily UPS pick up with overnight shipments available to most US locations so we can have your order to you quickly.

What We Can Do for You

Our staff of skilled craftsmen and artists can create the artistic addition to your musical instrument, antique, collectable piece, furniture or billiard table, and inlay that standard or customer artwork in your piece shipped to us, or we can ship the work to you for you to inlay. You can provide a graphic in PDF, JPEG, TIFF, GIF or other common bitmap or scanned image of the art work you'd like, and our staff will provide an estimated cost and delivery time. You can also provide a written idea of the image you want and where you want it inlaid, e.g., "Could I get a butterfly cut from red abalone and inlaid on the 12th fret of my guitar?" and we can provide examples of similar artwork or create a new image for your approval. Custom work requires a 50% deposit when the order is placed.

darkshell image

Swank's Shell Inlay Online Catalog
  1. Introduction whiteshell image
  2. Ordering Information
  3. Repair and Restoration Inlay
  4. Shell Descriptions
  5. Inlay Tools and Supplies
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Here's our catalog. Our abalone and pearl patterns are copied from original instrumentsbutterflyshell image and are hand-cut, ready to inlay. We offer a complete line of custom services, from cutting your custom patterns and your trim, squares, diamonds, etc. to inlaying them into your instruments, blank fingerboards, pegheads, veneers, or whatever. Please e-mail us for an estimate. We stock a full line of pearl and abalone blanks and strips, stars, squares, diamonds, dots, and decorative stripes with or without MOP imageslots, and intricate design decorative strips.
We also carry engraved mother of pearl inlays, and everything you'll need in pearl or abalone inlay. Custom engraving, diamonds, strips, replacement or new designs are available from Swank's.
We have inlay supplies, saw frames, blades, mill ends, and OEM and custom patterns for the professional craftsman and inlay hobbyist.

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Ordering Information

When ordering, please provide both the catalog number and the description of the items.

For check or money order, add $5.00 for packing and handling. Orders not pre-paid will ship UPS COD.
Orders shipped outside the US must be paid by a check or money order drawn on a US bank in US funds. These orders require $6.00 for for packing and handling.
Maryland residents add 5% sales tax.

The quality of product and workmanship produced by Swank's Shell Inlay is guaranteed. If you are not satisfied, the items can be returned for exchange or refund.

Terms of sale and prices subject to change withour notice.

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Repair and Restoration Inlay

The following table contains graphics, catalog and item numbers, and prices for abalone and pearl inlay pieces to repair and restore:

•Bacon & Day
•S.S. Stewart
•Fender, pre-CBS and late model

...and other fine musical instruments.

Repair and Restoration Inlay
Swank's Item Shell / Price Shell / Price Note
#1 - #1A Pearl    $65 Abalone   $80 Gibson RB 1
#2 - #2A Pearl    $75 Abalone   $80 Gibson RB 2
#3 - #3A Pearl    $70 Abalone   $85 Gibson RB 3
#4 - #4A Pearl    $95 Abalone   $115 Gibson RB 4
#5 - #5A Pearl    $100 Abalone   $120 Gibson RB 5
#6 - #6A Pearl    $100 Abalone   $120 Gibson RB 6
#7 - #7A Pearl    $110 Abalone   $125 Gibson RB 12
#8 - #8A Pearl    $135 Abalone   $155 Gibson RB 18
#9 - #9A Pearl    $85 Abalone   $105 Gibson
Hearts and Flowers
#10 - #10A Pearl    $140 Abalone   $155 Gibson
Florentine Special
#11 - #11A Pearl    $140 Abalone   $160 Gibson
Bella Voce
#12 Pearl    $130   --- Wegman Style 1
#13 Pearl    $140   Wegman Style 2
#14 Pearl    $140   Wegman
Orchestra A
#15  --- Abalone    $60 OME Headstock
#16  --- Abalone    $155 OME Fingerboard
#17 Pearl    $140  --- ODE Headstock
#18 Pearl    $130  --- ODE Fingerboard
#19 Pearl    $140  --- Bacon & Day
#20 Pearl    $80  --- Majestic Deluxe
#21 Pearl    $90  --- Majestic Deluxe
#22 Pearl    $100  --- S.S. Stewart
Fleur de Lis
#23 Pearl    $75  --- S.S. Stewart
American Princess
#24 Pearl    $100  --- Paramount Style A
#25 Pearl    $80  --- Paramount Style B
#26 Pearl    $135  --- Paramount Style C
#27 Pearl    $150  --- Paramount Style F
#28 Pearl    $185  --- Paramount
Artist Supreme
#29 Pearl    $125  --- Paramount Leader F
#30 - #30A Pearl    $115 Abalone   $130 Orpheum #1
#31 - #31A Pearl    $140 Abalone  $155 Orpheum #2
#32 - #32A Pearl    $175 Abalone  $195 Orpheum #3
#33 - #33A Pearl    $75 Abalone  $?? Vega Delux Peghead
#34 - #34A Pearl    $150 Abalone  $?? Vega Delux Peghead
#35 - #35A Pearl    $230 Abalone  $?? Vega Delux Fingerboard
#36 - #36A Pearl    $80 Abalone  $?? Vega Delux Fingerboard
#37 - #37A Pearl    $75 Abalone  $?? Vega Soloist
#38 - #38A Pearl    $160 Abalone  $?? Vega Delux Fingerboard
#39 Pearl    $25 Abalone  --- Vega Gryphon
#40 Pearl    $65 Abalone  --- Vega Gryphon
#41 Pearl  $50  --- Vega Peghead
#42 - #42A Pearl    $50 Abalone  $60 Vega Torch
#43 Pearl&
Abalone  $80
 --- Vega Flower Pot
#44 Pearl &
Abalone  $150
 --- Vega Flower Pot
#45 - #45A Pearl    $5 Pale Abalone $5 Vega Engraved Dot
#46 - #46A Pearl  $4 Pale Abalone $?? Vega Fancy Diamond
#47 - #47A Pearl  $10 Pale Abalone $?? Vega Fancy Diamond
#48 - #48A Pearl  $20 Abalone    $?? Vega Heel Cap
#49 - #49A Pearl  $40 Abalone    $?? Vega Heel Cap
#50 - #50A Pearl  $20 Abalone    $?? Vega Heel Cap
#51 - #51A Pearl  $40 Abalone    $?? Vega Heel Cap
#52 - #52A Pearl  $10 Abalone    $?? Vega Scroll
#53 - #53A Pearl  $20 Abalone    $?? Vega Scroll
#54 - #54A Pearl  $10 Abalone    $?? Vega Scroll
#55 - #55A Pearl  $20 Abalone    $?? Vega Scroll
#56 - #56A Pearl  $10 Abalone    $?? Vega Scroll
#57 - #57A Pearl  $20 Abalone    $?? Vega Scroll
#58A  --- Abalone    $80 Martin 00-42
Fancy Peghead
#59A  --- Abalone    $50 Martin Torch
Old 45-style
#60A  --- Abalone    $45 Martin Torch
New 45-style
#61A Pearl
& Abalone $45
 --- Martin OM-45 Deluxe
Tortise Shell Plastic
#62 - #62A Pearl  $50 Abalone    $65 Martin
Hexagon Blocks
45 Style
#63 - #63A Pearl  $35 Abalone    $40 Martin
Snowflake Fingerboard
#64 - #64A Pearl  $12 Abalone    $15 Martin
Snowflakes for Bridge
#65A Pearl  --- Abalone    $45 Martin
Emperor Peghead
#66 Pearl  $65 Abalone    --- Martin
Emperor Fingerboard
#67 Pearl  $45 Abalone    --- Martin
#68 Pearl  $75 Abalone    --- A Model
Peghead and Fingerboard
#69 - #69A Pearl  $45 Abalone    $55 Fern
#70 Pearl  $70 Abalone    --- Discontinued
#71 Pearl  $75 Abalone    --- Discontinued
#72 - #72A Pearl  $30 Abalone    $35 Short Flowerpot
#73 - #73A Pearl  $50 Abalone    $60 Double Flowerpot
#74 Pearl  $85 Abalone    --- 4½ inch Torch
#75 - #75A Pearl  $160 Abalone    $180 Simple Vine
#76 Pearl&Abalone $225  --- Fancy Vine
#77 Pearl&Abalone $270  --- Tree of Life
#78 - #78A Pearl  $230 Abalone    $250 Delux Vine

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Descriptions of Swanks's shell blanks

Shell blanks are rough ground with 4 or 5 sides. Blank shapes are square to rectangular. Blanks sizes range from approximately 1 ¼ inches to 1 ½ inches square. Depending on thickness there are 6 to 9 pieces per ounce. Large blanks run 3 to 6 pieces per ounce and have one side greater than 2 inches long.

Note: Swank's sells natural materials! Like leather or wood, variations occur within color groups and types of shell blanks. When Swank's craftsmen repair or restore inlay work on a musical instrument or antique, they will attempt to match the color, figure, and other characteristics of the original material. When we fill an order for shell blanks, we hand-select pieces which will match if used as multiple inlays on the same project. However, we cannot guarantee identical appearance in natural materials.

• Mother of Pearl - pearlescent, colors range from white to silvery to gold, often includes some figure and background color.
pearl blanks image

• Scrap Pearl - Pearl blanks with designs cut from them, but still with usable material for small designs. Order #148 at $2.00 per ounce.
scrap pearl image

• Red Abalone - colors predominately red, deep purple, green, pink with stripes or bullseyes. Some pale fiery pink.
red abalone image

• Green Abalone - colors predominately greens, pink, blues, purple with more stripes and fewer bullseyes. Some ripple. Pale tends to be rippley.
green abalone image

• Select Abalone - colorful with bold stripes.

• Abalone Heart - congested nodules of intense color.

abalone heart image

• Sea Snail - muted white with pale color, no figure

• Second quality blanks - Second quality blanks have a fair amount of usable area but will be small, thin, or uneven thickness or may have scale or worm holes.

Mother of Pearl Shell Blanks
Swank's Item Thickness 0.40" 0.50" 0.60" 0.80"
--- 1 oz $24 $22 $20 $27
--- ¼ lb $88 $80 $72 --
--- ½ lb $160 $145 $130 $170
--- 1 lb $290 $265 $240 $300
--- Large $50 $45 $45 $45
--- Gold --- $35 $35 ---
#149 second quality
random thickness
per oz.
$5 $5 $5 $5
--- scrap pearl
random thickness
per oz.
$2 $2 $2 $2

Red Abalone Shell Blanks
Thickness 0.30" 0.40" 0.50" 0.60" 0.80"
--- 1 oz $45 $40 $38 $35 $35
--- ¼ lb $148 $128 $120 $112 --
--- Heart --- $60 $55 $50 $60
--- Select --- $60 $55 $50 $60
#149A second quality
random thickness
per oz.
$8 $8 $8 $8 $8
--- scrap abalone
random thickness
per oz.
$2 $2 $2 $2 $2

Freshwater Pink Shell Blanks
Thickness 0.60"
1 oz $35

Green Abalone Shell Blanks
Thickness 0.30" 0.40" 0.50" 0.60"
1 oz $45 $42 $40 $37
¼ lb --- $148 $140 $132

Sea Snail Shell Blanks
Thickness 0.40"
1 oz $51

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Inlay Tools and Supplies

Attention - inlay craftsmen and hobbyists!! Do you want to learn to repair missing or damaged inlays? Do you need to create inlays for your business or hobby? Swank's is the source for tools and supplies for inlay craftsmen and hobbyists. Swank's has end mills, saw frames and diamond blades, cutting lubricant, instructions and more.

For the novice inlay craftsman, Swank's has the book Pearl Inlay by J. E. Patterson. This is an 81-page soft-cover illustrated reference book about working with pearl, and covers cutting, inlaying, engraving, tools and jigs.

End Mills

All end mills have a 1/8 inch shank. Swank's suggests using the 1/32 inch end mill for outline work, and using the 3/32 inch end mill to hog out the large areas, saving time and wear on the 1/32 inch end mill. The 3/32 and 1/8 inch end mills are great for routing saddle slots.
End Mills
Swank's Item # Size Description Price
#150 1/32 3 flute carbide double end $15.00
Order 3 or more, $14.00 ea.
#151 1/16 2 flute carbide single end $9.75
Order 3 or more, $8.75 ea.
#152 3/32 2 flute carbide single end $9.75
Order 3 or more, $8.75 ea.
#153 1/8 2 flute carbide single end $9.75
Order 3 or more, $8.75 ea.
#160 .020 2 flute carbide single end $15.00
Order 3 or more, $14.00 ea.

Saw Frames and Blades

The saw frame with tension screw adjustment is also adjustable for varying blade lengths with a 2 1/4 inch throat depth and hardwood handle.
Saw blades are diamond grit.
Saw Frame and Blades
Item Swank's Item # Grade Cut Price
saw frame image #154 saw frame --- $14.60
--- #155 2/0 coarse $3.25 / dz.
Order 3 dz. or more, $3.00 / dz.
--- #156 3/0 medium $3.25 / dz.
Order 3 dz. or more, $3.00 / dz.
--- #157 4/0 fine $3.25 / dz.
Order 3 dz. or more, $3.00 / dz.

Bur Life
Item number #158, price $3.60.
Bur Life is cutting lubricant. Apply it to saw blades for less friction and more control. Blades stay sharper and last longer. Bur Life works for most any grinding or drilling tool.

Pearl Inlay instruction manual
Item number #159, price $12.75.
This 81-page soft-cover instruction manual for inlaying abalone and mother of pearl is written by J. E. Patterson. This is an illustrated instruction manual on pearl working, and covers cutting, inlaying, engraving, tools and jigs.

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Get Swank's Shell Inlay Catalog

Download Swank's Shell Inlay Catalog now,
E-mail Swank's with your name and mailing address to receive the catalog in regular mail.

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Antique and musical instrument repair and restoration

Swank's can restore and repair missing and damaged shell and other inlay work on fine musical instruments, opera glasses, fine antique writing instruments, pocket knives, and other valuables. We can also provide inlay "dots" missing from pool or billard tables. Our extensive stock of shell blanks allow us to match a wide range of original inlay work.
Click on the image below to see more detail of the inlay work in this work-in-process guitar fingerboard.

fingerboard image

Swank's stocks and can install OEM quality inlays for Gibson, Vega, Martin, and other fine guitars, banjos and mandelins. If you prefer to do the repair yourself, without shipping the instrument or antique, Swank's offers many OEM-quality pre-cut shell parts to replace missing or damaged inlay. You can also purchase patterns to repair original designs or add inlay.

See Swank's Online Catalog to find the repair and restoration inlays you need, patterns for cutting inlay pieces, and shell blanks.

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Contact information

US Postal mail:
Swank's Shell Inlay
Attn: Customer Service
7 Tenby Court
Waldorf, MD 20602

Phone: (301) 843-2192

Fax: (301) 932-4092

E-mail: bill@swanksshellinlay.com

Business hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00AM to 5:00PM East coast time.

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Brief Lesson on Inlaying Pearl

Begin by collecting the necessary tools and supplies. You should have -

1. Duco cement
2. Sharp scribe
3. Chalk
4. Dremel tool with router base
5. 1/32 inch end mill
6. #11 Exacto blade and handle
7. Single-edge razor blade
8. 15-minute epoxy glue
9. Coloring pigment
10. Acetone
11. 220, 400, and 600 grit sandpaper
12. Sanding block

Select the spot where the pearl will be inlaid, and sand the wood smooth. Glue the pearl piece to the wood using Duco cement. When the glue is dry, scribe around the edges. Apply acetone to the pearl to soften the glue, but be careful if the wood has a lacquer finish, acetone is not compatible with lacquer. Carefully slide the razor blade under the pearl. Add acetone if the pearl doesn't loosen from the wood. DO NOT FORCE THIS OPERATION! When the pearl piece loosens and comes off, remove the remaining glue with acetone.
Now rub chalk across the scribed line you made outlining the inlay piece. Wipe away the excess chalk. This should leave a very fine chalk line in the scribe mark.
Mount the 1/32 inch end mill in your Dremel tool with router base. Route away the wood inside the chalk line to a depth slightly less than the thickness of the pearl inlay.
Note that when using an engraved inlay, it should be inlaid absolutely flush with the surface of the wood. The final sanding steps should be omitted.
Any sharp corners that cannot be properly routed can now be done with an Exacto knife using a #11 blade. Check that the pearl inlay fits exactly in the opening, if not, trim where necessary.

Mix the epoxy thoroughly. Color it with coloring pigment, using using just enough to achieve the desired color. Fill the routed hole with the mixture. Gently push the inlay into the space forcing the epoxy up through spaces around the pearl inlay piece, leaving the pearl slightly higher than the wood surface (except for engraved inlay). To prevent air bubbles from forming in the epoxy around the pearl, move a 100-watt light bulb over the inlay. The heat from the bulb will expand the air in any bubbles causing them to break on the surface.
When the epoxy is thoroughly set, sand the inlay level with the wood surface using 220-grit sandpaper and a block. (Don't do this for engraved inlay.) After leveling, polish the surface with 400-, then 600-grit sandpaper.

Use a piece of clear plexiglass slightly larger than the inlay piece. Apply the clear double-sided tape to the plexiglass. (I use Scotch-brand doublestick tape available in most drug stores.) Stick the engraved piece to the plexiglass, fill the routed hole with colored epoxy, just enough so when the inlay is eased into the hole a small amount of epoxy oozes from under the plexiglass. Use spring clamps to hold the plexiglass to the wood surface, e.g. a finger board, peg head, etc. Allow the epoxy to partially set up. While the epoxy is still slightly soft, gently push the plexiglass up and down, and side to side until it separates from the inlay piece. Then gently rub the excess epoxy off the work using your finger. There should be a thin film on the wood surface. I suggest you try this once or twice using pieces of scrap pearl and wood to understand the amount of epoxy, the clamping pressure, and the curing time needed.

Here's a simple project - a poker chip inlaid in a block of oak. Create other tests and experiments based on your work or hobby!
Las Vegas memento image

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Bill has a collector's interest in older and antique pocket watches.

If you have watches, watch cases, or related items to sell, especially Waltham watch company products, please contact us.
pocket watch image
Owner Bill Swank is a lifetime member of the ANTIQUE WATCH OWNERS ASSOCIATION.

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