Harvey Leach – innovation plus…

Go to http: http://www.leachguitars.com/classic/ordering_custom_inlays.htm

Harvey Leach doesn’t just inlay shapes and pieces of shell, he inlays entire scenes, with incredibly complex colours, and innovative materials. This man impresses the heck out of anybody that goes browsing through the many articles about him that have been posted on the internet.

First there are the colours and the different materials. The traditional materials are Gold Mother of Pearl, White Mother of Pearl, and Abalone – usually green with lots of flashing highlights to it, or sometimes with a pinkish tint to it. But that wasn’t enough for Mr. Leach. He had to try different materials and many more colours to get the effects that he wanted. Then he invented new techniques to get even more effects – for instance have a look below at one of his well known pieces of work – the Martin Cowboy Pickguard:

Cowboy pickguard - Opaque Mirror

Cowboy pickguard - Clear Mirror

Notice that this isn’t just one, or several, pieces of mother of pearl or abalone, cut into geometric shapes and inlayed into the pickguard; this is an entire scene. Here is a list of the materials he used: (deep breath):

  • Black walnut, Bastogne walnut, mahogany, madrone, maple, African blackwood, ebony malachite, malachite web, green lizard, obsidian, pipestone, spiney oyster and denim lapis, recon stone; denim, midnight, red, granite and bone Corian; brass, silver, mammoth ivory, thin mother–of-pearl and crushed pearl. That’s 23 different materials, folks.

Also notice the “smoke and mirrors” in the two photos of the pick guards. Compare the mirror behind the barkeep, the picture of a man’s head to the left of the man in a brown shirt, and the windows on the right hand side of the pickguard. This is an example of the thin shell technique pioneered by Harvey Leach. Depending on the angle of the light hitting it, the mirror appears either clear or smoky, the picture either has a man’s head in it, or it becomes a mirror, and the window on the right takes on different shades. Another example of this technique can be found at the following site “Hot Rod Inlays”: http://www.leachguitars.com/classic/hotrods.htm . The two scenes look so different, but they’re the same inlay ! Check the car windows.

57 Chevy - opaque windows

57 chevy - clear windows

When I contacted him, Mr. Leach was kind enough to send me the following link (which lead to the one above) http://www.leachguitars.com/classic/ordering_custom_inlays.htm which features both Leach guitars and custom inlays. One of the incredible pieces of work that you can see at this site is the following:


Mythical Chinese Warrier

To quote Mr. Leach – “A mythical Chinese warrior. This is the most highly detailed inlay I’ve done to date. The great challenge of this inlay was that it had to be of a scale to fit as a headstock logo, the size pushes the limits of currently available saw blades. The only engraving is on the face, all other black lines are either saw cuts or black inlays. Done completely under 3.5 – 7X magnification.” There are approx. 200 pieces in this work – mind boggling. By the way I believe that the coin showing the scale in the picture is a quarter – not a 50 cent piece, not a dollar – a quarter. I’ve looked at this piece several times now and each time I see even more detail.

While you’re at this site, check out the guitars as well – more beauty and craftsmanship. I particularly like the “Southwest” guitar, but any of the other ones would probably fit my hands quite nicely, thank you very much. The Geisha Guitar is fabulous – such detail – click on the pickguard – it’s well worth it.