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Anything to do with inlay work, especially in regards to natural marine shell materials (Mother of pearl or MOP and abalone, etc.), but also ivories and tortoiseshell.

Experience in the area

Co-owner of The House of Banjos, Denver, CO (1963-1964); owner of Erika Banjos, Van Nuys, CA. (1965-1989). First began processing shell for inlay in 1968, but from 1981-1985 got out of the industry to become a professional gold miner (suction dredging). In 1989 the Gibson Guitar Co., Montana Division bought the stored shell business, and after I spent a month at their factory setting it up and training workers it operated as their Erika Division until 1991, when they decided to close it. This allowed me to get back into the industry, and from 1992 until the present I have been supplying shell as Duke of Pearl, with 4 shops in Seoul, South Korea and a small factory in Jakarta, Indonesia. In 1998 the first of 3 U.S. patents were awarded to myself and Larry Sifel (now deceased founder of Pearlworks, in Mechanicsville, MD) as co-patentees of the laminated shell sheet material known as ABALAM® (or ABLAM). Am also a specialist dealing in mother of pearl antiques and collectibles, with an internet shop, Chainsaw Chuck, on the Ruby Lane website.


Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA); Guild of American Luthiers (GAL); National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM); Northern California Association of Luthiers (NCAL).


American Lutherie (ASIA quarterly journal); Guitarmaker (ASIA quarterly journal); "A Guitarmaker's Canvas", Grit Laskin/Backbeat Books (wrote "The Colorful History of Inlay" chapter); technical threads on many online instrument forums.


High school and 2 years of Junior college.

Past/Present Clients

INSTUMENTS: Collings, Kevin Enoch Banjos, Fender, Gibson, Goodall, Renee Karnes Banjos, Michael Keller, Larrivee, Martin, National Resophonic, James Olson, Ome Banjos, Ovation, PRS (Paul Reed Smith), Kevin Ryan, Santa Cruz, Stelling Banjos, Taylor, and many others. INLAYISTS: Paul Bordeaux, Steve Carlson (NC Solutions), Tom Ellis (Precision Pearl), Bryan England (Custom Inlay), Ren Ferguson, Grit Laskin, Craig Lavin, Harvey Leach, David Nichols, Pearlworks, Larry Robinson, Jimmi Wingert, and many others.

Something interesting about this subject that others may not know:

"Mother of pearl" can mean any pearlescent shell; technically it refers to white, yellow, or black ocean pearl oyster shell material (Pinctada sp.). There are many other species of marine shellfish which produce nacreous material, including abalones (Haliotis sp.), sea snail (Turbo sp.), wing shell (Pteria sp.), mussels (Mytilus sp.), clams (Unio sp.), and capiz or kapiz shell (Placuna placenta).

Something controversial or provocative about this subject

These materials are considered "wildlife" even if not from protected species, subject to enforcement by U.S. Customs (USCBP) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS/F&W) as per both CITES and Lacey Act regulations, as well as state law. A F&W Import/Export Permit is needed for any international shipping, and "formal" entry is required regardless of size or value of a shipment. Know the laws!

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    K = Knowledgeability    C = Clarity of Response    P = Politeness
Bob Florio03/21/15101010I was very pleased with the response .....
CJ03/10/13101010Thanks! This was very helpful. I still .....
Biplab10/02/12101010Thankx sir for the detailed explanation.
Biplab08/30/12101010Thanks Duke... :)

Recent Answers from Duke of Pearl

2013-02-23 Repair Broken Headstock:

Although I've built and repaired instruments in the past, my specialty is inlay work so will refer you to a great source of trustworthy and up-to-date information.  Gryphon Stringed Instruments (Palo Alto

2013-02-16 rosewood fretboard repair:

It's a tough one!  As you discovered, wood dust almost always becomes permanently darker when saturated.  Some options are: 1) use much lighter dust that will match the fingerboard when cured (but this

2012-10-01 TONEWOOD:

All acoustic guitars have always had tops (and backs) made from 2 pieces of wood.  The best guitars have what's called "bookmatched" woods, pieces which were sawn right next to each other and then opened

2012-08-29 TONEWOOD:

Hi, Biplab, and thanks for the question.  I've never heard of any wood called "Payne", so can't comment on that, but usually classic guitar tops are made from some variety of spruce (there are many very

2011-12-05 fretboard oiling & repair !:

What's needed is an oil of thin enough consistency to penetrate a dense and non-porous wood without accumulating any sort of surface buildup after repeated applications.  Vaseline is very thick and heavy


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