The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step...

I cut my first inlay when I was in high school. My first "inlay" was actually a cavity the shape of a heart in a banjo fretboard made from an ill-advised cherry. Rather than actually cut something to fit I simply filled the cavity with Plastic Wood... I've come a long way since!

I got my real start with inlays while I was trying to build banjos for a living... everyone knows you can't build a banjo without encrusting it with a fair amount of shiny secretions from the ocean floor! My first attempts were with the mindset that if I couldn't play better than everybody else I could at least look cooler. It was a great plan but at my very first contest a guy by the name of Steve Arkin showed up with a banjo he had built which looked remarkably like mine... Steve won the contest and I didn't make the finals. Steve had been at it a bit longer and had played with some guy named Monroe in the early 60's... think his first name was Bill...

I still have that banjo and as I look at it I see how far I have come from the good ole days where covering as much space as possible was a priority to now where it's more about seeing how much detail I can fit into the smallest possible space. My style has slowly evolved into one where I like to see just how realistic I can make things look. I call it photo-realistic but I have been told by artists who smear around the limitless color combinations of pigments that to be "photo-realistic" it has to look just like a photo... la tee dah!

My pallet of colors is much more restricted so I guess that's never going to happen. I can't come up with a thousand shades of blue and then blend them to smoothly transition. Heck I'm lucky if I can find a half dozen materials that are different shades of blue! So therein lies the greatest challenge in "photo-realistic" inlay, finding the right materials to match the colors and textures you are trying to create. Since more often than not that material doesn't really exist I spend a lot of time making my own material by creating mosaics or custom blending things like jewelry grade epoxy or even a kids favorite, Sculpy clay. As you look through my website you will find several detailed explanations of how some of these processes take place to create the near "photo-realistic" effects that I think sets my work apart from most other inlay artist.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoy the show.

Harvey Leach

Company Profile

Harvey Leach  Custom Inlays and Guitars 

Harvey Leach Inlays and Musical Instruments


Founded: 1972

Owner: Harvey Leach

Other companies: H.G. Leach Guitars, Voyage Air Guitar


Areas of expertise:  Musical instruments, free-standing or hanging art, furniture, architectural embellishments.