Bryan England’s Custom Inlay makes peghead and fingerboard inlays for leading guitar manufacturers. When the company was starting out, England cut the inlays by hand on a pantograph machine. He provided a high-quality product but could not come close to keeping up with demand. England tried using a Bridgeport machine retrofitted for computer numerical control (CNC) but found that it just didn’t work for delicate pearl parts. Next, he tried a Techno CNC router and found that it produced an accurate product while requiring minimal operator attention.
“The CNC router produced more than our order volume at that time so we were able to take on additional work,” said Jason Clark, Machine Programmer, for Bryan England’s Custom Inlay. The company obtained orders from additional guitar manufacturers and bought additional Techno machines to help fill them. Today, Bryan England’s Custom Inlay has eight Techno machines and produces in a typical month 10 times the number of inlays that it produced using manual methods.
When England was working at General Electric with Bill Sullivan of First Quality Music, he learned how to play the banjo and decided he wanted to build one. Sullivan was so impressed with his work he asked England to make custom inlays for him. In 1987 England quit General Electric and went to work for Gibson, hand cutting and inlaying all of their banjos. After a year on their payroll he started his own business so he could work for other instrument manufacturers.
During a visit to the Grand Ole Opry, England ran into Bobby Osborne, a bluegrass musician known for his mandolin playing and high lead vocals. Osborne was looking for someone to create a mandolin. Today, Bryan's Custom Inlay now offers a full line of mandolins and guitars. England’s guitars are unique and are known for a patented string hook up that increases the volume and tone quality. Besides producing inlays for instruments, England’s company continues to work with Gibson, Fender Guild, Washburn, First Act, Jackson, Heritage and other instrument manufacturers and also makes inlays for pool tables, furniture, boxes, guns and other products.
Previous Production Methods
Bryan England’s Custom Inlay produces inlays made of mother of pearl and abalone and sometimes synthetic pearl. For some customers, the company also cuts pockets into the wooden fingerboard or peghead and mounts the inlays. Other customers install the inlays themselves. Customers typically require that the company meet tolerances of 0.004 inch so that the inlays fit into precisely into fingerboard and peghead pockets. In the early years of the company, England cut inlays by hand. The company was limited at this time to accepting relatively simple jobs because of the difficulty involved in cutting certain shapes, such as a straight line, out of pearl.