SHELL VENEER PLY (LAMINATED) SHEETS
Also popularly referred to as "ABLAM" or "ABALAM". Developed jointly by Larry Sifel and Chuck Erikson (His Pearlness, to you!), granted U.S. patents 5,776,581, 6,190,491, and 6,432,506, and currently being used by most guitar factories and smaller shops, this material has changed the way inlay is done! If you will be reselling, importing, or manufacturing items using these laminates, please contact us first for information on how products must be marked to avoid patent infringement problems. Foreign users must arrange for non-exclusive royalty or licensing agreements if sales of material, or products in which it is used, will be made into the U.S.A., and the material was not supplied by one of us or one of our distributors.
These 5 ½" X 9 ½" (140 X 240mm) sheets are available in thicknesses from .030" (.76mm) to .250" (6.35mm), are made from real shell that has not been artificially colored or enhanced in any way, and most definitely are not to be confused with composite or reconstituted materials (except as noted for our "Sparkle" M.O.P. and abalone sheets). Each sheet is composed of thin layers of shell which have been stacked and bonded, each layer itself a mosaic of smaller pieces which have been color-matched and oriented to refract in the same way as found in the raw shell; the layers themselves have also been oriented and color-matched within each stack, so that the material will not change drastically when sanded down or shaped. Production of veneer plys is laborious, and dependent on the handwork of experienced and skilled traditional shell craftsmen.
We suggest leaving or trimming a 1/8" border around all four edges, to make sure that minor imperfections in this area do not interfere with finished parts. Also, all sheets have a label marking the TOP side, as reflectivity is best in this orientation, and the backside may contain one or several non-matching layers (in order to make best use of the highest grade shell in the top 2/3 of the sheet's thickness, where it will be seen). To make top and back distinguishable on finished parts, we suggest using a soft lead pencil to mark the backs of sheets before parts are cut. If ink is used, it may run into surrounding material during glue-up steps.
The bonding agent used in sheets is a mix of several epoxies, which are resistant to acetone or finish solvents, but prolonged exposure/immersion might cause problems, especially with very delicate parts; soak or fume only long enough to release parts from the backer board (if using one), and do not leave overnight. For production cutting, the best method is to solidly super-glue the shell ply to a sheet of 1/8" tempered masonite, cut the parts, cover the exposed shell surface with clear box tape, then drum-sand the masonite off leaving all the parts stuck to the tape. This will keep all your parts same-side up and in perfect order, which makes storage/inventorying vastly easier than dealing with a loose jumble of parts mixed with scraps! Super-glues will not hurt sheets.
Veneer plys are about 10% less dense than the same shell in traditional blank form, and will cut best with a jeweler's saw if you use blades a size or two smaller than you would normally use, perhaps down to a 4-0 or 5-0 size.
Ply sheets are NOT recommended for engraving, as they tend to chip or flake (but see new GRAVLAM). If you must engrave, best results require first flooding the final shell surface with low viscosity (watery) super-glue to fill any small irregularities, lightly sanding back down to the shell, and then using a very well-sharpened graver to make multiple passes over each line until full depth is reached, using as little pressure as possible.
Continue to next page for notes and tips on each type of sheet. ->