Elrick Bass Guitars


Pearl Works is fortunate to work with a variety of manufacturers—from large companies to individual luthiers. One of our valued partners is Elrick Bass Guitars, who creates custom, hand-carved bass instruments. Rob Elrick recently returned from the Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin, an invitation-only show for hand-built guitars and basses, where he exhibited several of his finest instruments.

With Elrick's input, we designed a cascading series of rectangular inlay that runs the length of the fingerboards. Depending on the model of the bass, and preference of the customer, the inlay is done in solid shell, Dichrolam, or contrasting woods.

2017 will mark Elrick’s 25th anniversary, and we are delighted to be working with them on an exquisite 25th Anniversary Model. Like Elrick on Facebook for upcoming sneak peeks of this one-of-a-kind instrument.

  • Rob Elrick of Erlick bass guitars with Daniel Panza of Pearl Works
  • Detail of three Elrick fretboards with Pearl Works inlay
  • Detail of two Elrick fretboards with Pearl Works inlay
  • Hand holding an inlaid Elrick fretboard
  • Detail of Elrick's lower case e logo made from shell inlay

Dragons and Vines Opening Weekend


Pearl Works recently returned from Phoenix, Arizona, for the opening weekend of Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces at the Musical Instrument Museum. We were truly impressed by the care and thought that went into every aspect of the exhibition. Hats off to MIM’s curators and their entire staff for the beautiful installation and displays, videos, photography, and text.

Many friends and colleagues also attended the opening event, including fellow inlay artist Harvey Leach, musicians Al Petteway, Stephen Stills, and Laurence Juber, and representatives of many guitar manufacturers and luthiers, including Dick Boak (Martin), Kevin Ryan (Ryan Guitars), and Joe Knaggs and Peter Wolf (Knaggs Guitars).

We were overwhelmed with the magnificent tribute to Larry and the inlay work that he and our team at Pearl Works have done over the years. A visit to the exhibition is highly encouraged, if you find yourself in the Phoenix area anytime before September 2017. For more information, visit

  • Exterior of Musical Instrument Museum with Dragons & Vines Banners
  • Bill Seymour with friend in front Dragons & Vines exhibit wall
  • Banjo and guitars displayed with shells
  • Pearl Works inlaid Martin guitar with large detail photo in background
  • Visitors in front of video and guitar display
  • Bill Seymour with visitors in front of Larry Sifel display

Dragons and Vines Opens Saturday


The wait is almost over – Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces opens at the Musical Instrument Museum this Saturday, November 5.

This special exhibition features more than thirty inlaid instruments created by the greatest contemporary North American inlay artists and luthiers. The majority of the pieces are from the private collection of Pearl Works’ founder Larry Sifel.

Opening weekend activities include film screenings of Ballad of the Dreadnought – A Musical Icon Turns 100, talks by guitarist Al Petteway and Dick Boak of C.F. Martin & Co., and concerts by Stephen Stills and Laurence Juber.

After getting a sneak preview of the exhibition, Pearl Works’ president Bill Seymour said, “Larry would have loved MIM. He would be thrilled to know that this is where the core of his one-of-a-kind collection will, for the first time, be shared with the public… Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces is an exhibition to remember.”

The exhibition will be open through September 2017, with continued talks and concerts throughout its 9-month run.  If you are in the Phoenix area, we encourage you to visit MIM and see Dragons and Vines for yourself!

  • PRS Dragon 2000 guitar body detail
  • Martin D100 guitar neck detail
  • Sifel Morning Glory guitar detail
  • PRS Dragon III guitar neck detail

Daniel Panza


Pearl Works’ greatest asset is our team of talented inlay professionals.  One of the key members of our team is Daniel Panza.  Daniel has been with Pearl Works since 2002, and learned the art and techniques of inlay directly from our founder, Larry Sifel.  Since then he has made increasingly significant contributions to both our design and production efforts.

Daniel is particularly adept at bringing our clients’ visions to life as inlay designs.  One recent project Daniel oversaw from start to finish was the PRS Private Stock Country Western Tonare. 

The design process began with classic symbols of the American West – such as a buffalo skull and horseshoes.  Daniel integrated these elements into a cohesive design, and created a digital mock-up.  Adjustments were made; for instance, the rosette began as barbed wire, but Daniel and the designers at PRS decided that a rope motif translated better into inlay.  Once the design was finalized, it was inlaid into the guitar with mother of pearl, black lip mother of pearl, gold mother of pearl, and mammoth ivory.

Contact us to discuss your next inlay project, and how Pearl Works can translate your vision to reality.

  • Daniel Panza staff portrait
  • PRS Country Western rosette drawing
  • PRS Country Western rosette detail
  • PRS Country Western skull Inlay mockup
  • PRS Country Western skull Inlay
  • PRS Country Western guitar details

Pearl Works at the Musical Instrument Museum


Starting this November, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), in partnership with Pearl Works, will showcase the art and craft of inlay with a new exhibition, Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces.  The exhibition will feature more than thirty exquisitely inlaid instruments, the majority from the private collection of Pearl Works’ founder, Larry Sifel.

Pearl Works is thrilled to be part of this historic exhibition at MIM, where the artistry of inlay will be celebrated on a global scale.  “Having Larry’s personal collection on exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum is an incredible tribute to the work that he began, and the work we continue to do at Pearl Works,” said Bill Seymour, Pearl Works’ president.

The exhibition will be on display in MIM’s Target Gallery from November 5, 2016, through September 4, 2017.  Similar to other displays in MIM’s permanent galleries, Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces will include high-quality audio and video content, including interviews with Pearl Works staff.  The museum will also feature artist talks and concerts throughout the exhibition’s run.

For more information, visit

  • PRS Dragon 2002 Inlay Detail
  • Martin D-90 Inlay Detail
  • Night Dive Inlay Detail

Display Case for Manoa Chocolate


Pearl Works recently hand-crafted and inlaid a custom display case for Mānoa Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate factory located in Kailua, Hawaii. Mānoa was interested in a way to display their products that complemented the premium quality of the chocolate bars.

The result is a custom point-of-sale display, handmade out of Curly and Quilted Maple by Pearl Works’ Michael Byle.  The front is inlaid with the Manoa Chocolate logo featuring East Indian Rosewood, Koa, Paua, and, Mother of Pearl.

Pearl Works President Bill Seymour just returned from Hawaii, where he got to see the display case installed in the Manoa factory store. “We are thrilled to partner in this way with the talented artisans at Manoa Chocolate and we look forward to extending the relationship with point-of-sale display cases and custom gift boxes in the months and years to come.”

Pearl Works is expanding our offerings and applying our core expertise outside the musical instrument industry, crafting inlay for items such as ornaments, boxes of all sorts, display cases, and more.  Contact us to find out more.

  • Inlaid Mānoa Chocolate display case
  • Detail of Inlay on Mānoa Chocolate display case
  • Mānoa Chocolate Factory sign and store

Pearl Works Obtains Import/Export License


Pearl Works is pleased to announce that it has obtained an Import/Export License from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This license is required to ship any wildlife products internationally, including wood, shell, and other natural materials. Pearl Works is now poised to provide its world-class inlay services to manufacturers all over the globe. 

Our Inlay Manager Raymond Jefferies guided us through the months-long application and compliance process. Ray also manages Pearl Works’ material sourcing, handling issues like availability, regulations, and the sustainability and environmental impact of the shell supply chain. 

Ray’s interest and knowledge of the natural world continues to inform his duties at Pearl Works.  He has had a long interest in biology, and had considered becoming a biologist before joining Pearl Works in 2004. Ray’s skills and passions have truly combined in this new role, and he looks forward to deepening his knowledge of the natural world that produces some of our most beautiful inlay materials.

  • Raymond Jefferies sitting at desk
  • Closeup of Raymond Jefferies holding a shell

The Sifel Night Sky


This month, Pearl Works remembers our founder Larry Sifel, who passed away a decade ago, in May 2006. One way we are celebrating Larry’s life and legacy is with a new commemorative guitar. The Sifel Night Sky is a limited edition acoustic by Knaggs Guitars, commissioned by Jean Sifel in honor of her late husband.

Larry was a dear friend to Joe Knaggs while he was a designer at Paul Reed Smith Guitars. Joe recalls wonderful conversations with Larry about building acoustic guitars together. “Larry was drawn to the idea of building acoustics with Joe,” Jean remembers. “And Joe has really outdone himself. These instruments are stunning."

During his lifetime, Larry was an innovator in modern inlay techniques as well as a luthier who hand-built two dozen or so acoustic guitars—each inlaid a distinctive “LS” monogram designed by Jean. As a tribute to Larry, the Sifel Night Sky prominently features this “LS” monogram, along with a night sky motif inspired by the starry view from the back deck of Larry and Jean’s home in rural Southern Maryland. Larry was fond of the moon and stars as a visual motif in his artwork.

For more information about the Sifel Night Sky guitar, view our press release.

  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar, guitar body detail
  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar, moon inlay detail
  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar, headstock inlay detail
  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar, rosette inlay detail
  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar
  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar, bridge inlay detail
  • The Sifel Night Sky guitar, fret inlay detail

PRS Birds of a Feather


We’re honored to collaborate with Paul Reed Smith Guitar on their DGT Birds of a Feather Semi-Hollow .

The PRS April Guitar of the Month is the latest in a series that celebrates the 20th anniversary of PRS’s Custom Shop. The Birds of a Feather inlay design was the work of Pearl Works’ Daniel Panza and PRS’s Paul Miles. The guitar neck and headstock are inlaid with Ziricote and curly maple, and the headstock features a large PRS Private Stock eagle holding a Mother of Pearl banner.  

“At Pearl Works a large portion of our work uses shell as the primary inlay material,” says Pearl Works president Bill Seymour. “The subtle beauty of wood into wood inlay on this project makes Birds of a Feather one of our favorite and more unusual collaborations with PRS.”

For more information about the guitar, view the post on PRS’s blog.

  • PRS Birds of a Feather guitar on work bench with tools
  • Closeup of PRS Birds of a Feather guitar on work bench
  • Headstock detail of PRS Birds of a Feather guitar
  • Hand sanding the guitar
  • Profile view of the guitar body
  • Full view of the guitar

Shell Supply – Laminates


In the 1980s, Pearl Works founder Larry Sifel and “Duke of Pearl” Chuck Erikson developed a patented process that revolutionized the inlay industry. Until this time inlay was done as it had been for centuries: hand-cut from solid shell. Larry and Chuck’s breakthrough was a beautiful and consistent shell laminate
called Abalam, that opened up new creative possibilities for the inlay medium.

These new shell sheets allowed materials like abalone and mother of pearl to be cut consistently on a CNC machine. Importantly this allowed Pearl Works to produce complex designs throughout large production runs. In addition, the shell laminates became a more sustainable solution, allowing more parts of each shell to be used.

As our supply chain has become more globalized, Pearl Works is increasingly involved in every step of the process. From harvesting shell to fabricating laminates, we work hand-in-hand with our suppliers around the world to ensure that we always have a supply of consistent, high-quality materials. Demand has increased, which means that reliability and sustainability are more crucial than ever. 

An understanding of our materials’ origins is critical to Pearl Works’ needs as well as for the entire musical instrument industry. Over the next several months, we’ll be discussing the sourcing and sustainability considerations for our industry. 

Join our email list and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, where we’ll be talking more about efforts to strengthen the shell supply chain and preserve natural resources.

  • Sheets of Abalam