We guitarists spend an awful lot of time looking at the necks of our instruments. That's where most of the really fun stuff happens: where you define the melodic contours of your solos, where you shade your chords with sophisticated extensions, where your picking hand ventures to add a little Eddie Van Halen to your lead licks, and where your slide hovers as you make your way around a snaky tune. And it's also a great place to make a statement about yourself, whether you're a player or a builder: your inlay can say "I prefer to keep things simple," or "I like lots of flash," or "I have an appreciation for time-tested classics." Gibson offers a lot of different inlay types which say a lot of different things about the guitarists who play them. Let's look at a few.

Inlaying is fiddly business which is best performed by human hands, as Gibson Master Luthier Jim DeCola explained to Premier Guitar in October 2012. "It's just one of those operations that just has to be hand-done," DeCola said. "We'll use acrylic, we'll use plastics and sometimes wood." The top dots and the inlays on the face of the fretboard are applied at the same time: the slots are cut, glue applied and then the inlays inserted and allowed to set. From there the fretboard is given its radius and fret slots. Frets are then tapped in by hand before a hydraulic press secures the frets in place.

Dots

The simple, classic dot inlay is understated and functional. It's also a little easier to implement than certain other shapes, since it doesn't require the luthier to cut sharp corners. This is, of course, the inlay that you'll find on the Gibson Custom 1959 ES-335 Dot Reissue, and it's also the feature that gives the popular Epiphone Dot semi-hollowbody its name. And you'll find dot inlays on the SGJ, which features new '61-Style Zebra humbucker pickups, or of course the classic Les Paul Jr .

Dots

Trapezoid

The trapezoid inlays are found on many Gibsons, including the Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard Reissue . In most cases these inlays are made of an acrylic material with a swirly, figured effect, although in the case of - are Cellulose, in line with the material used on the original instruments from the 1950s.

Trapezoid

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You'll find these inlays on instruments like the Les Paul Custom. These simultaneously bold and understated inlays look right at home on the Gibson Custom Peter Frampton Les Paul, where they compliment the triple-humbucker configuration (a 57 Classic in the neck, 57 Classic Plus int he middle and 500T in the bridge).

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2014 Model Year

Guitars from the Gibson 2014 Model Year feature a special 120th Anniversary inlay at the twelfth fret (and a new Model Year serial numbering system which enhances collectability), and it appears on everything from the most stripped back SGJ to the flashiest 2014 Les Paul Standard Premium.

And Then There's…

There are plenty of other Gibson inlay types, some of which are on a handful of iconic models and some which are associated with a single model, like the recently reissued Gibson M-III which has black arrowhead inlays which contrast with the maple of the fretboard and set off a visual resonance with the pointy cutaways and reverse headstock. There's also the split-parallelogram position markers found on models like the ES-295 Scotty Moore, and the split-diamond inlays you'll see on the ES-195. What's that, you'd prefer split-diamond inlays on a Gibson USA SG Deluxe? And the SG Supra features classic split-block inlays, like those you'll find on the Les Paul Supreme.

Split Block

Or …Not

Of course, you could make a whole different statement by going for a guitar with no inlays at all, such as the Brendon Small Snow Falcon Flying V . This guitar has a bound white polymer baked maple fingerboard with no fingerboard-face inlays to be found anywhere (although black side dots will help you find your way around).

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