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Da Vinci Unplugged: The Last Supper, Table Manners

A drawing is scaled to fit the pickguard outline:

Two variations of granite Corian are used to create the tablecloth. The two colors create a lighted surface and a shadowed surface:

A pattern is carefully glued in place matching the fold in the tablecloth to the seam created by the joint line of the Corian:


How does the rest of the table come together? Click here to find out.

Harvey Leach, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: The Last Supper Inlay

Harvey here!

With different inlays different challenges are presented. With Mona Lisa the challenge was to recreate an inlay so it had the textures and transitions of a painting. With the Last Supper the painting techniques are less defined, and because the original is in such poor shape, many artists have put their own spin on what the original might have looked like. These representations generally don’t have the kind of dramatic painting effects the Mona Lisa exhibits.

 Originally, I had proposed that we put the Last Supper on the back of the guitar. My  reasoning was a bit selfish—I would have much more space and, therefore, the inlay could be as big as possible. We quickly abandoned that idea because it would be a disservice to the subject matter. By moving it to the pickguard, the size of the inlay had to be reduced by more than 50%, meaning that we would have to reproduce one of the greatest pieces of art in history within a space of six inches. Keep in mind that the original covers an entire wall!!!

In any art form artists develop their own “signature” something that seems to be a key element to their style. If I had to give a single word explanation about what is unique about me it would be “scale.” I have always been a bit obsessed with making realistic representations on a tiny scale. Even as a child in my earliest artistic endeavors in the model car world, I felt the need to hand paint the letters on the tires and use black thread for plug wires. As an inlay artist I pride myself in being able to cut tiny pieces and combine them to create a photo-realistic composition. The greatest challenge isn’t just cutting a piece, but also manipulating it so that it ends up where it belongs and not on the floor. I like to joke about how the floor of my shop has one of the most elaborate inlays ever created hiding in the cracks somewhere. I have always been amazed how, as I cut tiny scraps of material, broken sawblades fall directly under the cutting board, but when I drop a valuable piece it somehow ends up in the next room. Many is the time I have found myself crawling on the floor looking for some microscopic piece of shell, Corian or precious metal. I usually spend far more time doing this than it would take to cut a new piece, but I just can’t help myself. Maybe it’s necessary so I get up out of my chair and get some exercise.

Parts of this inlay were better than a treadmill. Here is a sneak peek at the pattern:

 

- Harvey Leach, on behalf of Martin Guitar

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Da Vinci Unplugged: Fret not, Teenie-Tiny Fat Man…

As the markers got smaller and wider going up the neck, I had to choose images that tend to be more horizontal than vertical. Position five is a helmeted figure. I showed the piece to an artist friend and he called him a “fat guy”. I had to laugh at myself, because I was so caught up in the details I didn’t even notice he had a double chin!

To give you sense of the scale of these pieces, I’ve overlayed a transparent ruler marking 100ths of an inch. This is how I can measure the incisions as the size of dust particles:

Click here to see the rest of the fret markers on Flickr.

Bob Hergert, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: There’s Something About Mary

In the early planning of the guitar, I was planning on using the Mona Lisa for the third fret marker. Then Harvey wisely stole her away to use on the headstock. I wanted to do a face to fill the shape, so I found a painting of a young Mary from an Annunciation scene. Maybe the most difficult single piece I did. To keep the look of innocent beauty at that scale tested every skill I hope to possess. You can see in the picture how I tried to fine tune the features.

Click here to see the rest of Mary’s portrait on Flickr.

Bob Hergert, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: The Bridge, Da Vinci Self Portrait

Choosing images for the fret markers is the fun stuff. Poring over Leonardo’s notebooks, studying his sketches, trying to dissect his soul. For the first marker I chose his (probable) self portrait as an old man. I’ve drawn hundreds of faces, likely thousands, but at most a handful from another artist’s drawing. Da Vinci worked a lot in fine lines of chalk or crayon, along with pen, ink, and white highlights. For scrimshaw I work mostly with stippled dots and line, in black. So translating his style to mine took some effort. At this point I’m really feeling a powerful sense of communion with the master.

Like the gentleman I pretend to be, I start with a deep look into the eyes, take in the face, then move down the neck…

Bob Hergert, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: Enter Bob…and The Bridge

When I work a smaller piece, I attach it to a brass sheet with sealing wax. Here is the bridge. I first taped the back with masking tape for easy removal from the wax.

Next, I tape the original drawing to the surface of the ivory:

 

Now I use my scribe to poke through the drawing, resulting in the dotted outline you see here. Though this technique seems simple, it isn’t. Sensing the right amount of pressure to ensure the dots are neither too shallow nor too deep takes lots of practice. Saving time at this stage allows me to devote more time later to the finishing touches. On a small piece like this, every dot after the initial outline IS a finishing touch (below).

 

Click here to see the rest of this portrait on Flickr.

Bob Hergert, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: About Bob Hergert, Master of Scrimshaw

Bob Hergert has been a scrimshaw artist for over 30 years. He came naturally into this medium of incising ivory with intricate designs. He had drawn in pen and ink since the age of 10, eventually creating works in the stippled technique (images made up of thousands of dots). A jeweler asked him to work on some pendant pieces he’d made from fossilized ivory. It was a perfect match. Bob could achieve a level of detail impossible with the quill pens he used in his drawing.

Years of dedication to the difficult medium paid off. His work made the covers of trade magazines. Most of the recent books on scrimshaw also feature him and his work. He was even made a character in two of Tom Clancy’s Net Force series novels.

Eventually his unusual artform led him to meet knifemakers, cuestick makers, and luthiers. He would say this suited him perfectly, for the work he created he could also play with. His artworks embellish a wide variety of objects: jewelry, funiture, knives, fountain pens, cuesticks and cueballs, and of course, guitars.

Much of the work on musical instruments is done on truss rod covers, knobs on electric guitars, and complete fretboards. He has worked on a number of guitars made by Eric Galletta, who worked with Wayne Charvel. Their clients include The Allman Brothers Band and the Beach Boys. Eric provided Bob with introductions to many professionals in the music business, including the luthier Harvey Leach.

This fateful meeting has led to the collaboration of the two on Martin Guitars’ 1,500,000th guitar. Harvey Leach is doing the inlay that Bob will embellish with his intricate scrimshaw.

Much more information on the artist can be found at www.scrimshander.com and www.bobhergert.com.

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