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ZipFlex FAQs

SHELLINLAYZipFlex300Is it real shell?
Yes, FlexiAb is real shell. It is made from Duke of Pearl's Abalam.

What is Abalam?
Abalam is real shell that has been manufactured into the laminate known as Abalam or Ablam. Chuck "The Duke of Pearl" Erikson and Larry Sifel invented and patented Abalam years ago and it is in wide use all over the world as a superior alternative to solid shell blanks. Abalam is used widely by the biggest factories and by many of the world's finest individual luthiers.

Why use Abalam for ZipFlex?
Abalam has several advantages over traditional shell blanks. For one thing, the color can be more consistent and intense and will not as easily "sand through" to less colored shell below. Also, Abalam gives a much greater yield from this rare and precious material. And the color matching throughout the inlay will be more uniform.

Do I need Teflon for creating the channel to install the ZipFlex?
No, there is no need to install Teflon along with the other purfling elements. The traditional method to install shell purfling has been to install a Teflon strip along with the purfling elements and then, when all is dry and set-up, the Teflon is removed, leaving an open channel into which shell strips are inlaid. On the other hand, since it is flexible, ZipFlex can be installed right along with the purflings and binding in one simple step.

Is ZipFlex easy to install?
Yes, ZipFlex is extremely easy to install. Just tape it in along with the purflings and you're done. It is as easy as that. It easily forms and bends around every curvy part of your guitar, whether on the soundboard, the back or the sides.

Will it bend around a tight radius on the horn of a cutaway?
Yes. Of course there may be some unusual cutaways that are too tight but that is no different than using regular strips anyway. In both cases, the ZipFlex can be further broken, just like regular Abalam, to negotiate a tight curve. But with nearly all cutaways ZipFlex will work just dandy.

Will ZipFlex easily bend into inside radii
such as a guitar waist or inside the cutaway?

Yes, ZipFlex has been especially designed to go into the inside radius of cutaways and waists. The proprietary flexible substrate has been engineered to flex just the right amount to achieve this.

Will ZipFlex save me time?
Absolutely. Because you do not have to go back and remove the Teflon channel and then break the little strips (whether Abalam or solid) into the channel, the time saved is quite significant. The minimization of delaminations along the way also saves time over the traditional methods.

Can I use ZipFlex for shell purfling on the sides of a guitar
(like a style 45 inlay scheme)?

This is one of the places where ZipFlex is at its best—inlaying the sides of a guitar with shell. It is as easy as taping in the ZipFlex instead of your regular purflings.

How do I glue ZipFlex into the channel?
You can use your regular glue since you are ultimately gluing the shell to the channel. Cyanoacrylates are especially well suited for ZipFlex.

Will ZipFlex look the same as using solid blanks or Abalam strips?
ZipFlex looks superior to regular Abalam strips. The reason it is superior to the other shell methods of strip inlay is because of the engineered and flexible substrate. Because each section of ZipFlex is bonded and aligned to the substrate, there is a linearity and flow that is unmatched. With the traditional method of breaking in little individual pieces, the ends are sometimes slightly misaligned, creating a "step" and a non-flowing look. With ZipFlex, the smoothness of the abalone line is guaranteed by the continuous and flowing substrate.

Will I see the engineered fractures
after the ZipFlex has been installed on my guitar?

They will be virtually invisible. They may be slightly seen (if you look for them and know what you are looking for) in the more lightly colored shells. But this effect is no different than with the traditional solid strips or Abalam strips currently in use. The dynamic is the same.

Will ZipFlex delaminate?
Any shell can delaminate unexpectedly. This is inherent in the nature of shell and can happen with solid blanks, Abalam strips or ZipFlex. We have invented a proprietary process to minimize the possibility of this. So while it is not possible in any shell material to completely eliminate tiny, occasional delaminations, ZipFlex should have fewer than the more traditional materials. Further, each piece of ZipFlex is inspected and any flawed strips are culled out. If, while being installed, a delamination does occur, the piece (if found) can be simply put back in place and secured with cyanoacrelate glue. If the piece cannot be found, the tiny delaminated section can be very easily nipped out with a razor blade and inlaying can then continue. This is far better than having delaminations with the traditional methods since any delamination in ZipFlex is well defined, short and clean. This is better than the irregular delaminations in the traditional methods since they are difficult to refit, as you have to nip and file the ends where the piece is missing. In short, delaminations are less of a problem with ZipFlex.

Is ZipFlex more costly than using regular Abalam strips?
The per-inch cost of ZipFlex is only slightly higher than regular Abalam strips (though manufacturing ZipFlex is a very complex process and much more labor intensive that regular strips). However, there is a very real and substantial savings in time, labor and frustration and an increase in the quality of the finished inlay. So while the up front cost of the material is slightly higher, the cost of actually inlaying a soundboard will be far less when factoring in the time and labor saved. This, for most builders, will certainly far outweigh the slightly higher initial material cost.