Advanced Shell Technology
Kevin Ryan inspects paua abalone bridge pin inlays after sanding.jpg



Frequently Asked Questions


ZipFlex Flexible Abalone Strips


+ How do I install ZipFlex?

Installing ZipFlex is easy. We created a video overview of the process on the ZipFlex product page but here are the highlights.

  • Seal the endgrain along your purfling channel with vinyl or lacquer sealer.
  • Position the ZipFlex strip in your designated routed channel and tape the ZipFlex in place.
  • Continue taping the material in place as you work across your application's surface.
  • Once complete, trim any excess ZipFlex material. Excess material can be used on other applications so it's never wasted.
  • Tack your ZipFlex in place with thin viscosity superglue.
  • Once the ZipFlex is tacked down, remove the tape.
  • With the tape gone, "flood" the ZipFlex with more superglue to cement it in place.
  • Sand and finish the area as usual.

+ What kind of glue do you recommend for tacking the ZipFlex in place?

We recommend the thinnest viscosity cyanoacrylate (ie, superglue) you can find. Be sure to seal the edges of your inlay channel with vinyl or lacquer sealer before applying the glue to prevent glue from wicking into the end grain of your project surface.

+ What is ZipFlex?

ZipFlex is a genuine abalone shell strip engineered to be very flexible. It can easily bend around the edge of any curved surface, making it an ideal inlay material for musical instruments, furniture, specialty pens, shaving brush handles, pool cues, and more.

+ Is ZipFlex made from real shell?


+ How thick is the shell component of ZipFlex?

The pure shell strata is .050” thick and the engineered substrate is .005” thick. The total thickness of a ZipFlex strip is .055”. Visit the ZipFlex product page to see more product specifications.

+ How wide should I route my ZipFlex channel?

Our ZipFlex strips are slightly wider than their stated width due to being held together with a .005" substrate. We recommend routing your channel to be .01" wider than the ZipFlex strip's nominal width to account for the substrate and make it easy to fit the strip within a given channel.

+ How tight is the radius of a ZipFlex strip?

The radius varies depending on the width of the ZipFlex strip. .047-wide strips can achieve an approximately 1" radius. .064-wide strips can achieve an approximately 1.25" radius. .079-wide strips can achieve an approximately 1.5" radius.

ZipFlex becomes slightly less flexible against its wide axis (the way it would bend around a soundboard for instance) the wider it gets. If you have very tight bends around the horn of the cutaway or in the waist, then it is possible that the narrower widths (the .064” and .047”) will work best.

+ Will ZipFlex delaminate?

We use a proprietary process to virtually eliminate delaminations and we also carefully inspect each piece before shipping to ensure product quality and consistency.

+ Will ZipFlex look the same as solid blanks or Abalam strips?

When manually breaking solid blanks or Abalam strips into a curved inlay surface, gaps and "steps" can appear between the shell segments. By contrast, each section of ZipFlex is bonded and aligned to achieve the appearance of continuity and flow between shell segments. So an inlay performed with ZipFlex will actually appear cleaner and smoother than inlays performed with solid blanks or Abalam strips.

+ Will I see the engineered fractures after the ZipFlex has been installed?

The divisions between each shell segments are virtually invisible in most shell species. The lines between segments will be slightly visible on lighter-colored materials, such as mother-of-pearl.

+ How many ZipFlex strips will I need to complete a guitar soundboard?

Generally, four (4) of our 15” strips will complete one guitar soundboard.

Straight Abalone Strips

+ Are straight strips made from real shell?


+ How thick is a straight strip?

Straight strips are .050" thick. Visit the straight strip product page for more specifications.

+ How wide should I route my straight strip channel?

The nominal width of the straight strips and their actual width are the same.

+ How accurate are the dimensions of straight strips?

Straight strips are manufactured with state-of-the-art CNC equipment and have a tolerance of +/-.002”.

+ Can straight strips be broken to inlay a curved surface?

Yes. Although, our flexible abalone strips might be better suited for your project.

+ Why do your strips cost so much less than other luthierie supply houses?

Our proprietary manufacturing process allows us to offer these products at near-wholesale prices.

Bulk Orders, Shipping & Returns

+ Do you offer volume discounts for factories?

Yes. Contact us to order more than 100 pieces of any of our products.

+ How much does shipping cost?

We charge $10 flat rate shipping on domestic orders and $25.30 for international. Orders ship within 3-5 business days, unless otherwise notified.

+ Can you ship internationally?

Yes. Simply enter your international address during checkout. We also have dedicated distributors in Spain (Madinter) and Italy (Maxmonte Guitars) if that's more convenient for you.

+ What's your return policy?

Please note, the color and pattern of genuine shell products vary slightly from piece to piece. We accept returns on complete, undamaged items within 48 hours of package delivery. Unfortunately, we are unable to compensate our customers for the shipping costs associated with returns.