open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

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Bryan Bear
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open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Bryan Bear »

This is not so much a question as a hope to spark some discussion. Often just talking about something brings up tips someone may have missed along the way. I'm going to ramble about what I do. Feel free to read it, or not. Don't feel obligated to respond to any questions I might have (unless you want to); it would be nice if others posted a bit about how they approach things. That way, whoever reads the discussion can get some ideas of different approaches and the pro/cons of them. There will probably be several side discussions that branch out.

When I install my (wood) bindings and purflings I use white glue and usually thin it a bit with water. I use fiberglass reinforced packing tape to tape them in tight. I do a test cut of my rebates and have a bit of guesswork to account for the swelling from the waterbase glue. I have been prebending the bindings; sometimes in the bender but other times just a very rough bend on the pipe to get the general shape. Some woods are easier to conform to final shape than others. . . I usually have side purflings that are already glued onto the bindings and must be fit to the tail graft. I cut the mitres by hand and try to get the best fit I can with the purflings and the buttjoint of the binindgs. Sometimes, I take too many tries to get it right and the waist doesn't fit in the same spot :)

I use a small brush to spread glue on the rebates and the bindings/purflings and start taping from the tail graft because that is the most obvious place a poor fitting joint will show. This leaves several strips of binding and purfling flailing about as I go around the body getting tangled up. Often the purfling isn't prebent or just bent for the waist so it can be a mess of strips pointing different directions. Starting at the back makes most sense since everything will be covered on the top side by the neck and the back will only show the back side of the purfling and binding joints. Starting at the waist and working both directions would be much easier to wrangle but then I am committed to length when I go fit everything at the tail and only get one shot at cutting the pieces.

What I would love is to have a better way of cutting and fitting each piece when it is already (mostly) fitted and glued to the rim. As it is, I have to do that on the heel end. I stop gluing/taping as I round the upper bout and start cutting and fitting. It is just really nerve wracking for me. I try to support the strips on a block of wood about the height of the body to do my chisel work but I'm just not at ease when I do it that way.

I just finished binding a body that has the back purfling and side purfling mated to the purfling of the back strip and end graft. The next one I am going to do will not have any purfling on the end graft and no center strip. I think I'll try starting at the waist and fitting the ends last. The much simpler joint should make this more doable.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Barry Daniels »

I feel your pain. First point I will make is that having the binding bent to match the body shape as close as possible makes it easier. I think starting at the waist is asking for trouble because there is no hard-stop to register against and the binding can move back and forth a bit.

Have you ever tried the superglue method of dry fitting everything and then seeping CA into the joints? Works great for plastic binding but will also work with wood.
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Bryan Bear
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Bryan Bear »

I have used ca wicking into the pre-taped bindings. There were some things I liked and some I did not. Mostly, I have gotten more and more sensitive to ca fumes and have tried to limit my use hoping to be able to use it longer.

I understand that having the bindings and close to perfect as possible is advantageous but I don’t always get to realize that advantage. For example, the binding job I just did took me several tries to get the tail join right so I ate up some length leaving the waist bend in a slightly different location leaving some gaps to close with tape pressure. Sometimes I elect to not bother getting a verge t. End to the binding. It depends on the wood and the thickness of the binding. If it is more supple or otherwise tolerant of cold bending stress, I will bend the waist a bit tight and put a general curve in the bouts knowing that the sweeping bend of the lower bout will conform and I can pull the waist n tight even if it doesn’t line up perfectly where I wanted.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Bob Gramann »

I’m only 135 instruments into this and my procedures have evolved as I have gained experience. I cut my binding ledges and purfling ledges with the Stewmac bit, a router with a donut baseplate, and guided by my hand only trying to keep the router vertical by eye—in other words, I use no binding jig. I bend my wood bindings on a pipe and install them one piece at a time, immediately after I bend while they’re still pliant. I use hot hide glue and the brown binding tape available from both LMI and StewMac. I used to use the 3M green 2060 tape because if its tight stickum and stretchability, but the brown stuff holds a bit tighter (sometimes I have to use a heat gun pulling it off so the stickum doesn’t rip off surface wood grains of the spruce). I have always had a hard time getting the binding seated on the sides with no gaps. For gaps between the binding and the top or bottom plates, the next day I can drop water into the gap and heat and press in the binding with a small iron and re-tape it. Gaps on the sides don’t close so easily and I hate it when filler is obvious. So, I learned this trick from an article Michael Greven published a long time ago in The GSL magazine. I make the side purfling gap later, cutting right on the line with a side cutting bit in the dremel. The side cutting bit, a disk with sawteeth on the perimeter, cuts a .040” slot which happens to exactly match the bw fiber purfling sold by LMI. Sometimes, I cut the top purfling slot with a 1/16” router bit in the dremel after I attach the binding; sometimes I cut the purfling ledge after the binding rabbet with the StewMac bit. Each method has different advantages and disadvantages.

I use scarf joints across the face of the binding to join it. Matching the grain at the joints makes them almost invisible. I made a little miter box to use with a razor saw so that I can cut the last piece exactly after it is all glued except for the last couple of inches. I usually cut just a little bit long and do the final fit with a chisel, a hair at a time. I have a line with a matching angle marked on the table of my disk sander so that I can sand the angle onto everything but the last joint before I bend. One of the advantages of the scarf joint across the binding face is recovery from a break when you’re bending. In many locations, you can sand the scarf joint on either side of the break, glue the already bent fragment to the guitar, and just go on from there.

I have started an experiment with the tail and cutaway pieces: I got some teflon dam material from StewMac. It is .020” thick. I cut two strips (.040” thick) to use as places holders at the inlays. I can then fit the miters later after I have all of the purfling slots cut. I haven’t decided yet if it is worth the trouble.

Since the scarf joint isn’t all that obvious (especially with rosewood—more difficulty with maple), when I’m having a hard time getting a good fit, I can put an index mark across the top of the binding onto the body to get the bends right on the pipe. Then, I can start gluing at the waist and if the scarf joint is exactly centered at the tail, no one is likely to notice.

The most important thing to me is to glue the binding, one piece at a time, immediately after bending that piece when it is still pliable. Sometimes, I take the whole body back to the iron to bend the binding more in a place where it just isn’t fitting tight.

I tried the CA method a couple of times, but I wasn’t happy with it. Also, I had some parts that I glued with superglue when I was a teenager that just fell apart thirty years later. Until the failure the joint was tight and useful. I’ll use CA with wood dust for inlay fill and to fill those last small gaps in the binding job that just won’t close, But, I am leery of using it for anything structural.

More than you wanted to hear?

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Bryan Bear
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Bryan Bear »

Putting in a temporary tail graft, installing the binding then fitting the graft is a nice idea. I can mess up plenty of tail grafts and not have to mess up the binding!
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Barry Daniels
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Barry Daniels »

I threw the CA method out there as a possible solution, but to be honest, I don't use it for wood binding myself. I do, however, use it for the top purfling which I install prior to the binding. I just hold the individual purfling strips, one at a time in place by hand and seep in a little CA a few inches at a time. This allows me to get it really gap free.

Wood binding is a lot more challenging. I have been very lucky with it and have never really had any gaps but this was probably due to my clamping method. In my younger days I had a 1/4" diameter bungee cord that was 100' long and would tie the body up like a mummy. I could place a tremendous amount of pressure with it and could keep placing wraps on problem areas until they closed up. But I did crack a rosewood side one time and as I got older this method would just wear me out physically, so I and to come up with a different method. I am now using packing tape followed up with strong rubber bands.

Another thing that has helped me is bending back bindings sideways or in the other dimension at the waist and around the horn of any cutaway. Combining areas of extreme bend and a back radius creates a need for this, in my opinion. I do this sideways bend by placing a little peg in my hot pipe and pulling the binding against it. Doesn't take much.

One thing nice about having a cutaway is it reduces the need to get a close fitting joint at the neck end if you just do an overlap.
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Brian Evans
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Brian Evans »

Nice discussion. My adds will be kind of simplistic, because I use plastic binding and do relatively simple takes on archtops. The tailpiece of an archtop kind of negates a need to do a superb job of matching at the tail, because the tailpiece mount covers that area. I use the Stewmac binding gluer jig and acetone to lay up three or four piece/layer purfling, then add them loose as I install the binding. I use the Stewmac router bit. I don't use a router jig, I use the router with a donut spacer in a router table, and spin the guitar around pivoting on the highest point of the arch (matches the donut thickness). Very simple, I'm not smart enough to figure out how the jigs work, although I can see them being needed with a flat top. I tape the binding in place, usually don't need to preform although I did bound F-holes last time and they needed pre-forming for the eye holes. I use ultrathin CA, but I spray two or three coats of shellac over the side and top, both to prevent staining from CA glue wicking into the wood grain and so the tape (last time, orange tape from Stewmac) doesn't pull up splinters from the softwood top. I use metal push-rods to get the binding in tight in bendy areas like cutaways and waist, and breath on the glue to get it to set up quicker, I probably should get some accelerator.

Freeman Keller
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Freeman Keller »

FWIW I have been using the wicked CA method with both plastic and wood binding and wouldn't consider an other. Take all the time in the world to pre bend and fit each miter perfectly, tape or clamp it so there are not gaps (or hassles), wick a few drops of thin CA in between pieces of tape to "tack weld" it in place. Pull the tape and run a bead of thin CA around both seams, using a piece of UHMW if I need to hold anything in place. Accelerator if needed, usually its not.

I find that unlike wood glues which frequently show up under finish if you don't get every little bit off, the CA doesn't. It is far less messy than trying to spread any glue on multiple pieces of binding and purfling, then attempting to tape them in place (don't ask me about spreading medium CA on plastic binding and trying to fit it while wearing latex gloves - what a cluster). I have never had binding come loose with CA (I have with Ducco) and I use this method to repair guitars that do have loose binding.

I'm moderately allergic to StewMac's thin CA but I have found another source that seems to not affect my asthma - I still wear a respirator and try to take it outside. I've used the CA trick on bodies, necks, heads, f-holes and even bound pick guards - I can't imagine any other way,

Steven Smith
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Steven Smith »

Another vote for CA. I almost always use wood bindings and I've found that making sure that the binding fits the channel makes a huge difference. I tape my bindings together and bend them on a pipe. I also use a razor blade to scrape the inside corner of the binding which helps the fit. I use 3/4" 3M 233 green tape with about one inch gaps, put a bit of CA in between the pieces of tape to lock the binding down and pull the tape and wick CA in both seams.

Chuck Tweedy
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

I usually use the CA method as well, but like using fish glue with simple binding (not a lot of purfling strips wagging around).
The trick for me is to get the whole thing all fit dry - completely fit. Miters at the tail and everything. Then mark with a contrasting pencil clear lines that MUST line up when you put it all back on. Mark at the tail, somewhere on the lower bout, then 3 marks on the waist (middle and 1" on either side). then upper bout (usually no need tho).
Then remove the dry fit assembly on one side and start gluing it on from the tail forward. I use a but joint at the tail so that is the starting reference, then follow the marks and make sure they line up.
Then do the other side same way, butting it up against the previous glue-up.
i feel like i just re-stated what is in C&N... just checked, not really. But it is a pretty standard method.

Bending binding to the correct shape is really easy with a bending form - just tape them all together with purfling lines in there as well, and bend all in one session like it was a 3rd side. I'm doing ebony now on the pipe because i don't have a form, but I'm really making sure it's right-shaped.
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Alan Carruth
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Alan Carruth »

I've always used wood glues and clamped with a 'rubber rope'. In the beginning I used Titebond, and it was always 'fun' dealing with the relatively short closed time. I learned to get things down tight with masking tape and get everything fitted properly dry before gluing, and even so there generally seems to be a bit of trimming to do in the end. The rubber rope, a strip cut from a truck inner tube, gets things tight, so there's often a little extra to take off once the glue is on.

Once everything was fit dry, I'd remove the tape holding the back bindings except for the ones right at the ends and the waist, and set up for gluing. I'd cut a lot of short lengths of filament reinforced packing tape and have them stuck around the edge of the bench, ready to go. Remove the end tapes, put glue up around the hips, force the ends of the binding and purfling together, and tape them down with the string tape, which won't break no matter how hard you pull on it. You only need to run your thumb nail across the top once when the tape breaks to appreciate this. Once the first side is down as far as the hips the other side is glued and taped to that point. Then the masking tape is removed from the waist and upper end on both sides and the process continued. Once everything is down tight with string tape the rubber rope is applied, starting with the waist.

After a few turns around the waist to secure it, you run down diagonally from the waist to below the hip as far as you can without the rope skidding toward the tail. From there it's back up to the waist, but not all the way: the idea is to leave a small gap between the rope turns as you go, working down from the waist on one side and up from the hip on the other. Once the lower bout is done the upper bout follows in the same manner. This leaves a gap above the shoulders and below the hips that gets filled in with diagonal wraps of the rope, working toward the center from both sides.

With Titebond I'd leave it in the rope for about a half hour to forty minutes; long enough for the glue to grab well where it's properly clamped, but not so long as to make it impossible to pull the binding in if there's a loose spot. Unwrap it, do the back in the same way, and leave it for at least a couple of hours.

The rubber rope is a fair amount of effort. I usually had to do at least some of the wrapping for students, and if I had two doing binding in one class that was about all I could manage without my hands cramping up. Switching to fish glue, with it's long working time, allows me to glue all the binding at once, which saves a lot of effort. I do leave it for at least 4-6 hours to dry, though. The rope puts on a lot of pressure, but so far I have not had one implode....

I do use CA for top and back purfling; side lines are bent with the binding. I've never been totally confident about getting the binding tight with it, though.

I used to do the end graft before gluing on the bindings; the main issue there being pulling the miters in tight as you're gluing. More recently I've gone to fitting the graft after the liners are in. I can fit and glue the purfling miters using CA, and then do the graft itself. There are advantages and drawbacks either way, and the time, and results, seem about the same. I'll note, finally, that I've only ever used wood bindings.

Randy Roberts
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Randy Roberts »

Thin CA here as well. The fumes are not toxic, but are highly irritant to mucous membranes. Setting a fan on low to blow across the work area at 90 degrees works well to avoid the eye burn, etc. of the fumes.
I do pretty much as the others describe, with some variation.

The tips I would add would be:
1. Shellac at least the edges of the body with a wash coat. (I usually shellac the whole body with a wash coat anyway to protect and keep the wood clean, as it can be several months between steps for me, but then I think there should be a bottle of shellac in every room of the house
). This, and a downcutting router bit for cutting the rebates also helps prevent tearouts and the "frizzies" on the edges of your rebates.
2. Wash coat the faces of the rebates with shellac right after you cut them so you don't forget to do so prior to gluing (DAMHIKT)
3. Pre-bend the bundle of bindings as if it's a third side like Chuck said. I make a pencil mark across the bundle at the center of the waist to line up with both the bending mold center waist, and the waist on the actual body.
4. I'll repeat Steve's advice of easing, or slightly beveling off the deep inside edge of the binding. I just do a few quick scrapes with a razorblade, but enough to actually see a slight bevel. This makes seating the binding into the rebate so much easier and flush.
5. I usually cut a shallower rebate for purflings and then a deeper rebate for the binding.
6. I glue in the purflings first, then lightly scrape the outer face to be sure it is flush with the binding rebate.
7. Line up the pencil line on the binding with the center of the waist and then I just use 4 or 5 rubberbands to keep the rest from flopping around.
8. Cutting miters is one of my favorite parts, and I really want them perfect. With the waist of the binding where it should be, I chop off the excess length at the butt about an eight inch proud, and then start perfecting the miter from there. The "mirrored" back chisel works well to mark the cut, but I then slide an "anvil" of 1/8th inch plywood between the body and the binding to make the chisel cut. I Also made a small rebated piece of wood about 1/2 inch thick, with the rough angle needed cut at the end to hold the binding in for minute touch ups to the cut face.
By extending the binding slightly past the angled cut edge, I sand ( 400 grit glued to a credit card) a very slight back angle where it will butt up against it's matching binding, leaving less chance of a gap. If you totally screw it up, you still are only losing at most maybe 1/8 inch of binding length, easily adjusted to once you get to the waist.
9 Once all the futtering with the miter is done, a quick swipe of shellac on the miter's gluing face will prevent any glue uptake in the end grain of the purfling which can make even a perfect joint line visible. This can give an invisible seam, even with light woods like maple. I start gluing at the butt miter joint, and just gradually work my way around by hand. I have one syringe of CA, and a second syringe of accelerant lying there with 25 ga needles (the pypettes work well, I just have free syringes so use them). I don't bother with the tape. I just make sure the binding is seated well, spot-weld wit a drop or two of CA and then a drop of accelerant, hold it for a few seconds, and then repeat an inch or so further on.
10. Once nearing the waist, a thin strip of polyetyline or other UHMW plastic, and a caul shaped to fit the waist holds the binding in place. ( Friendly Plastic is great for making this caul, just remember to make it using your body with a protective sheet of Saran Wrap to keep the soft Friendly Plastic from bonding to the side wood. and then you don't need the UHMW because the CA won't stick to the hardened FP). Clamping the caul to the waist to pull the binding in snug to the waist makes this formerly nerve wracking (for me) part easy because I can take all the time in the world if I want, to make sure everything lines up before I commit it to gluing.
11. I don't like using tape because: It takes less time to just hold the binding in place by hand, than to go around taping every inch or so. With the rubber bands keeping it all from flopping around, the binding is free to slide along in the rebate ahead of you, instead of buckling outward from being trapped downstream by the tape, and I never used tape that I didn't end up with CA somehow wicking under the tape and having to scrape that glob off, and I had to go around and take all the tape back off again to glue the binding under the tape.
12. If you have the binding rebate cut a hair shallow of the binding highth, the lip of binding gives you a nice dam for placing the CA against during the glue up.
13. Be very wary of applying very much CA at a time, even after you "spot welded your way all the way around , because if enough volume of the CA "flashes" at the same time, the exothermic heat released will boil the CA and the white result is the glue itself and doesn't sand or scrape off.

Steven Smith
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Steven Smith »

Like Randy says it's important to seal with shellac before using the CA. I tried to go back and edit my post but looks like there's a time limit with the new softaware?

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Jim McConkey
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Jim McConkey »

It has always supposed to have been 30 minutes for editing. Maybe it was broken before.
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Dave Meyrick
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Dave Meyrick »

I have had by far my best results with bending the bindngs + purflings in the side bender along with the sides.

One thing that hasn't been talked about much is the vertical bend required with a highly arched back which I use. Also round the sharp cutaway. I always struggled with this, given that around a 6 mm binding really doesn't want to bend in the vertical direction.

I devised this last time I did it and it helped me a lot. Just an aluminium bar with a shallow curve on top strapped to the bending iron. You can maintain the existing waist curve while pulling the binding into it's vertical curve. Easily removed for ordinary bending use.

Cheers Dave
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Marshall Dixon
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Marshall Dixon »

Hello awl,

I just happened to get started on a binding job about the time Brian posted this subject, so I thought I’d take some pictures.

I needed to improve on binding the waist as I’d had some sloppy areas occur. I was using a 1 1/2 inch dowel cut in half and affixed to a bar clamp. This to press binding/purfling into the waist. So I came up with this, trying to match the curvature of the waist, not only to have the sanded cauls change shape overnight but the sides aren’t exactly the same, so a very good lesson is that if you can’t make it accurate; make it adjustable… tomorrow.
binding step1a.JPG
As I was getting ready to cut a channel for the tail strip I noticed the difference in the two strips of purfling I ordered for the sides. I ordered two 20/20 and got one 10/20 and one 20/20 instead. Honest mistake as I didn’t even notice until cleaning up the glue. The silver lining is that I’ll just skip the side purfling.
purfling mismatch.JPG
I tried this job by hand and with a hand held router. A bearing guided router bit on a stand is the way to go for me. I have springs inside to provide the lift for the router. Made one with a counter weight but this one is easier to store.


I scribe the purfling line first. I cut with a climb cut and don’t change directions and you’ll get some runout with that method. I’ll usually have to clean up this line with an exacto knife where the router has cut short of the line. Better than tear out. Probably takes me an hour to dry fit and neaten up the router cut.
binding cutting jig 3.JPG
binding cutting jig 3.JPG (179.63 KiB) Viewed 6762 times
binding jig and carrier.jpg
OK. Glue:

I don’t like CA for this application. I’ve had bleeding of black dyed purflings and rosewood and ebony even after shellac.

So I went to Titebond. But considering that I pre-form my bindings and purflings and still find places where the fit is off… Titebond is hard to fix. Here is a set of purfling and bindings from an earlier guitar that I bent on the Fox side bender. They still have the occaisional kink.
bindings bent#24.jpg
So I went to HHG for this job. I used it once before on linings and the advantages are that 1) it grips in just a few minutes. 2) you can heat it up and redo it as needed (well, within limits). 3) clean up is easy; it doesn’t mar the wood like just about any of the others. 4) it doesn’t cause colors to run.

To be continued...

Marshall Dixon
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Marshall Dixon »

These are most of the tools I use for bindings. There are toothpicks and several dental tools in there. The chisels have mirrored surface for miters. That's a. little hand held miter box in the middle.

When previewed these pictures are arranged in reverse order. They should be self explanatory. If not let me know.
binding step4.JPG
I get one side on then glue up the flatter part of the tail, say 3 inches from the joint, to prevent pulling it apart when tightening it around the lower bout.
binding step3.JPG
binding step1d.JPG
binding tools.JPG

Marshall Dixon
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Marshall Dixon »

Here you see the type of clean up that seems to take forever.
back purfling rebate1.JPG
You can see the ledge in the pic through the magnifier. The problem I think can be traced back to my side sanding technique. I'm putting too much pressure on the edges when sanding the sides and that creates a slight sloping - enough to cause a gap when using a follower bearing 1/2 inch below the cut.
purfling rebate1.JPG
The reason to use HHG. Even with all the trouble getting the fit right here's what happened.
purfling gap.JPG
I rubbed several drops of water into the cracks and waited 15 minutes or so. put several more drops of water down and heated things up with a soldering iron and recyclable pie tin. Worked a little more glue in there and clamped it up.
binding reglue1.JPG
It seemed to work OK.
binding gap fixed.JPG

Marshall Dixon
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Marshall Dixon »

The end joinrts came out alright. I'll be able to fake it with filler. It's nearly impossible for me to make these light bindings with invisible joints.
tail seam2.JPG
29 bound top2.JPG
29 back bound.JPG
Thats it for this binding job. Sanded the sides and back with 100 grit today and started fitting the neck.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: open discussion about binding/purfling fitting

Post by Barry Daniels »

Looks like you figured out the trick to post the photos in reverse order. Good job.
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