Build Your Own Guitar – Day 13

This is the entry for Day 13 of a 3-week intensive guitar building course I’m taking through the Australian Guitar Making School.

Click to view the entry for days 10, 11 and 12.

Click to view Day 9’s entry.

Click here to view Day 8’s entry.

Click here to view Day 7’s entry.

Click here to view all of Week #1.

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At the end of day 12, the guitar was sitting ready to receive its binding.

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Binding is the thin strip of timber that forms the border between the sides of the car and the top and bottom surfaces. It looks pretty, but it also plays a role in the structural integrity of the instrument so it’s important to get it right.

Before I got to glue in the binding, though, there are a few other detail jobs that had to be done.

First I had to chisel out a triangle of timber at the tail of the guitar. I’m going to insert some patterned timber here in a few days from now (when I finally nail down the pattern!).

I also had to remove a leftover piece of timber on the back of the guitar, near the heel. This piece couldn’t be cleared with the router because of the heel behind it, so I had to cut it out manually with a Japanese saw and then clean up the timber in the binding channel behind it, with a chisel.

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The next job in preparation for the binding is to clear a channel where the neck joins the top of the guitar, at the front. This is a precision job as the channel has to be just big enough to fit the binding and a strip of black/white/black.

Strato did a demo on one guitar and we were then let loose to do it ourselves. The job involves making progressively deep cuts in the spruce using is a scalpel, then some meticulous chisel work with a tool that’s specially customised for the job…

With those jobs done, it’s time to glue the binding into the channel routed around the edges of the guitar.

My binding is made from maple. It’s a thin strip of timber around 5mm wide by 2mm thick and it has a strip of black/white/black trim on one side to provide a nice visual effect. The light color of the maple’s going to look great as a divider between the darker tiger myrtle used on the back and sides of the guitar. The maple will blend with the light colored spruce top, so we use another strip of black/white/black to form a border around the top.

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First, we need a lot of 4-inch pieces of tape…..

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When I say we needed a lot of these, I mean we needed a LOT of them.

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There are 4 bindings to be glued to the guitar (left/right for both front and back). The tape you see above will do about 1.5 bindings.

The rear bindings come first. The rear is simpler than the front on my guitar so it makes for good practice. With the binding measured and trimmed to size, you smear a whole lot of glue into the binding channel.

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When it’s all glued up, it’s time to apply the binding and tape it down as quick as you can.

This is a pressure job. In fact, it was the most stressful job we’ve done in the last few weeks. The binding has to be positioned in exactly the right place. It has to be pressed in to the channel as hard as possible and then taped down tight. Really tight. You have to clean off excess glue as you go and all of this is being done on the clock because you have to get the binding jammed in and taped down before the glue begins to set.

Graeme from our class shows the technique…..

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And here’s my guitar with the bindings on the back glued and taped in place:

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Next we turn to the front of the guitar. Because the top (i.e. the front) is made from spruce, it has some ‘hairy’ bits leftover from the router. It doesn’t respond to routing as cleanly as the tiger myrtle, probably because it has a more open grain (my guess).

Those hairy bits have to be sanded down so that they don’t plug up the channel for the binding and the extra strip of black/white/black.

This is the binding and the strip of black/white/black that will be applied to the front. They both get glued in at the same time and as you can see, they’re quite thin and delicate. It’s a messy, awkward job that works much better with two people than one.

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Sorry, but the process was too rushed for an action photo, but here’s the finished product. We’ll remove the tape tomorrow morning. Hopefully the close-up shots of the front will give you an idea of how the extra black/white/black forms the border and separates the spruce top from the maple binding.

That’s basically where we left things for today.

You can see from the first photo below how the binding currently sits a bit proud from the spruce top. Tomorrow we’ll remove the tape from the binding and file the excess down with a metal scraper to form a nice, clean edge along the front of the guitar.

Then we start on the fingerboard, which I measured and prepared for cutting just before going home. If we get time we might attach the bridge, too. It’s going to be another big day!

Thanks for reading.

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4 Comments

  1. Fascinating!! Again, I love to learn the process. About the wood — softer wood like spruce tends to have longer, coarser fibers and more lignin (the oils/resins that hold the fibers in the wood together). I do not know if that’s the reason for the fraying after routing, but I think it stands to reason. These differences have a huge effect in paper making, with very soft woods being suitable only for cardboard and newsprint, while harder woods can yield higher quality paper.

  2. Will you use a natural (organic) type of lacquer to finish off? Or a synthetic poly sort of thing? The colours of the timber will go to another level when you do…cant wait for that bit!
    Push on, you are making really good progress and quickly too!
    As a Cellist, who saw his 180 year old instrument pulled apart for a rebuild and tidy-up by an expert in 4 minutes, your guitar is shaping up to be a fabulous thing and it will sound fantastic when you string her up.
    Is it a ‘her’ or a ‘him’??

    1. It’s an “it” at the moment. I’ve taken the unusual (for me) step of naming it – “Stratovarius Viggen”. The name is more in honour of our teacher and a small tribute to Sweden. I’ve only had one other guitar that I named before, a bass called Veronica.

      If this one gets a regular name, it’ll most likely be “Viggo”

      It should be finished in a couple of days. The neck should be shaped tomorrow, and then some finishing details and cleaning up before the class finishes with a big dinner on Friday!!