the fiddly bits

Last week was a week of catastrophic electronic failure around our house. My laptop went in the shop for one problem and came out with another that proved fatal for the not-so-ultrabook which is now a  brick sitting in my office. I used to do all of my own repair on computers, but after taking one look inside that tiny little box with its tiny little parts, even I gave up and took it to a “professional.”

A moment of silence for the old girl…

Ok, now where were we?

Oh yes, the fiddly bits.

In the last post I had finally completed construction on the sound-box and routed the edges flush. The next step was binding the whole guitar. I don’t know what it is about binding that makes it so intimidating; perhaps it is the microscopic scale of the work or the precision required? Maybe it’s the idea that what you are working on ends up being a pretty eye-catching detail? For whatever reason, if bracing a guitar feels like black magic, binding one feels like jumping out of an airplane. Once the router touches the edge, there is no turning back.

Many luthiers also add a decorative (and functional) element to the design called an end graft which covers the seam where the two sides come together at the end pin.

I have to confess I had no intention of adding an end graft when I began this build. It seemed out of my league. It also seemed like I had a greater chance of botching two seams just to cover one. And then I had the thought of adding a white acrylic graft to match the binding (which would have been a horrendous idea BTW). Finally I started digging through my small scraps pile and found a little cutoff of tiger maple. I couldn’t resist.

This is tricky grain, but by using double stick tape to secure it to my bench and my 4 1/2 smoother (York pitch) I thinned and flattened the scrap to about 3/32 thick and trimmed it down with my block plane into a wedge shape.

Not bad.

At this point I centered the graft, marked the edges with my marking knife and used my razor saw to kerf the edges of the area where the graft wood sit.

I then used my Dremel tool and Stew Mac precision router base to clear out most of the debris, but cleaned up the edges with chisels.

I did a test fit and immediately had the idea to add some purfling strips to dress it up a little.

After a little adjustment here and there I glued the purfling to the graft with CA and then glued the whole graft in with PVA glue.

After flushing up with a card scraper I wiped some Naphtha over the graft and wow did that maple pop!

I did all of this before getting into the binding proper because I knew the router would trim the graft precisely to mate up with the binding, and after a few more brief and noisy passes with the binding router jig I had channels into which I could glue binding. I routed the binding first and then came back around to add the ledge for the purfling.

I decided to glue the purfling in first using CA glue and then I came back to clean that up with chisels and card scraper preparing the Chanel for the binding by removing any excess glue or debris.




I wanted side purfling, so I glued a white/black section of purfling to the binding before installing the binding properly.


The final glue up with the binding was done with this glue which is supposed to help the acrylic bind better with the wood.

Right now it’s still in masking tape so the proof will be 24 hours from now.

Yes this does take plenty of planning ahead and yes it is finicky work, but I must say, that after finishing the work, I have an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment that my giant hands could do such a thing.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Clites says:

    Its really looking great!


    1. Thanks Brian. I get nervous entering uncharted space like this, but if you just take your time and think through things in steps it isn’t all that hard.


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