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

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I wanted side purfling, so I glued a white/black section of purfling to the binding before installing the binding properly.
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The final glue up with the binding was done with this glue which is supposed to help the acrylic bind better with the wood.
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Right now it’s still in masking tape so the proof will be 24 hours from now.
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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.

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