How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Series – Part Nineteen – Trimming the Binding

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This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Nineteen, Trimming the Binding. In this post I’ll show you how to trim your freshly installed acoustic guitar binding to be flush to the body, plus tips and tricks to make it easier. Enjoy.

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Trimming the Guitar Binding

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Nineteen-Trimming-the-BindingThe binding on an acoustic guitar is intentionally installed a little bit bigger than the actual rabbet channels that are around the edges. This is to allow room for trimming the binding and purfling flush to the guitar body.

If you were to glue the binding and purfling lower or deeper than the body, you would have to shave away some of the sides and plates to make it flush. This ruins the shape of the guitar, and is very noticeable versus a correctly made guitar body.

Now that the binding strips are fully dry, and sitting a little bit proud of the two surfaces, it’s time to make them all even. This is a fairly straightforward part of the process, and you can use either hand tools or power tools to accomplish the goal.

Before you start the process however, do a quick inspection and just make sure that there aren’t any very large gaps between the binding and the guitar body. If there are, you need to address them before you waste all your time trimming.

Small gaps can be filled, but anything that’s really large, or where the binding has come away from the channel will need to be replaced because when you try to make it flush it’ll cut all the way through the strip.

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If you missed last week, here is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Eighteen.

Start With a Chisel or Scraper on the Plates

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Nineteen-Trimming-the-Binding-scraping-the-binding-stripsThe first place to start leveling the binding is on the top and back plate. If you did your job well, there shouldn’t be much more than 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch that you need to remove. Start with a chisel or a scraper, and work in sections.

If you’re closer to an eighth of an inch, a chisel is very helpful at removing a larger quantity of wood. However, you need to be careful because the chisel can also dive in unexpectedly, and remove a very large piece.

If you aren’t the best with a chisel, it’s probably better to start with the scraper, and go the slow and safe route. Again, work in sections, and be sure to keep your scraper blade square to the top surface so you don’t accidentally round your bindings.

See Also: Acoustic Guitar Making For Beginners

Use a Sanding Block as an Alternative

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Nineteen-Trimming-the-Binding-getting-the-binding-flushIf you aren’t using edge tools, or don’t like to use edged tools, then use a palm sander or a sanding block to start flattening the binding to the top and back plate. Work in sections, and carefully remove the excess material.

Be careful which direction you sand, because you can inadvertently separate the binding strips on the sides of the guitar. If you are pushing away, and you accidentally catch part of the binding strip that’s sticking up, which can cause damage.

The best way to sand these is in the general direction of the strip itself. It’s going to take a little bit longer, but you can also apply a little bit of sideways pressure just to get a little bit more of the sanding grit to remove more wood.

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See Also: 17 Important Tips on How to Sand Wood

Router and Flush Trimming Bit for the Sides

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Nineteen-Trimming-the-Binding-checking-the-trimming-progressThe reason that you need to do the top and back plates first is that you need a level surface in order to use the router to do the part of the binding that sits on the sides of the guitar. You could of course do all of this by hand as well, but the router does make the process a lot faster.

Once you have your top and back plate fully completed, you can then switch to a router with a flush cutting bit and adjust it so that way the bearing rides against the side of the guitar. Run the profile on both sides, and the binding will be trimmed flush.

This is a welcome relief to a process that can take a little bit of time. When you are working on the top and back plate, your arms will surely be a little tired when you’re finished. Being able to pick up the router and finish the job is a nice way to finish leveling your binding.

See Also: 50 Things I Wish I Knew When I started Making Guitars

Finish by Hand With the Cabinet Scraper

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Nineteen-Trimming-the-Binding-the-binding-starts-bigger-than-the-sides-and-topOnce the power work is done, the binding will be pretty close to flush but not 100% in all areas. To make it perfect, you need to come back with a cabinet scraper. If you don’t have a scraper, a sanding block will also work.

The Book Store is Now Open!   Happy Building!

Scrape the binding where it meets the sides, and make sure to keep your scraper blade square to the side profile so you don’t round your binding accidentally.

Work carefully, and feel the joint between the two pieces to make sure that it’s perfectly flush.

Work all the way around one plate at a time. This is a big enough job without skipping all over the place. If you concentrate on one area, and only move away when it’s finished, you’ll see the progress you’re making, and build mental momentum.

Contrast this to jumping all around, you’ll finish most of the sections most of the way, but never really finish any of them completely. This leads to frustration, because you’re working like crazy and not actually getting anywhere.

See Also: 9 Easy Ways to Know When to Take a Break From Your Guitar Build

Check for Gaps and Fill Them

Once your binding strips are perfect, use a new paintbrush or an airline and blow off all of the excess dust from sanding and scraping. This is a really important step, because it will reveal any gaps or mistakes that need to be addressed.

Once the area is completely clear of all sanding dust, slowly and carefully look at the entire binding and purfling design. Carefully inspect every inch, and mark any gaps that need to be filled.

Decide on a filler product, depending on the severity of the gap. Bigger gaps will need a dedicated filler product, but hairline gaps can be filled with lacquer later on in the process.

See Also: How to Use Wood Filler

Tips for Trimming Your Guitar Binding

Like always, here are some tips for trimming your guitar binding. Each of these will help you, and you’ll get through the process a lot more easily.

  • Work in sections, that way you actually complete something before moving on.
  • Flush the top and back plates first, which will allow you to use a router later in the process.
  • Sharpen your cabinet scraper often, and it will cut much better.
  • Be careful with the chisel, because it can take a bigger bite then you might be ready for.
  • Keep your cutting tool or sanding tool perpendicular to the surface to avoid rounding your binding strips.
  • Fill any large gaps with a wood filler product, don’t wait until after finishing.
  • Take a break if you need to, because this much handwork can be tiring.
  • It’s better to take a little extra time in this process then to rush it.

Coming Up Next Week

Now that the body is mostly completed, it’s time to turn our attention to the guitar neck and get that process going. One of the ways I love to build acoustic guitars is by having two major parts going at the same time.

This way, when one part is drying, or I have a major stoppage, I can just switch to the other part and continue the building process. Unfortunately with guitar making, there is a lot of downtime. Having two pieces going at once fills that down time.

For this guitar, I’ll show you how to make a stacked neck, which is one of the easiest methods for constructing an acoustic guitar neck. You don’t need any fancy jigs to make any kind of cuts, and the results are very good.

If you have any questions about installing the guitar binding in this part of the acoustic guitar making series, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

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