This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Seventeen, and you will learn how to bend the binding strips to prepare them for gluing on the guitar. Bending the strips can be tough, but follow these tips and you will do well. Enjoy.
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How to Make an Acoustic Guitar
In this part of the guitar build, the body is ready with rabbeted ledges for binding strips, and you should have already made a whole set of binding strips from last week. If you tried making your own binding strips, I am sure you are hooked.
Now that you have a bunch of binding strips, either from making them or buying them, they need to be bent before you can glue them in place. Even though they are really flexible, you can’t install them without bending them first.
This is a common rookie mistake, and you will regret it as soon as you have everything covered with glue. It will create a mess, and you will be doing a lot of cleanup.
Instead of going through this mess, let me show you what you need to know to prepare your binding strips for gluing, and bend them the best way. You will break less strips, and you will have a much easier time.
In case you missed last week, here is How to Make An Acoustic Guitar Part Sixteen
Wet Binding Strips Just Bend Better
Some wood bends easily without water. As you bend more and more wood, you will discover the pieces that bend easier than others dry. Binding strips seem to be one of those cases where it’s better to be wet.
One of the best things you can do before you start bending is to get those strips wet. If you do not have access to something large enough to soak the strips in, your bathtub will work.
Simply wash out any soap residue and then use something heavy to hold them under.
Soak them in hot water for about 30 minutes, and they will absorb quite a bit. This will allow them to create steam more easily, and you will be able to bend them more easily too.
Get Your Bending Iron Hot
Thin strips give up way easier than the bigger pieces for the sides. At first, it can seem like they are bending when in reality they are flexing.
If your iron is too cool, or you start too fast, you can end up breaking strips because you mistake the flex for the bend.
Also, get it hot does not mean get it hotter than normal. It just means allow it to get up to temperature before you start bending your strips.
Use a Bending Template
Since you bent the sides of the guitar, you should already have a bending template that matches the side profile of your guitar. If you do not, draw one out on the bench or another piece of wood using your guitar as a guide.
This is a hugely helpful item to have. Not only does it take the guess work out of the process, but you don’t have to worry about getting the guitar body wet as you check your strips.
With a good template, you can check your bending progress and see how you are doing. When you get the piece to the same shape as the template, you will know that the gluing process will be a lot easier.
This can be as simple as a permanent marker drawing of the side profile of the guitar. Terminate the ends of the line at the center seam area of the guitar. Then, check your strips against the template often as you bend.
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Have Some Patience
Bending thin pieces of wood is largely an exercise in patience. All you need to do is relax and bend the wood. Don’t rush, and don’t make it more difficult than it already is. Know that you are going to break some strips, and accept it before it happens.
The nice thing about making your own is that you can break a few without costing yourself much. You can also use the broken pieces for end flash and for smaller places that you might use binding. Instead of using a full strip and cutting it, just use a broken strip.
Bend the strips slowly, and make sure they are hot enough to make the bend. Be patient with the wood, and let it relax to show you that it’s time to bend. The wood will droop just like the sides do, and you can use that as your signal to make the bend.
Get Your Strips Perfect
The better the strips are right now, the easier it will be to glue them in place. The coming steps on this guitar are much harder when your strips are not bent well. In fact, the worse your strips are, the worse the gluing phase will be.
Even though binding strips are thin and flexible, they are not as bendable as you might think. It’s actually kind of hard to press a poorly bent strip into a binding channel, even with clamps and tape. On top of that, the glue likes to play tricks on you too.
You might think that the strips are against the ledges, but the glue can trick you into thinking that. If you have a lump, or a poorly bent strip, the glue can fill the thin gap and make it look flush. Once it dries, and you remove the tape, you’ll see the mistake from space.
Instead of struggling a lot during the gluing phase, struggle now to get the strip as close as you can to perfect. It’s an easier struggle, because it’s not covered in glue. Put in the time now, and it will return ten fold when you don’t have to struggle in the next steps.
Coming Up Next Week
Now that the strips are bent, it’s time to install them. This is where all of your efforts up to this point will come to fruition, and you will see just how well you did.
The better you bent your strips, the easier this part of the process will be. If you skipped through and did the bare minimum, it will show and you will be frustrated.
This is your last chance to go back and make those changes if you did not bend your strips well. If you really need to, just take a break, and come back to it tomorrow with fresh eyes. It’s amazing how a small break can make a difference.
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