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  1. #1

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    While perusing the Stew Mac site recently, I was surprised to see the pricing of real wood binding. Maybe double or so compared to the typical white plastic binding.
    Seems like maybe an additional $50 or so, for what imho significantly raises the aesthetic quality of the instrument.
    Except for Eastman et al, it seems mostly reserved for upscale brands/models. It seems to me it would be a way to greatly enhance the product at a minimal cost.

    So I wonder why there is not more real wood binding? I post the question here as I suspect it has to do with installation time/cost, and not just raw material cost?

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  3. #2

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    Never understood wood binding. Binding is there to protect the wood!

  4. #3

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    No wood binding it is harder to work with and of course cannot protect the wood..........its wood. Sometimes looks good but I will take the traditional binding done right it is still the best.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Never understood wood binding. Binding is there to protect the wood!
    And, to hide the endgrain, and to provide some decorative contrast, etc. I see your point, but in practice I have had a few guitars with wood binding for many years and they all still look great. It seems that some basic diligence is all that was needed to keep them safe.

    On the other hand, my 1997 Martin D41 I find that the white plastic binding is starting to separate from the guitar at the waist. So I suppose it will sit at Martin for months while they get around to correcting it.

  6. #5

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    If a guitar has wood binding, or a wood exposed to appear to be a binding (so by definition, it is not binding anything), what happens when it needs repair? Can the specific area affected by wear and tear be refinished, or does the entire top (or back) need to be refinished?

  7. #6

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    AFAIK the binding material has nothing to do with the need to refinish. I have a guitar with wood binding, and I like it. The binding isn't really there to protect the wood, it's there to cover up the mating of the sides and the top/back, and for decoration. Cutting wood thin enough to be used for binding is tricky. Extruding plastic to any arbitrary thickness is just everyday business. My guitar with wood binding has 6 layers of alternating maple and ebony binding on the body, and it takes a lot of work and patience to get that right. Time is money, so it's more expensive to install. I haven't found any difference between plastic and wood other than the visual appeal, and that's purely subjective.

  8. #7

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    In addition to improving the appearance of the entire rib to plate joint, the binding serves to protect and seal the vulnerable end grain of both of the plates.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman
    In addition to improving the appearance of the entire rib to plate joint, the binding serves to protect and seal the vulnerable end grain of both of the plates.
    Yes and adds gluing surface if I'm not totally wrong here....

  10. #9

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    Wood binding is, in my opinion, and enormous step-up in quality and looks from plastic. It is what luthiers have used for centuries, and still gets used in any boutique or high end guitar. You generally use a hardwood, like ebony, and it does a good job of protecting the soft corners and sealing the end grain from the elements. Beyond that it just looks ten times better.

    It is a PITA to fit properly to a guitar. The strips must cut to long strips of exact tolerances, be pre-bent to match EXACTLY the sides, and glued in so that there are NO gaps. It isn't flexible like plastic, so eliminating gaps requires bending the wood to be just right. That adds a whole step to the process. Fitting wood binding can take hours of back and forth with a hot pipe to try to eliminate any gaps. Why do the factories use plastic... time is money.

    Thank goodness people have become accepting of plastic bindings. In some markets (like classical guitars) you couldn't sell a guitar with plastic bindings unless it was intended for a child. About ten years ago I started using plastic on my guitars and am greatly relieved that no one ever called me out on it. It is MUCH easier to do. And you know what? Black PVC looks so much like ebony binding I think using ebony has become absurd. Of course, using a hardwood to match your fingerboard and bridge is still a sexy look.

  11. #10

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    I prefer to use fiber but wood is a close second when it comes to installing binding. I don't like to glue plastic and I don't like to scrape it flush after it is glued in. Wood binding goes on easy once you have it bent to the exact shape needed. Fitting wood binding to the f-holes is always a fun and interesting challenge.

  12. #11

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    When people talk about protecting with binding, are they talking about sealing or about collision?

    I think it's interesting that we'll bind with plastic to protect the wood and then use nitrocellulose for finish. It's off topic, but it's kinda funny to me when people complain about how hard it is to strip conversion varnish, because that's exactly why we use it. Nitro comes off too easily and can't protect as well.

    I have 1 archtop bound with wood & 2 with plastic. I like them all. I also like Dale Unger's work where he exposes the end grain. And then there's the orchestral string instruments. Different kind of joint of course, but it all works just fine and mostly it comes down to personal taste in appearance.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by ccroft
    When people talk about protecting with binding, are they talking about sealing or about collision?
    Binding seals the end grain and helps to stop cracks from forming from impact and abrasion. Cracks most often begin on the end grain and proceed from there. This is also why the f-holes are bound. The rosette on a flat top guitar also helps in preventing cracks from forming near the sound hole. Spruce sound boards are a bit thin and are prone to cracking.
    Last edited by Matt Cushman; 01-11-2020 at 05:28 PM.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman
    Binding seals the end grain and helps to stop cracks from forming from impact and abrasion. Cracks most often begin on the end grain and proceed from there. This is also why the f-holes are bound. The rosette on a flat top guitar also helps in preventing cracks from forming near the sound hole. Spruce sound boards are a bit thin and are prone to cracking.
    Thanks Matt. I see that more clearly now. Seems especially true in the case of f-holes, since they are unsupported while the edges of the box are supported by and glued to the ....um... the kerfy bit that holds top and side together. Doesn't wood or in your case fibre do that just as well as plastic?

    As a woodworker, I think I'm with you on gluing plastic to wood. 2 dissimilar materials with different expansion/contraction characteristics is something we don't like much. In fact, when you look at a guitar from that point of view, along with all the cross-grain joints it's kind of amazing it works at all.

  15. #14

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    I mostly use plastic for cost, ease, aesthetic and general market acceptance reasons. But when someone wants wood, no problem. Something not mentioned yet I don't think is that, if you're building lots of guitars, you get wood binding for free generally. I only have to purchase it if someone wants something very specific that I don't have.

    How is it free......... when you purchase solid wood sides that you will bend, they generally come wider than necessary. When they are cut down to the proper height, the drop is saved and as needed used as binding.