Wood Selection for Binding

Wood Binding Design

As I mentioned in the previous article, that it would probably be wise for the beginning guitar maker to start with a simple wood binding approach. Once this technique has been mastered to install simple bindings, you can more easily move on to more complex designs.

Wood Selection for Bindings:

If you have a lighter tonewood that you are using for the back and sides, you could use that same wood for the binding or even contrast it with a darker wood, such as cherry, rosewood or walnut.

You could do the same contrasting color scheme with a dark wood as well – it is strictly up to you or up to your guitar client.

Wood Species and Designs to Consider:

Cocobolo with Maple Purfling
Rosewood with Maple Purfling
Curly Maple with Ebony/Maple Purfling
Curly Maple with Rosewood Purfling
Curly Koa with Maple Purfling
Plain Koa with Maple Purfling
Bloodwood with Maple Purfling
Madagascar Ebony with Maple Purfling
Mahogany with Maple Purfling
Mahogany with Ebony Purfling
Burled Walnut with Maple Purfling

GLS Tip: The wood purfling can be many different wood species other than what I suggest in the above list. For instance for your light wood purfling you can use not only Maple, but Holly or Basswood. For the dark strip purfling you do not have to use Ebony. You can use what is called ebonized wood or you can make your own ebony strips by dying them – more on that later.

These are only suggestions and the sky is the limit. You can, of course laminate multiple contrasting colors for your purfling too. Whatever you do, it is best to wind up with a contrasting purfling next to the side wood to properly set-off the beauty of both the side wood and the binding wood.

Wood Binding Sizes:

The size of bindings often varies from builder to builder, depending on the type of guitar, the depth of guitar and the proportions that are desired for the correct appearance. Because of bending challenges, bindings are seldom thicker than 3/32″ (2.4 mm). Go thicker than this as you risk cracking the binding in the side bender.

Classical Guitar Bindings are usually between 1/8″ deep to 3/16″. Acoustic Guitars are usually slightly deeper and vary between 3/16″ and 1/4″.

While some builders make the bindings from left-over wood from the sides and back plates, this not only limits your selection and design, it makes for quite a bit of extra work in laminating the purfling to the binding and preparing everything for bending.

Wood Binding Sources:

I prefer to make multiple bindings as one operation. This assures consistency and saves a lot of time. If you can make bindings for multiple guitars – that is even better, as you can set up your machinery for repetitive tasks and you can make 12 binding strips in almost the same time that it takes to make 4 of them.

You can purchase your binding wood from exotic lumber supplier sources on the Internet or by a personal visit to an exotic lumber or specialty wood supplier. (I prefer the latter). If you select wood that is 4/4 in thickness, it will allow you to make 2 binding slabs for an Acoustic Guitar or the Classical. Also search for wood that is about 4″ nominal in width and make sure it is at least as long as your longest guitar sides – longer by about 1 or 2 inches is best.

I prefer wood that is quarter-sawn and look for wood grain that is as vertical as possible. I temper that with the appearance of the wood to get the look I want from the binding as well.

An example of wood selection strictly for design purposes would be one from Curly Maple, Burled Walnut, Pleated Mahogany or Curly Koa. These are all incredible wood selections, but you have to exercise extreme care when bending these woods because the wood fibers tend to split and pull apart much easier than those of the straight grained varieties. Sometimes it is even necessary to split the bindings into thinner strips and laminate them during the gluing operation.

In the next article I will show you how to construct your binding slabs, cut them and bent your bindings.

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