Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Binding, binding, and more binding

Gluing the binding and purfling to the top
It's been a few weeks since I last posted an entry because I've been working on pretty much the same thing since then. As predicted, attaching the binding and purfling was a long and exacting process, but not one I found tiresome. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, in fact.

I've already described the process, so I won't go into much detail. It's simply a process of fitting sections of binding and purfling into the ledges I routed around the top and bottom. The pieces have to be bent to shape and  fit very precisely because the finished product won't hide many imperfections. It's one of the parts of the process that really separates a well made guitar from one that's not. The binding and purfling are both made of wood and are very thin (the purfling, in particular) so they're very delicate, and fitting them precisely without breaking them is no simple task.

Trimming the binding and purfling
But things went pretty well. There were a few challenges as there always are, but it all came together and I'm nearly finished now with only a little more sanding to do. I should explain that the first step is to glue the binding and purfling in. Then, after it dries it's necessary to plane the excess wood away so that it's even with the top and sides. Then it's sanded to finish. I've done all but the very final bit of sanding, which I should be able to compete quickly at the beginning of my next class.

I should also mention that there is a special thrill in getting the binding attached. When working on the top of the guitar early in the process, it's a very resonate piece of wood. You can really sense how it can turn into a beautiful sounding instrument. But once that top is attached to the sides, it becomes just a stiff piece of wood again and its resonant properties are really diminished. That is until the binding is attached. With that simple step, all of the wood pieces become one and they begin to resonate as one unit, and all of the work carefully carving the braces and fitting the pieces so carefully together pays off. There is still work to  do to get the box to its full potential, but adding the binding is an important and satisfying step.

After sanding the binding
We completed one other small task this week, which was to cut out our bridge blanks and rout the slot for the saddle. (For those who need some definitions: the bridge is the wooden piece at the bottom of the guitar to which the strings are attached. The saddle is a piece that sits in the bridge. The strings run down the neck, over the saddle and then connect to the bridge). The bridge is made from ebony which is, of course, very hard material. So we cut it in a rectangle to rough size, then we routed the slot. This is a simple but very important step since the saddle doesn't sit straight. It's angled slightly to compensate for the size of the strings. Soon we'll be cutting it to the proper shape and drilling the holes where the strings will go after it's attached to the guitar. But next up is the neck. The only work left on the body is to attach the bridge and do the final tap tuning of the top, which involves sanding small sections of the top and continually tapping to test the resonance of the instrument until the best sound is achieved. So next week we'll begin the process of shaping the neck and attaching the finger board and truss rods.

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