Next the wood bindings (maple and rosewood) are bent on the bending machine pictured earlier. Bindings for all five guitars are bent at the same time. First tape the binding stock together side by side then put them into the bender as if one piece. This will keep them from being accidentally skewed across the bending surface. Once the bindings have cooled they are placed in a jig to keep them in shape until ready to install.
Finally this month I would like to give you a preview of next month's journal. By this time next month I should be well into routing the dovetail joint that holds the neck to the body. This joint not only joins two very different shapes (a stick and a box) but it also determines the angle of the neck set. The set is the angle at which the neck leaves the body. That is, the angle formed by the line of the neck falling away from the plane of the top. The neck, therefore, is not perpendicular to the side of the guitar but is usually 2.5 - 3.0 degrees less than 90.
The neck set determines the height of the bridge and saddle and, to a large extent the playability of the instrument. The set needs to remain fixed throughout the life of the instrument while resisting the 150-180 lbs. force of the strings. I like to cut the dovetail when there is no chance of interruption for a few hours.
Guitar Building __ Bindings and Purfling
The binding and purfling process starts with routing the rabbets around the edges of the top and back. We discussed this last month. When the purfling is ready to glue, it's just a matter of applying Titebond to the ledge and laying in the perfling_ black, white, black in this case.
This purfling stock is 0.100" x 0.50". It comes in 32" lengths so each guitar top and back takes two pieces joined on end. A scarf joint is least noticeable. Masking tape is adequate to hold the purfling in place until the glue is dry.
Gluing of the bindings begins at the waist and works toward the butt and the heel. I do only one side at a time to ensure that the binding installation is tight and without gaps. Begin with masking tape at the waist just to hold the binding in place, then wrap twill tape as shown to pull the binding down and into the binding rabbet. Be sure that the glue joint is tight inside and underneath the binding so that the binding edges are nearly flush with the back and down the side.
This "twill tape" method is commonly used without a workboard. The tape (or rope) is wrapped around the entire guitar to hold the bindings in place as they are glued. I find that the "whole guitar" method requires four hands and I only have two in my shop. The workboard that I used is specifically slotted for this operation and is a controlled way to accomplish what can be a tedious task.
Early Easter _
As some know, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. So, April 3rd is almost as early as Easter can come after March 20. This means that I have missed my target for finishing the 5 guitars started in September, but I have a good reason (besides being easily distracted).
Very soon the completed guitars will need to be finished... meaning sprayed with multiple coats of sealer and lacquer. The process is not very technical but the skills required are entirely different from the wood working skills of shaping and joining wood. Also, as Woody's shop is on the same ventilation system as the house (my home), lacquer overspray and off-gases from curing get carried into all parts of the house... not good. I have looked into contracting out the finishing work, but most finishing and re-finishing shops are set up for furniture and don't have (or don't want) experience with musical instruments.
To this point, I have side stepped the issue by spraying outdoors when the climate is right (i.e., >60 F and < 55% RH). Satisfactory results can be reached this way on one-off type projects with careful planning and a protected space. There is just not enough control for moving multiple instruments through 8-10 spray cycles.
All this is to say I spent half of March building the foundation of a second shop in the back yard that will be used primarily for finishing guitars. Right now it doesn't look like much but... stay tuned. It will be finished by June... about the same time as the 5 guitars.