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Bending wooden bindings

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 273
I'm not sure if it's just because of how I'm trying to do it, but how hard is bending maple bindings suppose to be..? Of coarse I don't don't have the tooling I should be using so I was trying to use a hair curling iron as a bending iron which in theory works, but maybe that's the reason I'm breaking so many bindings.

Is there an easy way to bend aside form using a bending iron or heating blanket? May be a dumb question, but I figured I'd ask before I settled on white ivoroid bindings for my OM Cutaway. Natural maple would look absolutely perfect on this guitar, but if I can't bend the bindings to the waste, let alone the cutaway, it's not going to happen.


Nov 10, 09 | 11:34 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Dan -- I've had a pretty easy time of it with flamed and non-flamed maple using a home made bending form and a heating blanket.

I spray the bindings with water, then wipe off the drips and let them sit while the heating blanket heats with them in it. On the form, I use a galvanized steel piece, then the bindings, then the blanket, then another piece of steel. (From the hardware store and cut up to the sizes I needed.) The bending thing is home-made. When the heat gets up to about 250F, I crank down the waist, then the large bout, then the small bout. Then I turn off the heat and do something else for awhile. I've been lucky -- haven't broken one while bending it yet -- though I did catch two of the bent ones on something yesterday and broke both of them. Dang it.

Maybe the problem is two fold: Not enough heat and moisture. If the moisture isn't held in so it can become steam and soften the wood fibers, it and the heat can escape and not work their "magic." Have you tried wrapping the bindings in tinfoil or something after spraying them and while bending?

I remember my first bending apparaatus: Stainless steel pans of water heated to boiling on the kitchen stove, the binding and purfling bent around them. Different size pans for the big bout and the little bout and the waist. It sounds very strange, but it worked.

Just some thoughts --

Nov 11, 09 | 4:13 am

Total Topics: 29
Total Posts: 448
Dan, I used a curling iron. I wet the wood, wrapped the wood in a damp paper towel, then in a layer of aluminum foil. While you can not see exactly how tight your curve is, you can get it very close, then fine tune without the foil if needed.
Also, you have to rock the wood back and forth so you heat about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of the wood before going for your bend. You can feel the wood give way as it gets hot enough. This is how I did it. I am not expert so maybe people with more experience free hand bending can help out. I assume you do not want to build a form like Bill or you are bending a tight radius? The curling iron worked for me, but in the end the circle I made shrank and was too small after it sat for a day. I have no idea why.

Nov 11, 09 | 5:47 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
You can get away with a lot of moisture with Maple --- I would suggest, if you are going to use the curling iron -- place a very wet folded (several layers) paper toweling directly on the iron, plenty of steam should be created. keep the toweling wet with a spray bottle of water. Also, you should use a piece of thin aluminum for backing to sandwich the binding against the iron, this is very important if cracks are to be avoided.


Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Nov 11, 09 | 5:52 am

Total Topics: 38
Total Posts: 480
Maple tends to bend quite easy. Maybe youshould try to raise the temperature. And don't push too hard. If wood wants to bend it "gives way".

Good luck.

Nov 11, 09 | 8:14 am
enalnitram (Martin Lane)

Total Topics: 47
Total Posts: 332
I used a curling iron to bend maple bindings for my first and it worked great. I put the binding in a bucket of water for about a half hour. only about half fit in that way, so I bent that half of it, and then did the other half after more soaking. I think the trick here is to go S L O W L Y. It's hard to break stuff when you're working like a turtle on sedatives.

I didn't really bend it all the way, either. I got the bends started, 3 on each piece, and then just clamped 'em while wet to a piece of plywood scrap shaped like a 000, left over from when I cut out my mold. Left it like that overnight, and in the morning found that it had held the shape.

Nov 11, 09 | 9:16 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I was fortunate enough to use my forms. I have had great success with the bending pipe and charcoal starter, use it with the router speed control to control the amount of well. The important thing is to support both the back and front during the bend. The strips snap when part is allowed to flex and part remains rigid, either because it hasn't abosrbed enough heat or moisture.

Nov 11, 09 | 10:41 am

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
I've decided I"ll just go with the white plastic bindings for this guitar. Although it's a shame that they won't compliment the 3 piece back much, but I don't feel that I have the correct setup to bend bindings smoothly.

I just bent another binding today, for a non cutaway and just let it sit in my side bending mold after I had it shaped, until it dried. I took it out and it's pretty springy, but I can get it around the guitar. There's just alot of gaps where the binding doesn't contour the guitar in spots that I feel, masking tap won't be able to hold it down smooth. Besides, I haven't even gotten the cutaway part yet, so I"ll just go with plastic bindings until the next build that won't be a cutaway.

Thanks for the tips though, it did successfully bend 1 binding for me. hah


Nov 11, 09 | 4:41 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Yeah, that's probably a good way to go. You could give the guitar a bit more vintage look if you used ivoroid -- it's as easy to bend as plastic. Basically is plastic. Of course, it only comes in ivory color.

The wood bindings take some getting used to, that's for sure.


Nov 11, 09 | 4:56 pm

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
Yea, definitely takes some getting used to, which I'm ok with, but I'm not even going to attempt wasting my maple on a cutaway lol. I'll just keep them safe for the next one which I will make a point to not do a cutaway too.

I was a little disapointed that I'd be wasting the look of this guitar with plastic bindings, but it's only a guitar, I can build another one just like it if Id like to do maple with that.

Nov 11, 09 | 6:15 pm
enalnitram (Martin Lane)

Total Topics: 47
Total Posts: 332
WHAT!?! "it's only a" ... "guitar?!?"

j/k. I think I know what you meant. but that did sorta jump out at me. whew, I was about to go off.

Nov 12, 09 | 12:11 pm

Total Topics: 8
Total Posts: 41
How easy is it to replace plastic bindings for wood at a later stage when your experience increases. Obviosly the neck will have to come off. Is it just a case of re-routing the top and back and regluing? I really like my first build 000 and one day would like to improve it.

Nov 12, 09 | 1:03 pm

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
It seems like that's what would be involved which is quest a bit if you think about all the hassle, but wouldn't it be more worth just leaving it like that and just building more future guitars exactly how you'd like?


Nov 12, 09 | 1:22 pm

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