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Source for tortoise shell binding?

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Hi, I have been lurking for a couple of weeks and have spent about 20 hours here reading old threads. You guys have a great site here. And some beautiful instruments by the way. I am VERY jealous.

I am restoring a 1967 Gibson LGO at the moment. Figured I would try my hand at some restoration first and if I enjoyed it (which I do ) then I would move on to building one. Any way I am looking for a source for tortoise shell binding. The LGO had tortoise shell binding originally and I want to go back as close to original as possible. Also the original binding is still very much attached but all cracked and gouged, do you think I should route it out or is there a better method.


Feb 12, 10 | 10:27 am

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Anyone know anything about this place?

Feb 12, 10 | 10:31 am

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You can not legally buy, ship, transport or otherwise deal in tortoise shell. It has been on the banned list for quite some time. Occassionally people will get ahold of old tortoise shell implements (old combs or mirror handles are sometimes used) and cut them to make picks or other real tortoise guitar parts - I suppose you could do the same if you can locate a vintage comb.

That said, there are lots of sources for plastic tortoise looking materials - for example the pickguards on modern guitars. A source that I use is LMI, here is some of their binding options (tortoise pattern is near the bottom)

Andy DePaule is mostly pearl, but he might be able to help you

and your source looks OK too but I have no experience with them

If you do have real tortoise there now, why replace it with plastic? The cracks are part of the mojo of the guitar, why not leave them?

Removal might be the hardest part - you could try routing it out or work with a very fine chisel. Depending on how it is glued in, a little heat might help. Remember too that Gibson normally finished over the tops of their bindings, then scraped back - I think you will have some serious finish issues.

I'll also add that I happen to think that "restoring" is infinitely harder than building from scratch (and I often wonder what people mean when they say "restore"). I did semi restoration on a basket case 1932 Dobro that was totally gone otherwise - my goal was not to restore it to orginal but to make a good player out if it. It was missing one piece of neck binding which I replaced - the sides do not match each other perfectly but it is close enough.

My humble advice when people talk about restoring, refinishing, retopping or similar it to fix problems (cracks, structural), set the neck, do a really good setup and play the heck out of it.

What is someone wanted to restore Willie's Trigger?

Feb 12, 10 | 12:02 pm

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That last line should have been

What IF someone wanted to restore Willies Trigger (or Dave Grier's D-18 or Richard Thompson's Strat or....)

Feb 12, 10 | 1:37 pm

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I went ahead and made a short video showing the guitar the condition and what my intentions are...

The LGO model was never really a very good guitar to begin with. It was a student model with big heavy ladder bracing and not very great acoustics. I want to restore it and try to improve the sound through contouring the braces.

Feb 12, 10 | 5:51 pm

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This doesn't come from my research, but from someone else (enalnitram) who is a member on this board and another forum, where pilgrimsprojects was brought up. From that post:

"Just FYI, google John Raterink and make sure you are aware of his activities on the side, before you order from that site."

It was also brought up here:

There are more details which I don't necessarily want to spread without personally reading from a reliable source, but at the very least find out for yourself what kind of person you support with your business.

Bill, if this crosses some sort of line, feel free to remove my post.

Tim - welcome to the forum, lots of good people here willing to help out. Cool vintage top on that LGO, btw.


Feb 13, 10 | 10:10 am

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Thanks for that info. That is why I ask before jumping in with both feet. I am starting to go bald but am not into the whole skin head white supremacy thing. LOL

I figure there are a lot of good people here who have been doing this for long enough that someone can point me in the right direction. I'm interested in good sources run by good people who stand behind what they say and sell.

Thanks for the welcome and I look forward to building good relationships with the members here.

Feb 13, 10 | 10:30 am
Bill Cory

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While there is no way to "police" this site completely, it must be left up to the members to NOT post links to other sites that might be dealining in illegal materials. On the other hand, I have no interest in a witch hunt based on a few posts in another forum with which I am unfamiliar.

I have emailed Ratterink and asked if his tortoise is "real" or imitation; I await his reponse. If he doesn't respond or says it's "real," this thread will be removed.


Feb 14, 10 | 8:51 am

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Just so there is no confusion, I am looking for IMITATION Tortoise shell binding. I realize the real stuff is illegal.

The problem I am finding is everyplace I've found that sells it, charges an outrageous shipping fee which makes it cost 6 times the price of wood or plastic binding.

Feb 14, 10 | 9:55 am

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Stewmac has Tortoloid pickguards which are very similar to tortoise shell but you can't get it in binding only pickguards.

Feb 14, 10 | 10:05 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
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If you go to the Martin 1833 shop under "Parts," you can get tortoise shell celluloid binding -- it's a bit more red than LMII's and slightly thinner, but it's cheaper because martin doesn't charge the extra shipping fee.

Feb 14, 10 | 11:49 am

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Tim, just an opinion but I wouldn't refinish that guitar. Looks like an old guitar to me which is way better than a glossy new one. I would recommend using a bone saddle and nut for the best tone. New saddle and nut and as little fret touch up as possible and I would play that guitar as is. But that's just me. I have no idea what value that guitar has but a refinish would likely make it loose most all of it.

Feb 14, 10 | 3:16 pm

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As is probably has a value of $ 300.00 to $ 500.00 based on ebay completed auctions, so the value is negligible. If it was an old Hummingbird or something I would feel differently.

I picked it up for little of nothing from a college kid on craigslist. I bought it with the intent of restoring it. I have never really been a gear snob so to speak. The name on the head stock means very little to me if there is no meat behind it, such as alot of the new Martins. Don't get me wrong there is nothing sweeter than the sound of a Martin D28.
The problem is if you go somewhere like guitar center you have to play 5 to find 1 that is right. Guitar Centers answer is that when you buy a new guitar it needs to be set up, My answer is Martin should have never sent it out like that to begin with.
I can leave guitar center and go 20 miles over to a little town called El Reno Oklahoma and play one of their Martins and the difference is night and day. I sometimes wonder if they send stuff that doesn't quite meet the standard to the big chain stores and the really good stuff goes to the boutique dealers.

Anyway my point is (did I even have a point, lol). Just because it is a 40 year old Gibson doesn't mean anything if it is all beat up and sounds like crap. I plan to have a very sweet little Gibson when I am finished, with no interest in selling it.

Feb 14, 10 | 5:24 pm
Luthier Suppliers

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You can get fake tortoise shell binding(celluloid) from They don't charge anything extra to ship from hawaii. At least the last time I ordered some. It is binding for a uke, but will work on a guitar too.

Apr 02, 10 | 12:13 pm

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I didn't know about those guys, I will tell you everything I bought came right away , just info for you

Apr 03, 10 | 5:45 am
John R

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The binding we sell is imitation Tortoise. We have both regular and Red.

I don't make a practice of scoping what others may spread about my political or personal life, but this captured my attention.
For the record:
1. I have never been a white supremacist, nor am I now.
2. I have not had organizational affiliations for a few years, and after I had met the average members of 'racist' organizations, I ceased to belong to any of them. They are not my cup of tea, and frankly do not associate with these people in any form whatsoever.

This is my only post on this forum, and will not dedicate any more time to this type of media.

If you have questions about my past activities (real or rumored) I will be glad to speak personally with you. You may reach me at (269) 945-5079.

We do our best to provide good products at a reasonable cost. Being a small home-based business has some pitfalls, but we stand behind what we sell and do our dead level best to ensure customer satisfaction at every level.

Sincerest Regards,
John R
Owner: Pilgrims Projects
Phone: (269) 945-5079

Apr 27, 10 | 6:02 pm

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