Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preparing the Headstock for Binding

I tell myself with each guitar I make that I'd save myself a lot of trouble if I left my headstocks unbound. Nevertheless, despite the fact that many of the top makers choose to omit this feature, and still manage to produce the kind of elegant, beautifully appointed instruments I aspire to build, the Macassar Ebony headstock overlay on my latest guitar was always destined to be bound in ebony, with a thin maple line inboard of the binding for the sake of contrast. Were I building guitars commercially, there would surely be an added incentive to leave the edge of the headstock overlay unadorned, perhaps offering the bound look only as an option - for an appropriate upcharge of course!

An earlier guitar featuring a bound headstock 
I use a laminate trimmer to cut the ledge for the binding. I select the appropriate bearing and make a test cut on a piece of scrap to confirm that the resulting rebate will match the width of my ebony bindings, with additional allowance for the maple veneer. Having done so, I adjust the depth of cut so that my first circuit of the headstock will cut the ledge just shy of the full depth required. My ancient Hitachi laminate trimmer isn't renowned for ease of vertical adjustment, so I repeat the process, increasing the depth of cut in tiny increments until the bit barely removes the last of the headstock material on the bottom of the ledge.

Routing the binding rebate
It's imperative when routing the ledge that I think carefully about the grain direction of the headstock overlay and the router bit's direction of rotation, with the potential for chipping and tearout always in mind. Proceeding carefully, I can climb-cut the most susceptible areas and end up with a clean, chip-free binding ledge.

The completed binding rebate.
I'll describe the fiddly process of preparing the individual binding pieces in my next post.