Trade Secrets!

Rubber bands as clamps: super-useful, and cheap!


Issue 125 October 28, 2010

Image: Purdue Boilermakers logoA tip from the
Purdue Guitar Workshop

Rubber bands make
great versatile clamps,
and they’re CHEAP!

Erick Coleman, October 28, 2010
Photo: Purdue workshop My shopmate Gene Imbody and I helped teach this summer’s session of the Purdue Guitar Workshop. We were lucky to be in great company: Gibson/Fender legend Tim Shaw and longtime Seymour Duncan engineer Kevin Beller were teaching, too.
Talk about a lutherie madhouse! In five days, 17 guitars were built from scratch by 17 students with 17 different skill levels. Teaching, helping and answering questions, we had our hands full!
Photo: rubber binding bands In that situation, you need to work fast. And here’s a tip that helped a lot: rubber bands make great clamps.
The rubber binding bands we use for gluing guitar bindings make a lot of other glue-ups faster, and they solve problems, too:
It takes a long time to position a bunch of clamps when gluing a fingerboard, and wet glue is slippery. The board slides from side to side while you try to tighten the clamps. If we used clamps for this at the workshop, we’d never have managed to build all 17 guitars.
Rubber bands solve both these problems. They go on fast, hold tight, and apply even pressure down the neck. They pull from both sides at once, so they naturally keep the fingerboard centered. Easy!
The fingerboard glue-up at left is a Hurricane Katrina victim in our shop for restoration.
Rubber Binding Bands
Photo: glued-up neck in viseWhile we’re on the subject, here's one of our Dreadnought Kit necks during fingerboard glue-up. It’s rubber-bound and held in a vise by its peghead, with a stick propping up the tail end as described in our Dreadnought Kit instructions (a free booklet worth reading, even if you're not building a kit).
Photo: guitar-building instructions
Dreadnought Guitar Kit
Image: ratings and reviews
Photos: peghead break
Clamp irregular shapes, like this nasty peghead break
I used a milling machine to remove the damaged wood, then plugged the holes with tight-fitting splines. For gluing, I clamped it with my pal, the rubber band.
Franklin Titebond Glue
Photos: wrapping a fingerboard
Meanwhile, back at the Purdue Workshop
Here’s Gene showing students how to glue a fingerboard. 1: Tie the band on at the nut, and wrap your way down the neck, pulling the band tight with each wind. 2: When you get to the heel, give it a few wraps and start winding a second layer of wraps right back up the neck again. When you get back to the nut, tie it off and leave it to dry.
Hot Rod Truss Rod
Photo: one last exampleOne last example
Here’s our shopmate Maceo Gabbard gluing a neck to one of his custom solidbody ukuleles. He’s adding clamping pressure by stretching a rubber band from the peghead to the clamp at the neck joint.
Further proof that these rubber bands aren’t just for binding!
Image: Erick's signature
Camless Clamp
Problem-solving products for this kind of work:
Hot Rod Truss Rod
Traditional style adjustment nut for Fender (other styles available). Two-way action corrects upbow and backbow.
Franklin Titebond Glue
The luthier's favorite aliphatic resin glue, for joints stronger than the wood. Water soluble, cures overnight, sands easily.
Rubber Binding Bands
40" x 1/4" bands secure bindings while the glue dries. Use them cut or uncut.
More More More
Camless Clamps
Space-saving wooden clamps for controlled clamping pressure.
Dreadnought Guitar Kit
The highest quality Dreadnought kits available, with solid bookmatched grade-AAA back, sides and soundboard for great tone.
Guitar Repair Vise
Don't mistake our vise for one of the many copycats! It's customized for bearing-smooth operation that you won't find elsewhere.
More More More

Don't miss an issue!

Get Trade Secrets delivered to your inbox. Only from StewMac.