Dan Erlewine: How to bend herringbone without breaking it

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Issue 282 March 23, 2017

Fred Stuart, one of the original builders at the Fender Custom Shop, teaches Dan Erlewine how he bends herringbone purfling on the tight curves of a Telecaster without breaking it!

About the guitar in this video: Fred Stuart built this custom Tele, which was featured at the Fender Custom Shop booth at the 2017 NAMM Show.

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • How do you bend herringbone around the horn of a Tele?
  • Building a really simple jig to solve the problem
  • A little extra heat helps!
  • Dan visits the renowned Fred Stuart at the NAMM show.

Video Transcription

Dan Erlewine: Today's trade secrets is going to show you how to bend herringbone binding around a tight curve like on this telly. This is a tip from one of the custom shop original founder builders, Fred Stewart. I was at the NAMM show and he had a telly there with the spruce top and herringbone binding and he told me how to go home and do it myself.

Dan visits Fred Stuart at the NAMM show

Fred Stuart: Dan, one of the most trickiest parts of this because I'm sure you can appreciate it. How do you make those turns?

Dan Erlewine: You're not going to tell.

Fred Stuart: I'll tell you.

Dan Erlewine: How?

Fred Stuart: It's real easy. You take one strip at a time and it bends with impunity.

Dan Erlewine: If you took herringbone straight off the shelf and tried to bend it around a tight curve, you're going to get this. It's not going to make it.

So what you do, according to Fred is separate these layers and when you get it right up to the horn, the black fiber on the outside [on-screen text reads: Herringbone Purfling - stewmac.com] of both strips will peel away leaving the fish bone and then as Fred said, they will bend with impunity. I still had trouble doing it. It was hard for me to separate when I got up here. So I came up with a little tip to show you how to do it.

Buiding a jig to seperate the herringbone

Got sort of a scrap piece of plywood here that's done many different jobs. I'm going to clamp it down to the table [on-screen text reads: Swivel Handle Clamp - stewmac.com]. I've got my herringbone going this direction and using my little guide holes in this block of wood, super glued to a board. I get down to this X-ACTO blade that I hammered into the board. And now I just heat it up and I keep heating back here a little bit. So it's going to be warm when I got there. If I was making a serious tool, I'd probably make that out of metal because this would burn up after a number of guitars. I think even the razor blade gets hot [on-screen text reads: Razor Knife - stewmac.com]. I need about a foot.

Okay, once you get the one side done, you come back out and flip it over. Then I'm cutting on the same side of the blade, which is working good. You want that heat ahead of your three inches up in here, but don't burn your fingers. I should probably wear gloves. Cuts like butter.
That's it.

Installing the herringbone purfling

I'll take it up to try the wrap while it's still pretty warm [on-screen text reads: Golden Age '52 Body for Tele - stewmac.com]. It's going just like Fred said. It's wrapping right around that horn.

[Dan is taping the herringbone to the guitar body using Binding Tape]

Fred said with impunity. I like that word. I'm not using glue on this, I'm just showing you how to bend it. Later on, I'll take off the tape. It'll keep it shaped pretty well, get in between the layers and paint Fish Glue on it, and bind it with green rubber bands. In my haste, I started a little bit too high up, so now I have this leftover that should have been there. But actually I'm going to save this and join it up with the wrap as I come around and do that part with it, because you can join herringbone together. It's pretty easy to cut on the bone [on-screen text reads: StewMac Miter Blade - stewmac.com] and slide it in and nobody ever knows. So here I'll heat it with just a little bit of heat. I don't have to separate it. Get the waist in then it'll wrap all the way around, using heat when you have to. And I'll have the guitar kind of like Fred's. Thanks, Fred.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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