Easy binding repair on a Martin D-35

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Issue 253 November 19, 2015

This fretboard binding caught on somebody’s sweater. The missing piece was never found, and the guitar is in Dan Erlewine’s shop for repair. This kind of quick fix is familiar to guitar shops everywhere!

About the guitar in this video: this is a 1977 Martin D-35, still owned by the man who bought it originally.

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • Matching new plastic binding to the aged original
  • A clean cut makes a neat, invisible patch
  • Filing and scraping: the tools Dan uses
  • A quick swipe with a Q-tip ages the new white binding

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: Stewart-MacDonald - Trade Secrets!]

Easy guitar binding repair

Dan Erlewine: The man that owns this 1977 D-35 bought it new and he's played it hard for years. Somewhere along the line, a piece of binding broke loose and it snagged on his sweater and he lost that years ago. And now he wants me to patch it in. And it's also coming loose all the way down to about the fourth fret. So it's a good time to fix this. This binding measures 62.5 [on-screen text reads: Luthier's Digital Caliper]. We have quarter inch tall binding, white binding that measures 63 [on-screen text reads: White Plastic Binding]. So it's going to be an easy patch. Get the strings off this thing and go to it.

Cleaning the binding channel

Look at the windings. This one's pointing down and it's really stiff, and it would scratch that peghead. And so would this one. I don't want to be the guy to do that. I'm going to tape it off upwards. It's not loose anymore so I don't accidentally make it loose with some Low Tack Tape. I can get my Naphtha inside there [on-screen text reads: Behlen Naphtha Solvent], clean the channel so my glue will stick when I get back to it and degrease it. It's pretty clean. Now I'm going to trim that with the chisel, but I'll have to move out onto the bench. I want to bring the binding out, even with the edge of the fretboard there, so I can get a nice clean cut on this block of wood.

Gluing in the new binding

The binding on the Martin is about 175 thousandths tall, and this is quarter inch. I'm cutting out about 190 with a pair of nippers. It'll be a rough cut, but it'll get me close to size and I'll finish it later with the file after I glue it on. Solvent glue definitely melts lacquer, so you want to be careful and move quickly. Get the butt end of it, and the two ends will just melt right together. I cut a little notch in the binding to fit under that fret even. I love this low tack tape [on-screen text reads: Low Tack Protective Tape] because you can use it on a finish. It's got enough strength for stuff like this and it doesn't pull off the finish.

Filing and scraping

I started out dressing it with the razor file [on-screen text reads: StewMac Razor File] and then I switched to smaller fret files and scrapers. I might have six different tools out just to level this piece of plastic. Come out pretty good I think. You can see the little joint there. Of course you'd be able to see that. You'll see it less in a minute when I stain it. I sand it along that edge all the way up to 12,000 Grit Micro Mesh so it's nice and smooth, tape it off again. And I'm going to use a little bit of Behkol Alcohol mixed with Vintage Amber ColorTone Stain [on-screen text reads: ColorTone Liquid Stain], a tiny amount, and wipe it on with the Q-tip. Know when to quit. This whole repair only took about an hour and a half. Most of that was just standing around, waiting for stuff to dry.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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