Seven String Classical Guitar: Using a Veneer Scraper and Installing Curly Maple Bindings

I was oblivious to the classical guitar until age twenty three.

Jose Oribe, The Fine Guitar, 1985

Dial caliper, gramil, veneer and veneer cutting board

If there is one part of making a guitar that really can frustrate me it is making and installing the bindings.

Some of the tasks/problems involved are-
*bringing the bindings down to .05 of an inch thick without breaking anything
*thin pieces ebony break easily and have nasty little splinters
*routing a consistent channel without blowing out any piece of wood or letting the router bit/chisel wander

This task/act/duty is where any little mistake you make will show for the life of the guitar, unless you know how to fix that mistake.

The great Spanish luthier, Jose Ramirez II once said,

In all human work, the wise look for virtues and fools look for flaws.

Shop made veneer scraper

Two months ago, when I was working on the dimensional copy of Torres' FE 19, I discovered I was going to run out of maple veneer, but I figured I could get by with what I had on hand.

It was a poor quality veneer that I had purchased from LMI (I am sure LMI thought it was good enough!), grain runout was terrible, I would cut a 6mm wide strip and it would break into several pieces just lifting it off the work bench.

This past Friday I took a drive down the hill to Loveland, Colorado to The Wood Emporium, (sorry, Loren, the owner doesn't have a website) and thankfully Loren had some very nice maple veneer on hand. Where would we wood workers be without independent wood suppliers? Loren's shop is a much shorter trip than the Loveland Woodcraft Store and he remembers me.

A few passes through the veneer scraper put the veneer to where I wanted it, .018 of an inch thick. This is for the BWB purfling that will go on the guitar's top.

Binding rabbets after routing

I swore I wouldn't use a router on this guitar, but a router will make a consistent rabbet for depth and it doesn't take all day to do the work.

Once the router work is done I still have to go back and clean up the rabbet by hand using files, chisels, X-Acto knives, emory boards (the kind for doing your fingernails) and anything else that will do the work.

Many of the books on guitar building pretty much tell you that once you rout the channels with a router you are done, go ahead and pop the binding right in!

It's not that easy.

And as I said earlier, this is the time when you can make the mistake that will be seen forever.

No gaps is the goal, but it does happen. What do I do to remedy the problem?

I use hide glue and sawdust, CA glue and sawdust, lacquer stick, "pine, fir or larch resin, with red pigments" and a whole lot of prayer.

Curly maple binding with ebony purfling

One quarter of the binding is complete! Three more strips to install and then I can glue on the fret board! I could've glued on most of the binding today, but I didn't see the reason to, it is the weekend after all!

I just "discovered" this wonderful young guitarist (playing an eight string guitar) the other day while surfing the Internet, he is absolutely amazing! Very clear musical ideas with a wonderful technique and best of all, he does not suffer from the dreaded "guitar face"! No facial grimaces or contortions, a player worthy of the School of Andres Segovia! I'd pay money to see this kid!



  1. So.... Does this mean you're a "fool" AND you're giving away your secrets too? :)

    It looks fabulous!

    I visit for the woodworking and stay for the performances; a woodworker but only a guitar plunker.

    (BTW, also absolutely despise CAPTCHAs, but make a few rare exceptions. You can turn them off, you know?)

  2. What's a CAPTCHA? Captain Crunch?

    Yes, I am a fool to make guitars, Bob and I didn't know I was giving away secrets! Maybe I should post a video that shows the classical guitar makers' secret hand shake!

    Thanks for the compliment !

  3. The reference to "fool" was about pointing out mistakes, which we all do too often.

    It's not at all foolish to build guitars. Yours are beautiful and the world needs them.

    Formal definition: Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart

    My sort rant about CAPTCHAs:
    The problem is they don't work, are easily broken or bypassed, are a total block for people with some sorts of disabilities (mostly visual) and have a 20% fail rate for people with normal abilities. Instead of blocking spam, they annoy real people. There are far better ways to avoid spam, but Blogger/Google won't do the right thing and take responsibility for good spam filtering, Instead they shift the responsibility to you, and your visitors.

    There's an option in your blog's control panel to turn them off, and since you moderate all comments anyway....

  4. How do you prevent your binding tape from pulling up the grain or tearing out the top or back wood?

    1. You remove the tape by pulling it off with the grain and you be very careful. It doesn't always work but I have never pulled up a big chunk of wood.


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