This is the first installment of Marlin Hall's new luthiery column, Bench Craft. Feel free to ask Hall questions in the COMMENTS section below.
In the world of guitars, binding is generally recognized as a “deluxe” feature.
From the simple and understated single-ply binding of a Telecaster Deluxe to the nearly excessive multiple laminations found on a Gibson Super 400 CES, binding indicates, at the very minimum, a step up from a basic model.
In this column, I’ll introduce you to a nearly foolproof tool to create binding ledges for any design.
The Stewart MacDonald Binding Router Bit Set ($146.50 as tested) includes a carbide-tipped cutter with a ¼-inch shank, 19 precision bearings, Allen wrench, brass extension bushing and instructions for proper use. StewMac also offers a scaled-down version of the kit that has fewer bushings and a lower price.
If you have the bread to splash out for the complete set, I recommend it. You’ll save money in the long run and be just about ready for any binding job right off the bat.
The special router bit is threaded on the end opposite the shank. An Allen screw allows the user to install the proper-size bearing to suit the size of your binding and/or purfling strips. (Purfling is found on the fancier bound instruments and just adds another flash aspect. Think binding inside of binding and you’ll have the idea.) The precision bearings allow for cuts as shallow as 0.040” (1.02mm) and as deep as 0.210” (5.33mm).
I used the tool and my BOSCH Colt handheld router to install binding and purfling on my recent build of the StewMac Limited Edition Koa Soprano Ukulele kit. Besides the challenges of bending figured maple by hand and an occasion of operator error, the installation was a smashing success.
The carbide-tipped cutter gave me nice, clean, square cuts. The multiple bearings were appropriately sized for the materials I used. The multiple sizes allow for a dizzying array of designs. This, like nearly all of the tools I’ve purchased from StewMac, is a very well-thought-out tool.
The StewMac Binding Router Bit Set is the best solution I’ve seen for cutting the precise “stair step” ledges that are required for a high-quality binding installation and the full kit provides unmatched versatility. I rate this product a perfect 10 out of 10!
For an in-depth look at the installation of the binding on my ukulele, visit my blog at timbuildsguitars.blogspot.com.
Marlin Hall is a self-taught guitarist, sound engineer, performer and writer. His 25 years in the music industry inform the deeper levels of his newest career, luthiery. Hall designs, builds, repairs and finishes electric and acoustic stringed instruments in Minneapolis. To learn more about the skills involved in stringed instrument building, visit his blog at timbuildsguitars.blogspot.com.