It’s something you don’t see much with Cigar Box Guitars but I’ve had too many nice guitars and know how that feels in your hands.  You know, when you run your hand down the neck and the feeling is smooth all the way down.  You don’t feel each fret slot along the way and your hand just glides up and down.  That is why I bind mine.  Sure it is a bit of work but with a little planning and some basic tools, most builders get it pretty quickly.  So lets take a look at how it’s done.

Start with your fret board.  It should be prepped in advance.  I like to mill my own and work with 1/4” materials as it is a standard width for binding stock.

mill_1

You work with the fret board much the way you would always do.  Lay it out and slot for the frets as usual.  The only difference is you have to take into account the thickness of the binding in determining the boards width.

mill_4

Check for width.  I make sure there is a slight overlap that can be scrapped and sanded flush.

check

Lay it out and cut in advance.  I use a lot of woods that have a good surface feel but this leopard wood for instance can splinter along the sides.  This is where binding really makes a difference.

layout_1

Slot the frets and you are pretty much ready to begin setting up the binding.

repeat

For your first time it might be easier to cut the bottom of the fretboard round like below.  This is so you don’t have to miter cut the binding at two 90 degree cuts.  You will need to use a heat gun to soften and shape it around the curve.  Go easy with the heat.  Too much will deform the binding past the point where it is usable.

bend_2

Once it is fit in place it is ready for glue.  Have tape and clamps ready as the adhesive works and dries quickly.  Speed is important.

glue_up_1

The end is the trickiest and so I glue that up first from there it is pretty easy to move up through the other end.

glue_up_3

After it is all dry, use a cabinet scraper to trim the binding flush.

trim

To take out the sanding and scraping marks, a little bit of acetone on a rag will smooth it out and take out the dullness.

finish

From here it is pretty much the same as any fretboard.  I will glue it to the neck before adding the frets.  If you want to add inlays, now is the time as well.  A little bit of finish and it looks pretty good.  A species that without the binding would not be possible without it splintering.

finish_2