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Thread: Adding or replacing binding?

  1. #1
    Pickin' Padawan swankerme's Avatar
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    Default Adding or replacing binding?

    Is it possible to add binding to a mandolin that didn't originally have binding (e.g. Weber Gallatin)? How much would a luthier charge for this?

    Second option, how much would a luthier charge to replace the binding (on an instrument that did originally have binding) with binding in another color?

    Let's assume for both options, only binding on the top, not the whole mandolin.
    2008 Gibson F-9
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  2. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Quote Originally Posted by swankerme View Post
    Is it possible to add binding to a mandolin that didn't originally have binding (e.g. Weber Gallatin)? How much would a luthier charge for this?

    Second option, how much would a luthier charge to replace the binding (on an instrument that did originally have binding) with binding in another color?

    Let's assume for both options, only binding on the top, not the whole mandolin.
    Forget that idea. It's impossible to do that without need for extensive finish touchup and that will never be invisible. You can have the whole instrument refinished but that would cost more than getting another mandolin with binding to your liking.
    Also value of such instrument would be reduced dramatically.
    Adrian

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Sure, it can be done. But as Adrian said, to have it done well by a solo luthier is asking them to strip, prep, machine in the scariest and least efficient way possible, and re-bind the entire instrument. Then re-dye and re-finish. Easily... 50-100 hours of work, let's say $25/hr. So maybe $2500 if you can find someone willing (or hungry) enough to take it on.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    May I, in my ignorance, ask why it would be so much bigger a task than fitting binding in the course of building a new instrument?
    Its a feature I have avoided anyway, considering cutting s necessary channel round the instrument to be beyond my equipment by machine and my skill by hand. I can see that it would be really awkward to scrape the binding down to exactly flush without disturbing the existing finish, or is there more I have missed?

  6. #5

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    There are a lot of surfaces near the neck which would be very difficult to get to once the neck is assembled. I won't say impossible... but really a pain and extremely time-consuming. These are the kinds of awkward tasks luthiers spend years developing jigs and processes to avoid in their own build processes.
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  8. #6
    Pickin' Padawan swankerme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Great input from everyone. Bottom line, get the right mandolin with the right binding the first time. Thank you for the info!

  9. #7
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Quote Originally Posted by swankerme View Post
    Great input from everyone. Bottom line, get the right mandolin with the right binding the first time. Thank you for the info!
    Just imagine the work... You lay the instrument on router table to start routing... the routing jig you commonly use is too low because neck is in the way so you have to make higher one. then you start routing the finish is going to chip out in few places and there is some chance that some splinters of wood will be lost...that's why makers do it on bare wood and still with some extra wood so some small wood loss can be taken care by slight reshaping or gluing back the missing piece which can be done invisibly white instrument is in the white. some part would need to be cut by hand and on instrument that is finished you cannot afford any error so extremely slow and steady work is required. Let's say the luthier took tons of extra care (think extra time, new tools, means extra cost) and managed to do it so there is no chipout and binding channel comes perfect then you need to fit and glue new binding. This is done with solvent based glues that typically eat finish. you need to cover tha channel well and the glue squeezes out plus you need to attach the binding with tape or rubber bands while it dries. You can possibly use masking tape right to the edge so the finish damage is minimal, but since you need to leave it taped till the glue sets there is huge chance that the glue will find it's way under the tape. Then you need to scrape the binding perfectly flush with the surrounding finish or slightly below so you can add layer of finish. Pretty hard to do without damaging the finish. ANd then you need to apply new finish so it blends with the rest.
    Mission impossible, IMO.
    ANother way would be just sacrifice the finish and just do the binding almost normally (with the neck in the way and no extra wood for safety) and sand smooth normally and then strip the whole instrument and refinish. You will have price of binding job with extra care and full refinish...
    I remember some luthier (almost?) got sued by customer who ordered to get binding added on his low end Gibson and the quality of work was not as perfect as he imagined - he pretty much expected converting a F9 into Fern... but that is hardly possible without very extensive work that would cost more than price difference between the two models...
    Adrian

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  11. #8
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    You could just use masking tape and paint a faux binding on it The econo guitars and mandolins of years past used painted on binding. I saw a Les Paul Studio recently that someone had scraped away the finish where the binding would normally be installed, they then put a clear finish over it to make it look more like a Std. or Classic.
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim simpson View Post
    You could just use masking tape and paint a faux binding on it The econo guitars and mandolins of years past used painted on binding. I saw a Les Paul Studio recently that someone had scraped away the finish where the binding would normally be installed, they then put a clear finish over it to make it look more like a Std. or Classic.
    I’ve got more than one vintage instrument with painted-on binding (and fret markers and “pickguard”). Not the worst thing, IMO — it’d certainly be one of a kind on a Gibson mandolin!

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  15. #10
    Luthier Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    I am in the middle of doing basically half of what was asked for here. It is a $200 mandolin that the neck block came unglued from the sides. The back had to be removed. It has binding on the back, so the channel was already cut. No worry about wood chip out. Gluing on new binding required extensive taping to try and keep the glue from getting on the finish - exactly as Adrian described. Because the binding has to be thoroughly taped in place, there is no way to see if you have any squeeze out. And actually you need to have some squeeze out. Squeeze out means you have to sand, so the finish in all those spots is ruined. This one has what I would call a cheap finish on plywood back and sides. I don't really know how to repair a cheap finish - several hours of effort failed, so I removed the finish from the back and sides, and I'm doing a new finish there. Many hours of work. The mandolin will not look like it did originally.

    I estimate this part of the repair to cost around $300. I only did this job out of curiosity as to why this neck joint failed and how to work with this kind of finish. The owner agreed the mandolin was not worth repairing, so she won't get charged for it. I confirmed what I already knew - this is not worth doing on a $200 mandolin.

  16. #11

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Acoustics, cracking, purfling, binding. On violins, it is likely that the purfling (which is pretty deep) prevents cracks that start at the cut end of the wood from propagating, and maybe also helps liberate the edge and allow better vibration of the plate. Not a mandolin issue, it seems, but there’s still that cut edge, and it looks as if cracks start there, both at the instrument outer edges and around the sound holes. So, again, just arm-waving here, cutting into the glued edge of a mandolin might have an acoustic effect, might help seal the endgrain and maybe prevent cracking.
    The Stradolin I’ve had since childhood just has black paint, no serious cracks, but once in a while, I take a little brush and touch up the top. The back has no paint binding.
    Anybody notice acoustic differences in similar builds with and without (contemporary) binding?

  17. #12
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    I have experimented with Wilson Art melamine glue for binding repairs a few times. It's designed to bond non-porous materials to bare wood. It cleans up with water when wet, or by rubbing with your thumb or polishing compound when dry. It was suggested to me by a long time cabinet maker. They use it for bonding formica to wood.

    So far, no failures have come to my attention.

    Important: The wood surface must be clean of old glue and finish. Its bonding strength is modest, so it should not be used if you are trying to stretch old binding and force it to fit [which you shouldn't do anyway].

    It's unproven, but worth further investigation.

  18. #13
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    One of the best personal developments you will ever have as a working luthier it the day you learn to say, "No thank you."....seconded by a more enthusiastic, "No $#@%ing way!!!!!!!!!!!!"

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Yeah, but as the condition of the music business continues to deteriorate, some of us might have to start taking work that we would have previously turned down.

    That said, I'm not going to take a job adding binding to a low-end instrument either. Too hard to do cleanly, and takes too long. And then there's also the problem of what to do about the finish and any other unavoidable collateral damage.

    I have found "no" and "no thank you" to be sufficient. The use of expletives can damage the chance of potential business in the future.

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  21. #15
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    As things deteriorate, it will be even more critical to pay attention to the work luthiers do to make sure they do not go even more into the hole for someone else's unrealistic expectations.

    Call it what you want, but the whole conversation would be an incredible waste of time. Taking on unrealistic projects that of that level of complication & time will damage your career more as you'll learn to hate the instrument & the customer that brought it to you. I'll guarantee that whomever you asked to do it would be far better off just giving you $500 and and closing the door. There is an old thread where Gail Hester attempted this for someone and regretted the whole thing for years as it turned into an incredible nightmare for her; part of why she no longer maintains a public presence.

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  23. #16

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    I found myself in a similar quandry when a friend/customer wanted a virizi tone inducer installed in a mando I sold him long ago. When the back went back on, there was no way to maintain the 0.080" binding gap consistently, so I just filled the binding gap with maple, flushed it and radiused it. I reshot the sunburst to a more traditional shade. I was considering shooting a satin finish a lá Collings and so many others these days to save myself all the sanding and polishing. In the end, I decided the bubble maple was worth the time and effort.
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  24. #17

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Count yourselves lucky, even if some customers are ‘unrealistic’ or just PITA. Mine have been universities, government agencies and large companies, where, if there’s one sensible, understanding person, there are a dozen jerks involved in procurement, testing, or even paying! I used to visit my friend’s art and picture frame shop sometimes to relax and enjoy an environment where nearly all customers walk in the door expecting to be happy, don’t really need the product, and never take a lens to the miter joints.

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  26. #18
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    As things deteriorate, it will be even more critical to pay attention to the work luthiers do to make sure they do not go even more into the hole for someone else's unrealistic expectations.

    Call it what you want, but the whole conversation would be an incredible waste of time. Taking on unrealistic projects that of that level of complication & time will damage your career more as you'll learn to hate the instrument & the customer that brought it to you. I'll guarantee that whomever you asked to do it would be far better off just giving you $500 and and closing the door. There is an old thread where Gail Hester attempted this for someone and regretted the whole thing for years as it turned into an incredible nightmare for her; part of why she no longer maintains a public presence.
    Yes, I also remember that situation that Gail went through. The individual raked her over the coals on the internet and treated her so unfair. Just like a James said, it’s best sometimes to just say NO!

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  28. #19
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    Rob!!!! You installed a virzi after the fact???? That's a whole 'nuther level of pain & punishment!

    'Betcha won't do that again...

    A friendly reminder to everyone: my enthusiasm and keyboard profanity is merely a representation of my concern for other folks to not have to learn some of the more challenging lessons I've had to in 40 years of instrument building. We're a small nerdy little group that needs to look out for each other.

  29. #20

    Default Re: Adding or replacing binding?

    It's what he really wanted. He's a really gifted musician and has had me regraduate tops and backs on a few fiddles (MUCH easier) and experiment with unconventional bass bars in them. Always an adventure. On a side note, I notice that back binding has been dropped by a lot of the big builders on anything selling for less than $5,000. Seeing old mandos, I know that those rim corners tend to take a lot of abuse over time. Granted, the new finishes are more durable than nitro, but I'm still leery of not having the added protection there. All of my builds get top and back binding.

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