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Thread: Binding router

  1. #1

    Default Binding router

    I have stayed away from binding up until now, just going for a rounded edge, but I'm currently in the middle of some ukuleles that seem to be calling for wood binding. I purchased the StewMac Dremel attachment at some point, but is that the way to go, or would throwing the body on the regular router table be preferred, since this is a flat top and flat back?

    Any pointers, generally speaking?

    Thanks,

    Magnus

  2. #2

    Default Re: Binding router

    I went through that a couple of years ago and got lots of ideas here. Most don't care for the Stewmac tool. After using it for my first build, I understood. If you have a router table, there are better options. I suggest doing a search here. Lots of info to be found.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Binding router

    I did a search and didn't find much, which surprised me. Did it again now, and as you say, there's lots. Must have had a typo in my query.

    Thanks,

    Magnus

  4. #4

    Default Re: Binding router

    Here's what I made up for my modest router table. This is based on ideas from Lynn Dudenbostel. The ledge allows instruments with arched tops and backs to be routed parallel to the rim or sides by simply holding the instrument level. There are much more sophisticated ways to do this, but I like simple. For a flat top like a uke, you probably don't need the ledge.
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  6. #5

    Default Re: Binding router

    I started with the SM Dremel attachment. I found the Dremel underpowered and prone to burning, even with a carbide cutter. Next, I made an outboard base for a laminate trimmer that is contoured to accomodate the recurve of the arched tops and backs. I used a rabbet router bit with a guide bearing. Finally, I made a router lifter that floats up and down on a pair of 12" cabinet slides. The body of the instrument rides on the cradle I use when working on the instrument and the rims are rotated past the router. The weight of the router keeps it registered on the top/back. It was actually pretty cheap to make.
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  8. #6

    Default Re: Binding router

    Nice inventive setups, all! I may have mentioned this before as another way to add flexibility to routing, namely devices called spindle motors. These have come down in price recently since they have migrated from CNC mills down to hobby machines. The benefits include very high precision bearings, collets for different bit sizes, and legitimate speed controls using VFDs. But for woodworking, the reversibility might be helpful to avoid some tearout situations. Also, much better milling cutters are available than either the 1/8” Dremel or 1/4” laminate trimmers can have.
    A spindle motor is a three-phase, high speed, variable speed device ranging from 500W to several HP, and is small. It is powered by a variable-frequency-drive from 115 or 220V single phase line. Some are air-cooled. Because they are three phase, rotation is vastly smoother than in small brush motors, even at low speeds, and they are fully reversible. Not much use in turkey carving though.

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  10. #7
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Binding router

    At its simplest, all you need is a gramil or something similar. These can be store bought or home made. The Schneider Gramil is good, the Ibex cutter works fine or one can be made from some bits of scrap timber and a blade of some kind. A pic is attached. The binding rebates for a mandolin or a uke will taker an hour or so to do with one of those cutters and a sharp 1/4" chisel.

    I don't know anyone who has used the Dremel attachment more than once.

    A laminate trimming router has enough grunt to cut binding channels, and the sliding up and down setup Rob Roy has described above gives the most control. this works best with a router bit and a set of bearings which determine the width of cut which can match the size of the bindings. I have had an LMI set for some years and it is a very controllable way of cutting the rebate. It is a considerable investment but it is quick and accurate. Otherwise a binding cutter and a chisel. It can be quite meditative and it is quiet.

    Cheers

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  12. #8
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Binding router

    I actually had really good results with the SM Dremel attachment and plan to use it again!... I did use a very thin binding though.
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  14. #9
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Binding router

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post
    I actually had really good results with the SM Dremel attachment and plan to use it again!... I did use a very thin binding though.
    It can be used and DOn McRostie shows it on the videos but one had to be aware of power of the tool. I made my own extension for similar tool and it worked for me as well.
    Some folks expected it to cut the whole ledge in one pass. With this power I would recommend taking at least 4 increasing passes (both in width and depth). Taking full cut would either force you to go too slow and burn the bit and wood, or the speed will drop from too big load and chatter/ chipping will ruin your instrument or the tool.
    For the last batch I used gramil I made (similar to the one on picture above - the left one) and it worked well enough that it was not worth to me to pack things and go visit my friend's workshop to use his router table and set it up. Well made hand tools in experienced hands can be often as effective a s machines.
    Adrian

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  16. #10
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    Default Re: Binding router

    Routers and mandolins (and probably ukuleles) are natural enemies. You can try to tame them with nice tables or jigs but they are always waiting for you to let your guard down. I know because my F5 lost two points due to router incidents. However, the jigs pictured above work well with some practice, especially where you're cutting against the grain.

  17. #11
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Binding router

    If you use that small little thing that fits on to the end of the Dremel and requires your fingers to hold it up against the body about a centimeter away from the cutter, you'd better start learning a lot of Django tunes because that is what your fingers will look like soon!

    It may have been innovative back in the day, but there are much safer ways to cut the binding channel.

  18. #12

    Default Re: Binding router

    That was one of my concerns with the Stewmac tool. I didn't have a good way to hold the mandolin and attempted to hold it between my knees while guiding the Dremel with one hand and steadying the mando with some combination of it and the other hand. I ended up gently steadying it in a well padded wood vise, but I was pretty happy to be done with that job. If I were to try the Dremel again, I'd at least make up a better holding fixture. I probably could have reused the original gluing jig, but that didn't occur to me at the time.

  19. #13

    Default Re: Binding router

    Years agp, an acquaintance who was a fairly famous ship modeler complained that since Dremel had discontinued the saw blades, presumably because of “events” he needed some other source. I found appropriate substitutes for him, but it was pretty clear that freehand use of a 1” saw at 10,000 rpm could be insta-surgery of the unwanted kind. I once managed to tap the back of my hand with a rough burr in an air grinder, and that wasn’t a good idea either. Didn’t heal quickly.
    A Dremel can be operated using one of the foot rheostats, as found on sewing machines, allowing better grip on things, but it’s easy to step on the thing by mistake too. I had my bench grinder running on a foot switch for rough speed control, but had too many surprises, and went back to original.

  20. #14
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    Default Re: Binding router

    Here's a fixture we used for routing peghead binding notches. It's a small router table with a router set below the table. The router bit (inset photo) is a 1/4˝ diameter interchangeable-pilot counterbore with a custom pilot. The pilot has a tapered end so that the bit can stand off at the end of the peghead - where the edge of the peghead is NOT at right angles to the face of the peghead. Also included is a photo of a routed peghead. You can see that the router does 95% of the peghead leaving only the large scroll area to be done by hand.
    Roger
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  22. #15

    Default Re: Binding router

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    At its simplest, all you need is a gramil or something similar. These can be store bought or home made. The Schneider Gramil is good, the Ibex cutter works fine or one can be made from some bits of scrap timber and a blade of some kind. A pic is attached. The binding rebates for a mandolin or a uke will taker an hour or so to do with one of those cutters and a sharp 1/4" chisel.

    I don't know anyone who has used the Dremel attachment more than once.

    A laminate trimming router has enough grunt to cut binding channels, and the sliding up and down setup Rob Roy has described above gives the most control. this works best with a router bit and a set of bearings which determine the width of cut which can match the size of the bindings. I have had an LMI set for some years and it is a very controllable way of cutting the rebate. It is a considerable investment but it is quick and accurate. Otherwise a binding cutter and a chisel. It can be quite meditative and it is quiet.

    Cheers

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I have the middle tool and hate setting it up and it's bearing surface is too small. Not what it's made for anyway. I'd like to use the cutter from that and build the 3rd one over. I'm going to do that or build a router tower.
    Richard Hutchings

  23. #16

    Default Re: Binding router

    I use a Desoutter D57 balancing arm. You can find them on ebay from time to time. I made a base out of acrylic.
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  24. #17

    Default Re: Binding router

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    It can be used and DOn McRostie shows it on the videos but one had to be aware of power of the tool. I made my own extension for similar tool and it worked for me as well.
    Some folks expected it to cut the whole ledge in one pass. With this power I would recommend taking at least 4 increasing passes (both in width and depth). Taking full cut would either force you to go too slow and burn the bit and wood, or the speed will drop from too big load and chatter/ chipping will ruin your instrument or the tool.
    For the last batch I used gramil I made (similar to the one on picture above - the left one) and it worked well enough that it was not worth to me to pack things and go visit my friend's workshop to use his router table and set it up. Well made hand tools in experienced hands can be often as effective a s machines.
    Did you cut the entire ledge with the gramil or rough it out with something else?
    Last edited by Dick Hutchings; Dec-04-2020 at 1:59pm.
    Richard Hutchings

  25. #18
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Binding router

    If the blade is sharp, you can cut the entire ledge. I'll often use one primarily as a scribe and then remove the bulk of the material with a chisel.

    You can also very effectively use one of the modern carpenter's marking guages from Lee Valley or similar with the round brass base and the small round cutterhead to make excellent cuts on the ribs for the bottom of your binding, allowing you to leave the gramil cutter in a fixed position.

    Back in the day, I cut many binding channels with excellent results using nothing but a fresh exacto knife and a magnifying glass, but it takes a very steady hand.

    No matter what tool you use, there is still a lot of delicate micro sanding to get the details perfect.
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  26. #19
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Binding router

    Here is my home made gramil. I made it just as an experiment from pieces of wood/ bone and old broken kitchen knife laying around the shop. The blade is shaped to a v shape with edges on both sides so it cuts in both directions and is flat on the outside (from the gramil body). The arm acts as depthe stop. After two or three steady strokes I would chip away the wood with sharp chisel and do few more cuts etc... 1mm at a time or so. Repeat few times and finish the ledge for final fit of binding with whatever tools you prefer. Works better than I imagined.
    For headstocks, far easier is cutting the headstock overlay undersized (minus binding width) and bind it off the headstock or glue it to headstock that is oersized and bund there. Then cut away excess wood from headstock. No worry about the angle of headstock sides. Old Gibsons were certainly done this way.
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    Adrian

  27. #20

    Default Re: Binding router

    I did my first binding job with a set of shop-made gramils, for two reasons. One, to learn how to do it the "old school" way, so I could say to myself that I'd done it. Two, because I have a deep irrational fear of routers. sorta. It worked fine, took two days, lots of cleanup with chisels, files, scrapers, about 95% satisfied with the result (depth a titch inconsistent). I made my gramils with those little exacto knife blades screwed into a handle.

    I did the back of that instrument with a router in a table that I made, with a simple donut of wood for the recurve to rest on. The donut is the exact height of the arch of the instrument so it's trivial to keep the edge plumb and square as I rotate the instrument resting on it's belly and the donut past the cutter. The cutting bit is the high-zoot one sold by Stew-mac with all the different sized bearings so you can cut different depths of ledge, or cut binding and purfling ledges with a couple of passes. Usually around 99% satisfied with this approach, almost zero cleanup required (about what you do as you inspect prior to installing the binding), you can get tear-out if you go too fast or in the wrong direction against the grain. Given that my "jig" is a 2" diameter piece of plywood with a 1" hole in the middle, it's not a costly thing to make, if you already have a router. The bit set took some time to get to the point of actually buying it. Biggest drawback might be that you can't route into the complex curves of an F-style headstock or body ornament, the bit is around an inch in diameter.

  28. #21

    Default Re: Binding router

    It occurred to me that I routed a neck for binding yesterday, and I hadn't torn down the setup so I went out and took a few pictures of it. For the neck it's as simple as holding the neck level and square on the donut and running it past the cutter. And keeping your hands out of the way (deep irrational fear of routers, after all). Click image for larger version. 

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  29. #22

    Default Re: Binding router

    Nice setup. I recently dove in and bought one of the Stewmac cutters and just a couple of the bearings. My setup posted above, based on the Lynn Dudenbostel site worked well enough, but the ball bearing is pretty tough to beat for consistency so I thought I'd give one a try.

    I share your deep respect, shall we say, for routers.

  30. #23
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Binding router

    Brian, I know some archtop makers add a lot of bling and purfliengs under binding but for your mandolin project I would suggest routing flush with fingerboard surface as if the neck ever needs to be reset, the fingerboard must go and with that binding in place it would be big job. With fingerboard binding flush with board you can most often remove the board together with binding and minimize any touchup after repair. For this reason folks usually bind the fingerboard on a flat table before it is glued onto instrument.
    Adrian

  31. #24

    Default Re: Binding router

    Hogo, I appreciate the advice. Normally I do as you suggest, and the fretboard is thick enough to bind flush. This neck is for one of my personal guitars and so I used a somewhat thin piece of scrap ebony that was actually some packing material in an order I placed with Bow River Wood to Works (Vancouver). It came with a bunch of kerfing taped to it... It's only .200" thick or so, at the edge, but it was free...

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