Binding an L5S

Cagey

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I recently managed to add a Mahogany L5S body to the collection through some judicious horse-trading, and after thinking about how to finish it came up with the idea that regardless of the finish, it might look great with some binding on it. For those of you who aren't familiar with that guitar design, it was something Gibson made a long time ago that looks sorta like cross between a Telecaster and a flat-top Les Paul with a lasagna addiction...

L5S-Mahogany.jpg

Never having done this before, I did some research and found that it doesn't look impossible. The body has a flat top, so the router will ride it nicely, right? So, what the hell? Let's try it. What's the worst thing that could happen?

Probably famous last words, but we'll see. I don't know how long this will take, but you gotta start somewhere so here we go.

First, you gotta come up with a design. How many layers, how thick, what colors, etc. Then, you gotta buy the binding. Then you're stuck. You gotta do it.

I decided I wanted a multi-layer binding like what's on my Taylor acoustic. I've never done this, but I figgered if I was going to go through the trouble there may as well be as many layers as a good pro job would have. Stupid me. But, long story short, I ended up with 5 layers: 3 at .020", 1 at .040", and one at .060" colored cream/black/cream/black/cream, the inverse of the Taylor job.

TaylorBinding.JPG

You may want to throttle your ambition a bit the first time around.

Then, you need 2 kinds of glue. One to laminate the binding strips with, and one to attach them to the guitar. Laminating glue turns out to be simple acetone. You basically melt the strips together. Attachment glue is some stuff called "Weld-On #16", whatever cancer-causing concoction that is.

Weld-On_Cement_sm.jpg

You can also use CA, but we all know what happens when you open a bottle of that stuff.

You also need the appropriate router bit and stand-off bearings to make the channel on the body that the binding will set into. Buy 'em all! You know you want to!
Binding_Router_Bit_Set_sm.jpg

You also need a laminating jig - don't think you can get away without one. This is used to hold/press the layers together as you make the binding. It counts as about 3 hands of the 5 or 6 you need to do this. Luckily, they're fairly inexpensive because make no mistake - laminating binding is much like herding cats.
Binding_Laminator_sm.jpg

We're also gonna need some high-tack tape and a scraper, but we'll come back to that later.

At one or more of the links above to Stewart-MacDonals's site, they have links to articles that explain how all this stuff is used. I just have a few pictures here of what I've accomplished so far.

First, you can't laminate 5 layers all at once. It's just too much to do in the time allotted. 3 is pushing it. The problem is the acetone you use to melt the strips together boils off too fast. It starts to melt the plastic right away, and you have about 2-3 seconds to stick it together. If you're too fast, it won't stick and you end up having to do it again which the plastic doesn't want to take. If you're too slow, the plastic re-hardens and won't stick. So, I started with 2.

2LayerLamBind.JPG

Basically, you paint the mating surfaces with acetone, and slowly push them through the jig.  You only do 6-8 inches at a time because of the time restrictions I mentioned.

Then, I did the three narrower parts...
3LayerLamBind.JPG

It's the same exercise, except now you have to paint 4 inner surfaces. You also have to be careful to hold the pieces apart so you can paint them...
Holding3LayerLam.JPG

I should also mention that it's important that you do something to hold both ends of the laminate up level with the jig, or they'll go through crooked. I used a pile of books on both ends. Also, put something heavy and small on the books as barriers to hold the strips in line or they'll flop all over the place, making it harder to hold/feed them.

Once I had the two strips made, I could mate them up for the final binding configuration I wanted...

5LayerLamBind.JPG

Now we wait. Not pictured? How much binding strip I ruined.

The stuff is just ABS plastic. It's not strong to start with. Acetone melts it, and makes it weaker. It'll harden back up, but it takes a while. They say 24 hours. In the meantime, it's VERY easy to break. Theoretically, you can just melt it back together, but I'm not sanguine about the idea. It has yet to be bent around the body's contours, which is going to stress it. I'd bet dollars to donut holes a previous break will break again. So, that stuff's wasted. Buy extra. Pretend you bought a case of beer for the project, but drank it already so that $20 is gone. You'll need it for the learning curve.

Stay tuned. Soon we'll start chewing on the body.

 
I should mention that in one of the articles at StewMac, they mention this little trick...

4200_binding_support.gif


I thought at the time that it was a bit of overkill, probably only used by people who did this all the time. In retrospect, I should have done it right off. You don't need pipe as large as depicted, and what's an 8' length of PVC pipe and a 2x4 cost? $6-$8? Would have made things a lot easier and I probably wouldn't have wasted as much binding strip.
 
Gutsy! Ambitious! Cool! IMPRESSIVE!! Looking forward to watching the continuation of this project...
 
The worst thing that could happen? I suppose you could still end up wiith a Les Paul if  things went badly.
 
Very interesting work .....

WOW  :eek:  Cagey, you must have big balls  :icon_thumright:

file_zps54f190c2.jpg



Cagey said:

Gotta love that piece of antique furniture in the top left corner    :laughing7:    :icon_biggrin:
 
Updown said:
Gotta love that piece of antique furniture in the top left corner    :laughing7:    :icon_biggrin:

That's an honest-to-God IBM model M keyboard, with the wonderful buckling-spring keyswitches. Things are built like tanks and last forever. I'll probably die before that thing does. You can't really get them any more except in the occasional auction, where they go for pretty high prices. I think I've had that one about 20 years and it's still as good as the day I unboxed it. I have several, just in case. Nothing like them, although there is a company called Unicomp who bought IBM's patents and machinery to make these things, and they make a reasonable facsimile. I have a couple of theirs, too. I can't stand modern keyboards. Too mushy and sloppy. My typing speed slows down to a crawl and I still make a ton of mistakes.
 
Altar said:
Wasn't it their solid body L5? Looks really good!

I think so. Apparently they weren't big sellers; they only made them for a few years. I think there's a few years of a reissue, but I think that's discontinued as well.
 
I've always been fine with normal modern keyboards and my keyboard of choice has been a MS Natural Keyboard of some kind or another for 15 years or so.

But just recently I've had three months off work, and all my typing has been done on the keyboard on my MacBook Pro. The main difference is of course that the key travel is much, much less. And now I find typing on a normal keyboard a bit ridiculous. You have to press they keys SO FAR! So I might have to get myself some sort of full-size equivalent of a laptop keyboard.

Anyway, the binding. Wow. I had no idea how this was done, and I would never in a million years have tried to make my own laminate binding tape. It looks like it's a lot more flexible than I've always imagined it, but then, I've been imagining it stupidly. Of course it needs to be that flexible.

Pretty sure I'm still a good couple of decades away from having the confidence (and workshop space) to rout a channel into a guitar and putting binding in it. It looks absolutely fantastic so far - really looking forward to seeing the finished product.
 
I'm looking forward to how this comes out, Cagey.  I'm envisioning a JohnnyA style project somewhere in my near future.  That will necessitate obtaining a router.  Once I have a router ...well.... I know me.  All kinds of stuff will turn up with odd looking corners and edges on 'em.  Better to watch you do it first.
:toothy10:
 
Having some serious travel as well as tactile and audible feedback is what makes these 'boards great, at least for me. I can type dramatically faster, and with substantially less errors.

As for the binding - the individual strips are pretty flexible. In fact, it's tough to keep them laying anywhere - they're slippery and want to flow around like a piece of string with a mind of its own. You drape them over anything like the back of a chair, and they're on the floor immediately. And these pieces are 65" (~2M) long. That's why that PVC + 2x4 trick looks like a great idea. But, once you laminate several together, the whole thing stiffens up pretty good and it's going to take a heat gun to soften the stuff to get it to wrap around or inside some points.
 
tylereot said:
I'm looking forward to how this comes out, Cagey.  I'm envisioning a JohnnyA style project somewhere in my near future.  That will necessitate obtaining a router.  Once I have a router ...well.... I know me.  All kinds of stuff will turn up with odd looking corners and edges on 'em.  Better to watch you do it first. :toothy10:

Routers are fun tools, and let you do a lot of things that would be quite difficult or impossible otherwise. Where you'll get surprised is over time how much money you have in bits. You can buy cheapies, but it's false economy. You end up replacing them pretty quickly and, if you don't learn your lesson and buy good ones, repeatedly. But, you only buy the ones you need for a project, so it doesn't hurt.
 
YMMV, but having bound a dozen or so acoustics, I find it easier to laminate them as I install them.  Once they get thick, especially bound, getting them to fit tightly around curves is a serious pain in the neck. 

He's installing wood/plastic combination here, but I use a technique similar to what Robbie O'brien is using in this video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6haG-aDM-eg


Start at the neck block, and work your way back, tape-as-you go sort of thing.


Here's a cool video of Ed Claxton executing a butt joint, which is by far the most challenging part of the job...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgQPy7Ziedw

 
Man, you are a champ when it comes to stuff I've thought about doing and then wussed out on.  I'll follow this with a curiousity previously reserved for lesbian couples fighting behind a bar.

-Mark
 
Cagey said:
Altar said:
Wasn't it their solid body L5? Looks really good!

I think so. Apparently they weren't big sellers; they only made them for a few years. I think there's a few years of a reissue, but I think that's discontinued as well.

Awesome project, Cagey. Big ones, indeed.

The fat body reminds me a big of the Hagstrom Swede, which I've often heard described as a more voluptuous Les Paul.

I'm looking forward to seeing this come together.

An aside, I was thinking of routing my SG special for a neck pickup ... I suppose it's worth my while to buy the routing template from Stew-Mac?
 
Jim_H said:
YMMV, but having bound a dozen or so acoustics, I find it easier to laminate them as I install them.  Once they get thick, especially bound, getting them to fit tightly around curves is a serious pain in the neck. 

I think you may have something there. I just picked up one of the lengths I made (I did two, so I could bind both the front and back) and broke the damn thing. That's another case of beer down the tubes. The stuff is just not very flexible at all at this point, and is leaning toward brittle. Probably shouldn't be surprised - it's .160" thick now. The amount the outside edge has to stretch and the inside edge compress is just too much. It's like trying to bend a thick uncooked pasta.

Oh, well. I knew on the going-in side this was going to be a learning experience. Can't worry about failure or we'd never learn anything, right? StewMac is going to think I'm a binding fool, all these strips I keep ordering. Maybe I can make somebody a bound jewelry box for Christmas out of the scraps. At least all the edges would be straight <grin>

Thanks for the links to the tutorials/demonstrations. They were good, and also led to a number of others I hadn't seen yet. I'm also beginning to think I ought not route the edges with a portable router. Buddy of mine has a large cast/milled router table that would probably be a better thing to use. I can't replace bodies as easily as binding strips, so that needs to come out right the first time.
 
reluctant-builder said:
An aside, I was thinking of routing my SG special for a neck pickup ... I suppose it's worth my while to buy the routing template from Stew-Mac?

Them, or somebody. It's not something you can do effectively by hand. I've got StewMac's pickup templates here and they're fine, unlike their neck pocket template which is slightly over-sized.
 
AprioriMark said:
Man, you are a champ when it comes to stuff I've thought about doing and then wussed out on.  I'll follow this with a curiousity previously reserved for lesbian couples fighting behind a bar.

Hehe! Yeah, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You have to dare to suck.
 
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