Jazzmaster: Bound for glory?

Today was going to be dedicated to binding the Jazzmaster’s body and headstock. I had cut the binding channel yesterday after several practice attempts on scrap. Thankfully I saved those and was able to experiment with technique and materials before tackling the guitar itself.

The lessons I learned during my tests were:

  • Of all the types of tape I had, plain old Sellotape was best suited to this task. Strong enough to hold the binding down but you can still peel it off the superglue after it has dried.
  • A piece of the binding held in very hot (almost boiling) water for 30 secs can follow a sharp bend without cracking.
  • Once the binding cools it almost holds the shape, so you can do the pre-bends, let it all dry off, and then glue it up.

I figured that the tight bends at the corner of the headstock were going to be toughest part of the job so I rushed headlong in to get this part of the task out of the way. I warmed the binding, as above, and just using finger pressure held it in position on the corners until it had cooled. I then used the CA glue to attach it along the end of the headstock.

I did one side at a time allowing it to dry in between each. I had first tried securing the binding with Sellotape, but on the tight corner it was pulling away slightly. Luckily I had had the foresight to put a couple of clamps within easy reach, just in case…

Same approach for the remaining side…

…scrape the binding down to the same level as the top of the headstock, trim the ends, wipe with a damp cloth and my first piece of binding is done.

With that under my belt I tackled the body. One advantage of the Jazzmaster shape is that the curves are very soft and I didn’t need to pre-bend at all. Steve Benford had given me some great advice in preparation for the binding. The two most useful nuggets were to make sure you have lengths of tape precut, and the suggestion not to start at the neck pocket. The area round the neck pocket is one of the more fiddly aspects of the job and you don’t want all 1.6m of binding flapping about while you’re trying to do the intricate bit. I started at the peak of the top bout, worked down to the tail end, and then finished off the section to the neck pocket.

Back to the tail end, and work my way round the bottom edge of the body. I would apply about 5-6″ of glue, hold down the binding and tape it up, give it a couple of mins to grab and then do the next section.

I trimmed the ends with my model maker’s tenon saw, and then scraped the binding. I’ve misplaced ALL of my favourite tools – my cabinet scrapers – and I had to “slum it” with a Stanley knife blade.

Wipe down with a damp cloth and this is as far as I got. Very pleasing results for a first attempt.

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