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Necessity of body binding for semihollow basses

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by dlenaghan, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. Hi builders -

    I was hoping to specifically get a luthier's perspective on this question, though for my purposes it is a possible repair, so I'l; heck in that forum as well.

    Do you, as builders, see body binding as a purely decorative element? Is there any load-bearing on the body binding? Is binding ever essential to the structural integrity of a semi-hollow bass, in your building experience?

    I know this is a bit of a specific question that pertains to a narrow selection of builders, but I would like to know from someone with some construction knowledge the role of binding in building semi-hollow instruments, in this case, a center blocked semi-hollow with top and rear binding.

    Thanks, and I do apologize if this is better suited to the repair forum, where I'll put up a similar question but with information relevant to the specific repair I am looking into.
  2. From what I know, next to the decorative element, the binding protects the corners of the instrument. Exposed end grain would easily crack or damage.
  3. On acoustic guitars (where it originated) that's not true. This:

    is actually the main goal.

    On acoustics you have a very thin and thus fragile top. You need binding to protect the sides of it. On semi-acoustic or semi-hollow guitars this is less of a problem due to the thicker wood used.

    By the way: a semi-acoustic refers to an acoustic guitar or bass that is amplified as I see it and a semi-hollow guitar or bass refers to an electric guitar with a hollowed out body. Which one do you mean? Do you have pictures?
  4. He prolly means semi-hollow body.

    But - the kerf-cut blocking inside the body of a hollow instrument, by spades, is much more strengthening than a plastic binding, as I see it.

    On a solid body, there is no mechanical gain, for sure.
  5. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Not only to protect the edges, but also to cover up the top and back edges (much cleaner lines, pleasing to the appearance), so it was a double duty purpose. Protection and Looks.
  6. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    I've also read that an intent on acoustic tops is to seal the end grain of the thin, softwood soundboard from moisture pickup and loss.
  7. Binding does a lot of things. It makes a border to allow one to easily stain or color the top only. Makes a clean line seperating the top from the bottom. Useful for decorating, especially multiple layers or exotic woods. Protects the edges. Ditto the uses on acoustics.

    So what problem are you having?
  8. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    This is the first point^^^. Remember that binding was not initially plastic, binding was originally wood, and was not only an end grain sealer, but a structural support.(see older style instruments with inlay on the seams and joins)needs an extra measure of control. Even with the kerfed lining, the joint of a joined top is weak, and the shrink difference between the different woods(usually a soft and hard wood mating surface) the binding creates a control join to help prevent separation at the seam, also controlling humidity seep which is always increased in gaps.

    It is also decorative.
  9. Sorry for the lack of specifics: I'm talking in particular about a Guild Starfire, one of the older models. It's got a maple body, and they do have a reputation for being very solid basses, given the tours they've survived with players who've owned their much longer than I've owned any of my basses.

    Basically, at some point in the bass' life, someone saw fit to remove and refinish it and either lacked the materials or know how or cash to do it properly, so there's a clear coat of lacquer (which doesn't bother me) and the wood filler in place of the binding. I don't know anything about these 'filler' materials, except that there are better- and worse-quality examples, some of which are stable enough and have the same or similar capacities to expand and shrink as does wood, and others which do not.

    It's clearly been there a while.. decades, at this point even, but it's an unknown and I am in need to some informed opinion as to whether to leave it be.

    I appreciate knowing a bit more about the role of binding in instrument building, though - it's not something I've paid much attention to until very recently.

    Thanks again, and any more opinions or information is more than welcome.

    For you who build or repair, or do custom work - what sort of upcharge is standard for a binding?
  10. I can't speak for others for costs to a customer, as I don't build for anyone but myself.

    I know that the material itself is cheap. You pay for labor.

    There is, of course, wood and plastic material, and so far I've used the plastic version. It's easy.

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