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View Full Version : Talking Binding: Design Paralysis, Wood or Plastic?



sequoia
03-13-2015, 07:39 PM
I'm getting ready to bind what might be my perfect uke and I can't decide to go plastic or wood on the purfling. Seriously, I actually wake up in the middle of the night and think about this stuff. Probably need to get a life I know... But really, plastic and wood present advantages and disadvantages. Lately I gone to all wood bindings and purfling and I like the effect except... It isn't perfect. With plastic I get perfect lines.

I like the "impefect" and "organic" look of wood and I like the idea, but the stuff has a little ragged line. Below some pictures of my recent effort. I really believe that the ukeule lends itself to the imperfect and this is a good look... But.

Also, there was a terrible tear out on sand out on my recent effort with wood purfling that would never have happened with plastic. My question as an amatuer: When the chips are down, do you pros go with plastic over wood?

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Looking good here if a bit ragged...

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Then I get this which is a terrible tear out. This would not have happened with plastic.

PS: Finish and final sand out has not been done in the pictures, so it will look better in the end, but that tear out will always be there.

Allen
03-13-2015, 07:53 PM
It's wood for me.

Plastic is actually a better binding material in terms of protection of the instrument, but it's......well.....still plastic.

My clientele all have an expectation of using wood. The only exception was for one working muso that loves Tortoiseshell and I went with some of that faux stuff. Hated working with it, but in the end it's what he wanted.

Titchtheclown
03-13-2015, 10:03 PM
An ancient way to make important decisions was to draw lots. In the modern world we have moved past the need to use shortened straws to make our decisions. We have manufactered small round metal coins to make the decisions for us, firstly they take away some of our freedom by the need to work for them, but I digress.
Toss a coin. If your fist reaction on seeing the result is "best two out of three" then you know what you really wanted. If you are happy with it then feel free to thank me for your ability to sleep tonight.☺

erich@muttcrew.net
03-13-2015, 11:34 PM
I have always used wood binding except for two builds so far, one with faux tortoise shell and one with ivoroid, which went on a uke with a venetian style cutaway - after breaking about eight pieces of maple binding while trying to bend them around the tip of the cutaway, I gave up and ordered some strips of nice ivoroid CAB. Went on easy as pie and I'm OK with how it looks, though I would have preferred the maple - clearly, or I wouldn't have wasted the other seven strips. I tried everything from dry heat, steam, glycerin based wood softener... It just didn't want to happen.

RPA_Ukuleles
03-14-2015, 04:23 AM
Try stabilizing the wood purfling with thin CA *before* installing. I completely saturate the purf with water-thin CA and let it dry. It becomes almost composite, or even plastic-like, and is much easier to plane or sand after it's installed on the uke. It's a mess to do, but it works. It also prevents light colored purf from staining from fillers or surrounding woods, etc. and pretty much eliminates tearout and fuzzing.

sequoia
03-14-2015, 07:31 AM
Try stabilizing the wood purfling with thin CA *before* installing. I completely saturate the purf with water-thin CA and let it dry. It becomes almost composite, or even plastic-like, and is much easier to plane or sand after it's installed on the uke. It's a mess to do, but it works. It also prevents light colored purf from staining from fillers or surrounding woods, etc. and pretty much eliminates tearout and fuzzing.

Oh... I like this idea. Never thought of that. I would think CA would make the purf extremely brittle. But I see how it would sharpen my lines and stabilize the wood. Gonna run an experiment right now....

Also erich, try using the ammonia method for bending to tight curves. It really works well with maple, not so much with "ebony". I recently posted a discussion here on UU:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?103715-Using-Ammonia-to-Bend-Wood-Results&highlight=bending+ammonia

sequoia
03-14-2015, 08:47 AM
Another comment on the wood vs. plastic debate... I read this on a guitar forum a while back. It was from a pro luthier who builds for touring professional musicians. These instruments take a phenomenal amount of abuse on the road and in the studio. This is what he said (paraphased):

"I have found that plastic binding and purfling tends to transmit shocks into the tops and backs causing finish cracks (or worse) while wood binding tends to absorb the shocks and spare the finish...I don't use plastic anymore and just use wood for this reason..."

Food for thought.

jcalkin
03-15-2015, 03:53 AM
Hardly any instruments were bound in wood before the small shop phenomenon, when wood binding became part of everyone's "organic" theme and a sign of finesse in building. Sequoia, I've never seen such a tear-out from sanding. It looks more like band saw marks in the maple that were never sanded out when the material was thicknessed. It could have been hidden by glue squeeze-out and tape during installation. I'd have to rebind it. I love the rough look of many cigar box instruments, but that's often a design element to begin with. Your work looks way too clean for you to put up with a blemish like that.

The disdain for plastic binding seems to be more of a luthier-based prejudice rather than market driven. I'd just as soon have plastic as unfigured wood, and often the stark contrast provided by celluloid can really set off fancy body wood. I use it because that's what the build suggests rather than because it is easier. Huss & Dalton Guitars initially used wood binding as a marketing ploy, but lately 80% of our instruments are ordered with some sort of plastic. Perhaps uke players aren't as obsessed with recreating the past as guitar players, I dunno. But there's no point in getting snarky about plastic binding like many luthiers do. Its still too useful to abandon.