A question I’ve been asked a number of times recently is whether I buy in or make the ‘rope’ binding that adorns some of the instruments that we build. Well, buying in would almost certainly violate the concept of building instruments with locally sourced timber. Therefore the answer is that we make our own. It appears, however, that the majority of Luthiers buy theirs in, quoting the time to make their own makes it uneconomical.
The process, although not automated, is relatively simple. You take two contrasting pieces of wood and stick them together. Then you cut them in half and stick the pieces back together. You then repeat the previous step again, and again. With the occasional flattening with planer or sander, that is pretty much all there is to it.
Then you cut the resulting piece of wood, now consisting of alternating colours, into strips. Do this at an angle to achieve the ‘rope’ effect, then round it over once it is fitted.
Gluing the binding into a precut channel in the edge of the instrument can be a delicate process, but damping the strips lightly with water helps them bend more easily. The trick is to fit the binding in place and use a thin glue that will wick down into the joint and is cured by moisture. That’d be thin CA then! 20 seconds after wicking in the glue, the binding is fixed in place. (Of course, the fingers holding it in place have been changed every 5 seconds during that 20, or they’ll be fixed to the instrument too!)
The strip cutting, of course, leaves a rough edge and a smooth one, so it’s the smooth one you glue into the rebate, and sand the rough one off after it is fitted.
Run around the bottom edge of the binding with a line of glue to ensure that the wicking process is achieved from both sides, then clean off the excess timber.