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A bit premature
Loose Mandolin Binding
© Frank Ford 2005; Photos by FF
This Gibson F-5 was only a year old when it started to develop its first sign of age - loose binding. As the plastic binding ages, it shrinks and it can tend to pull away from the body, particularly on an "inside curve." Because this instrument is so young, and because the binding was loose only in one small area, I presume that the original gluing job was just not sufficient in that area.As I pressed on the binding to try to shove it back in place, I was surprised at how strong and stiff it was, I simply couldn't get it to go back with and pressure.
I figured that if I did manage to press it back and get it glued, it would still be under so much tension that the glue would fail again. In order to reduce the tension on the binding, I chose to cut it right under the tailpiece. By cutting it in that location, I wouldn't have to worry about my cut being visible in the future - it would always be hidden.
Once I had a free end, I proceeded to loosen the binding all around the bass side by carefully scoring the finish with a single edge razor blade.
And, by prying with a thin blade palette knife, I was able to work the binding loose with a minimum of damage to the original finish.
Here you can see the binding loose all the way to the waist area.
While finish damage wasn't bad, there were little crumbles of lacquer all along the edge between binding and wood.
Since I'd be doing some finish touchup anyway, I chose medium viscosity cyanoacrylate for regluing the binding. Squeeze-out would etch the finish, but only in the area where I'd be repairing the lacquer anyway. First, I mopped around the area with a cotton swab and acetone to melt in any loose lacquer flakes that might have fallen off as I worked.
Then, it was time for the medium viscosity cyanoacrylate. I ran a good bead of the stuff where the binding would lay, pressed the binding in place, and immediately wiped off the excess with paper towels. If the squeeze-out were to sit on the surface of the finish for very long, it would etch quite deeply.
Masking tape held the binding nicely since it was no longer under tension on that inside curve.
The next day after taking the tape off, I leveled any protruding bits of glue and binding, and started my brush touchup. I added enough lacquer to fill the little chips, and put the instrument aside for a few weeks to allow the new lacquer to harden fully as it melted into the original. It's important to remember that this kind of touchup often results in lacquer that's quite a bit thicker than the original finish, so drying time must be extended.
In this photo, I'm sanding the finish level before buffing, and you can see the gap in the binding that would be hidden under the tailpiece. If I were to level and buff the finish too soon, the new finish would still be releasing solvents, and would shrink in the following weeks, producing a rippled and uneven edge.
Looks good now. . .

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