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Abrasion due to missing binding

Q: I love the information and wit in your Ask a Luthier column. I am trying to refurbish a cheap plywood dreadnought (1970's "Conqueror") that has never had a case and came along on many camping trips anyway. Restrung and tuned to pitch, it plays well and sounds surprisingly good, so I want to make amends with it. I replaced a sheared off endpin and reglued the back where it had separated from the sides for a few inches.

    An 8" strip of binding is missing from the back of the lower bout, and in this area the guitar edge is rounded from wear and the wood has an oxidized appearance. The separation occurred here. I could try to glue on a new section of binding, but some of the wood it should rest against is worn away and would lose more material if prepped properly for gluing. I would have to somehow fill in a lot of material. Is there anything reasonable I could do to protect this area from further wear?

    Maybe just clean it up and seal it somehow? It has a hardshell case now and rests on a stand otherwise.
    - Mark

A: A bazaar technique to try would be to "cast" a new binding. Mix epoxy of the proper color, and fill the binding slot, with all it's imperfections. There is a kind of masking tape made for painting stripes on cars. We call it "rubber tape." I'm not sure that that is the proper name. An auto paint supply shop should have it. Other types of tape would be fine, but rubber tape is specially designed to not allow paint to capillate under it. Lay the guitar on its front. Put a strip of tape around the side, sticking up above the back, making a mould for the epoxy.

    The big problem with casting epoxy is bubbles. Mix the heck out of it, put it in the mould and then hold a light bulb over it. The warmed epoxy is thinner and runnier and most bubbles will come out. The heating also speeds up the setting time so don't dawdle. After shaping, you can mix a new batch to fill bubbles on the exposed surface. Shape with a file, being careful to not scratch the original finish, then buff to perfection.

    If the binding is black, use black epoxy. If the binding is white, white epoxy could capilate into the endgrain of the wood and make white lines running away from your cast. If it looks like this will be a problem (lots of little cracks, bigger cracks, delaminated plys, etc.) seal with black epoxy first. File off the excess black then cast your white. If your binding is neither black or white, use clear with coloring powders to get a good match.

    This is not a repair that you would do on a vintage Martin, but it will seal and protect your edge. Many new mandolins have peghead overlays that are done this way. The binding is cast onto the overlay before it is glued on. It is much easier than binding all those fancy curves.

    Steve Mason