What is a Guitar Binding – Best glue for guitar binding repair
Before getting to the answer to what is the best glue for guitar binding repair, it’s relevant to know what the bindings are: The guitar bindings are protective strips that are usually made of some form of plastic, and serve a couple of purposes:
Protecting the sensitive edges of the guitar body (and sometimes neck) junctions, so the glue that keeps it together doesn’t suffer too much from impacts, friction humidity, and temperature changes. They also serve a decorative purpose in more elaborate, expensive, and rare instruments.
The best glue for guitar binding repair is the Titebond II wood glue, it’s a glue that resists humidity, which is the main cause for the bindings to peel away.
It also allows you between 10-30 minutes before it starts to harden so you have enough time to clean the excess and finish the job. CA (cyanoacrylate) glues like super glue or gorilla glue do not allow you much time before hardening, which makes them not ideal for already painted and finished guitars.
Why use regular wood glue?
Although the binding material is designed in order to make it very difficult for liquids to traverse it, humidity is a real threat that slowly gets underneath it, reaching the glue, condensing on its surface, creating small bubbles and foam, and thus, weakening and destroying its bonds.
Depending on the weather and temperature conditions in where the guitar is stored and used (think about constant rehearsals with other band members in a small studio – if you’ve been there you know it’s tough to keep humidity out), the glue will inevitably lose its abilities to hold things together.
Although wood glue isn’t invincible when it comes to battling humidity, it is by far the most resistant adhesive that holds the binding in place in the binding shelves for far longer than other kinds of glue.
Other not so great solutions
Considering that the bindings usually consist of some form of ABS – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which makes the binding to be of ideal rigidity and almost impossible for liquids to pass through it, some might be tempted to look for a common solution to gluing plastic and wood online or at the local department store.
When searching for the best ways to glue plastic and wood together, the option that will appear as the best solution is to use epoxy.
We know that it’s relatively hard to glue plastic to wood. This is because their surfaces and materials are different. In many other applications, this seems to be the best choice. But not here, unfortunately.
However, though it can certainly work using epoxy to glue the binding back to the guitar body, It’d be very, very difficult to get it right with the right thickness along all of its length. This results in an aesthetic disaster. The excess material will be visible, it’ll be of a different color than the rest of the materials involved. It just won’t feel right. Buyers and collectors look at these kinds of details when trying to bargain for a lower price, don’t they?
This is yet another option that works for gluing plastic to wood in other applications. You can still achieve the right results with this method. But, hot glue has the ability to damage the finish, paint, and wood underneath it. The application must be extremely accurate.
Also, depending on the binding material you have at hand, two things can occur.
- The bond that the hot glue forms between the wood and the plastic won’t be strong enough to hold it in place for long.
- The binding itself won’t resist the high temperature and melt/break when applying the hot glue.
Super glue is very handy and can save you during an emergency. But it comes at the high price of possibly getting drops stuck to the guitar finish and paint as well. Scraping it off without damaging the finish will be next to impossible, and you’ll be well on your way to a very expensive trip to repair it in the guitar shop.
Of all the alternatives, this is probably a good alternative to regular wood glue. These kinds of adhesives are thick and sticky (well, obviously…) which makes it a bit harder to get the application part right when compared to wood glue
However, the reason why we don’t recommend it is that these types of glue offer lots of hazards to the person using them.
They tipically use some form of solvent as their base component, which will release some volatile substances immediately after opening the package. These substances have regulations in most countries: The hazards are in breathing them, which can cause several side effects, and they’re very flammable
For these reasons, to use it you’d have to take extra precautions and use it in a well ventilated environment.
This isn’t the only drawback though. since these kinds of adhesive aren’t so easy to find and buy as they once were in the past. There have been a couple of advancements in their technology lately, but we have no experience in using water-based contact cement for this application,
Double-sided foam tape
Yet another alternative that isn’t ideal, but not so bad if you don’t have another choice. You’ll find double-sided foam tape in various lengths and thicknesses, transparent and white mostly.
The difficulty here would lie in cutting the tape to the right shape, and that the added thickness would make the ending result visible.
But you’d like to know how strong this kind of tape is when applied correctly (you must stretch the tape a bit, apply it and then remove the green/red liner, get the binding in as much contact as you can with it, and let it rest for at least 2 days).
It’ll certainly get the job done, although the result won’t be as professional.
Why do guitar bindings peel off
Guitar bindings consist of a different material than the guitar body/neck, and this doesn’t help with the promotion of the adherence between the two.
Storing: When you don’t keep the guitar in proper storage, like being too much time in a room with the windows open or a humid environment in general, the glue under the bindings starts to absorb some of this humidity.
When the excess humidity condensates over the adhesive surface, it starts to deteriorate the chemical bonds in the glue, thus weakening its ability to keep everything together.
Lack of humidity also causes the binding to dry up, resulting in cracks. Keeping your instrument somewhere free from humidity variations is the best way to deal with this. Not only it protects the bindings, but also every other metal component like the strings, the tuning machines, and the rest of the hardware.
Of course, not everyone has the perfect environment that meets these criteria, and in these cases, the best option is to keep the instrument inside a hard guitar case. Sure it makes the instrument less accessible at any given time, but doing so preserves its value, components, and set up much longer.
Changes in the temperature also contribute to guitar bindings peeling off. This happens because the molecules expand or contract with the variations in temperature. It’s the same thing that happens with wooden furniture on cold days, you’ve certainly heard some crackling that came from seemingly nowhere on a cold night, right?
When the body and the binding shrinks or expands, they don’t do it at the same rate, because their composition is different. Depending on the quality of the glue, it’ll try to do its best to be flexible and accommodate for these changes, but over time it’ll lose the ability to do so, resulting in letting go of the bindings.
Depending on the region of the binding, it may suffer from friction. When playing, the binding will rub against your clothes, which will over time affect the glue beneath it until it’s not able to hold it together anymore.
Storage and transportation in inadequate guitar bags/cases is also a factor that can cause the bindings to go loose.
Application – Best glue for guitar binding repair
The best glue for guitar binding is wood glue that is resistant to humidity, but there are other options depending on the circumstance:
When you are building a guitar from scratch, or from a kit, using CA (cyanoacrylate = super glue, gorilla glue) isn’t a problem, since you don’t need to worry about the finish just yet. You can always scrape the excess glue and use sandpaper coupled with masking tape to achieve the perfect finish later on. CA glue will keep everything together strongly and for a long time.
On the other hand, if you have a guitar that’s already finished but the bindings are peeling off, the Titebond II wood glue is the ideal glue to get the right results.
In both cases, you’ll simply need:
- The chosen glue
- A straw, nozzle or something similar to apply the glue to the surface
Depending on the severity of the problem, you might not be able to push the binding back to its intended position enough so that it’ll make contact with the body and the glue. In these cases, it’s best to peel the whole binding gently and see if you can get it to the right position after. You can use a blowdryer to heat the glue underneath and ease things up a bit.
Be careful since the binding could break if it’s too dry. On some occasions, it’ll be better to go for a whole new binding instead of trying to fix the old one.
If you can push it back in place, then apply small quantities of the chosen glue with a nozzle or a small straw/piece of wood until the binding can make perfect contact with the glue and the body itself.
Removing the excess of glue
Regardless of the chosen glue, you’ll have to:
- Remove the excess glue that will be squeezed after you press the binding against the binding shelf and the glue. In the case of the CA glue, this must be done relatively fast, but if you’re using it in the first place, you should be doing this to an unfinished guitar and expecting to do some sanding and finish work afterward
- In case you follow the recommendation and use wood glue, removing the excess can be done with soft tissue. just make sure to do it before it dries up or it’ll become much more difficult. If it happens you have the option to heat it up with a blow dryer, but it’ll likely affect the glue underneath the binding that you just applied.
- Secure the binding in place for a while. Doing so will promote the adherence between the materials and strengthen the newly formed bonds. You can achieve this using good-quality masking tape (the kind that doesn’t leave any sticky goo after removal). Secure the binding in place with strips of tape applied vertically in relation to the binding.
- Depending on the glue applied, you’ll have to leave it alone for a couple of hours until it’s dry enough to remove the tape without lifting the binding.
- Remove each piece of tape individually, one at a time., check if any excess glue has accumulated under it. If it did, clean it up and apply new tape; Repeat the process with all other pieces of tape until the binding is fixed and no excess glue is visible.
To summarize – Best glue for guitar binding repair
It’s only natural that due to regular use and weather conditions, acoustic guitar bindings will start to peel off sooner or later. This is a more serious issue that seems to happen more with certain guitar manufacturers, but as a general rule, the solution isn’t too expensive.
Depending on where you live, the cost to replace/fix the binding on your guitar with a professional will be anywhere between $50 and $200, and even more in the case of rare instruments that need their components and originality preserved to keep their value intact.
Sure the procedure seems simple enough, but you’re actually paying for their expertise and to guarantee that the end result will be the best possible.
However, if your guitar isn’t that much of a rarity, there is nothing irreversible about the procedures, and chances are that you’ll save a lot of money attempting the repair of the binding by yourself.
The best glue to secure new bindings in place, or fixing ones that have peeled off is wood glue that is water-resistant, like the Titebond Franklin International 5005 II Premium Wood Glue. Cyanoacrylate should be considered as an alternative only in case you can afford to sand and finish the guitar, such as in the case of building a new guitar.
Remember that super glue dries up real quick and it’ll likely take with it some of the original finish/paint when you try to remove it. Wood glue, on the other hand, allows you enough time to scrape and clean it off before it’s completely dry, which makes it the best choice to repair an already existing binding.
Can anyone do this?
Again. this isn’t a very hard procedure, and the biggest risk is getting glue over the guitar finish. In the end, it will depend on how confident you are to perform it perfectly, and how much you care for that specific instrument. If you’re in doubt, it’s always a very good idea to try with a cheaper guitar first, to make sure you won’t mess up on your more expensive instruments.
Trying to perform repairs by yourself is a double-edged sword. It can save you time and money if performed correctly, but on the other hand, getting it wrong will cause the value of your instrument to go down significantly. Potential buyers will consider each and every aspect of your instrument when deciding on a purchase, and every tiny detail will make a difference for the experienced ones, especially when dealing with rare and high priced instruments