Replacing original Tortoiseshell binding that''s decayed naturally over time.
Greetings, “Restoring an Original” readers. Each month I strive to bring you something new and refreshing, with a hands-on look into the restorations on our benches at BGF. This month, we’re taking a closer look at a Gibson J-50 that came out of Gibson’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory in 1974. Our client was very concerned about the body binding decay that was prevalent for some time and wanted to get a better understanding of the mystery behind it all.
Clearly, this was not a classic case of celluloid binding shrinkage finally cracking to relieve the immense amount of tension it had come under. Visually, this body binding had a decaying rash of self-destruction from the inside out. One might think that it came from those elements that are very bad for your guitar: extreme heat or cold, high humidity (wetness), low humidity (dryness), harsh cleaning agents, bug sprays, heavy body oil, and acid. Other elements, like smoke and sunlight, will change the appearance of some finishes as well.
The above elements may have contributed to promoting the inevitable, but in fact it’s all about the chemical makeup of this binding. Perhaps you may have already guessed it. We were dealing with original tortoise binding, which self-destructs as the plastic binders start to age. Some know it as binding rot. Do not mistake this as an issue of environmental surroundings—though it is true that warm temperatures may speed up the decaying process, while coldness slows it down. The back and top body binding clearly could not be saved. It needed to be removed and rebuilt with a more reliable and stable material. I have seen tortoise pickguards on archtop guitars begin to decay right where the support block was glued. Solvents give off gases, which leach out and cause destruction. Clearly, original tortoise does not like acetone or any other gluing solvents that were used during that period.
Fortunately, this guitar was already scheduled for a neck reset, as it measured very high in playing action even with the neck straight and the saddle bottomed out. So the neck was removed not only for the reset, but also for rebinding the top and back correctly. Tools I used for the binding removal were a hair dryer, a channel spatula, a Sloane Purfling Cutter (StewMac # 0354), and the ShopStand and Guitar Repair Vise (StewMac # 5391).
When removing binding, it’s important to do so in a controlled manner. The body was not going to be stripped and given a full re-spray, so I wanted to keep things looking really clean and crisp—because there was only going to be a thin layer of nitrocellulose airbrushed over the replaced binding once everything was trimmed and groomed.
Using the Sloane Purfling Cutter.
Using a hair dryer and channel spatula to remove the binding.
I used the hair dryer to lightly warm up the binding and glues while I cautiously pulled on one end of the binding. Running a channel spatula against the ledge works well whenever the binding to body joint gets hung up—I trimmed down a previously purchased spatula to the size of the binding and purfling channels. I progressed slowly, inch by inch, at times going back and repeating the first step by re-scoring small sections using the Sloane Purfling Cutter. Doing it this way helped avoid any tear-out of precious wood and kept the lacquered finish line looking very clean.
Some of my go-to places for binding and other plastic resources are Stewart- MacDonald (stewmac.com) and Luthiers Mercantile International (lmii.com). If you’re looking for specialty and hard-to-find materials or shapes, also check out Pickguard Heaven (pickguardheaven.com). Stay tuned for next month, when we’ll be sizing, bending, and gluing the laminated purfling and binding into the pre-existing routed channels on this ’74 Gibson J-50.
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by instrument builders throughout the world.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.