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The thing that seems to give even experienced luthiers a bit of a twitch, and some problems, is keeping the router bit at a uniform depth from the edge, while making the channel “perfectly” parallel to the guitar’s side. The Stewmac manual gives a method for doing this, but if I may say so, it is inadequate, especially for anyone not experienced at routing for guitar bindings. (Like the other kit makers, Stewmac often assumes a level of experience on the part of kit builders that is not present, such as being able to handle a router as easily as the master craftsman, Dan Erlewine.)

I have “invented” a way around this. (Of course,

there are other devices designed to accomplish

this same end, but mine works for me, costs only

ten bucks and can be made with a hacksaw and

file in an hour.)

Here is a link to the PDF of the plan at right.

Feel free to download and print it.

Here are links to pages showing how simple it is

to make a router guide in less than an hour,

to mount it to a Dremel® tool or

to mount it to a 1/4” laminate trimmer.

This tool accomplishes one part of what’s needed:

It indexes the router bit to the side of the guitar,

making the bit cut parallel to the side. The other

requirement is for the guide to ride on the very

edge of the guitar’s top or back in such a way that

the curvature of the back doesn’t lift the router

and make the channel too shallow.

I have a nifty, easy way to accomplish that, too.

(Easy and quick and works with any router.)

You might laugh, but this method cuts a perfect

channel. It’s made with ice cream sticks and a

bit of masking tape. Blue tape, in this case.

I use three sticks just to be certain the base of

the router is lifted perfectly clear of the curve,

and it works. On the back of any guitar, I haven’t

yet run aground on the curve. (The angle of the

straight lines on the photo shows how far the base

is lifted — easily clearing any body curvature.)

The other feature of this is that the cutting line (red

lines on photos) of the bit is kept very close to the

guide along the edge. Note how the bit’s blade turns

“inside” the edge guide due to the cutout. And note

that the “scuffing” on the tape only happens within

less than 1/4” of the edge.

Here is a photo of the whole thing “in action.” When

the binding channel was tested all around the

body, it was perfect. I was elated.

Sometimes, simple things work best. Of course,

there is some measuring, eyeballing and testing

to be done before you cut into your guitar body.

But once the bit is set to cut the right depth, the

clamps are tight, and the Router Guide is riding

along the side with the bit roller, the only task is

to keep that side in contact with the router guide,

to concentrate, and to cut slowly. Everything

else takes care of itself.


When you rout the body, you can lessen

chances of tear out if you do it in two stages.

Just follow the instruction in the illustration.

It’s for sure your routing will be straighter

than my lines!

Just in case the purpose of this isn’t clear ...

It’s done this way so the router bit will never

be turning against the grain and being

moved against the grain at the same time.

It’s still important to go slowly and to have a

sharp router bit.

The Routing Process

Using the directions in the Stewmac manual, which are excellent regarding this procedure, you can

now  perform the routing of your back and top with

confidence. Do the back first; it gives you practice

on the part where it won’t show as much if you make a mistake.

At right is another picture, of the area where I do my routing. It’s very small, but the main thing about it is that the work is raised to the level of my eyes so I can watch as I guide the router. (By simply putting a picnic ice chest on my work bench.) The second thing is that the surface the guitar body is on is the soft-rubber underside of a brand new “welcome” mat; it is clingy enough to hold the body still without any help from me, clamps, or anything else.

NEXT: Gluing Bindings On The Back