Heat gun near binding

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by johmica, Sep 25, 2021.

  1. johmica

    johmica Tele-Holic

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    I just ordered a cheap-o Chinese guitar, because I want to have something to play around with. It's a Billy-Bo-esque kind of thing, but with some slight variations in the body shape (a couple of the sharp edges are missing) and a blank head stock, so I'm not worried about it ever being mistaken as a real Gretsch.

    I bought it because I wanted something to practice my nascent building skills on. For example, I'm going to remove the finish, route out the body differently, carve a belly cut, patch the holes that will be left when I remove the tune-o-matic (I'm going to replace it with a cheap floating bridge), refinish it in nitro, and install some Filtertrons (I've only replaced individual pots in the past - I've never wired a guitar from scratch before).

    What i don't want to do is mess up the binding. I've watched a bunch of videos on guitar binding, and it's just an additional can of worms that I'm not really wanting to open this time around.

    It's my hope to use a heat gun to remove the thick poly finish on the guitar. Based upon my extensive YouTube research (about 30 minutes or so of watching people of varying skill sets talk about their favorite way to do it), it seems like a heat gun is the easiest way to go about it. I figured that I'd have to use either a solvent or good, old-fashioned elbow grease as I near the binding, but I'm wondering if anyone has ever removed the finish on a bound guitar with a heat gun, and if so, if you have any advice.
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I bind most of the guitars that I build and I finish in lacquer. Most plastic binding is attached with acetone based glues (Ducco or similar). I use small amounts of heat to bend binding in small radius areas like the horns or headstocks.

    The paradox is that chemical strippers do not remove modern catalyzed finishes (but you experiment on yours). If stripper will soften your finish that makes things much easier but I would be very careful around the binding. If the stripper won't work you will have to use a combination of heat and abrasives, and yes,, both will damage the binding.

    When finishing a bound guitar it is normal to mask the sides and scrape the small dimension if you are using color. If you are just going with clear shoot right over the binding.

    Sounds like you have an interesting project. Remember that your floating bridge may have different neck geometry than the ToM - get your bridge and confirm before you go too far. Many floating bridges are intonated for a wound third, that might give some intonation issues. If you would like to discuss this more let me know - I build carved topped guitars with both kinds of bridges.
     
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  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    A couple more thoughts to the above. If the binding does separate from the body you can glue it back on with either acetone or my fav, water thin CA. Wick either one right on the seam with a little pipette. If you have any gaps you can dissolve little bits of binding in acetone and make kind of a paste that you can use to fill. Be careful sanding on binding with very coarse grit - you can leave pretty bad scratches. I like to scrape binding with a box cutter blade.

    If the binding decides to come off you could always just clean up the channel and rebind it. I can talk you thru this.
     
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  4. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

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    Enough heat from a heat gun to affect a thick poly finish is going to destroy the plastic binding. You could rebind the guitar later and add that experience to your skillset.

    If you want to preserve the binding that's there, course sanding paper for starters then a card scraper. If you're not familiar with card scrapers, then your should invest the time to learn about sharpening, burnishing, and using them. Faster than sanding, they leave a glass smooth finish.
     
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  5. johmica

    johmica Tele-Holic

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    What I had in mind was using the heat gun, starting at the pickup routes, and moving outward until I reach a point where I start to get concerned about melting the binding. Then I'll switch from heat to the scraper/sandpaper method from there (the card scraper is a great idea, by the way. Thanks!) Do you think this will work, or do you think that I'm risking the binding the moment I plug in the heat gun?
     
  6. johmica

    johmica Tele-Holic

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    Also, I'm assuming that using heat to remove the poly from the neck is a bad idea? Potential for warping it?
     
  7. dogmeat

    dogmeat Friend of Leo's

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    picture of the guitar? some of the cheapos I've worked on are made of "cheese wood"... super soft. they are (apparently) shaped and sanded, then dipped in some kind of resin to make it hard enough to use. then color coated. if you get below the resin, the wood is so soft you can gouge it out with your fingernails. it can be firmed up with CA glue. I did a light weight Ibenez bass for a friend a couple years ago and reviled a spot by the bridge that "delaminated" for lack of a better word. it wasn't plywood but the layers of grain were separating in small spots... looked like blisters. many of the strat and tele copy bodies from Asia are the same and you need a hard top coat

    and yeah, the heat gun was the fastest way to pull off the paint. stripper didn't do well. better after being hit with heat, but too much hassel. if you want to try stripper, pour some out on the work and cover it with clear plastic. Saran Wrap works. that keeps the evil stuff from evaporating and lets you work it a bit and easily monitor progress
     
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  8. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

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    I use a heat gun to pre-bend plastic binding and it works well for that once you find the sweetspot temperature. The challenge with a heat gun and binding is that the difference between just right and too much is infinitesimal and you'll go from not enough to too much instantly. Too late, the damage is done.

    Depending on the composition of the finish, I fear the amount of heat necessary to really affect it will be great enough that it'll be hard to control it and keep it away from the binding. Hopefully, someone with first hand experience with heat gun stripping finishes will weigh in.
     
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  9. Wyatt

    Wyatt Tele-Afflicted

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    IMHO, trying to strip a modern finish back to wood is a lot more difficult then putting on new binding.
     
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  10. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think the best thing to do is put this on the back burner until the OP gets the guitar. Run the test to see if the finish might be lacquer. Find out what kind of wood its made out of. Decide if all these modifications are even going to work. Until then we are just guessing.
     
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