Tape is one of the most ubiquitous tools we use for handcrafting guitars. On the surface it seems like a simple thing, some paper with sticky stuff on one side, right?
Right… but it gets more interesting when we start striving to increase the quality and efficiency of our guitar-making work. When you start to look deeper, or simply just when you begin to get a little more experience under your belt (and make a few mistakes to learn from), it becomes apparent that matching the right tape with the right lutherie task is critical to putting us in an advantageous position, not to mention helping us do our best work.
My journey into the wonderful world of adhesive tapes started in the usual way. I started with some simple masking tape (which I still use for many things). Eventually, I needed something stronger to apply a good amount of pressure to wooden bindings.
That lead me to the ubiquitous brown tape sold by many luthier supply companies, which was good until I began to use superglue to install my bindings. Making that change lead to a whole new exploration and understanding of tapes.
Not long into my career I learned the very hard lesson about adhesive strength and how too much can be a bad thing for both finishes and wood grain in soft woods. Thankfully, through it all, I found some great solutions for this issue, too. It’s been about 20 years of trial and error, experimenting, and making some pretty decent mistakes. Eventually, I found a few helpful solutions to get some great results with my guitar building work.
Tape For Guitar Fretwork
- The Lint Trick – Make your tape “low tack” by simply sticking it to your T-shirt or jeans and then peeling it off. This simple trick adds just a bit of lint form your clothing to reduce the tack and help protect your delicate finishes and inlays.
- Make Handles – Take a piece of tape slightly longer than you need and fold the two ends back on themselves to make handles for easy removal and help in preventing finish damage from fingernails.
- One last tip – When I need thinner tape, I just stick it to a smooth piece of wood or Masonite. Then I cut it in half just by eye using my X-Acto knife or #11 scalpel. Then, when I peel it, it will have less tack and be ready to use on my fingerboard.
Binding Tape for Luthiers
1 – Tape for guitar binding with Tightbond Glue
2 – Tape for guitar binding with CA glue
Double Stick Tape for Guitar Jigs & Duplicating
These techniques are key to making this tape work:
- Don’t use too much – It’s super strong — a little goes a long way. If you overdo it, you can have a tough time getting your parts separated after you’re done. After a little time working with this, you will get a feel for how much is just right for each template you use with this tape.
- Don’t fight the adhesive. Dissolve it – This one is the big key right here. I like to use Ronsonal (partly just for the handy bottle), but any naphtha will do. Just pour some down between the part and the template and it will cause the tape to let go almost instantly.
- Let the tape dry after removal – Once you have your parts separated, let the remaining Naphtha dry. The tape will then come off cleanly. If you don’t let it dry, it will feel slimy and be harder to get off and clean up.
Tape for Guitar Finishing
Shielding Tape for Guitar Electronics
Tape Dispensers (The Tape Deck)
When it comes to using all these different tapes, I have a new favorite tape dispenser that I recently discovered on a whim. I needed some more brown binding tape and when I went to order some from Stewmac, I saw that there was a Stewmac “Tape Deck” dispenser package that included some brown guitar binding tape I use for so many things for not much extra.
I decided to give it a try and to my pleasant surprise it was just awesome! Solid metal, super stable, and just all around a great tool. I’ll be getting more “Tape Decks” soon for my other tapes and adhesive sandpaper rolls very soon.
You can see my old one I’ve been using for over 20 years and also the new one in the photo below.
The Luthier's Guide To Tape 1 Page Summary!
Enter your name and email to instantly unlock this free PDF download.
Thanks, Enjoy The Video!
Final Thoughts & Your Favorite Tapes
I hope this list should give you a great start in finding just the right tape for the job on your next guitar building project as well a a few tips that have been helpful to me (many of which I learned the hard way).
I enjoyed the topic of Luthiers guide to tape.
I have 6 of the Stew-Mac tape dispensers and they are great. They are heavy so they don’t move when pulling tape. One note of caution! early on I reached for some tape and it was not under the yellow plastic guard that keeps the tape down as it is pulled .I pulled downward and raked the end of my pinky (5th )finger across the serrated blade that cuts the tape . Not only did it Hurt like crazy , it left an abrasion that looked like a recently plowed row garden. It took an amazing length of time to heal completely. I was careful to use gloves until it did heal and won’t make that sloppy and painful error again.