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Acoustic Vocabulary: Binding, Purfling, Marquetry and Kerfing

 


Close-up detail of a Fender CD-220SCE dreadnought cutaway shows the white binding along the edge (side and top), and the black-and-white purfling on the top only, just inside the binding.

When shopping for an acoustic guitar—especially a higher-end acoustic guitar—you’re certain to run across some terms you may or may not be familiar with. Some of these terms refer to various finer details of an acoustic guitar’s construction and, for clarity’s sake, Tech Talk would like to define four of these: binding, purfling, marquetry and kerfing.

Binding. Ornamental strips of plastic, wood, nitrocellulose or other materials added to the edges of a guitar’s back and top where they join the sides. Binding is also sometimes added to the edges of the fingerboard and headstock.

Purfling. Ornamental inlay strips typically placed inside the binding around the edges of the top of a guitar (and sometimes the back). In common casual usage, people often don’t distinguish purfling from binding.

Marquetry. Ornamental strips of patterned wood inlay on a guitar body, usually found in rosettes or at joining points such as edge binding and center seams.

Kerfing. Also called lining, kerfing is found inside an acoustic guitar and is not ornamental. It’s a strip of wood glued around the edges of the inside of the body in order to provide support and extra gluing surface where the top and back join the sides. This wood strip is kerfed, meaning that many small notches are cut into it so that it’s flexible and easily bent to the shape of the guitar.

At left, marquetry runs the length of the center seam on the back of a Fender CD-220SCE. Peering inside the soundhole of a Fender T-Bucket 100CE (right) clearly shows the notched wooden kerfing that holds the back and sides together.

 

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