Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Should We Rethink Binding Rot?


I'd never heard of this before, but apparently in the 1980s, Rolex sold a number of watches with defective dial finishes that over time started to deteriorate. They call them "spider dials."

Apparently they're quite sought after in some circles. Maybe we need to stop treating binding rot like a problem, and start promoting it like a unique thing of beauty, "spider binding."


I don't mind some cracks and discoloration on the binding, but when it starts coming off in big chunks it ceases to be "patina" and starts to become "damage" IMO


Bindings are among the only inanimate objects that get a disease and it is binding rot.


I see no connection with binding rot.

But, I do see a comparison to "Alligator Skin" paint problems on Jaguar automobiles...

Those were not received very well on the resale market.

If my Rolex dial went "Alligator", I would seek resolution. Rolex did replace a dial once during one of the every decade reconditioning visits, the Tritium markers had lost their Glow in the Dark benefit (after exposure to bright light).

Good for me.


"My vintage Country Gent sounds so much better than a new one, because it has...binding rot!" says celebrated guitarist Nigel Tufnal.


It's only "cool" because it happened to a small number of the watches. If it had happened to something akin to most every guitar from 1966-68 turned out by Gretsch, it might not have to the same appeal to watch collectors!


Discolored binding, cracks in binding -- I can deal w/ that but pieces totally missing is something else. Dudes pay big time for relic guitars, and while I appreciate the skill involved in making a new guitar look 50 years old... to me it's still dumb idea. So why not relic up binding also ? IIt's that late 60s period, thru say 1969 that it was the worst...maybe Baldwin cost cutters went to cheaper stuff.


most every guitar from 1966-68 turned out by Gretsch

1964-1970. "Beatle-juiced."


Well, I do see some parallels between the "Checked" finish on my 1971 Gibson J50 and the Rolex. The Gibson was in the back seat of my Camaro when I was moving from Virginia to Oklahoma in late 1972, There was obstacles and ice in the road when I drove the car sideways on a bridge, thru the wooden side rail, rolled over the front bumper, just a mile from the family farm in Nebraska.

I don't know if the checking was a result of the crash or exposure to warm air too soon.

Anyway, people think that the "Checked" finish is cool and doesn't interfere with with playability or tone.

The "binding rot" guitars results in neck binding chunking out and making guitars unplayable. When the top/bottom binding chunk out is not good either. This a big difference from what the antiques enthusiasts call "patina".

In the '50s-'60s, I think the plastics industries sold themselves on low cost advantage of their products. Although they had some idea of the initial properties of their products, they didn't worry much on the lifetime reliability or the precision of the formulation. What you got was pretty random.

Anyway, when buying a guitar with binding rot, be sure to think about the replacement cost. If some of the binding shows rot, just assume that all of it needs replacement. It's likely all of the binding is from the same batch.



Bindings are among the only inanimate objects that get a disease and it is binding rot.

– Bob Howard

Nah---we got rust, verdigris, tarnish, and mold, too.


Saturate the rotted binding in west marine epoxy so you can have that vintage rotted look without the missing teeth look of missing binding....


There isn't anyway to put a good twist on binding rot. It isn't cute, it can't be remotely compared to patina - totally different condition - and is a non-stoppable condition that will continue to look uglier and adversely affect other parts of the guitar as time goes by....and it's expensive to replace, assuming you have to pay a luthier to do it, and even then, some luthiers won't touch this job.

The checking of a nitro finish is also a totally different condition as well and doesn't present itself as a deteriorating condition that makes the guitar look different than a guitar not with this condition. Binding rot is obvious right from the time it begins as transverse cracks. This is NOT checking, it's cracking and a harbinger of what this condition will lead to, which is chunks falling off and the finish of both the wood and the hardware being affected as well.

Trying to embrace binding rot as something that isn't necessarily a negative thing reminds me of the attitude pervading many areas of the US - I lived there so I know of what I speak, and it isn't prevalent here in Canada - that due to the high rate of obesity, there's a cultural thinking afoot that has folks accepting obesity as the norm simply because the condition is so widespread, and that's a dangerous mindset to adopt. I'm not judging, I'm just saying.


The lowering of standards is becoming the way of it, or so it seems. We have city halls doing it, provincial ministries doing it and even the feds are in on the act.

It has somehow become more politically correct to lower the bar rather than encourage others (including taxpayers) to clamber over it where it already is. Raise it? My stars, no! Two small examples:

Here in BC, UBER is trying to make inroads. Now, I am not getting into the pros and cons of ride-sharing, but one important difference between an Uber operator and a taxi driver is the licence to drive- taxi operators hereabouts must have a higher class of DL AND a permit from the Chief of Police, whereas ride-share operators don't need such items (under current law, Uber/Lyftt and others simply don't exist, hence- no requirement).

Soo... when it was pointed out that the lack of a professional licence gave the "ride-share" folk an unfair advantage, the BC govt sprang into action and.....

LOWERED the standard by eliminating the need for anyone who drives a taxi, limo or ride-share to take out the more advanced licence. So rather than say to Uber- "fine, but your drivers have to measure up", they simply erased the idea that a professional licence is even a requirement.

My Dad called it "dumbing down" of society... He may have been right.

BTW- why do they call it ride "sharing"? Sharing implies doing someone a favour, sharing the ride to work, for instance. Uber/Lyfft and the rest want to be paid for this "sharing".

And the second example... well, I've taken up too much of your time with this rant already..


This is gradually becoming the oddest thread evolution I've seen in a long time.

Afire, I know you weren't serious (do I get any points for that? ). When I saw the thread title, though, I was expecting something else... perhaps a serious new discussion about rot and the dreaded gas. I still feel as though many people underestimate the issues surrounding offgassing.

I never owned a Rolex, btw. I was always more of a Timex guy... more money left over for guitars.


Yes, JimR56, you get all the points.


I knew he wasn't serious too. I want points as well. Where do I get them?? Can I trade them for guitars??


I knew he wasn't serious too. I want points as well. Where do I get them?? Can I trade them for guitars??

– Toxophilite

You can have mine (the points, not the guitars).


Just like "Airline Points", only good for guitars with ROT!

Of course, you could have had the Capital One card in your wallet...


To me, binding rot is leprosy.

I have an October,1967 Cadillac green Viking (only 2 numbers earlier than one located in Australia for sale on Reverb for about $5K). For 15 years this guitar sat, closed in its case, in a storage facility in California after I had moved to Texas. Finally after 15 years, I had the funds to bring all my possessions, including my guitars, across country and did so. When I opened the case, the guitar was in perfect condition with respect to the binding even though it had been shut up all those years. Leaving the guitar out of the case on a stand, I would stare at it every day because it was so beautiful and striking. But then suddenly, after about two years, the binding started to discolor in a few places. Then -- to my stun -- in less than two weeks, the leprosy set in and the binding fell off in chunks to the point where perhaps a third or a half of the white body binding crumbled off, leaving the black binding below intact. Strangely, the headstock and neck binding is perfectly okay and remains so to this day.

I also had in storage a March 1972 Autumn Red Super Chet. When I first put it in storage back in 1992 with the Viking, the neck heel was deteriorated and, at the time, I didn't understand at all that this was the onset of the rot. Like the Viking, though, the Super Chet was in storage for 15 years, and likewise came out of storage and into the open air and sitting on a guitar stand no worse for wear. Sadly, though, -- and almost simultaneously with the Viking, the leprosy set in and just destroyed the binding in about the same two week period of time. Interestingly, though, while the binding rot affects the body and headstock, the binding rot has not infected the fingerboard binding nor the side inlayed binding peculiar to the model.

Now, here's the kicker of the binding rot weirdness: I have a 1965 6120 double cutaway with the orange-iest finish that is so beautifully smoothly lacquered that the finish is like glass -- and like new. When I put this guitar into storage at the same time as the others, there were some minor "flaws" and discoloration in the binding that I, ignorant as I was at the time, did not know was the onset of binding rot. Well, this guitar went thru the same cycle of storage for years and then sitting on a guitar stand that the Viking and the Super Chet did and -- except for one small "divot" in the binding in one small spot -- the binding on this guitar has NOT deteriorated anymore whatsoever for the last 7 or 10 years it has been out of storage.

I just don't know how to explain all of this: What rots and what doesn't. Why so fast and why not so fast. Why in the open air but not in an enclosed case for 15 years.

You tell me.


I've had pretty good luck keeping them out of the case, even stored within close proximity of each other. This is in a humidified upstairs bedroom with a ceiling fan running at least for a few hours daily. Not that the thought doesn't keep me up at night


Omg, I've been cursing myself for my Les Paul Studio of no binding. And I come across this thread.


this: What rots and what doesn't. Why so fast and why not so fast. Why in the open air but not in an enclosed case for 15 years.

My wild-ass guess:

Curt has stated he believes the adhesive used is a big part of the problem, hide glue specifically. He's obviously scraped off a lot of rotten binding and knows hide glue. One possibility is that perhaps different binding workers were free to use whatever adhesive worked best for them. So maybe the ones that have fared better didn't use hide glue in the first place.


We should rebind thinking rot!...oh hell!

Did your viking and super chet get fixed?? That sounds horrible!

D you still have them?


Early Gretsch models suffer from deterioration of celluloid components such as tortoise pickguards, tuning keys, and pickup spacers. Then with the advent of lucite (and other less volital plastic-like materials) introduced in the mid-50s we got Gretsch models with those components that seem to last. Now we are suffering the binding rot on 60s models. Makes the relatively few "all original" Gretsch specimens that much more uncommon (and valuable?).

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