Hi I am currently restoring an 1895 Martin 028. I have obtained the needed ivory strips to rebind the back 5/32 tall x 1/16 wide They came in 10 inch straight segments. They are pliable , but not to the extent that I'd be comfortable trying to bend them into the waist or over the shoulders dry. I'm looking for any tips on doing this. I've heard vague reports on soaking them in vinegar .but no one seems to know for how long or even if it really works.
58 inches of this stuff cost me $120 so I don't want to screw it up.
Thanks Alex Gray

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I would've thought that the pieces were cut to shape rather than bent, sort of like abalone on a top. Ivory is a natural material. I wouldn't expect a solvent (acetic acid in the case of vinegar) to soften it but just to dissolve it, if anything. But I could be wrong.
Hi Alex.. I might be all wet giving this for advice but perhaps and just perhaps if you got ahold of Martin guitars they may be able to maby look up in their recorsd or what ever and give you the info that you are seeking-- just an idea- best to you on your serch--
For bending mammoth ivory and bone for violin bow tips, you boil it in a solution of water and soda (washing soda) for half an hour, it becomes pliable and can be put in a form while it cools and dries.

Soda can be had here (or probably at a hardware store):
Hi Alex,

I don't know anything about bending genuine ivory, but I do know a thing or two about buying it. If you got 58 inches of binding sized for $120, you either got a heck of a bargain, or something other than true ivory. Living in China, I can buy most anything, legal or not, and usually it's at a fraction of the cost in the US. It's also the land of fake everything. The only way to really tell if ivory is real or not is to burn a piece and check the smell. Burning hair smell is what you are seeking. Hope you find this helpful instead of annoying.


Randy B.
Martin bent the ivory binding for guitars. In fact, ivory can be bent to radical shapes, and made into pill boxes and all sorts of items.

Here's Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas on the subject:

"To soften ivory and render it flexible, put pure phosphoric acid (sp. gr. 1.13) into a wide-mouthed bottle or jar that can be covered, and steep the ivory in this until it partially loses its opacity; then wash the ivory in cold, soft water and dry, when the ivory will be found soft and flexible. It regains its hardness in course of time when freely exposed to air, although its flexibility cna be restored by immersing the ivory in hot water. Another softening fluid is prepared by mixing 1 ounce of spirit of niter with 5 ounces of water and steeping the ivory in the fluid for 4 or 5 days."

That said, I tried my regular wood bending iron and it worked for ivory binding. . .


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