I've read a lot of books on guitar building, but I've never found anything on the application of the label. I've always printed one on the computer, then glued it to the back and painted a little polyurethane varnish over it. Is this the best way? Is it "archival"?

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I've heard of using unflavored gelatin, which is essentially collagen, like hide glue is. Make a somewhat thicker-than-water mixture, dunk the label in it to soak it up, and smooth it into place. It will hold well and have an attractive glossy finish. It will be removable if you apply hot water, but it shouldn't go anywhere on its own if the instrument is kept in proper environments.
When I made my first guitars in 1992, I went to my local printer friend for advice on the labels. He suggested an acid free,
label paper with an adhesive back. He was able to find sheets of this stuff with a "linen" finish. It's been over 15 years now and these labels look as good as the day I put them on. Maybe your local expert printer can lead you to the right stuff.
Good Luck!
Thanks for the replies. I'll try to find the acid-free labels Robert. - Jack
I learned a trick from a violin maker friend of mine: Collect the fly leaves from old books. They are acid free and aged to a beautifully golden patina. Print your label on this paper and apply to the inside of the guitar using hot hide glue (available from luthier's suppliers), or Knox gelatin. Hide glue is used at about 2:1 water to glue ratio or slightly thinner for this application. Works great, looks good, should last forever.

On a uke I built last winter, I attached a paper label inside.
What I did was just print out a label on standard white paper on my computer and printer, then trimmed it to proper size.
Next I applied some thin hot hide glue to the label and pressed it on the back. I didn't coat it with anything.

I'm not sure why you would need acid free paper? I'm sure this label, on regular paper, will hold up for a long time, hopefully the life of the instrument.

I personally just got a good quality paper (I think it was Reeves) and went to the local printer who had an "artist quality" reproduction service. It is photocopying that uses an archival toner. Then I glue it down with the same stuff I glue the body with. I did this with my last guitar, and have not built since, so that's really only one guitar's worth. Prior to that I used to print them off on a friend's ink-jet who has photo quality inks installed in his printer. If you want truly archival stuff go to and look under archival supplies for paper and adhesives. All this stuff is pH neutral. From one who works in libraries, these peoples stuff is the standard for any but the most touchy of items.
Doug Thomas
If you don't use acid free paper and archival inks you run the chance that it will fade or yellow over time. I have several cheap sketchbooks that are not acid free from about 15 years ago that all the work done with black India ink has completely faded to a pale yellow. If you use standard ink for an inkjet printer it will fade and blur over time as well. If you use an inkjet look for archival photo inks these are designed to last a long time. Any art supply store will carry acid free paper and it's not that expensive.

Hope that helps!


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