FRETS.COM Illustrated Glossary

It's plastic
© Frank Ford, 10/8/98 Photos by FF

Unless you're looking at a Martin guitar made before World War I, that ivory colored binding is almost certainly "ivoroid," a form of celluloid plastic.

Celluloid has been around for more than 100 years and is the most commonly used plastic material for binding and pickguards on stringed instruments.

Much of the celluloid was made to resemble natural materials like pearl, ivory or tortoise shell. The ivory celluloid was trademarked with names like "ivoroid," "French ivory," "ivorine" and a host of others.

Here's a sheet of ivoroid, fabricated into a raised fingerrest for a Gibson A-3 mandolin, circa 1920:

Can you see the lines that look like ivory grain? Those lines are not painted on, but extruded into the plastic, so they go all the way through.

This guitar has an ivoroid heel cap and ivoroid binding:

So many of us prefer the "softer" look of ivoroid to the stark white modern plastic that many of the better new instruments come with ivoroid trimmings.

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