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One of the most
devastating things for a guitar player to see is the headstock come away from his
instrument due to an accident with a guitar. In most cases the repair can be affected in
such a way that the guitar can play and look as good as new.
Our most recent patient is a 70's
Gibson SG that had been repaired and re-repaired several times in other
shops. Each time the guitar peg head cam loose again or broke in a new
spot. After several repairs and some less than spectacular attempts at
touching up the affected area, it showed up in our shop. After
re-gluing the most recent break (I didn't bother taking pictures of that),
we needed to reinforce the area by installing splines in the peg head.
I've detailed that operation below.
The first step in this process is to cut in
channels for the mahogany inserts. I decided that three 1/8th inch splines
running pretty deep in the peg head would give us the most strength.
If you look closely you can see at least
three areas where the peg head had broken before. Also some really nasty
attempts at touching up the area.
Then I installed some mahogany inserts that
were made to be a pretty tight match to the cut out area.
After gluing in the splines, we need to trim
them flush with the back of the neck.
Using a chisel at first and a carving knife
and of course sandpaper later we begin whittling away at the inserts.
...and whittling some more ...
... and a bit more - you get the idea.
Finally we are cut flush with the peg head
The mahogany inserts will show stain very
differently than the original wood of the neck. They will always be
visible if we merely try to do some color matching and spray with clear
The only other choice is to hide the repair by
"subursting" the peg head. Given the state of the previous attempt at
touch-up. The owner and I determined that was the best way to go.
In this picture you can see some pretty awful
touch-up from the previous attempts at repairing the guitar.
Now we are in the finishing room. We
have sprayed the back of the peg head and "bursted" in with some lacquer
mixed with tobacco brown pigment.
we are clear coating over that. The
tobacco brown hides the splines pretty well in the dark area but still
allows the wood grain to come through as it graduates up the peg head.
Building plenty of coats of clear lacquer
over the course of several days will give us a nice, deep look to the neck.
Along the way I can choose to adjust the
color with some "shader" coats. I felt it needed to be a bit darker.
There - that's about the color I am looking
for. Time to let it gas off for a couple of weeks and then buff out
The sunburst looks pretty natural - allowing
the original color of the guitar come through on the sides of the peg head.
Here is the completed guitar. New
frets, a new net and new tuners completing the ensemble.
The face of the peg head
was finished as well.
Here is a look at the side of the head.
There's virtually no evidence that the guitar ever suffered that many breaks
in the peg head.
One final shot of the back of the peg head.
Whether the headstock comes away from
the instrument completely or
remains hanging onto the guitar by the headstock veneer, in the right hands
you'd be hard pressed to tell that it ever happened.
This guitar's headstock came away from the neck
completely. Here is the clamping setup I use to re-attach it.
The headstock is now back on the guitar. Now the
fun part - lets see if we can clean things up a little.
Unfortunately the inlay didn't survive the
ordeal, so I'll replace that before I do the touch up & finishing.
Here's a little clearer shot of the headstock
The Alvarez inlays provided by the factory are
glued in & left to dry. After they're dry, I'm ready to try & make that crack line
Now it's ready for some lacquer.
After the finish is applied, the crack is hardly
The view from the back.
Time to string it up & set it up.
Good as new.
The rear view with the tuners installed.
This headstock break did not come
away from the guitar. It splintered
it's way up the neck. In some ways this is an easier repair due to the longer
area of the glue joint. The touch up work will take quite a bit more time.
The crack worked its way up the back of the
neck. Some wood splinters are missing as well.
Here is a clamping jig I came up with to apply
reverse pressure to the headstock while gluing.
A band clamp gently pulling the head back
provides a little extra insurance.
With some wood filler in place we begin the
touch up. At this stage I still have to go a bit darker - but the color seems right.
That's getting a bit closer - I think I'll stop
here. It will darken up some when the lacquer goes on.
There we go - after finishing and tuner
installation it looks like it used to.
Good as new. And an otherwise fine guitar can be
Here's my headstock jig again being used on a
Gibson SG, which is particularly prone to headstock breaks due to the steep angle of the
The jig is a little crude
but it works so well that...
this instrument will hardly need any touch up at