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Headstock Repair
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Headstock Repair

This page shows a headstock repair. Ishow how to do this with the most basic of tools (well, mostly). This break was on a neck which is going to be used for a pickup testing guitar. It's nothing great, and I wont do a wonderful finish on it, but a repair is a repair so...

This is a picture of the break. The rest of the headstock is missing. Because I don't have the missing piece, and because there are actually multiple breaks (there are cracks which do not show in this picture) I will make a new piece. Also because it's a pointy headstock, I will reshape the entire thing. The first thing I must do is trim off all of the broken section.

This is the headstock after trimming. The cut is very rough and not straight. I left extra wood to allow for cleaning up the cut, Later there will be no sign of that last tuner hole. The next task is finding a suitable piece of wood for the repair. I selected a piece of cherry because I had a suitable scrap around. The first operation was to thickness the board, leaving it slightly thick.

This picture shows the board being thicknessed with a hand plane. it took about 5 minutes to remove almost 1/4", and then clean it up. After the board was thicknessed I then trimmed it so the grain would follow more suitably. The cut was just as ugly as the first. Now the joining faces need to be matched. to do this the boards are "booked" (means set joining faces together and then fold the one piece to the side so the faces to be joined are together). I clamped the booked pieces in the vice and trimmed them again with the hand plane. It took less than ten minutes to get it right.

This picture shows the pieces booked in the vice.

This picture shows the pieces after the trimming with the handplane. To get a fit like this it is important to check across the two pieces while trimming to ensure they are flat across. It doesn't matter what the angle is, because when unbooked the angles will add up to 180 degrees making the repair flat. Next is the glue up. At this point I used a bisket joiner to reinforce the seam. This could also be done with a router and a spline (cut slots across the faces after glueup, square the ends of the slots w/ the appropriate chisel and insert splines. This would be the method I would use if the break wasn't complete, and I had both pieces) It would have been ok without using any reinforcement because this repair fits tightly together and is primarily along edge grain

This picture shows the pieces glued and clamped . Because the faces were angled relative to the clamping surfaces, the pieces wanted to slide out of place, The bar clamp at the top of the picture was used to keep the pieces in place, it isn't really "clamping". It is not necesary to use alot of pressure with the clamps. Allow plenty of time to cure as per the directions on the glue bottle. Now the glue has dried, we can continue the work. First thing we do is mark for new tuner holes. Start by laying a straight edge along the edges of the existing holes and drawing alignment lines. Next thing to do is space and mark where the new holes will be within the alignment lines. To do this I normally use a vernier caliper, but since this lesson is how to do the work with very basic tools, I used a crescent wrench. First set the jaws to distance between the same edge of two of the existing holes. Place one edge alont the inside edge of the last existing hole and draw a line between the alignment lines. Place the same edge of the wrench along the other side of the same tuner hole and draw a second line.

This picture shows marking the lines (the second line is already done)

Now use the lines drawn as if they were the last existing hole. You will wind up with the new holes marked as small squares. Draw an X connecting the corners of each square to locate the center. It will look like this.

Next, use a nail or something similar to center punch each hole location at the center of the X. Use the existing holes to determine the correct bit size (in this case 7/16) and drill the new holes. Have a piece of scrap wood under the headstock to prevent the back from splitting out. Also, make certain to drill and mark from the face. The large body of the tuners will hide any minor chipout which might occur. (a drill press must be used. a cheap press that converts a hand drill into a press is probably adequate) Now we draw our new outline, using the holes as a guide.

picture showing holes drilled and outline sketched.

Now using a coping saw (I also used a straight saw for the straight cut) cut the profile out as close to the line as you are comfortable with.

here it is cut out

Now use a rasp to remove the areas which need heavy shaping, be sure to stay short of the final desired level as there will be alot of sanding to remove the rasp marks.

profiling w/ rasp

Next, using a sanding block and a pipe or something similar, we sand to smooth everything out starting w/ 60grit and working up to 320grit.

And we wind up with this.

It is ready for finish!

I'm not going to finish this one, remember it is just for a junk guitar to test my pickups in.

Doing this repair "the hard way" took about 2 hrs not including dry time. Normally this job would have required less than 1hr. (I prefer to book joints w/ a plane regardless)


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