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  Project File:
Headstock Overlay

click images to enlarge

Here we have a nasty headstock break. This customer actually lives in Mexico and bought this custom-made guitar but it got broken in transit. Bummer! I have to make a disclaimer here. I told the customer that in order to make this break invisible I would have to refinish the face of the headstock. I would have to get a new decal. But he informed me that the maker of this guitar passed away. So he said he didn't want me to remove the decal or refinish the face because it would lose value. I told him that in the end the crack would still be noticeable from the top and he was okay with that.
  Nasty break

1. Now to the job. It was a clean break and the pieces fit together nicely. But, because of the shape of the headstock, I didn't think that simply gluing it together would provide enough strength to last nor endure shipment to Mexico. I decided an overlay would be the solution.

  Aligning, gluing, and clamping

2. First, I had to glue the headstock back together. I had to make some cauls to accommodate the odd shape of the headstock and give me parallel clamping surfaces. I used plexiglass on the face and back to ensure a level alignment.

  Aligning, gluing, and clamping

3. Here, the headstock is glued together. You can see the crack where some of the finish chipped off. It goes right through the decal. I will touch that up later.

  Mounted on board

4. Once it was glued up, I was ready to remove some wood. I wanted to remove about an 1/8 of an inch. I used the Wagner Safe-T-Planer for this. It's an awesome and cheap tool that fits into a drill press and allows you to remove wood evenly and smoothly. I got mine a my local Woodcraft store but Stew Mac sells them too. Sorry, I don't have any pictures of the Safe-T-Planer in action. You just can't plane a custom-made guitar and take a photo at the same time!

  Headstock planed

5. I screwed the headstock onto a piece of plywood, using the screw holes for the truss rod cover. This would protect the face and give me a flat and level working area that I could slide across the drill press table. But here is the result of the planer. Of course, I had to do some hand tooling around the truss rod with chisels to square that up. Besides that, it's all planer. Now I have a good flat and even surface for gluing new wood.

  Making the template

6. Next, I needed to make a template of the headstock. I used masking tape to cover the headstock and then carefully cut around the edges with a razor blade. Since I used masking tape I could peel it off in one piece and then apply it to my new piece of wood.

  New wood

7. Here is the new wood glued onto the headstock. It fit nicely. I had to hollow out the part that touched the truss rod nut to allow for adjustment. Now it's time for carving and shaping.

  Shaping and carving

8. I used this micro-planer to hog off the majority of wood. Then I used files and and sandpaper to do the more detailed work. I had to be careful not to take too much off. I measured how far down I wanted to go and then marked it all the way around with a pencil. I stopped often to check my progress.

  Shaped and ready for tuner holes

9. This is what the headstock looked like after it was shaped. I cut the workboard the same shape of the headstock so I could access the sides for sanding and still protect the front. I also added a thin laminate of maple that covered the entire headstock and also went down the neck. If the break was close to where the headstock angles back from the neck, I would have continued the overlay down the neck. But since this break was closer to the tip it just wasn't necessary. The laminate just helped hide the glue line, though you can still see some of it.

  Tuner and locking nut holes drilled

10. Now it was time to drill the tuning machine holes and the holes for the locking nut. I drilled these holes from the front of the neck but rested the back of the neck on some modeling clay to help prevent the drill bit from "blowing out" wood on the back. Then I sanded it for finishing with lacquer.

  Lacquered and assembled

11. Here she is, finished, buffed, and assembled. Not bad if, I may say so. But most importantly, it is a strong repair. The overlay was the way to go on such a precarious break.

  Not bad!

12. I touched up the face as much as I could. I drop filled the finish crack with lacquer and leveled it the best I could. I was scared of sanding into the decal, so I was overly cautious. The customer knew I couldn't make it look brand new without removing the decal. He just wanted a strong repair so he could finally play this guitar.

I shipped it to him and it arrived in one piece. He emailed me when it arrived and said: "The guitar is with me right now, an excellent job!!!!!! Well done, thanks"

Thank You for your business!


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