Electric Guitar Headstock Repair Fun & Interesting
by Steve Carmichael
I am always looking for opportunities to put my woodworking skills to good use, learn different techniques, and take on new challenges. When my band’s guitar player broke the headstock off his Epiphone Les Paul for the second time, I saw this as my chance to venture into the guitar repair world. Since the headstock had already been repaired once and the guitar was an inexpensive Les Paul copy, I felt pretty confident that I could take on this repair and get the guitar back in playable condition.
It appeared to be a clean break and there was very little splintering to get in the way of a nice-fitting joint:
I did some research and found that there are three types of glue recommended for guitar repair: PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive, Cyanoacrylate (CA Glue), and Titebond wood glue. I already had some Titebond II and Titebond Medium CA on-hand, so I ended up using those for this repair.
I removed all of the parts and the flame-print duct tape from the headstock and tested the fit:
I spread a liberal amount of glue on both mating surfaces, making sure to get it in all the cracks and crevices:
I pressed the joint together making sure to line up the edges of the break evenly. Once the headstock was positioned where I wanted it, I held it in place with my hands for about 10 minutes to let the glue set up.
I clamped it with three spring clamps, being careful not to let the head stock slide out of place. A consistent bead of glue squeeze-out around the joint indicated that I had achieved good surface-to-surface glue contact between the mating pieces.
I used a wet cloth to wipe away the excess glue. I resisted the urge to add screws, dowels, or other mechanical fasteners, because there was not much wood to work with and those could affect the tone of the instrument:
After about 20 minutes, I replaced one spring clamp with a C-clamp and applied more clamping pressure, making sure the headstock did not slide out of place. I let the guitar rest on my workbench for two days to make sure the glue was completely dry and cured.
After removing the clamps, I performed a stress test to make sure the headstock was strong enough to hold the weight of the guitar body:
I used a chisel and a card scraper to clean up any dried glue and smooth out the glue lines. I used CA glue to fill in any cracks and chips in the finish:
I sanded the surfaces smooth up to 220 grit with a palm sander, and then sanded up to 600 grit by hand with turners sandpaper.
I sprayed the repaired areas with two coats of Rustoleum 2X gloss black paint and several light coats of spray lacquer, sanding lightly in between coats. I rubbed out the finish with Johnson’s Paste Wax and buffed it to a glossy shine.
The guitar tuned up fine and plays well. It’s ready for a third round of rock n roll. This was a fun project and an excellent opportunity to learn something new. I have a long way to go before I can call myself a luthier, but hey, you gotta start somewhere right?
I made a video of the repair:
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