Headstock Repairs - Reinforcement

Broken Gibson headstock repair

We've talked a lot about neck resets over the last few weeks so let's move down the other end of the neck. Headstock breaks.  

Nobody likes to see it happen but sometimes your guitar takes a tumble and the impact can—all too easily—snap the headstock. In most cases, this is a (reasonably) straightforward repair and can be re-glued soundly.  

Sometimes, though, the nature of the damage can force us down a more 'involved' path. If the break is 'short' (i.e. it doesn't provide a lot of glueing area to ensure a sound repair) it may be necessary to consider some reinforcement to ensure the repair holds.  

One solution is what's called a 'backstrap overlay'.  

This involves overlaying some fresh wood over the repaired break. The new wood glues onto the unbroken wood either side of the crack to add strength.  

Let's take a look at one. 

Reglue headstock before applying backstrap

Remove wood to accept overlay

In the first photo directly above, I'm repairing the break. This might seem odd but I need to get everything back together properly before I apply any reinforcement. The repair is carried out as it would normally be since the actual re-gluing isn't the real problem—the problem is keeping it in one piece after string-tension is applied. I need to glue-up everything as normal and then reinforce things to ensure the repair is strong.

When the initial repair is done and the glue has dried, I can begin the real work on this one. I remove a few millimetres of wood from the rear of the headstock and, past the break, along the neck. It would make for a more discreet repair if I brought this all the way to the end of the headstock but, on a Gibson, I like to stop short of the serial number. If the guitar is ever sold on, a perspective buyer may be put off more by the lack of a serial number than a well-executed repair. 

The photo above on the right shows the removed section. I'll inlay the new wood here so let's get on with that.

Clamping for backstrap overlay on Gibson neck break

New wood overlaid over broken neck

The wood to be overlaid on the headstock is thicknessed and cut to the rough dimensions. To accommodate the angle between headstock and neck, I bend the new wood. It's this bending that adds extra strength to this repair as the wood grain curves to the correct angle.  

Repairing guitars often makes for some intricate clamping setups and overlays are prime culprits. A shaped caul is useful to get the wood in that curved bit glued in properly. The roughly shaped wood overlay is pretty obvious (and pretty ugly at this stage) in the photo on the right. 

Newly inlaid wood cut to shape on headstock

Tuner mounting holes drilled in overlay

This is where things take shape (pun intended). The overlay is cut to shape and the tuner holes drilled.  

At this point I can go through the usual finish prep. Grain-filling, sanding, etc. In cases like this I need to match the colour of the original finish on the newly overlaid wood. I also have to manage the transitions between new and old finish carefully to keep things looking as inconspicuous as possible. Sealer, colour, and a number of clear-coats later and I'm ready for the next step. 


Have to wait for the finish to cure properly. Then sanding and buffing and polishing and reassembling and stringing-up and… 


All is well with the world.  

Gibson headstock break repaired with backstrap overlay

Les Paul neck repair with reinforcement

Birth of Burlesque

The Haze Burlesque has been revealed. This probably means the teasing images of the build process aren't really needed anymore.

However, I quite like them, so I'm keeping them around (I hope you like them too). Here you go, then: a photo-journal of the birth of Burlesque.

The Burlesque Revealed

Haze Burlesque

The teasing is over, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up and allow me to introduce the Haze Burlesque.

The Burlesque is a brand new model from Haze Guitars.

And it's pretty stunning. A figured-wood top and a curvy, mahogany body give an irresistible look, but the Burlesque's beauty is more than skin-deep. The two humbucker pickups are wound to vintage PAF specs for a sweet, classic sound. Their smooth tones coupled with a wraparound bridge mean the Burlesque can sustain all night.

A 630mm scale-length and twenty-two, gold EVO frets—along with a wonderful, bend-friendly setup—make the Burlesque something you won't want to keep your hands off.

A volume for each pickup, a master tone and a three-way toggle control things. Gotoh 510 tuners and a bone nut with straight string-pull keep the tuning solid.

Sweet tones, wrapped in a beautiful package. Be seduced by the Burlesque.

And remember, all this week you can tune in to Radio Nova to learn how to win your very own Haze Burlesque. There are some more images on Facebook and some more will be added over the next few days so pop over and Like Haze Guitars to keep abreast (ahem).

Burlesque Tease III

The teasing is coming to an end. I know you're ready, now. I can feel it—you're poised. Soon, soon. Hold on. Remember that you can win a Haze Burlesque with Radio Nova. Tune in for details.

In the meantime…

Haze burlesque custom instrumennt
Haze burlesque guitar

Burlesque Tease II

Remember that you can win a Haze Burlesque with Radio Nova. Tune in for details. And, incidentally, these are 'round-ups' of images posted on Facebook and Twitter. Check things out there for occasional extra stuff. In the meantime…

Haze burlesque luthier dublin
Haze burlesque hand-built guitar

Win a brand-new Haze Burlesque with Nova

Haze Burlesque

Well, Rocktober has rolled around and I'm delighted to be able to, once again, work with Radio Nova to bring you the chance to get your mitts on a Haze Guitar. And not just any guitar.

A brand, spanking, new model.

The Haze Burlesque.

Now, the nature of burlesque calls for a little teasing. So, to tantalise you, a little of the Burlesque will be bared to you each day of this week.

You're just going to have to wait for the reveal, but be patient—the anticipation will make it all the more satisfying.

So, for now, a little titillation…

Haze Burlesque

Alluring curves and a wasp-waist give the Burlesque a gorgeous profile. Stunning lacewood skirts pale maple in the three-piece, figured-wood top. The mahogany back has been tinted a deep, tobacco colour and a laminate of mahogony, maple and ebony forms the neck. The fretboard and headstock carry more dark ebony.

Bringing the bling, the hardware is gold; even the frets are gold. Tasty.

Vintage-voiced PAF-style pickups give the Burlesque a voice to sound as good as it looks. It's got plenty of power to rock all night without losing its focus or sweetness.

Great looks and rich tones make the Haze Burlesque a seriously tempting guitar.

And you can win one.

Literally, 'one'.

You can win Burlesque #001, the first of the line.

Tune in to Radio Nova over the next two weeks to get yourself in the running. You know you want to.

The Future of Ebony: None More Black

Ebony conservation

Ebony conservation

The times, they are a changing folks. 

I recently watched a short talk by Bob Taylor (of Taylor Guitars fame) about the sustainability of ebony harvesting and what it means for guitar makers. It's pretty interesting and it's embedded below. You should really take a look as it's important on a number of levels—not least for the impact this will have on future guitars. 

The upshot of things is this:

To get you and me that, perfectly black, ebony fingerboard the guys cutting the trees have to cut down nine unsuitable trees for every one that's the right colour. These nine trees don't have enough return to make it profitable to haul them out of the forest so they're just left there to rot. 

Bob Taylor's made the (right) decision that this is idiotic. From now on, the ebony that would have been scrapped, purely because it's not uniformly black, will be harvested, distributed and used in instrument manufacture. And not just with Taylor Guitars. This will become industry-wide. 

What it means for you, the guitar-buying geek on the street, is that, in the future, any ebony parts (mainly fingerboards for the most part) may not be completely black but may contain streaks of lighter browns and even cream. Now, I've worked with 'B-grade' ebony before. Personally, I quite like a little colour and pattern in the wood. It doesn't bother me in the least and it has no discernible impact on the tone. If it bothers you, I think you'll have to work on getting over it.

Guitarists are, at heart, a conservative bunch. We don't like change. That may make the future tough for some of us as things are changing. This issue isn't new. Guitar-making contains more than a few species of wood that have been, all but, harvested to extinction. As well as ebony, we've chased rosewood and mahogany around the globe as it became too rare/expensive/restricted in different countries. Koa is getting harder and harder to source, as is adirondack spruce. Even sitka has a question mark attached. That's just off the top of my head. More and more species of tonewood are becoming hard or impossible to get. 

Obviously, this isn't just down to guitar manufacture but we've certainly played an increasing role in these problems as demand for instruments has grown and grown. The truth is, though, it doesn't matter whose fault this is. The situation is what it is. 

Things are changing. Different woods and even other materials will have to be used in guitar manufacture. There's no choice in this. 

So, to the conservatives (which sometimes includes myself), I would say this: Keep an open mind. Actually listen to the sound of new woods, materials and build-methods before heading off to the nearest forum to decry them. And I mean properly listen—organise a blind test if you have to because our brains aren't good at overcoming ideas that have already wormed their way into our heads. 

Bob Taylor's right: We can't fight this. And it's not just ebony so we've got to roll with the punches. 

Inflation and Guitar-Making

IMG 2402

Yep. It's a party pack of wonderfully coloured balloons. Just the thing to brighten any small child's social function. What the hell do they have to do with guitar making, though?

Well, a balloon can be pretty useful.

I've picked a nice orange one. Pretty.

The thing is, when you're finishing an acoustic guitar, the last thing you want is to get stray lacquer spray inside the guitar. That looks really messy.

You could, painstakingly, mask off the soundhole with tape but remember, that has to be done on the inside of the top so you can get finish on the edges of the soundhole. Who has the bloody energy for that?

Nope. Far easier to pop a balloon through the soundhole and blow it up.

IMG 2404
IMG 2406

That's what the image on the left is. It's not some weird, guitar prolapse, it's a balloon poking out of a soundhole.

It's a good idea to cover the balloon with something (a piece of card covered with packing tape in this case) as the lacquer can pop the balloon and then you're straying into the realms of '70s sitcoms about guitar-making. Nobody wants that.

Incidentally, in the photo on the right, the guitar is held in my new Stew Mac Guitary-Holder-Thing. For all intents and purposes, it's just a bit of bent pipe and is definitely the sort of thing that wouldn't be too difficult to make yourself. It's also one of those things that you never seem to make yourself so I bought one. I like it a lot. It makes this sort of spraying a lot easier.

So there you go: Acoustic guitar finishing and balloons. Next week, pickup rewinding using the front axle of a Fiat Punto and some leftover sausages.