Repairing Vintage Necks

by admin on December 2, 2010

Keith Holland: Hi. I’m Keith Holland, from Los Cabos California. I’m holding here… this is an interesting thing. It’s not a guitar but a head stock kind of guitar. The reason I’m holding this is you notice there, if you look closely at this thing. It’s a Gibson headstock. Vintage tuners. It looks old doesn’t it? Yeah. Well this is an early 60’s head stock of Gibson L5 guitar. Right away we have a sad story don’t we? Very expensive vintage instrument with a Brooklyn head stock, never a good thing but… I’m here today to talk to you about the fact that these can always be repaired, so don’t do what this gentlemen did. Here’s what he did. He brought me this L5, it was all broken up, including the head stock here. I asked him, “Gosh, what happened? Somebody must have run over this instrument or something”, and he said, “No”, then he goes, “The guitar fell over on the stage, and the headstock broke off and I got mad and figuring that guitar was garbage and broke it up.”

Well you know I proceeded to tell him, “Dude you can repair that guitar. We can make it as a good as new. It’s just something that we do all the time. We can piece this thing back on. If it’s not strong, then we can reinforce the area, and make it stronger, and then we can re-finish that area to make it go away so it’s not obvious.”

Now that being said, whenever you do break your headstock, if you crack your headstock, usually I just like to glue it back to the same area, but you can’t just glue it back, usually most neck that breaks are made out of mahogany, and mahogany is very fibrous wood. It breaks, and there will be fibers inside that will make it very difficult for you to get through that crack to …for two pieces that where the crack has developed to come back together, and then it’s very important that they do come back together in it in strong seeded fashion.

So what I have to do usually is I have to go in there and move around those fibers, maybe sometimes remove the fibers, because if you leave the fibers crossed in there, then the guitar will not come back together again. So you have to go in there and kind of excavate a little bit, and keep trying to bring that piece together. So that the two pieces are together again.

But you can just glue those back on. You usually just glue that. As long as you don’t keep it in a super hot vehicle, or let it get too hot. Then that headstock usually lasts and lasts for many years. A bad break like this usually you have to piece it back together again, once again you have fibers that you need to get back together again. So get those things out of there to get the two pieces back together again.

Once you do that. Once it’s glued back together. Then usually we reinforce from the back. We’ll cut out a portion from one side, put a new piece in, shape that down, you cut out the force from the other side so that if they overlap them in the middle, and that overlapping right there creates a lamination effect that in the really critical area usually keeps that headstock together forever.

And then that’s done it’s re-shaped and everything else. I usually go in there and kind of sun burstthat area to make the… break there, and the reinforcing less obvious, and most guitars can last for many years.

I would like to say something about Tono, once the guitar headstock is broken you do reinforce. I do know it’s a total difference. Honestly there’s a difference there, I think it’s really because the headstock when it’s one or two pieces of wood diagonally. They move a lot. Once you reinforce them then they become stiffer, and it creates a different feel and different tone perhaps is changed. It could be positive, it could be negative you know it’s up to the player.

And so that’s basically what I wanted to talk about today is if you break your headstock, don’t worry about it. We’ll fix it.


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