Gibson Les Paul headstock repair

Well, here's ANOTHER one. As I've said before this is one of the most common repairs I do and will do for the rest of my time as a repairer.

This is a pretty typical headstock break. It's a fairly simple equation. This is the weakest part of the neck with the most tension on it. The neck is basically "hollow" here as the truss rod slot runs through this point at the thinnest part of the neck. That combined with the tension and the angle of the headstock make it prime to snap off when you look at them.

The first thing to do is evaluate the break and see if there's any issues with the grain etc. This newer mahogany can be full of weak grain points and is quite "airy" compared to older mahogany. This doesn't help in these situations as the timber is weaker and harder to put back together because of these weaknesses.


I decided to use epoxy on this repair. There are several types of glues to use for these repairs but when I need strength with no support and a decent amount of surface area I generally use epoxy. The customer didn't want splints like I use sometimes so I was relying on the glue to do it's job here.

This is one of the jigs (yeah, it's a common repair) that I use to put headstocks back on. It's basically a straight piece of solid timber with the fret slots cut in it that I can clamp the neck to to keep it straight and solid while I re-attach the headstock. I have a few of these but most are cut to the "Gibson" scale length for obvious reasons............

With everything taped off to stop excess glue from getting on "important"parts it's time to do a "dry run" to make sure everything is going to line backup and nothing is missing. Sometimes when timber breaks pieces go flying off and when you come to put them back together there are shards of timber missing. These of course have to be filled of rebuilt,which I do after the headstocks back on. This one was pretty good.

I have several "wedges" with different angles to support the headstock while the glue is drying and to keep everything straight. If you glue a headstock on crooked, you'll have to take it back apart and do it again. Not easy with epoxy. I have wedges I made for different headstock angles marked "Gibson 1" and "Gibson 2", Ibanez, Kasuga, Aria/Suzuki etc Lots of Les Paul and SG copies, the most common guitars that suffer from loosing their head have slightly different angles for the headstock so different wedges are needed.

With everything glued and clamped in place, it's time to move onto other repairs while this sets. I usually leave epoxy to set for 4-5 days before working on them, just to be sure. It's a great glue for this type of repair but there's times I would use other types for different reasons. I'll do stories on them as they come up.

With the glue set it's time to take off all the excess glue and check the joint/repair. I usually grab the headstock and twist and bend it to what I've got used to where it should be fine. If it snaps off again, it wasn't a good repair ? Better to know now than after you do all the cosmetic and set up work on it. This one was good so it was time to clean it up and finish it off.

This customer didn't want to pay for any cosmetics (which can be the dear part of these repairs) but I can't let a repair go out of my shop "half done" so I did some work that I didn't charge him for. It needed a little blending in so there wasn't a big "crack" that you'd catch your hand on every time you played at the nut and I always like to put a couple of coats of lacquer on to "seal" the crack from sweat and moisture.

Normally I would have put a "slight" burst tint over this crack just to "hide" it a little but it came out quite good and the customer was overwhelmed by the result as it was.

This repair cost $100 all up and made his "unplayable" Gibson a nice guitar again.Well worth the money I'd say ?

Aug 17 2013 Written By: Tim Brennan