How I Fixed a Broken Guitar Head
By John Fisher
Something as common as a broken guitar head has many faces. In other words there is a variety of situations that need to be fixed and it is not always the same every time Following is how I fixed my friends classical guitar that while leaning against the wall ( a common no, no) slid to the floor with a crash. Ouch!
Just like someone who has a fractured leg, it is good not to touch him and move him around when in the middle of the crises. If you plan to get your guitar fixed when this happens, it is best to leave it in tack as much as possible before it gets to the work shop. The reason is that sometimes it's possible to glue the fracture if it is not totally broken off. By the time I got this guitar it was already pulled apart. Little slivers that fall off the fracture can be very valuable in restoring the guitar, so if there are any pieces that flew off, save them to give to the repair man. In this case, the repair man was me.
The next step was to glue the head back on. In this case, there was enough surface area to do a pretty good glue job. It's not always this way and you can tell by my other articles on this subject that every situation is different. I was able to configure the wood clamps well enough to hold it together good. That's always the tricky part. In this situation I used just normal wood glue which when glued on properly will be very strong. Epoxy glue is also very good for this situation as it dries quicker and gets very strong and has good gap filling properties. Epoxy is also good to use when it is difficult to clamp it real tight.
Here is the back of the neck after the glue has dried. To make the joint even stronger I cut out a groove to glue in a piece of wood to further strengthen the head. In this case, I used a cutoff wheel on my Dremel high speed drill to make cuts that will be chiseled out with a small chisel. There are ways to do this with just a chisel but the Demel tool was handy for this. I made the groove or channel about 3 inches long and about 1/4" wide and about 1/2" deep into the neck.
Here is the channel after it has been dug out with a chisel. As you can see, it extends to where one of the tuning peg holes are. That tuning peg hole will have to be re-drilled out later. It is good to make the bottom of the channel as flat as possible as it will help provide more of a gluing surface to the joint. This phase of the project takes a lot of time and patience to get it right.
I carefully shaped this block of wood to fit snugly and as perfect as possible in the channel. This is a tedious part of the process. Once I felt satisfied with the fit, I glued it in with wood glue and put a clamp on it to make it nice and tight in the hole. The neck was made of Mahogany so I used a similar piece of Mahogany for the filler stick. I also had to glue in a few other little pieces to fill in a couple other missing splinters After everything was dry, I carved off the excess wood with a knife and then used a wood rasp to level it off. I then sanded it smooth to restore the shape of the neck
After everything was sanded real nice, I did a touch up by spraying lacquer on it. I mixed clear lacquer with some walnut alcohol stain and little by little sprayed it on until you didn't hardly see the repaired joint. This made the repaired area a little darker then the rest of the neck but the tone of the tint was very similar to the tone of the original finished neck to where it blended in nicely. After the repair was sprayed to where it looked satisfactory, I light sanded (very little with #600 sandpaper) and then sprayed a bit of satin finish lacquer on it to make the texture match the the rest of the satin finished neck.
I also sprayed the front of the head and I used the same lacquer with the walnut stain in it, only this time I mixed it much darker to match the walnut veneer on the head. As you can see, it would be very hard to tell that this head was ever broken. I was very pleased how it came out and my friend was certainly happy about it. I honestly think that this joint is just as strong if not stronger then before it broke.
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