My project this time around is the repair of a Gibson headstock. But it is far from the usual type of repair that is typically needed. Yes the neck was broken and has been repaired but that is not our real issue here. This particular Les Paul had a locking tremolo installed on it at one point in its life. When the loking nut was installed holes were drilled through the neck and a portion of the headstock face veneer removed. The locking nut is long gone and someone filled the holes with some epoxy but the ugliness up front remains. That is my main focus with this job.
Now lots of folks may think the thing to do here is simply replace the entire veneer. There are problems with that though. This particular veneer is one of the thick plastic ones so replacing it with one of the black fiber replacements commonly sold online will leave the headstock too thin. So rather than make an entire new veneer I will repair the one that is on the guitar. This will make a very good looking repair and save about 4 hours labor keeping the project within my client’s budget. First thing to do is to remove the sections of binding at the hyoid. I score the edges with a hot exacto blade and warm the sections a bit and they pop right out. Another issue here is the fact that in addition to removing the face veneer wood was also removed from the area under the locking nut to create a flat shelf for the wider nut to sit on. So the first thing I must do is replace a bit of mahogany. It’s only about .060” but it needs replaced so a section of new wood is glued on.
That is then carefully shaved and shaped with chisels, files and small sanding blocks so it is ready for a new piece of plastic veneer. It also now provides a nice flat spot for our new nut at the correct height. I now cut a small piece of thick black plastic pick guard stock. I must match the angle where it will meet the nut as well as the angle to meet the old veneer where it was cut away. The cut that meets the nut must be nice and clean so it is done first on my miter saw. For the other cut I use my bandsaw. After a bit of minor sanding and adjusting I am ready to glue the new piece on.
I use a piece of blank bone of the proper dimension with a bit of wax on it as a spacer and alignment tool to get my new piece positioned correctly so my new nut will fit like it should in the end. I use a small piece of Lexan with the protective plastic still on one side as a clamp caul. The plastic will keep the Ducco cement from gluing the Lexan to the repair and I can see through to check my alignment. After a bit of fitting and a few dry runs I apply cement and clamp it up. After setting overnight I can then re-cut the binding channels.
I can then laminate some replacement bindings. I get them as close as I can to the originals but due to shrinkage with age and the fact that Gibson had the originals made in a unique way to their own specifications I can only get so close. Notice how the original Gibson binding is not a multiply lamination but rather a piece of large white stock with two black lines inserted into it. This was likely extruded as a single piece. I now can fit and glue in my replacements with Ducco cement and use some strips of reinforced packing tape to hold them tight until the glue sets.
Several Weeks have passed. Nitro has been sprayed, allowed time to dry and cure and finally leveled and buffed to a high gloss. As you can see the repair is virtually invisible.
This guitar also has some really cool original features that you don’t see every day. Anyone else remember these speed winder tuners?
Those are the original pickups and mount rings. The rings still have the small Patent applied for stickers at the edge that also only appeared for a short while.
Thanks for following along.
Originally published in Brian Howard's Guitar Building & Repair Blog.