How To: How to repair guitar headstock / neck break with epoxy
Joe White and his son James run ‘J White Guitar Workshops’, a custom guitar build and repair business just outside the English town of Aldershot, Hampshire and can boast many celebrities amongst their clientele. Guitars belonging to Status Quo, Stereophonics, The Rolling Stones, The Kaiser Chiefs and many more have all come in for ‘a bit of magic,’ as Joe puts it. The business was established in 1988 and is entirely family run. Joe and James are the craftsman and know all about how to repair guitar headstock / neck breaks with epoxy, whilst Sue and Charlotte White look after the administration side of the business.
The professional team at ‘J White Guitar Workshops’ builds and repairs a wide range of guitars and often uses the WEST SYSTEM epoxy in their day-to-day work.
When the strings of a guitar are fully tensioned, or tuned, there is a great deal of strain put on the neck of the instrument. Typically, tensions range from 20kg’s (44lbs) up to 100kg’s (220lbs).
The headstock (where the string tuners are located) is under the same pressures as the neck. Due to the location, this makes the headstock/top neck area quite vulnerable to general damage and even to a complete breakage. When the headstock or neck of the guitar starts to crack or break completely, the only option is a professional repair.
The bridge (where the strings are attached to the body of a guitar) is another vulnerable area on an acoustic guitar. Often, the high string tensions start to rip the bridge from the top of the guitar. The bridge is normally held to the body of the instrument by glue alone, so it is of paramount importance to have 100% faith in the glue that you use.
When a customer brought in a rather valuable Gibson Les Paul to J White Guitar Workshops that had a broken headstock/snapped neck, he could have been forgiven for expecting the worse, but Joe and James were able to make an invisible repair and return the guitar as good as new.
“We use WEST SYSTEM epoxy to build guitars and also to repair them,” Joe told Epoxycraft. “If your guitar has a broken headstock or even starts to crack, our advice is to release the tension from all of your strings, save all the little pieces and try to keep them in position if you can. (A bit of masking tape will work to hold the chips in the split). We can sometimes estimate a repair from an email description and photograph of the damage, but it’s always best if you can bring the guitar in to us.”
Here is an example of how a headstock/neck break is repaired:
The headstock is badly split on the back of the headstock/neck area.
A combination of WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin, 205 Fast Hardener and 303 Microfibres are carefully mixed.
The crack in the headstock is gently opened up to expose the full extent of the damage and WEST SYSTEM Epoxy mix is generously applied to the crack.
The headstock is then clamped under pressure, taking care that the glue doesn’t adhere to the block. Excess is wiped away.
Once cured, the repair is sanded, filled, and sanded again until the repair starts with the rest of the guitar.
Stains, paints and lacquers are then applied, and highly polished when dry so the repair literally vanishes. Depending on the extent of the damage, any repairs are usually completely undetectable, and stronger than the original wood.
“This repair would typically take about 1-2 weeks, and would cost around £400,” Joe explained. “However, each repair is different, so prices can vary depending on the work needed and the materials required. The owner of the Gibson was delighted with the work and knows that the guitar will never break in the same place again. WEST SYSTEM epoxy is a powerful adhesive and will hold the guitar together indefinitely.”
James added, “We prefer WEST SYSTEM epoxy over other glues due to its strength and speed to cure. Other advantages are that it generally remains unaffected by variations in temperature and humidity and it isn’t water-based. This is important, as water-based glues cause the joints in the wood to swell, creating instability in the substrate. WEST SYSTEM epoxy is quite easy to work with and is a must have tool in the workshop.”
For more details of the full range of repair and refurbishment services, or to have your dream guitar hand built, call them on: +44 (0)1252 520911 or visit their website: www.jwhite-guitarworkshops.co.uk
Services include refretting, shielding, dent removal, professional set-ups and even the custom building of a guitar to your own design.
If you have a technical enquiry or want to learn more about WEST SYSTEM, find the support pages on the West System International website.