Introduction: How to Fix a Broken Acoustic Guitar Head

It happened. Any guitar owner's worst nightmare: the angled headstock on your beloved guitar became the point of fracture when it fell or was hit against a wall.

After playing well into the night in my bed, I decided to foolishly do what I always did: place my guitar at the foot of my bed, neck leaning on the bed's footboard. My feet must've been moving in my sleep because I was suddenly jerked awake by the sound of my guitar landing face-first onto the hard plastic floor tiles. It was 4:05 AM. Instead of freaking out, I picked up the guitar, and placed it on my dresser where there would be no risk of more damage.

If this or something similar has happened to you, first, relax. The best way to work is with a clear head. Second, head to the hardware store and pick up these materials if you don't already have them:

>Wood Glue
>Strong clamp of some sort
>A glue spreader (I used a halved drinking straw)
>Rubbing Alcohol
>Cotton balls or some kind of rag for cleaning
>Sand paper (I got two grades: 220 and 400 wet/dry)
>String winder (Optional, but makes things easier)
>Gloves(Also optional, but I like to take this precaution)

If the break gets to your tuners:

>Pliers or a wrench to loosen tuner bushings
>Small Screwdriver

Step 1: Clearing the Work Area

Although the strings have become loosened  from the break, it's still necessary to remove them in order to work on the guitar. A string winder comes in handy at this stage, I didn't have one so it took a bit longer.

Once the strings are removed, I also remove the tuners that would get in the way of clamping. This is done by undoing the bushings and the screws that hold the tuners in place.

Next, in order to minimize risk of contaminants that could reduce the hold of the glue, I clean the area with alcohol. This also removes any finger or hand oils that could ruin the bond.

Step 2: Make a Glue Spreader and Apply Glue

A glue spreader is essential to this project. You must ensure that adequate amounts of glue reach every crevice of the crack. To do this, I found an UNUSED fast-food drinking straw to do the best job. I took the straw and cut it just off-half, using the less concave side (shallower side) as my glue spreader.

This works well because the curve makes the straw stiff, but when it gets into the crack, it's capable of flattening which makes it pliable and allows glue to get into those paper thin crevices.

If you are using epoxy, take extra precaution so that you don't ruin your finish too much. I'm using Elmer's Wood Glue as my local hardware store didn't carry Titebond I. 

Step 3: Clamp Up the Crack and WAIT

Now that your glue is evenly spread in the crack, it's time to clamp it up, wipe up any squeeze out with a damp cloth and leave alone for 3-4 days. Again, you should follow the instructions on the bottle of glue you are using.

When it is dry, and if you did this properly, the glued wood should actually be stronger than any other part of the neck.

Personally, I will leave it clamped for a week more or less because I really don't want to risk this project at all.

I am going to return this clamp to the hardware store because I honestly don't have any place to keep it in my tiny dorm. The guitar itself takes up a lot of space and I don't have a tool bag or anything. That's why I am using a napkin, though if you have it, wax paper or aluminum foil work best.

Step 4: Cosmetics

Sanding the area around the fracture is a must. For me, it's to clean up the glue and minimize further cracking in the finish.

If you have any experience with finishing, then this will be a cinch for you. Just sand, spray your finish, level, repeat, repeat, repeat, and buff.

I'm not so keen on appearances, plus the crack will give me a good story to tell. I will seal the front and back with wipe on polyurethane, however, because I don't want moisture to seep in that area and undo my work, though the chance of this is very small.

The cracks will be visible, but they will be sealed. 

But until I can get my hands on my old bottle of poly (it's in my mom's storage closet at her apartments with the rest of my tool-things) I'll just leave it as it is. After ensuring that the glue was completely dry, I put the old strings on it and it sounds AMAZING! Just as good as it can being broken, anyways.

Comments

author
jwiersma24 (author)2016-12-27

When you say "glue spreader," do you mean "a conduit through which the glue can flow from the opening on the glue bottle into the work area?"

author
AamirK23 (author)2016-02-20

Hi! I wanted to ask if there's any way i can fix my guitar. It's a washburn electric which broke off in half from the head and the other piece went missing. Its been a long time and i never thought its repairable. Idc about how it would like after repair i just want it to be playable again. Please help

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author
OceanCarr (author)2016-01-05

i have this problem but the headstock is completely broken off my Epiphone. should i try this? i have wood glue. all i need is a clamp. suggestions?

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author
wusupworld (author)2014-05-09

Wait isnt hide glue a better choice for a neck reapir?

author

It's not. That's a myth perpetuated by luthiers. The fact is, PVA glue has made leaps and bounds in its efficacy. There is no reason to use expensive glues or equipment when you just want a strong bond that will never come undone.

The only reason I would have used hide glue is if I would want to reset or undo the joint. However, there's no reason I'd ever want to do that.

author
bassdale (author)2014-04-25

found constuction adheisive work well here and widely found in hardware stores

author
AusencioFlores (author)bassdale2014-04-26

That seems about the size of it. They're made for load bearing, aren't they? Honestly, that sounds like a great solution if you have it. However, I do have a slight preference for the cheaper, not as viscous, $3 bottle of Wood Glue. I vaguely remember impatiently using Liquid Nails once, but I was a kid and ended up scrapping that project.

I'll definitely have to test construction adhesive on a similar joint though!

author

Wood glue is absolutely the best for wood. I use all kinds of glues for renovating.....liquid nails would not stand up to the kind of stresses placed on a guitar for very long. You can also get exterior wood glue which means that if you get your guitar wet it won't make any difference. Did you manage to get a full nights rest?

author

I don't know, I'm a bit wary of waterproof formulas like Titebond II & III. I've read on numerous pages that they tend to creep with time and the best solution is to stick with regular PVAs and seal them up with a finish. That's what I've read anyways.

Amazing how the best glue for wood is something that is formulated for wood, isn't it?

author

Yeah funny that! Who would've thought? lol

author
bassdale (author)2014-04-30

Construction adheisive is the most powerfull next to epoxie so should not be handled by kids unsupervised. in the hands of experienced people it is a powerful tool . Keep the waterbase glues for you neck nut if you want to fix a broken neck it is the way to go. I have used it and the sucess rate is 100% . I do not use it on un painted necks where the wood grain is exposed. so here is a limitation and at that point I use titebond.

author
mostrokol (author)2014-04-28

I've found that Gorilla Glue works well for this too. I got a nice 12 string for free because it had a broken headstock and I was able to repair it and it still holds tune perfectly.

author
AusencioFlores (author)mostrokol2014-04-29

I used Gorilla Glue Original once on an old black Washburn Acoustic. My dad found it in a dumpster of a pawn shop and it was cracked at the truss rod head at the 1st-2nd frets. After gluing it, it never stayed in tune long and the neck would be very rubbery at the joint where the glue was. I attempted to overhaul it almost a year later by replacing the neck, removing the paint, and refinishing it tobacco burst.

Unfortunately in my youthful haste (I think I was 14 at the time), I used a paint stripper and melted all of the plastic binding and rosette, which wouldn't come off cleanly and I was forced to remove the top. I'm still at square 1 with that project and this was several years ago.

I wish that I could go back in time and tell myself to just use wood glue. But if Gorilla Glue works for you, that's great!

author
bassdale (author)2014-04-28

construction adhesive was used on a gibson for a friend and he broke it only it broke at wood not the adhesive it was much stronger than mahogany neck.

author
Chicken Spit (author)2014-04-25

Elmer's is really not the right glue to use for this kind of project. ideally, you would use hot hide glue, but that's difficult to work with. Many half decent luthiers resort to using the original Titebond formula, but there is also a Titebond brand cold hide glue that is alot easier to work with than hot hide glue, but still has alot of its desirable qualities. Animal based glues are great because they are incredibly strong but can be taken apart with heat and moisture, as is often necessary with instrument repair. Also, it looks like you used way too much glue in the pictures. The goal with a repair of this sort is to make it as invisible as possible. The more glue you use, the more visible it will be.

author

Oh look, it's one of those people who think they know something others don't. Here's why hide glue is a No-No for this project.

Okay, firstly: Hide Glue would be simply impractical in this situation. It has exactly one benefit over PVA glues like Titebond and Elmers Wood--it's undoable. Other than that, there's no sense in using it. I'm not looking into undoing this joint because there's no reason whatsoever that I would want to reopen a broken neck. It's that simple.

Secondly: Hide glues are overrated. They work on the exact same principals that other glues work and offer effectively nothing. The uppity claims about "tone" and "sustain" are complete fallacies that only exist because older instruments made from hide glue (which was more available than new more-effective, less-expensive synthetic glues) have better sounds, completely ignoring that they've been played-in and the wood becomes more supple and responsive from years of playing.

Thirdly: Some of the best luthiers use PVA glues like Titebond and Elmers Wood as it ALWAYS dries harder than the wood. If a future fracture would occur, I can guarantee you, with 100% certainty, that it will not occur at that crack, just like the guitar did not split at its original scarf joint. And I can confirm this, in 2010 I got a stage-demolished guitar from a friend to do some experiments on. One similar feature was that the neck was broken, however at the 5-7th frets. Wanting to test out the effectiveness of PVA glue, I glued it, let it cure, and attempted to break it by applying stress in the same area. It broke cleanly at the 4-8 frets while the glued part appeared as if it didn't exist and the wood broke uniformly.

Fourthly: It feels like you didn't read anything I wrote. I gave my reasons for over applying glue and what was squeezed out was the optimum amount that will ensure a concrete-hard joint. Listen, the fracture was unfortunate in that it cracked the thick--easily 1.5 mm thick--finish on the headstock veneer. I wasn't going to walk out of this repair without doing some refinishing. That was inevitable. I don't need "invisible as possible", I am a broke college student who had $10 in their wallet, $8.47 of which went into the repair. It'll look just as good when I refinish it.

I don't tolerate people who are uncomfortable with the idea that this $8.47 repair will sound just as good and last just as long as some $25-$120 repair job.

Ideally, I did what's best, most cost-effective, and beneficial for the life of the guitar. Idealistically, I would have used hide glue to soothe the injured egos of proponents of that glue. But thanks for the tip, bro.

author
The_Black_Hole (author)2014-04-24

same thing happened to me but it was on the neck above the first fret. through body guitar so I couldn't replace the neck but my buddy joel at the guitar shop did just what you did here and shes been playing great to this day!! (and I invested in strap locks so it wont happen again! )

author

Nice fix, thanks for sharing the tip with the straw too!

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