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How to repair a broken guitar neck (headstock)

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Picture of How to repair a broken guitar neck (headstock)

This instructable will show you how to repair a broken guitar neck and, depending on how severe the damage, how to do some minor cosmetic repair.  The guitar in question for this example is an Epiphone Les Paul Studio.  I actually bought this guitar about a year ago for the very purpose of practicing neck repair - as it already had a broken neck.  I fixed the neck about 9 months ago (and you can see the results of that fix in this series).

Fast forward to the arrival of a new puppy... long story short, another broken neck (the old fix held up though!!!) and a chance to create a new instructable.

In the case of the Epiphone, they are great, affordable guitars... And with these broken neck ones (depending on the nature of the break), these can be a great deal for someone with the time and tools to fix them.  And if you happen to bust the top off your Gibson ES335, that can be fixed too!
 
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Step 1: Anatomy of a broken neck

Picture of Anatomy of a broken neck
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Gravity, headstock geometry and thin wood can lead to a frustrating situation!  The pics show how a clean break can occur... 
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Hilburn4yesterday
Help what do I do?
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rghoff (author)  Hilburn422 hours ago

I think you have one of those breaks that you fix in place. Bases on some previous comments, it looks like you might be able to bend the crack open enough to work the glue in without separating the neck from the fret board. But if the fret board starts to crack or separate from the the rest of the neck then it becomes a bigger job. See if you can find a syringe and large gauge needle (18 maybe?). You could potentially inject your glue into the crack using that. Just make sure to get as much coverage as deep as feasable.

Hilburn4yesterday
Help what do I do?
Hilburn4yesterday
Help what do I do
StefanoD21 month ago

Hello mate

really interesting guide, thank you. In my case the neck is broken but not completely detached. Actually is seems a pretty wide area is still attached to the neck and It seems to me a pity to take it apart. I'm trying to upload a picture but the system doesn't seem to work. I'll try later ...

What do you think? I'd like to ask you a couple of things about the material to use.

This is an acoustic guitar, would "titebond original wood glue" work with this? would you recommend using a different glue? Also could you please let me know what is the name/make of those clamps you are using. Can't find anything that look like that on the web. Thank you very much for your help!!

These clamps you can get at home depot. The long one sounds like a band clamp. The other can be in a bag of mixed clamps. They will be in hardware at the end of the isle there's a display. Hand tools are on wall opposite clamps

here is a picture of the crack

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rghoff (author)  StefanoD21 month ago

Sorry to hear about the break. Every time I see one these pictures I cringe! But I think your's should be relatively straight forward to fix. What brand of guitar is this?

The long break along the grain is good. When you glue it, you'll have a lot of surface area for the glue to hold. As far as whether or not to completely take it apart - I wouldn't venture a guess unless I saw it in person. But I will say that it looks like the lacquer finish is what's holding on the last bit. The wood part is an easy glue job (and your Titebond should be fine) - but I think trying to glue a slab of lacquer back to the wood might be a challenge (if that's what it actually is). I would try a superglue type glue for that (like you use for frets/nuts... and your fingers if you're not careful).

I got the spring clamps years ago - it was a bag of clamps on the budget table somewhere (Sears Hardware? Ace?) - In the US, Harbor Freight has these sold individually (and still pretty cheap).

One nice thing about the shiny black lacquer finish - I've used black automotive touch-up paint on some old pawn shop guitars and it's pretty easy to do a finish fix on those.

Good luck on this - let us know what you end up doing!

KaylaJ22 months ago

sombody stepped on the neck of my guitar and it is really brocken, it was a $3,000 guitar and i don't have the money to repair it, what do i do?????

rghoff (author)  KaylaJ22 months ago

Sorry to hear about the guitar! Even though I would normally just fix it myself, at $3,000, I think I would partner with someone that could take care of the finish issue. But if you don't have the money, don't touch the finish! Just do the fix and you should only end up with a hairline at the end... Of course, not seeing the actual damage, it's hard to say.

NancyJ33 months ago

This is great to know. The other day my younger sister was playing with my guitar. She broke it on accident. I hope that I will be able to fix it soon. There are a lot of ways to fix it. I hope that I will be able to fix it soon.

<a href='http://www.hoffmanguitars.com' >http://www.hoffmanguitars.com/</a>

EmilyS34 months ago

My guitar was damaged by my dog who got too excited and knocked it over and then stepped on the neck. The crack is pretty big but it isn't completely broken off. This is my favorite guitar and I really want it to look nice! I may try this out and if I don't do a good job or it doesn't look good I think I will take it into a guitar shop to be repaired. I better make some calls and see if there are any guitar repair shops near me.
Emily Smith | http://www.hoffmanguitars.com

Hey
The neck of my acoustic guitar isn't completely detached. The crack is pretty small. Extends only till the tuning keys on both sides. Can i directly apply the glue inside the crack without taking the whole thing apart?
rghoff (author)  suryansh.kumar0015 months ago

Just another thought - if you post a picture or two, maybe I (or someone else here) can give you a better answer.

rghoff (author)  suryansh.kumar0015 months ago

My initial suggestion would be to finish the break. But Michael Beaton (see his comment below) seemed to have luck by opening it up and working the glue as as far as possible. Assuming that you can get most of the surface area covered sufficiently with glue, his method should work in many cases. The only watch out is that it's not 100% bonded and will not have 100% of the strength potential - so keep that in mind if that's a concern. So say the visible part of your crack (the part you can easily open) is about 25% of the neck width. Depending on the structure, grain and strength of the wood, the crack may actually be 75% of the neck (and growing). But you just can't see it... yet. If you are not sure or comfortable what to do, I would strongly recommend you take it to a shop to get inspected before doing anything.

Hey
The neck of my acoustic guitar isn't completely detached. The crack is pretty small. Extends only till the tuning keys on both sides. Can i directly apply the glue inside the crack without taking the whole thing apart?

Well, I asked a well known guitar-repairing/musician friend of mine(before I read your last comment), and he instructed me not to break it, but pull it apart, wiggle it, whatever it takes to get the glue down in there. I did just that using a plastic puddy knife wedged in the crack while releasing the glue down and using a small zip-tie to push the glue in. I feel confident that I have a good joint but I'll find out for sure soon! Thanks for your feedback and expertise!

If the headstock is still attached to the neck(not by much), would you consider finishing the break to ensure repair.
JayS38 months ago
In my opinion, tite bond II wood glue works best for neck repairs, and probably any instrument repair. I've repaired two severe broken necks with it (one 2 or 3 inches from the headstock behind the fretboard) and my guitars play and look fine!!
JayS3 JayS38 months ago
Of course, I have yet to do the cosmetic work, but I'm lazy and I don't really know the best products to use, I wouldn't want to ruin the finish.

i want to know which material used to Repair i mean Glue/or somthing else ?

wood glue/hide glue or something else ??

rghoff (author)  MuhammadUmairAfzalHashmi9 months ago

I just use a basic white glue designed for wood. I would NOT use hide glue - that glue is used for things that can be taken apart later. My understanding is that some classical instruments (e.g. violins) use hide glue so they can be taken apart for repairs. If you are in the U.S., then use something like Elmer's or Gorilla brand wood glue (based on a white glue) for the neck repair. Hope this helps. Let me know if you need more information...

your immediate response will be appreciated,

my guitar body has been broken from Neck.

Bodie310 months ago
Neck is holding up OK and string tension is holding; haven't had to re-tune even though I have new Elixer strings 10 to 54 installed. I feel the strings are a bit high, but he may want them high for his style of picking. I like my string about 10 thousandths because I play my strings very light.
Bodie310 months ago

Thanks for the help. I pretty much did the same thing, but I wanted to check and see if there was anything I missed. I was thinking of putting dowels through the fret board to make it stronger, but I think I will see how strong the wood glue holds. Thanks.

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DevanQ Bodie310 months ago

@Bodie3

How did your repair hold up? Im thinking about doing
this kind of repair on my Takamine... Any issues with string tension
after repair? Thanks in advance

Bodie3 DevanQ10 months ago
On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 10:01 AM, Bonifacio Dominguez wrote:

I didn't have to use the dowels, the neck seemed strong enough without them. I used a bit of backing soda and super glue to fill in some some cracks in the finish and some 00 steel wool to smooth it off. I thought about spraying some finish on it, but it felt so smooth that I wanted to leave the repair visible so that the kids remembered and maybe tell dad how it broke and how grandpa repaired it. Thank you for the video it was very helpful.
Bodie3 DevanQ10 months ago
Did you read my reply? I may have to adjust the neck a bit, but the repair turned out great.
rghoff (author)  Bodie310 months ago

Interesting idea about the dowels. My only thought is that since you're not dealing with much wood, the prep work to get the dowels lined up and everything might make things more difficult without gaining a significant advantage... maybe. If you can get the dowels in there perfectly, then it's probably a better fix. I think you're wise to try the glue-only first and see what happens.

Bodie3 rghoff10 months ago
Didn't have to use the dowels, the repair is holding up. I may have to adjust the truss rod, the action seem high I did use some arm & hammer soda and super glue mixture to fill in some cracks and chips on the finish. I used 00 steel wool to sand it smooth and I was going to shoot some finish on it, but decided to leave repair so that the kids can someday tell dad how it broke and hoe grandpa repaired it. Thank you for the video and help with the repair, it was very useful. there should be some pictures on facebook of the finished repair.

A friend of mine snapped the the headstock off my Epiphone Les Paul Custom in a similar way. Used this guide to fix it and it worked out nice. brought all the stuff I needed from Biltema in Norway. Thanks !

wusupworld1 year ago

I have a gibson to, my neck broke in the same spot

CSeipt1 year ago
Great write-up! I have an Epiphone PR-350 acoustic from about 1998 that had a headstock snap 6-7 years ago, in almost exactly the same pattern. Mine was sitting on its stand and toppled over onto a slate floor, when it got hit by something. I used Gorilla Glue and it's held up pretty well so far. I didn't clean it up very well at all though, until recently when I sanded it down some. The touch-up crayon thing is a good idea, I'll have to find one! Unfortunately I'm not sure if the tone is quite right or not... I've owned it forever but never really learned to play, after the initial couple of years. Lately I've been wanting to correct this, so I've picked it back up.
j_vogt16982 years ago
My Charvel 750xl has a crack going on the corner of the headstock thru the low E tuning knob. is his repairable by these step?
rghoff (author)  j_vogt16982 years ago
Without seeing it, it's hard to say. I'm going to guess that you would PROBABLY be ok depending on the nature of the crack. If you can't totally open up the crack, then the challenge will be getting enough glue in there. And if the crack is due to the wood warping in a non-uniform manner, that could present issues as well. Send a pic and I might be able to give you better advice.
ahazbun2 years ago
Ant Hill Music has special shopping filters that make it easy to buy the right guitar neck.
jmwinland2 years ago
Would you recommend trying to fix an acoustic guitar neck myself if it's not completely broken off? My six-year-old son fell and slammed into it while he roughhousing around. Right when it was being zipped up in its softcase on the floor. It is cracked pretty badly but not coming off. It is only a $300 Laguna and I am not sure $150-$200 (my uneducated guess) is worth fixing it. I badly need some advice. Here are a few pics.
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rghoff (author)  jmwinland2 years ago
I think you would need to complete the break to do a decent fix on it (so it's in two peices). So my short answer is, Yes, it's worth doing yourself. The problem I see is that the surface of the fretboard would probably need some special attentioin - specifically, where the crack junction would be. It might be as simple as just carefully sanding it down after the glue has dried??? What's interesting in your pictures is it looks like your break is parallel to where two pieces of wood are joined - but that's probably just by chance. BTW - since the surface area you would be gluing is rather large, you'd get a nice strong bond.
Trogador2 years ago
How well would this work on a 12-string with all the extra tension?
rghoff (author)  Trogador2 years ago
Wow, interesting question. My initial reaction would be that it should make any difference. But like you say, with the tension that a 12 string has, you better make sure that the glue joint is totally set before you put the string back on. I haven't looked at any 12 strings in this regard, but I'm guessing they have alittle more wood in the neck area there to start with. The short answer is that the concept is the same - the glue joint is stronger than the wood.

Anyone have any experience on doing this with a 12 string?
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