How to Repair a Broken Guitar Neck (headstock)




About: I'm just a compulsive DIYer that plays guitar and tries to fix just about everything around the house and garage. Sometimes I even succeed!

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!

Step 1: Anatomy of a Broken Neck

Gravity, headstock geometry and thin wood can lead to a frustrating situation!  The pics show how a clean break can occur... 

Step 2: Tools and Supplies

To make the guitar totally playable again, you only need to glue the headstock back on.  For that you will need:

1. Clamps - I like the clamp type shown.  I think screw clamps encourage people to really crank it down and damage the finish.  You don't need it THAT tight.  Several clamps of different sizes works well - I bought an entire set of these cheap clamps at a $5 table at Harbor Freight or Ace or where ever. 
2. Glue - No magic glue.  White glue is stronger than the wood.  I use the "wood" white glue because it seems to not run all over like the regular white type.  Plus the curing time works for my purposes.
3. Water - for cleanup
4. Paper towels - Lot's O Lot's.
5. Little artist paint brush - you could use a large brush if you wanted.  Size doesn't matter much here.
6. Something to hold the neck up - I have a little tripod thing that I won at a recent demonstration thing.  A full roll of paper towels works very well also.

Step 3: Inspection of Damage

To determine if the break is worth fixing to your satisfaction and ability, inspect the nature of the break.  As I said before, this break was about as clean as you can get.  In the pics you can also see the line from my previous fix.

What interesting to note is that the previous fix held up just fine.  The wood failed (again), not the old glue joint.  But what that also tells me is that the wood on this neck is fairly weak and would split just as fast and clean if it gets dropped again.

The split paint and paint/wood interface might present a challenge depending on the guitar.  But it this case, it did just fine with wood glue.

Step 4: Side Note About Wood Strength and Stain Penatration.

When I looked closely at the wood, I noticed that the primary break seemed to occur along a plane that sucked up the stain rather deep.  This MIGHT indicate that the wood was dryer and maybe weaker along this plane that the neighboring planes. 

The wood next to the truss rod opening broke on a slightly different plane.  Perhaps is was stronger?  Assuming that the break happened how I described in step 1, the truss rod area would have split first...  Not so strong after all!  So micro-examining the wood structure is probably not worth worrying about for this.

Step 5: Dry Fitting

Hey, now we can actually start doing this!

This is pretty simple.  Just hold the pieces together and see how they will fit.  This guitar was pretty straight forward - just hold it together and you're there.  On other guitars you might need to insert part at an angle, jiggle it around a little or clean up some nasty spots on the wood.

I just used one clamp to see how the fit was.

Step 6: Glue Application

You don't need gobs and gobs of glue.  The key is to get good even distribution on both pieces.  I like to use a small brush to get the glue in the cracks/crevices and get rid of excess glue.

The goal is to get enough glue that everything inside is coated within the repair - but not so much that it's a total mess to clean up the outside.

Step 7: Assembly and Clamping and Cleanup

This is always the part I hate when I do any kind of wood work - Make sure you have your clamps, water and paper towels ready to go.  This is not a good time to be interrupted - this part must be completed in one operation.

The major parts are:
1. Hand assembly
2. Initial clamping
3. Clean up
4. Additional/final clamping
5. More clean up.

Step 8: Take Off the Clamps and Minor Clean Up

I give these sorts of joints two solid days to dry and cure before I remove the clamps.  But realistically, you only need to wait 12 hours or so (read the glue directions) if you're in a hurry.

Theoretically, you could string up the guitar and start playing if you wanted!  The joint is solid and will hold the tension.  Everything after this is just cosmetic.

Step 9: Wood Finish Work.

I suggest you keep the wood finish work to a minimum.  This can get extremely frustrating and take you down a long path of work that will just make things looking worse.

For this repair, I just use a little crayon type scratch filler and buff it down.  My goal is to make the repair smooth to the touch... not invisible to the eye.

For a point of reference, I tried to do the finish repair on the previous fix.  That's why there's a band of light finish across the neck.  It took me about a week to do and it ended up being very noticeable.  To be fair, the previous break was missing some edge pieces when I bought it.

Step 10: Headstock Cleainup/finishing

The headstock was similar.. yet different.  We were dealing with paint instead of wood.

1. Clean up the glue.
2. I tried to get it cleaned up and leveled with wet/dry sandpaper.  Started with 320 then 400, 600 and 800.  Keep it wet and avoid the logo.
3. Black Kiwi shoe polish.  I hit the entire headstock with the shoe polish to give it the same gleam.  That was the first time I tried that - seemed to work good here!

Note about flash photography:  For the majority of my pics, I used a flash.  In virtually all of those pictures, the crack looks much worse that it does in real life.  From a distance the fix is just not that noticeable.

Step 11: Restring, Check Set-up and Play!

After such a traumatic injury and repair, I was amazed that the guitar held it's intonation! 
The only adjustment I needed to do was a quarter turn of the truss rod to get the neck curvature where I wanted it!

I restrung with Ernie Ball Regular Slinkies (10-46) to normal tuning.

Step 12: Conclusion - It's Alive!

This is one of those "OMG what'll I do!" accidents for most people.  But if it looks like a clean break and can be pressed back together without to much work, you can probably fix it yourself.

Just don't get to worried about the final wood finish.  Keep it simple and you'll be happier than if you try to make the crack totally invisible.

To let you hear the results, I added two sound clips - both were recorded through a Tech 21 Trademark 10 using the effects send straight into the PC.  So it's basically a Sans Amp direct.

The first is with a "metalica" type configuration on the bridge pickup.  At the end of that one, I let the final open E ring out to give you an idea how well the sustain help up after the fix.  Since it's direct with no-speaker to feedback on, it's probably a fair demonstration.

The second is a basic Fender Blackface sound with the neck p'up.

Feel free to ask any questions or submit suggestions.

5 People Made This Project!


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140 Discussions


Question 5 months ago

I too have a guitar with a broken neck at/near the head stock. Its not a neck I can replace easily as I cannot find any guitars like it (used) and none of the new stock necks offer a head stock shape the same; part of my sentimentality. Not to spark a debate on whether the guitar is worth all the work, its a Squier out of Korea but it was a first year issue and I believe the quality really suffered later but this one is really well built (original higher end pickups, a really good quality Floyd rose, lots of fret life left in it). Not a really expensive guitar when I bought it but very expensive to me as a poor starving student and its got loads of history. That being said - I had a personal "need" to get it fixed and playing on it again. (enough of my story)

It is partly a break/crack at roughly the same place as an old one but some of the areas that were glued before are still perfectly in place. I think it is likely a new fail like yours. The difference is, its not a clean break (through) and since there was some gluing of the fret board to the neck from the previous break I'm not inclined to make the break any larger in order to glue it better.

I am thinking of using glue syringes and needles to introduce the glue in the crack and then clamping the pieces together. I was also thinking of using a band clamp (cloth strap) to hold the pieces better. Do you think I'm on the right track here? I've provided a photo.

My crack also interferes with the locking nuts/clamps, but any glue here will simply make the bolts through the neck be glued in place (no interference with the top/playing side so the glue won't interfere with the moving parts). I wasn't thinking of removing them at first. But, given the nuts question below, do you think it best to remove them entirely before gluing?


guitar crack.jpg
1 answer

Answer 5 months ago

Sorry to hear about your guitar! You're on the right track... so go ahead and take out any hardware that might be in the way before you glue. As far as bolt holes and things, you can clean them during the gluing process while the glue is still wet. You could potentially wait until the glue is dry and drill them out - but you have a very strong possibility of the glue pushing the drill bit in the wrong direction and messing up the hole. As far as the wood glue is concerned, it won't stick to the metal parts very good at all. So I wouldn't worry about the metal bits getting glued in place. But there's no reason to have to fool with that later on.

If you use a cloth strap clamp, be careful that it doesn't get glued to the neck! You don't need a death grip on the joint. Just enough to ensure even contact and pressure across the joint and sufficient pressure to squeeze out any excess glue. Tight, but not enough to leave dents :-)


1 year ago

I accidentally broke the headstock of my ukelele, yet it is still barely intact. I just want advice on how to approach this because the screws/pins (my ukelele vocabulary is trash) are visible and Im scared if I put glue there I wouldnt be able to tighten the strings properly. SO should I just take them out then glue and put them back or is it safe to leave them there?

2 replies

Reply 6 months ago

I agree with JordanD101. Take all the strings off the tuners so they strings are out of your way while you are working on it. Take off the two tuners at the break - and the other two tuners as well if the break extends up into their area. Glue/clamp the break as explained in the article. From here you can take two paths to keep the tuner holes clear:
1. after glue/clamping, use a wet Q-Tip or something to clean out the hole for the tuners. That should probably take care of any issues with clogging up the tuner hole. or
2. After the glue has dried, you could use an appropriate size drill bit to clean out the hole - but that's dangerous because the drill might end up migrating to one side of the hole or the other an make the hole bigger. But on the flip side, you could manually use a drill bit to finish up after you use the Q-Tip on the wet glue just to make things a little more tidy.

I did a video on a repair to a Ukelele bridge a while back that you might find helpful as well:
Let us know how it turns out!


Reply 6 months ago

Take them out, just keep track of the pieces so you don't lose them. If they get glued they may not turn


7 months ago

The instructions are very nicely explained, thanks for sharing. It will be cost-effective as well. I generally prefer to repair different parts of the guitar myself. The parts of guitar by FaberUSA are genuine and they also have detailed videos about how to replace them.


10 months ago

Use titebond or hide glue. Elmers will, eventually, fail.

1 reply

Reply 10 months ago

I know people will swear by one glue and swear AT another. But no one ever offers any evidence. Here are two published papers and a wood worker's review that seem to reach the conclusion that most wood glues are pretty good for gluing wood-

Obviously some glues can fail if exposed to excessive heat or moisture (ex. Hide glue)... But for hide glue, that's one of it's potential benefits.... or weakness. So the bottom line is: Elmers will hold up just fine - please provide published proof if that's not the case.


1 year ago

Hi i accidentally broke my guitar into two parts very close to the neck what should I do

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

If you post a pic, I'd have a better idea of what to suggest. But the short answer is - if it's a similar break as the example in this Instructable, then you can simply follow the same directions. If it's not clear, please let me know and we can work together on getting the answer. Thanks!


2 years ago

would regular whit glue work? As you seem to say it would, but it would be messy

7 replies

Reply 1 year ago

wood or white glue is the WRONG glue. period. wood glue is a slight variation on white glue. NEITHER is rated for STRUCTURAL use. Thats something thats hold a load. over time ALL wood glues will move. its. how it is. Instead there are two options. The proper glue is a hide glue. Its what good guitars are glued with when made. The nice thing is that with heat, you can take the joint part. That would of been handy in a dual break situation. The other option is epoxy. While some lutherer types might not like epoxy because its quite permenet, it will hold. In fact it will hold when any oily woods may be involved - dark exotics. My other trade secret to fixing headstocks so they _wont_ break again I'm not saying. hard earned and not for free.


Reply 1 year ago

A few comments on this

1- On the guitar in this Instructable, the wood glue demonstrated its strength as seen when the guitar was knocked over a 2nd time and the neck broke in a different place - the original repair held up just fine. The break had nothing to do with the original fix. So I totally disagree that the wood glue doesn't hold up - the proof was demonstrated here.

2. If you want to use hot hide glue, that's great. But for most people, the accessibility and ease of using wood glue out weighs any benefits of using the hot hide glue. If you have an expensive guitar, then yes, use hot hide glue - and if you don't have experience with hot hide glue, then by all means take it to a luthier and let them use what they feel is best. But keep in mind that hide glues are not permanent - they can fail from heat (example here:

3. Epoxy is lower on the list as well - yes it's strong. But it doesn't penetrate the wood fibers as well and clean up on a finished guitar neck can be a nightmare. If you're working with an original build and are at the glue/clamp/sanding stage (pre-finish), then it's probably ok.


Reply 1 year ago

as to your points :

#1 yes it will hold for a few years. over 20 or 30+ years its another story. if the instrument is subject to a lot of change in humidity, that puts a lot more stress into the joint. the joint may not fail out right, but it will move. In a laminated neck with the mix of grain directions is the most difficult situation because of mixed expansion / contraction rates. I can show you wood that has expanded and moved against the glue. still perfectly stuck on, but now 1/16th out of alignment due to moisture expansion. I have some purple heart that is especially prone to movement, 1/8th over 9" on a peice. its why wood aka PVA glues are not rated for structural applications, the allow the wood to move. For example : or just read the label on the bottle....

#2 there are cold hide glues such as one sold by Titebond and others :

#3 penetration of the surface doesn't matter the way you think. its about establishing a bond on the relative surface which matters. less than 1/100th of an inch, far closer to atoms of thickness. that said, PVA glues can work any where from very well to very poorly depending on the wood. woods with a lot of natural oils may require being wiped with acetone before bonding, or really a different glue should be used.

epoxy OTH will not move and produce a rigid joint. its used to build aircraft. in will transmit vibration better which is generally a good thing in instruments, especially in a neck repair. its water proof. it works with oily woods. it can be thinned and applied with a needle into a crack that doesn't go all all the way thru. in fact, if you are really concerned about surface penetration, a little thinning will increase for that, buts its never really been an issue. given that wood has natural absorbing properties, any penetration past the surface I'd expect to be similar, at least if using a 60 min epoxy. epoxy will produce a "stronger than wood" bond. epoxy also doesn't require clamping pressure for a strong joint. as long as the pieces are in place, you are good. PVA glues require strong clamping for a strong joint, which if you don't get right will cause outright joint failure.

temps are another factor. PVA's don't cure correctly under 55 F and produce a weak joint which will fail. Epoxy will set setup, just slower. if folks with unheated work areas, a factor to consider.

down the road, epoxy can be dissolved with acetone. never tried it, never needed to.

epoxy clean up of any overflow is not a big deal. scrape down, sand smooth with 400, 600, maybe 1200. then polish with 2-3 coarse to fine polishes. this might take 10-15 minutes or so depending on how much initial overflow there is to remove. might as well polish the rest of the guitar up at the same time back to new shine.


Reply 1 year ago

Tell you what - Why don't you create and post your own Instructable and show us all how it's done.


Reply 1 year ago

maybe, but I don't have any broken headstocks to glue up right now.

OTH I can show you a repair done 30 years ago thats just as good as the day it was done. I'm also not going to give up my personal repair method(s) which goe beyond just a simple glue up. having had to fix other peoples "repairs" the rest of this had me cringing like the filler stick and shoe polish. Getting the headstock top to shine is just a matter of removing the tuners, polishing with proper compounds, putting the tuners back on.

Instead of getting upset at me, perhaps learning more would be better especially if you want to publish content like this. once upon a time I didn't know these things but I spent the time to become educated about them. still learning new things.


Reply 2 years ago

I believe u should use wood glue because it will hold better and I see people say that all the time I hope this was helpful


Reply 2 years ago

I assume you're talking about the bottom of the line, old school white glue like you used for grade school art projects. It is advertised as being strong as the wood... but I would probably recommend getting small bottle of a glue formulated specifically for wood (I use the Elmer's products... and there are many others out there). A small bottle will cost under $5 (US) and is a good investment for this kind of fix.

Having said that, if it's a clean, even with the grain, large surface area break (like the example in my article) and the pieces match up together and it's not on a highly stressed neck (like a 12 string acoustic) and all I had was the bottom of the line white glue, then I MIGHT give it a shot. If it was a nasty break perpendicular to the neck/across the grain or across a small area of stressed wood (like the tuning key slots on a classical guitar), then I probably wouldn't want to risk it.

As far as being messy, you only need to cover the surface of the wood and you don't need very much to get good coverage - remember you're squeezing/clamping the parts together after that. So all the extra glue that oozes out was too much glue. There should be SOME oozing and the thing to look for is consistent oozing along the entire seam so you know there's even coverage across the gluing surface. If you go back to the article, you'll see I use a small brush to smooth out the glue and get it deep into the grooves of the wood.

I try to get the major blobs off after I hand-tighten then joint - you can use paper towels or even a small piece of paper (the heavier stock the better) to scrape off the big stuff. The after I get the clamps in place, I'll do the final "wet" clean up with moist paper towels. The more wet cleanup you do, the less you'll have to deal with dried glue later on.

I'm still going to recommend you get an actual "wood" glue for your guitar. The cheapest of the cheap might work just fine and I've used it on many wood projects in my youth and it held up fine when/if I applied the glue properly. I just wouldn't want to see someone go through the trouble of the fix and the glue not hold up... You would probably find out before you even got all the strings up to pitch.

Good luck and let us know what you end up doing!


Reply 2 years ago

Very cool! I'd probably give that a week before I would tune it up and start playing again. Excellent job!