The almost brand new Gibson J-200 presented with the headstock broken completely (and rather messily) off of the neck. Also, portions of the celluloid binding around the edge of the headstock were either missing or dangling off in sections. We didn’t ask how it happened. Tim, empathetic to the owner’s grief, shakes his head and gets to work.
First Tim glues the headstock back on to the neck – a tricky proposition requiring special attention to the alignment of the two pieces. Even using small wooden blocks between the clamps and the wood of the guitar the tendency of the parts is to slide apart under pressure. Tim takes extra steps to commingle the parts for positioning accuracy.
Next Tim carves out some of the wood in the area of the break prior to fabricating a strengthening laminate. To make the laminate he glues together a stripe of bubinga onto a piece of curly maple (using cyano-acrylate) and heat bends the resulting section to match the bend of the neck of the guitar. Cyano-acrylate (aka superglue) is used on the laminate so that it does not separate during the process of heat-bending.
After he has ascertained that the curves fit he places the curly maple/bubinga laminate onto the neck of the guitar and, to assist in making sure the fit and position is perfect, he first tapes the laminate into place and then drills four small alignment holes directly through the laminate and into wooden plugs he previously installed into four of the tuning peg holes. He then places toothpicks into those drilled holes so that the bubinga center stripe lines up precisely with the original. Once the glue on the carefully positioned laminate has set Tim then painstakingly cuts away the excess wood so the shape of the neck/body join is correct.
Now that the neck and headstock laminate is complete it’s time to address the binding. Tim painstakingly cuts and installs new celluloid binding, taping it down while the glue sets. Tim has masked the pearl inlay and logo on the headstock with clear scotch tape and gently cut around the inlays prior to applying black lacquer. Once it has set he scrapes the extra lacquer off the binding and removes the tape. Then he sprays a few clearcoats of unthinned lacquer over the entire headstock and neck. As a final finish touch, he sprays amber laquer on the new binding to match the patina of the original sections.
Because of the laminate the headstock/neck join is now stronger than the original. The guitar is now ready for tuning pegs and a set-up. This process has taken Tim a fair amount of time, with breaks for lunch, sleep and diverting youtube goodness. Tim says of his work: “it’s fun.” He adds that it’s important to remember that the good repairman “strives for his work to be invisible.”