Rebuilding a Shattered Headstock

When this National resonator guitar showed up at our shop the customer initially asked if we could replace the neck because the slotted headstock was destroyed in an accident. It had completely shattered and all of the splintered fragments were in a Ziplock bag ready to be thrown in the trash. We asked if we could have a look at all of the broken pieces and assured him that saving the neck would be possible as long as everything is still there. Piece by piece we took stock and determined there was enough accounted for to rebuild it and he was immediately relieved that the neck, which he loved, was salvageable after all. Here’s a step-by-step process of rebuilding a shattered headstock.

The shattered headstock as it came in.

The first phase in the process is the trickiest one, which entails glueing all of the tiny pieces back together before mounting the headstock back onto the neck. It’s not quite as simple and just gluing it back up piece by piece. When something like this breaks apart it happens instantaneously and the interlocking grain pattern of mahogany rips apart in such a way that everything has to be fit back together simultaneously for the adjoining pieces to seat properly. In this case I got lucky and I’m able to glue the eight pieces back together in three stages.

First glue stage.
First glue stage from opposite angle.
Second glue stage.
Third glue stage.

Once the headstock is reassembled I’m able to glue it back onto the neck without much trouble.

For all of the small voids where pieces went flying never to be seen again I use a combination of wood putty and cyanoacrylate glue to fill the gaps, then sand everything level by hand.

This headstock is leveled and prepped and ready for paint!

I sprayed a slightly darker finish on the headstock to help hide the repair, but not so dark that the finish looks unnatural with the rest of the instrument.

All strung up and ready to go! It turned out even better than I expected. Voila!

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