How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Series – Part Twenty One – Designing the Headstock

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This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Twenty One, Headstock Design. In this post I’ll show you how to cut the headstock angle, flatten it, and design your headstock. There will be tips and tricks along the way as well. Enjoy.

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Headstock Making and Design

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-One-Designing-the-HeadstockAfter you create the stacked neck blank, it’s time to start focusing your attention on the headstock area and beginning the build. This is one of the easiest places to start working, and it’s also a fun part of the process.

The headstock is where you have your opportunity to create a unique looking neck design that is truly yours. Also, you can use other headstocks for inspiration, though I definitely recommend that you modify the design to be unique.

This doesn’t have to be anything crazy, you can take an existing design and make it your own with just a few little tweaks. Even taking something symmetrical and just making it a little longer can have a positive effect as well.

Think about your own head stock designs as you’re reading this post. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of creating a head stock shape anyway, you might as well have your own design.

If you missed last week, Here is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Twenty.

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Cutting the Back Angle

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-One-Designing-the-Headstock-flattening-the-faceThe first part of the process for making the headstock from the stacked neck blank is to cut the angle for the head.

Follow your plans and trace the outline of the neck on the side of your blank. Then, use those lines as a reference for making the first cut.

The cleaner you make this cut, the better. With that in mind, use the method that you know will produce the cleanest cut, and most carefully follow your lines.

If you have to change saw blades for something that cuts more smoothly, taking the time will be worth it. A fresh band saw blade is perfect for this operation, and can leave a surprisingly smooth cut.

Follow the line and cut just on top of it. This way, you have a little bit of wood left over that you can sand the way to bring you down perfectly flush to the line. This also allows a little wiggle room in case you make a mistake.

See Also: 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners

Smoothing the Face of the Headstock

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-One-Designing-the-Headstock-making-the-headstock-angleOnce the headstock angle is cut on the top portion, it’s time to sand the face that you just exposed to be perfectly flat. This is necessary whether you are going to do a head stock veneer or not.

The best way to do this is with a belt sander. Press the newly exposed face of the head sock against the moving sander, holding it completely flat. Check your progress from time to time, and keep going until it’s flat.

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From there, you can switch grits on your belt sander to something that’s more smooth, or you can switch to a sanding block by hand to remove the scratches. Spend the time to get this area nice and smooth, and it will make the process easier later on.

I recommend getting the surface down to about 120 grit. Later on in the process we’re going to add some wood to the left and right side, so you’re going to have to do additional sanding at that point.

See Also: 25 Simple Ways to Customize Your Guitar Without Changing the Tone

Choosing a Design

Now comes the fun part. Choosing a headstock design is one of the ways that you can add your own personal touch to your acoustic guitar. It’s a place where you leave your mark, and it helps you identify your guitar from across the room.

There are a lot of different options that you can choose from when it comes to a head stock shape, and I recommend you look at several when you are planning your design. There are symmetrical shapes, asymmetrical shapes, and everything in between.

Most acoustic guitars have a symmetrically shaped headstock, so that’s what I recommend if you’re just starting out. Look at a lot of different options that are available, and choose something a little on the larger side.

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Larger head stocks add more weight to that area of the neck, and they help reduce vibration loss as the strings are played. This will also allow you to have a lot of room for your design, and make it easier to identify your guitar from a distance.

See Also: 50 Things I Wish I Knew When I started Making Guitars

Making the Headstock Template

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-One-Designing-the-Headstock-headstock-templateOnce you have an idea of the design that you want to accomplish, draw it out in the full-size proportion, right down to the locations of the tuning machines. Draw some lines to represent the strings as they pass through the nut, and make sure that it works functionally.

Once you have your drawing perfect, and the strings pass from the tuning posts over there slot in the nut without any obstruction or steep angles, you then need to transfer this work of brilliance to a wooden template.

Use a piece of MDF that is 1/8 of an inch thick, and as big as you need to fit your head stock shape. Transfer the drawing to the piece of wood, and cut/drill to remove it from the larger piece. Then, sand the edges to make it perfect.

Now you have a perfect template for your own custom headstock shape. Save it, because you may end up using it on several different guitar models.

See Also: 25 Best Guitar Making Tips For Beginners

Adding More Space for the Design

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-One-Designing-the-Headstock-adding-more-wood-to-the-headstockMost acoustic guitar neck blanks are not wide enough to accommodate a head stack shape of normal size. That’s OK, because all you need to do is grab some scraps and add them to the left and right sides of the headstock on your neck blank.

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Take a couple of scraps that match your existing wood and plane them down to where they’re about the same thickness as the headstock. Then, glue them to the left and the right, trying to keep the face as smooth as possible.

Once the glue is fully dry, remove them, and sand the face smooth again. Now, you have a much larger surface to draw your headstock design, and you didn’t waste any wood. Besides, once you cover this with a veneer, all the joints will go away.

See Also: 10 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making an Acoustic Guitar

Cutting Out the Headstock

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-One-Designing-the-Headstock-gluing-wood-to-the-headstockThe first thing you need to do before cutting out your headstock is to lay the template in place, and line it up with the nut location on your blank. From there, trace around the template carefully, including the tuning post locations.

Use a very sharp pencil for this process, and get as close to your template as you possibly can while going around. We need to transfer the template as accurately as possible, otherwise all the time you invested in making the template will be wasted.

Once you have the design drawn in place, hold up the neck blank and take a look to see if it’s well centered, and looks right. If it does, you’re ready to cut out the profile and start making this neck blank look more like a neck.

See Also: My Guitar Fretboard Slotting Jig

Headstock Design Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks about designing your own headstock that can help you get it right the first time, and avoid mistakes.

  • When you are making your design, draw everything the way it needs to be to ensure that the strings will still pass through the nut like they are supposed to.
  • A simple design will always be better than an elaborate design.
  • Don’t make your headstock too small, because it can get crowded really quickly.
  • Look at lots of headstocks for inspiration before you even take out your pencil and paper.
  • Don’t be afraid to draw several versions before you decide to settle on one.
  • Check to ensure your table and blade are perpendicular before sawing off the face of the headstock.
  • Stay on top of the line a little bit so that way you don’t make a mistake and cut too deeply.

Coming Up Next Week

Now that the headstock and has been addressed, will focus our attention on making the truss rod slot. This is a slot that runs down the middle of the neck, and allows the installation of a truss rod to control the neck bow.

You can accomplish this in a number of different ways, including a router table or a Dremel tool with a router base. You can also use a handheld router, or a chisel if you want to do the process completely by hand.

I’ll show you the entire thing from start to finish, and you’ll be able to do the same thing on your guitar when the time comes. There will also be several tips and tricks, and you should get through the process fairly easily.

If you have any questions on how to make an acoustic guitar, neck and headstock design, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

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  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
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