Headstock Detailing Part 1

Note this article is appropriate for Classical Guitar, Slotted Peghead Acoustic Guitars and Slotted Peghead Ukuleles.

Tools and Materials:

Woodworking Marking Knife
Plexiglas Template
Low Angle Block Plane
Drill Press
Takumi Dozuki 9-Inch Super Fine Cut Saw
Woodworker Try-Square
Forstner Drill Bits
3/8″ Milling Drill Bit
Wood Fence for Drill Press
3/4″ Plywood Sacrifice Block for Drill Press
Center Punch
Plastic Tipped Hammer
Band Saw

The classical guitar has a long history of placing significance on the detail of the headpiece and especially on the area we call the “Signature”. The Signature is basically the way in which the top edge of the headpiece is fashioned. Each luthier has his or her own design for this area of the guitar, and you should design your own unique “Signature” as well.

On our Classical Guitar Plans that we have available here at Georgia Luthier Supply, we show our own Signature design of our guitars that we build. You should take out a piece of tracing paper and use our plan template as a guide. Then sketch away on your own unique design and see what you come up with.

Make A Headpiece Template:

Upon completion of the signature design, its time to make a Plexiglas or thin solid wood template of the Classical Guitar Headstock. Be very precise with this template as it will be transferring errors directly to you workpiece if extreme care and accuracy is not observed. Be sure to transfer all of the string slot information and the headpiece design to the template very precisely. Strike a clear center-line down the center of the template. This way everything can be aligned symmetrically around the center-line.

The raw neck and the headstock should be perfectly square if you followed the previous articles. This will ensure very precise layout line. I would recommend the use of a good Marking Knife or very sharp pencil for this or a very sharp white pencil for the darker woods.

First, clearly mark the center line of the neck, the neck headstock and the guitar nut, by striking a clear straight line. Next take a Woodworkers Try-Square and mark the location of the back side of the Guitar Nut, again with a clean straight mark of the Marking Knife.

Trim the Headstock To Fit The Nut:

Now is time to Trim the Headstock for the Nut. While holding the Try-Square tightly against the edge of the neck, take a fine tooth dovetail saw such as the Takumi Dozuki 9-Inch Super Fine Cut Saw and begin to cut through the layers of veneer. Before you start, make sure the saw is perfectly vertical and aligned with the mark for the nut. Take slow, long even strokes and check the depth very often until the saw is nearly through the wood. Then take it really slow until it breaks through, being careful not to cut into the neck wood.

Mark Your Headstock Layout:

Lay the template on the headstock, being careful to align the center-lines and the line for the guitar nut. Carefully trace with a very sharp pencil or a marking knife the outline of the headpiece, including the string slots.

Trim The Two Sides Of The Headstock:

Next trim the sides of the headpiece with a pull saw, a band saw or a low angle hand plane. Be cautious to keep everything square and trim up to the line or to the center of the line. If a band saw is used, it is best to mark the cut lines on the back side of the headpiece so the headpiece can lie flat on the bandsaw table.

Now carefully mark the centers of the (4) holes that are to be bored for the string slots. Again be very precise as being off even just a whisker, can cause the slots to look crooked. Again, it is best to make these reference marks on the backside of the headpiece.

Once the hole centers are marked take a center punch or a sharpened nail and make a dimple for the drill bit.

Drilling the String Slot Holes:

Chuck up a 5/8″ Forstner Bit in the Drill Press. Be sure to use ONLY a Forstner bit as these will have little or no tear-out of wood grain to repair later. They cut an extremely clean hole as well that needs little additional sanding to finish them off. The holes are drilled with the face of the headpiece lying flat on the drillers table.

GLS Tip #1:
A quick and easy way to drill all (4) holes the exact same distance from the edge of the peg-head is to use our drill press fence located in the tools section of Georgia Luthier Supply. Use this as a fence to guide the headpiece beneath the drill. Now you only have to be concerned about lining up the drill in one direction. Be sure to set the depth stop of the drill press to drill into your sacrifice block about 1/8″ or so.

GLS Tip #2:
Drill the holes with the headpiece veneer down. Place a piece of scrap wood between the headstock veneer and the drill-press table. This will prevent any tear-out what-so-ever and the result will be very clean exit holes.

GLS Tip #3:
Drill out the remainder of the string slots with the drill press and the Forstner Drill. Most of the slot can be cleaned out in this manner, but may need to touch-up the slots a bit with a milling bit in the drill press. This will give a laser-straight line, with a little adjustment on the drill press fence.

What is Next?

Headstock Detailing Part 2.

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