Headstock Veneer

Tools and Materials:

Headpiece Overlay: Usually about 2.2mm thick.
Light and Dark Veneers: Decide on the number of layers you desire.
3/4″ Clamping Caul: Make this the same size as the guitar head.
1/4″ Clamping Caul: Make this the same size as the guitar head.
(4) Medium C Clamps or Bessey Bar Clamps
2-Part Epoxy Glue:

The First Steps:

Before starting the task in this post, the neck has been glued and the and the scarf joint has been completed. If not, review the articles Preparing the Neck Scarf Joint and Gluing the Neck Scarf Joint.

Think about it – when you look at a guitar, what is one of the first areas you look at? The headpiece? Most people do – at least most instrument makers. This is the area, especially for classical guitars that the luthier places his mark, either in the details of the top scalloping or some other creative accent

When building a Classical Guitar in the Spanish Tradition, the actual veneer design is easy. It is usually made up of a Maple Veneer and the 2.3mm finished wood headpiece is place on that. At most it would have a dark veneer, light veneer and then the wood headpiece.

Acoustic Guitars:

Acoustic Guitar headstock vary quite a bit, from just a simple accent headstock overlay to multiple layers and light and dark veneers. Another common technique is to place the finished headstock on the guitar head and router a channel around the perimeter for plastic or wood purfling and veneers. One concept some luthiers use is to place a thin strip of abalone shell around the head and finish it off with purflings and binding. So you can see there is a wide variety of methods you can employ and it is up to you or your customer how much time and expense you want to spend on the headpiece.

Gluing Process:

So I’m assuming the decision has been made for a veneer/purfling option. Next, gather the veneer and the top trim headpiece. Make sure that the headpiece is planed to proper thickness, and is smooth on both sides. If exotic woods are being used in the headpiece construction, all wood surfaces of the exotic wood need to be cleaned thoroughly with Acetone. See our article on Guitar Building Safety of this procedure. Trim all veneers and headpiece woods to within 1/8″ of the edges of the guitar head. Be sure to include a slight overlap at the guitar nut area.

Spread Glue:

Spread a thin layer of epoxy glue on each and every gluing surface. I use a thin piece of Maple veneer that has a straight cut to easily spread a very thin layer over the entire surface.

Set the Wood Cauls:

Place a 3/4″ plywood caul on the headpiece veneer and the 1/4″ on the underside of the headpiece. Grab a C clamp or Bar Clamp and snug it up. Check that nothing slides out of place, especially at the nut end. Check all borders again. If everything checks out, snug the other 3 clamps up and slowly tighten each one – progressively tighter. Also check that the wood does not slide out of position.

Let Dry:

Set the piece aside to dry overnight. Remove the clamps and trim the veneer edges and sand smooth. You are now ready for the Headpiece Detailing of a Classical Guitar or the Headpiece Detailing of an Acoustic Guitar.

GLS Tip:
For Classical Guitar veneers, you can roughly mark the string slots on the headpiece veneer. Then, to hold the sandwich of veneers in place you can drive (2) small finishing nails in the center of these slots to hold the wood in place. Once everything is clamped, remove the nails. The nail holes are removed during the string slotting procedure.

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