I need some sage advice people!

I am repairing a 2007 Les Paul Studio. Some body broke the head off at the angle with the neck.

It has glued back nicely.

But for the life of me I cannot get the re-staining right over the crack.

The guitar is finished in Red Mahogany. What I cannot fathom out is how to join the old finish with the new bit that's needed to cover the join. I have bare wood around the join. I haven't worked out how to take the finish coat off the neck where I want to lap the new stain up to.

What am I doing wrong? Do I need to strip the entire neck back to the body join and do the whole neck? I'd rather not! Or is there a simple way to join the two finishes invisibly?

I'm using StewMac Red Mahogany stain. Could I tint the finish coat with that?

Oh crap - so many questions!


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Mac send us a picture. Or you may have better luck just  refinishing the whole neck. Bill......

Thanks Bill. See Frank's response below. The trick is that it's tinted lacquer not clear coat on stain.


It's basically impossible to match that finish by staining the wood, partly because the original was a tinted lacquer, not a penetrating stain.  Then, add to the difficulty by using a stock color that won't be the same as the original. Now, there are folks who can use airbrushes and colored transparent lacquer to do a nearly invisible repair, but I am not one of them!  I'd have enough trouble matching the job if I did the entire neck.  

I'd probably do the best I could by spraying tinted lacquer on the affected area and trying to match it the best I could, adding some clear coat overall to have something that could be sanded level and buffed.

Of course! That it's tinted lacquer is the breakthrough. Thanks so much for that Frank. 

I will see if I can teach myself to be an airbrush whizz!



Hi Mac, i'd definitely go with the airbrush. Seal and fill the wood. Then apply your colored laquer. I recommend to add enough stain to create a strong color. Practice on scrap and keep adding stain to the laquer till you just need one or two coats to get the color you're after. You can finish with some clear laquer over your touch up just the way Frank says. Good luck!  

Hi Mac,

We are doing on average 1 Les Paul/SG headstock break per month and I thank Gibson for being part of my retirement plan.

If you are not experienced with Gibson finish schedules I would forget about the airbrush/matching thoughts unless the finish is a solid like black or white - and even that is a nightmare to match.  Similarly, the finish is a shader but it a shader in layers so as you sand down around the break you go through successive layers of shader down to the clear undercoat or sizer (if they used one) and wood filler coloration of the wood (the wood filler leaves a color cast in the wood even when it is wiped off).  This gives the appearance of "growth rings" in the lacquer finish.

Any attempt to lacquer "up to" these different degrees of shader is usually a failure and results in a refinish that is easily exposed when exposed to stage lighting or daylight. 

We typically do the whole neck unless the finish is a amber/clear which blends nicely.  The blend line is where the neck meets the body in the butt joint and where the heel goes into the right angle at the bottom.

Take the refinish around the headstock to the face and that will give you a consistent lacquer line free look and also tidy up the stress or break repair area on the front of the peghead.

Strip the neck back to bare, grain fill according to what was there and then start with a weak shader to see how close you are to the body colour - adding other dyes to correct for aging and bearing in mind that a finish coat shader can be added at later stages to yellow up the color cast or darken the finish - but you cannot lighten the finish once you have gone too far.  I often spray a couple of coats of clear half way through so I can go back to them if it gets messy or dark - but this is never a good one and is blotchy unless you are lucky.

Anyone who find this job easy can contact us and tell us how they do it.  

We charge $500 for the basic repair and simple refinish.  

We are currently doing a Gibson 'Swirl' repair at the moment which involves replicating the headstock swirl pattern, building up the nitro, adding new silver decals after replacing the shattered headstock fibre and sneaking in an additional laminate under that to reinforce a shocker of a break.  We are also working around an auto tuning (tronical)  SG which whiplashed itself in a case drop.  Nothing like adding more weight to a Gibson headstock to help along the decapitations.

All part of the retirement fund.



Hi Rusty - yeah this is my retirement fund too! God bless Gibson.

I will absorb your terrific advice and then have another crack at the LP.

Just to complicate things, the headstock veneer survived the break, but the Gibson logo and "Les Paul Model" appear to be on a very thin vinyl or similar stuck onto the headstock veneer. That vinyl split along the break point between the lower machine heads. I've yet to work out a way to feather the edge of the vinyl. I imagine I'll have to throw it away and replace the logos. Crikey Dick - what a performance!


Hi Mac,

The facing is probably fibre with a black lacquer paint finish or just black paint.  But, no matter what, you cannot just fill and paint as this area is compression stressed when strung up and any crack will show quite quickly or slowly over time when the guitar is pressed back into service.  I take it back to bare wood replace the fibre or put on a thin maple wood veneer and dye and paint the layers back up again.  Hint: use black nitro "paint" to get a base black finish - shaded lacquer is not consistent black enough in most cases - put on a paint coat, a couple of clear coats, sand flat, apply the decals and then use a very thin black shader followed by clear coats  to get the depth "look".

You can just superglue over the crack and paint it up , but it will show through eventually.

The replacement decals are from (for Fender I use - Crox is a bit of a messy site and you have to poke around to find the Gibson decals but they are there and are the best quality and range available -similarly Oldfret have the highest quality replacement decals for all manner of Fender.  As long as the decals are used as straight replacement  on authentic instruments there appears no legal downside of sourcing and replacement using these quality items through these sites.  Very high quality stuff.  We do use Gibson spares for broken Dealer instruments and they supply OK, but generally its easier to just use the usual sites.

Note, not all Gibsons are finished the same and I generally watch the way they were finished as I break them down to determine how they are going to be refinished.

Gibson neck lacquer generally peels off when treated with a heat gun to get the peel started - it has no great adhesion to the wood.  When you get to the body joint make a knife score to prevent the lacquer peeling off further than you want in this area.  If you are a little cautious with heat, stop short and complete the final strip to the body by mechanical sanding/scraping.

There is more but this is what I consider to be the best way of doing it right the first time.




Thanks mate - short of flying over here and doing the repair you could not have been more helpful. It's really appreciated. Once you understand what's going on, the fix always seems more straightforward. I was really stumped when I sent the discussion out, but now I have a clear picture in my head of what I need to do. And I will.

As a start I'll try to match the darker lacquer around the head/neck join, but if that fails I'll do the entire neck as you suggest.

And thanks for the decal-supplier details too.

As I said to Bill, I'll post a pic when I get it fixed.



I would go with Russell's fix as there are very few repair men that can make that repair invisible.Sometimes Gibson will colour the neck heal and under the neck were the brake would be a little darker in that respect it is a lot easer to hide the repair. Is it all the same colour? That is why I wanted to see a picture of the Guitar as Gibson don't finish them all the same.Bill.........

Thanks Bill - yes the neck/head join area is darker and this will be helpful. See attached pic.

I will start with the tinted lacquer approach and follow Rusty's great advice. If it works, I'll post a pic of the result!!



You should have no trouble matching that finish.First spray a clear coat on then mix a little red in your lacquer and some brown and as you add your coats you will add some more brown to make it the coulor you are after just spray away from the neck so as not to get to much on the ex color of the neck or take a piece of lose paper and mask the part of the neck you don't want to color just don't mask it so you endup with a strait line. When you are done give that whole dark erea a lite coat. The GIBSON colors are not hard to do.Good  luck .Bill.........


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