Here's a 90's Gibson Les Paul Studio, that already had a broken headstock once before, was repaired about ten years ago by adding splints as you can see (not done by me), and now it started to crack. Impossible to tell exactly if the once healed wound is opening up again or is it coming from the adjacent area. I suspect the latter, because there's no sign of glue in the cracks, but I didn't want to disturb the rough edges too much.

It was resprayed black in that area, otherwise the neck has a traditional translucent 'tobacco' clearcoat.

This guitar has already retired, but before the guy hangs it on the wall, we want to see if it's doable or not.

Pictures might not show it clearly, but the upper lobes of the splints show cracks in the finish too. When I brought the guitar those splints were sunk at least a milimeter down below the rest of the neck, but after laying around my shop for months at proper humidity I noticed they are now almost leveled flush.

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 Tadej it looks to me that the glue that was used in the repair was prown to creeping. I have seen this before in ether the wrong glue, or the wood used  for the repair was not dry.Bill.............

I am thinking that the wood used for the splints was totally green. Tell us, what exactly are you going to be doing with this now? I will guess that you will have to strip all the lacquer off to see what exactly is going on, and then you will make some decisions?

This requires a backstrap laminate over the whole mess and as it's already been painted black you may as well replicate a dark burst look when refinishing.

The splines are moving about and the glue is rubbery - no point trying to take them out, and the new cracks are propagating or simply old cracks missed in the first repair.  

Machine out the area for a backstrap/laminate, flood the existing cracks and spline areas with CA and then lay in a couple or three conformal laminates far enough in each direction to cover and reinforce the damaged and  "repaired " area. 

That'll get it playable - but if you are just going to hang it on the wall it's probably not worth the man-hours

What does the front look like?


Rusty, is this the backstrapping in it's essence?

I'll start planing this thing slowly as usual. Looks like I'll have to tool up. I prefer hand tools if possible, what's the best way to recess the area where the backstrap goes? I plan on getting a router after new years, but I doubt I can make a full pass from a flat headstock to the back of the neck. And the headstock angle makes matters slightly worse. So please, Rusty, share yer wisdom! :)

Does the backstrap add to the overall thickness of the headstock or do you sand it down to the exact original spec?

Man-hours are not important here because the owner has all the time in the world for this one, plus it might be another great project.

Did I by any chance miss a page on backstrapping on Frank's website?

Hi Tadej,

I normally machine the "recess" by gluing up the headstock (already done in this case) and then running the area over the big idler wheel on a belt sander (stroke sander wheel works well) but when I'm feeling a bit arty I just take out the material with a rather large "dragon" rasp that Stew-mac (used to sell) using the flat side to square it up and the round side to get the taper started - once it looks about right I run a scraper over it to get it square and flat - just check for light under the scraper edge.  I use laminates we make in shop at about .050 and bend these with a good soak and a heat gun, but standard veneers are fine - you just have to use more of them.

I don't like the method of constructing a one piece backstrap as it doesn't conform as well as a number of skinnys clamped up hard with a flexible caul (I glue them on one at a time and let them settle a day before applying the next one (allows the moisture in the glue to escape and de-stresses the joint.  However, I have done this style on some seriously bad previous repairs and enclosed imagery,and an example of a volute  FYI.

If the break is a 90 degree at the nut I will embed some carbon fiber and maybe add a volute to the area to give it some extra stiffness - for the standard shattered birds beak break I just make sure we have about an eight of an inch thickness of laminate remaining after returning the neck profile to the original or maybe just a bit thicker through the break area.

Hope this helps, Rusty.


Rusty--    Looks like the fix that you posed in the pics is the way to go with the fix..

good shots..

peace, Donald

It my have been repaired that way before but just glued with the worng glue and that could be why it cracked were the old and new came together??????????

Great info & pics, Mr. Vance!  Thanks for posting that. 

I recently did a backstrap overlay on a customer's guitar.  I used a one piece overlay & it turned out great, but I really like the idea of using thinner laminates for better/easier conformity.

Being a guy that's curious about "How" to repair, I'm equally as curious in this case as to "Why" we do them.

It's been asked/commented upon twice in the replies but no answer has been given.

So.... If the guitar is retired and had been relegated to a wall hanging, why do anything at this point?

Of course, if this will be a money maker for you, that's great. But from a 'waste of time' perspective, what's the point?

I'm not encouraging any one fix/not to fix solution, that's up to the customer, but I'd like to know his impetus for this task, simply to add it to my "list of strange requests and how to deal with them" mental log?


Paul :)


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