Broken headstocks and 'better' tone

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Paranoia, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. Paranoia

    Paranoia Member

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    Righto, the latest in my long line of random things to look up is... broken headstocks!

    What I found through my Googling was a good number of people stating that a broken headstock, when properly repaired, made the guitar sound better than it did originally. This was followed by a smaller minority saying they didn't notice any real change in tone in their repaired headstock, but I didn't find anyone saying that their (properly repaired) headstock made things worse.

    What surprised me was, no matter what site I was on, nobody elaborated on what 'better' actually constituted. I'd imagine the glued joint could make things brighter, and I also imagine the effect could be somewhat simulated with a scarf joint (though there'd be less surface area glued as breaks are all jagged, and there'd be no splines), but this is all hypothetical, I've got no experience in this.

    So, for those of you that have experience with this - what changed for you? This is just curiosity speaking, I'm not about to throw my Les Paul down the stairs. I don't know if that'd break my headstock, but it'd certainly break my heart!
     
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  2. Bobby Mahogany

    Bobby Mahogany Senior Member

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    It all depends on the type of glue that is used.
    And if it's applied along or against the grain of the wood.
    I prefer Hot Hide Glue applied along the grain of the wood,
    but I'm a Classic Rock and Blues guy.
    For metal and hard stuff, Titebond applied against the grain of the wood seems
    to bring better results.

    :shock:
     
  3. judson

    judson Senior Member

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    well if they sound better, why do they always bring a discounted price because of the break? :dunno:
     
  4. Barnaby

    Barnaby Senior Member

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    I noticed a slight increase in sustain on some instruments I've known previously (maybe the headstock becomes a little more rigid), but it's more usual for me to have the "it sounds better than it did before" from the owner, as I generally don't encounter the guitar until after the break has happened. Often, they don't elaborate on exactly what the improvement - or perceived improvement - is. Perhaps they're just pleased to get their guitar back and/or being nice to me. Also, in every case of a headstock break, I've put on new strings, levelled, crowned and polished the frets and often done other minor work like a new nut or a cleaning of the instrument generally. There's almost always some kind of refinish involved too. Any one of these might be what they're really hearing.
     
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  5. Greco

    Greco Senior Member

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    It's a tough one. There's almost always some form of salesmanship involved. You won't hear anyone saying:

    "Well I sat my stupid fat ass on my Gibson, and when I sent it off to Dave to be repaired, he was a real dick about it, then once I got the guitar back and paid through the nose for the work it sounded even WORSE than it did before!"

    Think about that for a second. People don't want to lose more potential sale value on an already damaged guitar. Repairmen have a reputation to protect. Everyone in this situation wants to save face. Half the time I think it is more of a joke that people keep repeating. Anyway, what is this "sounds better"? Seems a bit vague. I changed one screw from nickel to chrome and my guitar "sounds better". Prove me wrong! You can't.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  6. Oldskoolrob

    Oldskoolrob Senior Member

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    I agree with the above. It's perception to offset the break. My Les Paul wasn't broken when I got it, but my youngest took care of that one day. Anyway, it was repaired by a guru. The repair has held very well with just a little shrinkage in the laquer showing where it is. My tone is much better than it used to be.....but that's due to a bunch of upgrades not the break. When I got it back it was 'as good as new'.........not better than new. You don't see people looking for long tennon necks and broken headstocks in the same search, do you?
     
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  7. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    I'd like to bring up the fact that my car runs better after I wash it.

    :rofl:

    Coincidence? I think not.
     
  8. judson

    judson Senior Member

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    stopped joking about this

    we all know that cracked headstocks and and the well known proven fact a new toggle switch tip makes a marked difference in tone characteristics

    :slap:
     
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  9. Oldskoolrob

    Oldskoolrob Senior Member

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    EXACTLY - but you've changed 2 variables at once. I think you'll find if you remove the switch tip to (isolate just the break) the tone goes to ****. Just like when you put back the poker_chip :headbanger:
     
  10. Oldskoolrob

    Oldskoolrob Senior Member

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    This is because you've lowered the friction co-efficient with a nice layer of polish wax, and cooled the material around the air intake giving you cold air into the engine - just like an intercooler, resulting in at least 3.5 hp extra at the wheels.....:naughty:

    You can see this in action because the tyres are easier to spin when it's raining :applause:
     
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  11. WezV

    WezV Senior Member

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    There are a couple of factors that can cause this perception of improved tone for me

    A headstock break may be the first time the guitar had a visit to a luthier. A luthier that does good repairs is likely to give the rest of the guitar a bit of attention too. The guitar ends up better because you chose a good luthier and they have tweaked all the little things that were holding it back.


    And/or

    Some Gibson’s can withstand a knock, others self destruct in the case. It’s all to do with the wood grain. Often a broken one had a weakness from day one from poor grain direction. Fixing that weakness will affect the way the neck resonates. If the neck doesn’t have the weakness in the first place you won’t gain much from trying to fix it
     
  12. Neffco

    Neffco Senior Member

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    The break let’s the wood “breathe”. Pretty obvious guys. Just saying. I hope my guitar comes back in good health. Hashtag waiting for days on my jap Edwards 335 purchase gone south.
     
  13. Oldskoolrob

    Oldskoolrob Senior Member

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    If one break is good, surely two is better. Just off to push my LP of it's stand again.....
     
  14. paulmarr

    paulmarr Senior Member

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    I would think that the luthier making the repair does a complete setup on the guitar to ensure his work is all lined up and playing nicely ... which sounds better than the out of spec guitar prior to the break! :)
     
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  15. kiko

    kiko Senior Member

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    I think the owners are just happy they got their geetar back. :)
     
  16. Bobby Mahogany

    Bobby Mahogany Senior Member

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    [​IMG]

    And probably true two!
    :thumb:
     
  17. EdmundGTP

    EdmundGTP Member

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    Well... My R8 just had its headstock repaired and I should get it back sometime this week or next. I'll report back when it arrives. Not expecting any perceivable difference, other than being happy that my guitar is back.
     
  18. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    Its hard enough to remember the tone of a guitar from 1 day to another.....let alone a few weeks to months.
    Hell, my amp sounds different 1 day to another with the same guitars......how on earth do you account for that in the tonal change analysis???
     
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  19. Bobby Mahogany

    Bobby Mahogany Senior Member

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    Pretty humid day today!
    My axe gonna sound fat tonight!
    :D
     
  20. EdmundGTP

    EdmundGTP Member

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    Well, finally back in the states and have hands on my R8 after getting it fixed. Since it had JUST been to HM for a makeover before the break they offered to do the repair, and it was the only guaranteed way to get the fix/re-finish perfect.

    Before:
    [​IMG]

    After:
    [​IMG]

    Feels exactly the same as it did before. No extra glue magic. Which is just fine by me. Happy as hell to have it back.
     

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