Guitar Making Tip Number 642 is about adding some mass to the headstock. The reason to add mass is to create some weight that the vibration has to fight in order to escape. A neck with some weight at the headstock retains energy better, and here is how you can do it.
The Neck Needs Help to Perform the Best
The more mass that a force encounters, the harder it is to move that object. In the case of the headstock, dainty little headstocks are easier to rattle than larger and heavier designs.
This is something that you can add to the design of the guitar that makes a positive difference without making too much of a design change.
The headstock area is going to vibrate and lose energy when the guitar is played. If you come up with a design that offers a larger headstock, you can help reduce some of that vibration loss. There is one thing that you need to consider though before altering the headstock shape…
There is an Upper Limit on the Headstock Size
If you try and make a gigantic headstock, you are going to run into several problems. The way that the guitar is made does limit how a guitar headstock can be made. The limits are more on the width of the head than the length though.
Since the strings need to pass through the nut after they leave the tuning machine, you can’t have too much of an angle from the post to the nut. There are retainers that can help re-direct the string, but it’s better to avoid them.
Don’t make the width so wide that the strings have a hard time exiting the tuning post and passing over the nut. This can hurt how the guitar plays, because strings can fall off the nut with aggressive playing, and that ruins the experience.
Some Makers Use Taller Headstocks
Makers like Gibson and Epiphone use taller headstocks on some of their models that help add mass while keeping the widths nearly the same as most other guitars. This is the best of both worlds, because they get the mass and they don’t have to worry about the strings passing over the nut.
Some custom makers build really elaborate headstocks that have extra weight. Whether or not they know how it directly affects the tone of the guitar, that weight is harder to move than a lighter headstock.
This means the headstock moves around less. Less movement means more energy is retained and the guitar will function better. Little things like this can add up if you do many of them all around the guitar.
Guitar Making Tip No. 642 Wrap-Up
If you want to make a positive change on your guitar that does not take much effort, make it at the headstock. A larger headstock will add mass to the end of the neck, and that will help control vibration loss.
Make sure that you do not expand the headstock design past the normal limits. You need to make sure that the strings can exit the tuning posts and pass over the nut without coming loose under heavy playing.
If you have any questions on Guitar Making Tip No. 642, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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Tip No. 642 is from my book, 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners, which has a thousand more great tips to get your first few builds on the right track. There is no secret to guitar making, just a lot of small things that you need to get right. These tips will help you.