How to Design a Custom Headstock and Why You Should

Why Designing Your Own Headstock is Well Worth the Small Effort it Takes

This is How to Design a Custom Headstock and Why You Should. It’s not much different of a process to make your own shape, and if you are going to put in the same amount of effort, you might as well showcase your own design.

Everyone Loves a Cool Looking Headstock

how-to-design-a-custom-headstock-shape-and-why-you-shouldThe headstock on the guitar is a focal point. In cases where the design is very plain, the headstock might not be as noticeable. However, when you make it a point to make a great looking headstock, people will take notice.

A headstock is also much more than a place to tune your guitar. For the guitar maker, and the manufacturer, it’s a way to call for attention. Once you have been playing for a while, you can tell a Fender headstock from a Gibson from across the street.

Headstock are as much about branding as they are about style. When you make a guitar, take a little time and make a custom headstock shape. Once you finish the design, you will forever have your own shape, and you can use it over and over.

See Also: 25 Simple Ways to Customize Your Guitar Without Changing the Tone

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Designing a Custom Shape

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The first thing you need to do is look for inspiration and design options. The best place to do this is on the internet, because you can look at thousands of headstocks without ever leaving your chair.

Spend some time on Pinterest, and Google Images, and check out the different styles. Make a list on paper of the things you really like. Then, if there is something that you really dislike, make sure to write that out too.

After a while, you should have a good list of the things that you want to see, and you can use that list to generate ideas. Is there an overall size that you like? Do symmetrical shapes speak to you, or is it more about abstract shapes? These are all things to think about when you are in the design inspiration phase.

See Also: 25 Best Guitar Making Tips For Beginners

How the Size Makes a Difference

Something to consider as you are designing your custom headstock is the size. In general, bigger and heavier headstocks are better at retaining neck vibration. This may or may not be a huge factor for you, but it’s worth noting.

In general, a tiny headstock lacks the mass to prevent vibration loss. As the strings vibrate, the neck and the body of the guitar vibrate as well. This is energy lost, because they are moving with the strings rather than being completely still.

A heavy headstock is harder to push around, and therefore moves less. Less motion means less vibration loss. While this is a very fine detail, it is important that you know how the headstock works. When in doubt, something about average size is a good place to be when you make your design.

See Also: 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners

How to Draw a Custom Shape

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Once you have some ideas down, now it’s time to draw. Don’t worry too much about this part of the process, just enjoy sketching. Do not trace out and measure out anything yet, just start doodling and see what comes out of you.

Once you have a few shapes that you like, focus on doodling them exclusively and seeing what little changes do to the overall look. Keep working on this, and eventually you will have a shape or two that you really like.

Finally, once you have a good shape, break out the graph paper. Draw the headstock shape in full size, and keep working on it until you are happy. Start by drawing out the nut width, and projecting a couple lines for the neck. Then, draw your custom headstock shape.

See Also: Acoustic Guitar Making For Beginners

Things to Think About

While you are drawing, make sure that you are thinking about the path of the strings. When you add tuners to your headstock, the strings need to be able to reach the nut, and pass through a tiny groove.

It’s important that the angle that they reach the nut is not too great. If it is, the string can pop out of the nut slot when the guitar is tuned. There are products to help re-direct the strings in cases like that, but it’s best to not have too sharp of an angle.

Look at existing guitars to determine the maximum angle. In general the high E and the low E will have the sharpest turn to make. Keep the angles no worse than these two, and your headstock shape should work out.

See Also: Practical Acoustic Guitar Making Advice

The Process is Just as Easy

Quite possibly the biggest reason that I recommend people make their own headstock shape is because once you have the design, the process is about the same. If you are going to put in nearly identical effort, why have a generic headstock?

A headstock is made by cutting out a shape, and sanding the edges smooth. No mater the shape, and no matter the look, these steps are the same. The only time that it can be harder is if you have complex carvings in your design, but again for normal headstocks the process is the same.

For this reason above all others, design your own headstock shape, and use it to give your guitars a custom look. All things being equal, this is a way to add a custom element to your guitar without working very hard.

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Your Homework

If you do not already have a custom headstock shape designed for yourself, your homework is to get designing. Start out by looking online and coming up with a list. Find what inspires you, and make those things a priority.

Don’t fall for conventional either. As long as the headstock works, it’s your design and it only needs to make you happy. Work out the kinks for string path or tuner placement before you commit, and then finalize your design.

On your next guitar, make sure to use your custom headstock. After all, a custom headstock is a brand identifier, and a way to visually separate your guitars form all of the other guitars on the market. If you are fortunate enough, you might even one day have people recognize your brand just by your signature headstock shape.

See Also: The Secret to Guitar Making

Designing Your Own Headstock Wrap-Up

Making a custom guitar is a fun project, and one way that you can make it even more custom is by making your own headstock shape. It’s easy, and you will end up doing about the same amount of work in the end.

first, look around for something that inspires you. Then, start doodling and coming up with shapes that you like. Decide on a final look, and create that shape in full size detail and design on a piece of graph paper.

This is your custom shape, and only you will have a guitar with the same kind of headstock. You can always modify the design over time, but typically once you find a design that you like, you will end up using it on all of your guitars to come.

See Also: Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Making Books

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

woodworking and guitar making booksWhile I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well.

You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

If you have any questions about How to Design a Custom Headstock and Why You Should, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them.  Happy building.


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