Workshop: New Headstock for Portuguese Guitar

Gosh, this instrument has been here for a long time. I sold it to some friends of mine way back in 2009 (I called it 1960s, but it's probably '70s or '80s, really) and though I'd seen it now and then for tweaking, over a year ago they brought it back in with the sad story of a tragic headstock break.

It broke nearly vertical -- here's a pic of the old headstock:

Suffice to say, it took both 1) marinating ideas on how to inexpensively repair this and 2) getting my hands dirty to revive this beastie.

Fortunately, the owners never really took to the loop-end tailpiece or Portuguese-style tuners anyhow, so a retrofit with a guitar-style headstock and 12-string-guitar-style tailpiece was a welcome "bonus."

It's a pretty instrument -- lightweight, folksy in styling, and with a rich, jangly tone. The owners kept it in various tunings as they figured the instrument out... but actually settled back into the mode that I liked best for it -- like a 12-string guitar with a capo on the neck. I'd initially tuned it A-to-A, but now they keep it G-to-G (GCFBbDG low to high) like a guitar with a capo on 3 and strung with a regular 46w-10 extra light 12-string set.

So -- here's the new headstock! It's made from two pieces of Indian rosewood. I kept its install flat with the neck to make it easier to graft -- hence the downpressure bar behind the nut. I did salvage the original, wedge-shaped nut, however. The tuners are a parts-bin '70s 12-string guitar set.

The rosewood bridge is fully compensated. It's one of a few I'd made-up for the instrument over the years. The "new" tailpiece is off of a 1960s Harmony 12-string guitar.

Here's the back of the headstock. The graft is not the most beautiful but it's quite strong. The extra mahogany "tongue" in the center-back wasn't supposed to be there (I originally just had the rosewood running that entire length) but my clamps compressed the rosewood "tang" into the soft, Spanish cedar of the neck enough that I needed to add some depth.

The thick gloss on the neck was removed for a "speed neck" approach... because... sanding... and all.

So here's the complicated joint I made -- it's a stairstep with a tang that runs down a portion of the neck. This made it a lot stronger than just a "tang" added. I wanted as much surface-area grip from the glue as I could get.

 In this case it's locked into place pretty well -- even if it's not pretty! This is definitely not the cleanest job I could've done, but I'm happy with the structural result.


Phillips said…
Well done Jake..
Kathy said…
You created a miracle, Jake! She rose from the dead and is way improved after resurrection!

As always, you have our deepest thanks. Michael is so happy. Thank you.