Bragging on myself: Les Paul Headstock repair

KokoTele

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Pretty proud of the way this one turned out. Customer brought me his pride and joy, a cherryburst Les Paul Standard that had been knocked out of its stand and broke the headstock.

The break was clean so repairing that was was easy, but the hard part was making it as invisible as possible. I attempted to touch up the break line with a fine brush, but it was too obvious. The solution was to remove the finish from the repaired area and apply new cherry finish to match. It takes some trial and error and a good eye to match the colors well, but in the end you can only see the repair in good light. (Note that I didn't sand and buff the repaired area to total perfection because I wanted the repair to blend well with the existing finish. The rest of the guitar could use some TLC as well, but it was out of the customer's budget right now.)

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Swirling Snow

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You have every right to brag. Thankfully it was a clean break, but you've made it look better than a factory scarf joint. Amazing!
 

Freeman Keller

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Good job, Koko. I tell folks when I do a broken head that it will be structurally sound and they should not feel the repair, but it may not be cosmetically perfect. Gibsons are a little easier because they are lacquer, but it still hard to match. Yours looks good.
 

Wyatt

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Great job, your finish is better than stock (which was probably a red toner).
 

KokoTele

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Great job, your finish is better than stock (which was probably a red toner).

I was able to match the color very closely, but the factory finish is actually a bit cloudy. I didn't realize it until I did this repair. I'm not sure exactly how they do that. The grain filler I mixed up was a bit darker than the factory's, too, so the repaired areas have more contrasty grain. I agree that the coats I did look better than the factory finish.

You can't really tell in normal lighting conditions, though. In bright, direct light it shows, but not bad.

Good job, Koko. I tell folks when I do a broken head that it will be structurally sound and they should not feel the repair, but it may not be cosmetically perfect. Gibsons are a little easier because they are lacquer, but it still hard to match. Yours looks good.

I tell them the same thing. Part of my technique is something I learned from autobody repair people. When they repair a panel and have to paint part of it, they fade the new color into the old over as much distance as is practical. So the new color is full strength right on top of the repair, and then fades over distance, almost like a sunburst. That reduces the contrast between the new color and the old color, so it's very difficult to detect.

Fortunately, TransTint bright red is a very good match for the cherry red that Gibson uses these days, and this one required just a tinge of blue to the mix to make it look right. I think it was 40 drops of red and 2 drops of blue in about 2 oz. of lacquer.
 

Wyatt

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I was able to match the color very closely, but the factory finish is actually a bit cloudy. I didn't realize it until I did this repair. I'm not sure exactly how they do that.

Gibson changed their process for cherry red several times, moving from dyed filler to stain to paint, by then it was probably opaque red paint thinned into a toner. Kind of like Fender did Blondes.
 

Freeman Keller

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I tell them the same thing. Part of my technique is something I learned from autobody repair people. When they repair a panel and have to paint part of it, they fade the new color into the old over as much distance as is practical. So the new color is full strength right on top of the repair, and then fades over distance, almost like a sunburst. That reduces the contrast between the new color and the old color, so it's very difficult to detect.

Actually what I was referring more to was the fact that I can only shoot nitro so that leaves me struggling with any guitar build after about 1960. Colors make it even worse, I tend to use colored drop fills as much as anything else. And of course even with nitro the lacquer turns such a lovely warm amber that is almost impossible to match. I'll so some touch up with an air brush and sometimes refinish the whole head. Vintage and valuable instruments are even worse.
 

KokoTele

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Gibson changed their process for cherry red several times, moving from dyed filler to stain to paint, by then it was probably opaque red paint thinned into a toner. Kind of like Fender did Blondes.

This one isn't that old. I haven't checked the serial number, but I think it's a 2010s model. But the thinned red paint would make some sense.

And like Freeman says, I was able to do this because Gibson still uses lacquer. Very few manufacturers do these days. There must be a way to melt new polyurethane into old without witness lines, since autobody people do it, but I haven't found it yet. My approach has been to isloate a big section--like the entire back of a neck or the entire top of a guitar--and repair that whole part. If I'm careful the only marks are a very thin, sharp line where I masked, and that's preferable to a jagged, feathered witness line. If I'm really lucky I can put that line somewhere that it's not really noticeable. I usually start with a light coat of dewaxed shellac so that I get good adhesion.

But my area isn't home to a lot of high-rollers, so most of my customers elect to just do the structural repairs when they find out how much labor is required to repair the finish.
 

KokoTele

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The customer picked up his guitar a few minutes ago and was extremely happy with it. While I was working on it I noticed the other things it needed, including a level & crown to address the deep wear on the frets, but I decided not to mention them. The poor guy has some bad mobility and joint issues and it was clear that just playing his guitar was a bit of a struggle. If it gets to a point where he feels like it needs some help, he'll let me know.
 




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