Broken Guitar
January 21, 2005 7:35 AM   Subscribe

A friend left her guitar at my house while she moved to the West Coast, so I hung it on one of those guitar hooks to get it out of the way--until it came crashing down two days later, suffering a huge crack in the headstock. Since it's a Gibson Sonex with a bolt-on neck, can the neckpiece simply be swapped out? Is there a good place to get a spare piece? What are the options when a guitar sustains serious neck damage? I assume I'll be paying for it since it was in my care at the time, but then again, I was never asked to babysit--it was just left behind. I guess that leaves me with another, stickier dilemma...
posted by dhoyt to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total)
I have no idea about the repair, but I'd say that once you find out how much it'd cost, _then_ you're in a much better position to decide how to deal with it.

There is a reasonable presumption, among friends, that if you space and forget something, that they're going to take reasonable care of it. If it's a moderate amount to fix (whatever that means to you), I'd just do it.

If it's more expensive, I'd contact the friend, explain what happened, and offer to help pay for it if they wanted to go that route. While there's definitely a presumption that your friends will be mindful of your stuff, I think there's also definitely a presumption that you won't leave your friend on the hook for a big bill, when _you_ were the one who spaced and left something in their care in the first place.
posted by LairBob at 7:42 AM on January 21, 2005

Response by poster: (The irony being, of course, that the whole reason for installing the guitar hook on the wall was to get her guitar out of the way and safe from harm, even though she hadn't explicitly asked me to take care of it. D'oh)
posted by dhoyt at 7:46 AM on January 21, 2005

Complication: according to this [pdf], the Sonex model was manufactured between 1981-1984. So, replacement necks may not be easy to come by. Consult guitar shop/luthier, and good luck.
posted by crunchburger at 7:53 AM on January 21, 2005

"Guitar? What guitar? You didn't leave a guitar here."


I broke the headstock on my old Kramer and it was playable after a decent gluing job. I guess it depends on the break, how nice a guitar it is and how serious of a player she is.

As for who is responsible, that's a tough one. I would discuss it with your friend and be honest about what you told us. If the friendship is worth it I'm sure you can both come to some sort of agreement.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 AM on January 21, 2005

I would go for the glue-up first; I assume the crack is running along the grain, up and down the headstock and not across? A decent carpenter's glue and some clamps should do the trick. For a good-looking job, you'll want to touch-up the lacquer afterwards. Or take it to a shop; I wouldn't think that'd be too expensive a repair.

I think it would be hard to find a straight replacement, but you could certainly find something that fits. I'd talk to your friend and see what she wants done with it.
posted by transient at 8:09 AM on January 21, 2005

Response by poster: I assume the crack is running along the grain,

Correct. I shoulda mentioned that before...Basically it's exactly the kind of crack you'd imagine would form if a guitar fell perfectly face down, onto the pickups, as it were. The slight downward slant a headstock takes from the neck is now perfectly flat :(
posted by dhoyt at 8:14 AM on January 21, 2005

Take it to a repair shop to get it fixed. They can make sure everything is structurally sound when it's repaired. This is important because the joint on the headstock deals with alot of pressure from the tension on the strings.

It sounds like the crack is going across the neck (parallel with the frets), so that makes it even more important to make sure everything is structurally sound. If it were perpendicular to the frets, it'd be a much smaller issue.

I'm only assuming that it's parallel with the frets because of your statement that the headstock is now flat with the neck.
posted by icey at 8:19 AM on January 21, 2005

I can only echo the "take it to a repair shop" advice. Not only will they be your best chance to get it repaired, they'll also be your best chance at getting it repaired so that it takes a good examination to see that it's been repaired. Anyone can glue two pieces of wood together but it takes skill to do it in a high stress area and make it almost invisible.

If there's more than one repair shop or luthier in your area, ask around. Some are better at certain kinds of repairs than others, and not all are honest enough to admit they're in over their heads.
posted by tommasz at 8:37 AM on January 21, 2005

Hmm. If, as it sounds, the plane of the crack is parallel to the top of the fretboard, that might cause some structural problems that you'd want a pro to look at; the headstock may want some reinforcement. Still repairable, though.
posted by transient at 8:50 AM on January 21, 2005

Right, but ask her first if she wants it repaired.
posted by agregoli at 8:52 AM on January 21, 2005

I would take it to a professional and have it repaired. That way there'll be no complaints (to you) as to the quality of the repair. If she doesn't want it repaired, but replaced, well, then the cost is on her shoulders, you've done your part.
posted by shepd at 9:06 AM on January 21, 2005

If it makes you feel any better, these headstocks crack so commonly that their repair is practically a cottage industry. Anyone who bills herself as a luthier will have repaired them multiple times and know the tricks of doing so.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:38 AM on January 21, 2005

I agree with agregoli, and here's why.
posted by kimota at 11:25 AM on January 21, 2005

I third the luthier suggestion - to make sure a new neck is seated properly for that bitchen axtion dude.
posted by petebest at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2005

Ask - and of course be honest - before spending on the repair*.

If she was in love with the guitar, she wouldn't have left it behind - and even if she had loved it and accidently left it, she would have retrieved it promptly.

No one who loves any particular musical instrument leaves it behind - at least not for long. It would be like leaving or losing a child, a pet or a loved one.

Unless there's some kind of tragic circumstances going on, maybe something leading to apathy and depression over the whole thing, making her unwilling or unable to confront the situation.

*Unless, of course, the repair costs aren't a major sacrifice to you, then by all means be nice. You could even go an extra step and ask if she would prefer that you donated it to a good cause after the repair.
posted by loquacious at 11:52 AM on January 21, 2005

loquacious: If she was in love with the guitar, she wouldn't have left it behind - and even if she had loved it and accidently left it, she would have retrieved it promptly.

She would have at least phoned to agree on a storage arrangement (of course you could have done that too, I guess :P). The social situation shouldn't be that tricky unless you are both impoverished and the guitar is worth a fortune...

Don't repair it before talking to her (she may have very specific requirements that you don't know about). Go ahead and check the cost first though, I guess.
posted by Chuckles at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2005

I can't see how the repair is in any way your responsibility, unless the reason you had the guitar in your possession in the first place is because you asked to borrow it. Not that it wouldn't be the nice thing to do anyway.

May I ask how it managed to come crashing down?
My 'cello's on one of those hooks, & I live in Earthquake Country.
posted by obloquy at 3:00 PM on January 21, 2005


I rent shop space to a guitar maker in Shepherdstown, WV. If you have any particular questions/photos I can ask his advice, ballpark costs etc. Email in profile.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:14 PM on January 21, 2005

One other point: I had a mando leap from the back of my bike, cracking its' neck near the base. The repaired instrument played, if anything, better than it had previously and the repair was well under a hundred bucks. YMMV.
posted by mwhybark at 6:21 PM on January 21, 2005

Response by poster: Late getting back to the thread...

Thanks for your help, guys. I'm going to call her this weekend. Because she's cool, she will hopefully say, "Yeah, I shouldn't have just left the guitar with you and ditched town", and we'll peaceably agree to split repair costs. What my concern was is that the cost of repair for a low-end Gibson might be equivalent of just buying another guitar. In which case: what do I do with a busted guitar?

Dick: I may take you up on that once I've spoke to my friend. Thanks for the offer. I'm just in Charlottesville, VA, too, if the guy was interested in repairing it.

Obloquy: I'm emailing you now...
posted by dhoyt at 10:17 AM on January 22, 2005

The cost will really depend on the kind of crack it is; compare the process for this repair with this one. As for what to do with a busted guitar if it comes to that, I'm sure you could find someone who would offer you something for it in order to fix & resell it themselves. Ebay's actually a good place for that kind of thing.
posted by transient at 11:31 AM on January 22, 2005

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