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Buying a used guitar with a headstock repair
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Buying a used guitar with a headstock repair
OK, so I've been looking around for a while for a vintage Gibson SG. Unfortunately, the prices on the vintage market are really way above what I can afford. I have run into a few that were closer to what I would be willing to pay, but every last one of them has had a headstock repair done. I feel very wary of spending what amounts to a few months rent on a guitar with a repaired headstock. If it's done correctly, the instrument should be fine, and the neck may well be stronger than it was before the break. If it's not done correctly, however, the instrument will always have intonation problems and may be at risk for another break further down the line (at which point you may as well use it as firewood). So, I'm just wondering if any of you have had experience buying a guitar with a headstock repair (or having a broken headstock repaired, for that matter)? Any words of advice?
Actually I purchased a used Gibson SG (not vintage) from Guitar Center a long time ago while I was actively gigging on the weekends. The headstock broke again after only a few months. I had it repaired, then broken, then repaired a few more times before it became essentially unfixable. It now sits in storage waiting to be used for parts.

The reasons for it breaking all those times were varied, but unless you want to treat it like it's made of glass, I would avoid buying one in that state.
I've both had a headstock repair fixed and played guitars with headstock repairs. Results varied.

The repair on my LP was kind of a disaster, the repair gave up while the guitar was in the case some years down the road. I eventually traded it for a broken fuzz pedal, I think.

I've played and known the owners of several LPs and SGs with repairs. It's hard to tell by sight if it's a great repair but pretty easy to see if it sucks. If it looks good and it's a good deal, I think it's worth the chance.

That said, if it's a huge outlay for you, I'd look for alternatives. Most of my guitars are Japanese from the 70s-90s at this point. Several lawsuit period pieces and a bunch of Fender MIJs and CIJs.
No personal experience with a repaired one, but recently I watched this video where they discussed how some are better and stronger after a proper repair with splines. The part about broken necks is around 32:30 into the video. The rest is a general discussion of where Gibson have failed and what they should do in the face of their current financial troubles.
The thing about them breaking again is that... it's really not a great design to start off with, and incident #2 might have been enough to break the headstock even if incident #1 hadn't broken it first.

A friend of mine who toured extensively with Teles said on the bar and small club circuit, the guitars take such a beating there's no way he would bring LP/SG/ES-xxx into the venue, much less on stage. Teles meanwhile are solid enough to use as a hammer and they'll still be in tune.

There are so many USA Gibsons as well as nice Epiphones floating around on the used (but probably haven't been played much at all) market, that I wouldn't chance it on something with damage. If I damaged the one LP I have, I don't even know if I would get the headstock repaired, tbh.
Don’t do it.
I'll counter with the observation that many headstock repairs on Gibson guitars will actually make this known design flaw stronger than new.

If it is a good repair on a gigging guitar and the guitar plays/sounds how you wish, I'd go for it if the price is appealing.
^^ this. A buddy has a custom shop Firebird that had tuning issues, cured after a headstock break and properly fixed. I'd be real cautious and buy only in person and for the right price, though.
I have a non vintage Gibson SG with a headstock repair. I got a great deal on it . The repair was done by a local luthier who really knows what he’s doing. It’s solid and stable and one of the best players I have.

My point being, if you can tell the repair was done well, they can be a great deal. But there’s risk.

As you’ve seen, any of the “affordable” vintage ones have been broken and likely of unknown origin of the repair. Very risky.
I bought an Epi Crestwood with a headstock repair that was as solid as the rest of the guitar. But it really does depend on the luthier's repair quality. I'd say ask a lot of questions, get pix if you can't play it, and only buy if it's a bargain.
If you're gluing end grain together, it will break, regardless of how well it's done. If the break is along the grain and it can be edge-joined, any wood glue will yield a bond stronger than the original wood. You need to see how the crack runs along the grain.
I did a repair on an Epi Casino I had that fell off the stand. Headstock broke off at/behind the nut, I thought it was cry - BUT the break was very grainy, and had a fairly large surface area (imagine half an X from the nut back, about 3" or so). Nothing to lose, so I got some Elmer's Wood Glue (which dries hard as shit), slid the pieces back together and clamped it together for a day or two. Then I took two tiny screws and screwed them across the break (no idea if that was helpful, it was a bit ugly but seemed like a good idea at the time seriously, i just don't get it ).

Played that guitar for another 15 years without issues until I sold it to a buddy. So yeah, it can work.
I bought a guitar a year or so ago with a headstock repair (2004 Gibson Les Paul Special) that had the headstock reattached by a local guitar shop that I trust. I got it for about half the price I would have expected, and based off of my playing, haven't noticed an issue in the slightest. It's a super common problem with some Gibson models, and fixing it correctly shouldn't harm anything (and actually helps with intonation often, surprisingly). Only real concerns are how well of a job was done and aesthetic concerns from my perspective.
I have a 1971 ish Les Paul that fell off it's stand, and I heard the dreaded "ping" sound as the headstock snapped. Similarly to PublcFig, since it was professionally repaired it plays great, no issues, I don't even notice.
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