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Why do Les Paul headstocks break off so often??

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broken gibson neck

Unfortunately, it's very common to see a beloved Les Paul, SG or acoustic with a neck break. Sometimes it's come clean off and other times it's a crack. It's a design flaw which makes these guitars weak at the headstock.


Reason 1 - Mahogany

The Les Paul's neck is made of mahogany, although it's classified as a hardwood, the timber in itself is not that strong. Definitely not as tough as Maple

Reason 2 - The headstock area is often cut from 1 piece of mahogany

Despite common belief, a simple timber joint can offer a lot more strength. The answer is in the grain.

Timber holds its strength along the grain, the larger part of the neck uses the grain to it's advantage, However, if the angled back headstock is carved from the same piece of timber as the neck the string tension now passes through the grain instead of with the grain, making it prone to breaking.

The scarf joint takes advantage of the grain's strength in both directions and as a result is lots stronger. Not only that, it uses less timber as you don't have to carve the entire neck from one piece of timber.

Reason 3 -
grover rotomatic
Heavy Machine heads

A real common tuner to have on a Gibson is the famous Grover Rotomatic, they also happen to be the heaviest machinehead on the market for guitars!

If that knocks onto the side of an amp you have a lot of momentum

Reason 4 -
Trouble a-brewing
Truss rod adjustment area

Combine all those other factors with the truss rod adjustment rout and you're asking for trouble! The timber removed at this important weak point allows a box spanner to fit around the truss rod adjustment nut

A solution would be to use a different type of truss rod adjustment style thats requires less timber to be removed or have the adjustment nut at the heel of the neck instead

les paul neck

Gibson add strips up the sides of their headstocks. These "wings" are glued on with the grain in the same direction as the headstock which is good!

This means that a lot of the headstock face is reinforced - along the grain.

Unfortunately, the wings miss out on the area just behind the nut

- the notorious weak point!

Contact me if you have had an accident with you guitar's headstock

Photos of me repairing a nasty headstock break on an acoustic


les paul neck les paul neck