How Do I Design a Guitar Head Stock?

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Custom guitar head stocks give your guitar a wicked, unique look, especially with different designs. Create a guitar head stock that fits you with help from a professional musician in this free video.

Part of the Video Series: Applications for the Guitar
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Kirk Wilson, and I live in California. And, I do session work as a guitarist in Burbank, Hollywood, and the surrounding areas. I also teach at Orchepia School of Music in Irvine. And today, we're going to talk about how to design a guitar head stock. First of all, the head stock is the top portion of the guitar, this area here. And so, if you're designing one for yourself, and you're going to have someone cut one out into a shape, first thing you need to make sure, whatever you decide, you want to make sure that your strings are typically the same distance apart from each other. So, you can measure that in centimeters or inches, doesn't matter, but they need to be the same distance apart. I've seen certain custom guitars where the guy, the designer decided he wanted his strings a little bit further apart, because he has large fingers. And, I've seen the total opposite, where they're even closer together. So, but typically, they have to be the same distance, as well as you want to make sure you have enough wood to support the truss rod. The truss rod is a solid piece of metal that goes through as a shaft. It goes through the neck of the guitar. It starts from up here at the top, and it runs all of the way down, and it connects to the body of the guitar. And, it serves the purpose of strength, and supporting the tension and the stress of the strings pulling against the head stock of the guitar. The second thing that you want to do, is to have your pegs in a position to where the strings are relaxed. In other words, what I mean by that, you want the strings to be able to move around to where they coming off the nut, and you want strings to be able to move in a way where they're not at too much of an angle. For example, on this Fender Stratocaster, the strings pretty much go into a straight line from the nut to the peg. Also, I have here an Ibanez GB-20. In this guitar, we have where the string still is in a straight line, but we have some of the strings going to the left, some go to the right, at an angle. So, the top three strings are still in a straight line, but they just going at a different direction. So, they don't all have to, you can put some pegs, you can put four pegs on one side, and two on the other side of it. It really is irrelevant. You just want to be sure that when you design your head stock, you don't string it too much it too much of a bend, because this can affect tuning, it can affect how the guitar stays in tune, how easy it is to be tuned, and the stress and tension on the strings. So, those are mostly what you want to look at in terms of making decisions in the design of a head stock. The shape is almost irrelevant. You can make it into whatever kind of shape you want to come with. What's important is that it's enough wood, and the placement of the pegs, and the distance between each string. So, you want to use a basic nut, not anything, you know, don't carve a nut into the wood. You have to have a metal nut if you're using metal strings. So, you're going to place that nut onto the end of the head stock, where the neck head stock meet. And, so that nut, whatever size of the nut that you select, and which you do need to select a good nut, you want to select something that's good material to use. And so, whenever you do that, just make sure that the neck of your guitar is the exact dimension of the nut that you're going to use. And, my name is Kirk Wilson, and that is how you design a guitar head stock.


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