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How to Fix Impossible Neck Breaks on Guitar

Updated on August 23, 2017

How to fix broken necks on guitar

Do you need to know how to fix a broken guitar neck? Are you are a parent of small, busy and accident-prone children? Do your children have music lessons or play guitar in school?

You may not have the money to buy a new guitar for little Johnny B Goode when he knocks his guitar flying across the room and the neck sheers off. You might not feel inclined to "reward him" for breaking his guitar either. Music shops will almost certainly tell you it is not worth fixing, but a broken guitar neck can be easily mended at home. You only need a few household objects and some determination. This page teaches you how to fix the impossible broken guitar necks!

After years of teaching guitar and seeing distraught children give up playing guitar after these unfortunate accidents, I got my head together with Colin, who is always very practical, and we came up with an emergency method that actually does work for cheap kid's guitars and is simple enough even for me.

If repairing the neck gives you another six months before you have to buy that new guitar then it is worth doing. You can maybe save the new guitar as a Christmas or birthday surprise and meanwhile the old guitar can take the battering of the journey to and from school. Chances are with this method it will last a long, long time.

Image credit - all images of the broken guitar were photographed by me.

Screwdriver fixed with string and tape
Screwdriver fixed with string and tape

How to fix that broken guitar neck

What you need to fix the impossible break

To be clear, we are talking about a child's guitar that has been beheaded at the shoulders! This one fell off a wall hanger. This is one reason I do not recommend you hang your guitar on a wall! I have also fixed several guitars with broken headstocks, but that is a different game and not one I recommend you take on without proper clamps and the knowledge that it is touch and go anyway! This is an emergency repair on a beginner instrument and intonation may not be exact at the 12th fret, but how many beginners play up "the dusty end" on a nylon strung acoustic? In my experience tuning discrepancy is minor in normal beginner use if you do the job properly - and this bad break remained surprisingly in tune at the 12th!

You will need:

A ball of strong string

Scrap cardboard for padding

Strong furniture or wood glue

Glue spreader

Two screwdrivers or strong thin pieces of wood, plastic or metal.

Tape

A large G clamp and some protective pads

Damp cotton wool

A guitar broken in two at the join with the body

Patience.....

Alfred's Kid's Guitar Kit

Alfred's Kid's Guitar Course, Complete Starter Pack: Everything You Need to Play Today!
Alfred's Kid's Guitar Course, Complete Starter Pack: Everything You Need to Play Today!

The Alfred Kid's Guitar Course is great for beginners and provides the complete package to get you going on the instrument.

 

Construction of the guitar neck to body joint

Is it fixed with dowels or simply glued?

How the neck is fixed impacts on two things, the severity of the break and the ease of fixing. What this means practically is that a dowelled neck is harder to sheer off totally and easier to fix than the cheaper non reinforced neck - but do not despair! Even if it is not dowelled it is repairable but will need a lot of care and patience to do. Realistically, if the neck breaks on a kid's nylon strung guitar, you are likely to also have a lost 12th fret, so this type of repair is not feasible for a guitar belonging to an intermediate or advanced player.

Acoustic Guitar Repair Books - Checking guitar repairs with the experts

Here is a decent set of guitar repair resources. I did my basic learning in the piano workshop of a music store. These days there are proper courses in instrument repair and manufacture that kids can go to if they want a career as a luthier, but these books are a great help to the keen DIY repairer.

Guitar headstock
Guitar headstock

First Steps to Fixing a Broken Guitar Neck

Preparing for the job, cleaning the joint and glueing it

First loosen and remove all the guitar strings. The string tension will work against the joint setting properly, so you must do this. I usually loosen the strings, remove them at the bridge, then tie loosely around the headstock. There is little point replacing the strings until you know if the guitar repair is going to be permanent! In this instance, it was an unreinforced neck too, so I wasn't sure the repair would take. If observant, you will notice the top nut is missing too - this particular student had lost the Nut and Saddle, so that had to be replaced as well. fret 13 was also long gone, but that didn't matter too much.

Cleaning up is an essential first step when fixing a Kid's Guitar Removing all loose splinters and old, deteriorated glue will ensure a better chance of success. I do not plane the area smooth though, as leaving it rough ensures a greater surface area for the glue to stick to and makes for a stronger repair. Apply glue thinly to both sides, it only has to be thin, because a lot of this glue will be squeezed from the joint when pressure is applied later. At this point, bring the two surfaces together as accurately as you can. If the guitar has dowels this will help with neck placement and keep it together, if it does not, get an assistant to hold the neck in place flat on a table while you complete the next step.

Wood Glue for your Guitar Repair - Buy strong wood glue to fix your guitar

The key to making this work is to use a decent wood glue that is easy to apply, preferably not too messy, and will set harder than the wood itself. It will have to take a LOT of pressure with the strings back on. Here is a selection of wood glues....

Using string to clamp a guitar
Using string to clamp a guitar

Making the repair permanent

How to clamp an acoustic guitar with household items

You don't own a guitar repair shop I take it? If you check out a luthier's shop you will see a myriad of amazing jigs and clamps just for the purpose of construction and repair, but experience tells me a professional neck reset is probably going to cost about 3-4 times as much as a new guitar! We take what we can get, and common or garden string is what you need here. While your assistant makes sure the neck stays fixed accurately, wind some string around the guitar, knotting it in several places as you go. I don't recommend nylon string as the breaking strain is so high you could easily crush the wood, sisal. hemp or cotton twine will have a natural elasticity that will offer some protection.

String for your guitar repair - Natural fibre is best....

You are going to use string to construct your guitar clamping device. Choose carefully, because this string will have to be tightened like a tourniquet to put pressure on the repaired joint!

Fix It or Bin It.... - What is your view?

Would you fix your kid's guitar or not?

Screwdriver Tourniquet
Screwdriver Tourniquet

Applying a Tourniquet to your Guitar

The trade secret or fixing broken neck permanently....

The string should be loose enough to insert some card at each point the string is in contact with the wood. This is important as it will offer a little protection to the finish and the wood. The string is going to be at very high tension. How? Read on...

By itself, that string is not going to be strong enough to ensure a secure repair, what we do next is really neat. Using a screwdriver or pencil, insert between the strings and twist. Do this at the waist, where nothing touches the guitar, then secure the shaft and handle, or both ends of your pencil with some string. Tape over the string for extra security too.

Do this both sides, and you will see glue squeezing out of the joint. If you have a G clamp, secure this over the fretboard at fret 12 with the heel, pad both and tighten. Unfortunately the juice ran out of my camera, so I did not photograph this step, but if the guitar has dowels in the joint and the fretboard has a clean break it will not be vital. At this point it is a good idea to clean away any surplus glue with a damp piece of cotton wool or tissue.

Guitar broken at the 13th fret
Guitar broken at the 13th fret

Finishing the neck repair

Final steps in repairing the broken guitar neck

Leave the guitar for at least 24 hours before you remove the string clamp. Loosen the "tourniquets" first, then the string will just slide away as it has stretched. At this point you can reattach the strings loosely, glue in the topnut if it has come away. Do not tune up to concert pitch immediately, but leave the strings loosely attached and then just let the guitar alone for about a week for the glue to cure. At this point, tune up to pitch gradually over an hour or two and hopefully the repair will hold up! I have actually done this emergency repair maybe a dozen times and it has always been successful giving the parents time to save up for a new instrument.

This particular guitar was a very tricky one, but so far the repair has held up and it is not too badly out of tune and is playable to the 12th fret. It was tough because there were no dowels and there was other damage. The fretboard was also broken as you can see and I had to put a G clamp on to complete the repair and close the gap you see in this photo. So far the patient remains in a stable condition....

Deep Throat Clamps for Repairs - G clamps to finish the job nicely

The G clamp just helps to keep that repair snug while the glue sets. I wouldn't attempt a repair without one actually because of the tensions involved here.

Professional Guitar Repairs and Set Ups - For great guitars!

My emergency repairs are undertaken because these repairs are very expensive (more than the cost of a kid's guitar) . I don't recommend you do this to your favorite Martin, Gibson or Baby Taylor. If you have a great guitar in need of repair, take it to a professional for a proper reset or neck replacement please!

Perhaps you have done emergency guitar surgery yourself - what was your experience of the result?

© 2012 Lisa Marie Gabriel

What is your experience of instrument repairs... - Have you ever fixed your kid's guitar?

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    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 4 years ago

      Never had to fix one yet but enjoyed all your tips on "how to"

    • profile image

      audithedestroyer 5 years ago

      2 of my guitars broke at the tuning peg when my younger siblings knocked them off their stands. I used some wood glue, big clips and binders to keep the pieces tightly together. I thinly spread wood glue on each of the pieces and wait for a few minutes for it to dry off then attach the pieces together, clip on the binders and leave it to set for 24 hours. If not done properly, the guitar will not sound the same.

    • profile image

      JimH 5 years ago

      I give you credit for attempting this yourself, I've always gone to a guitar tech for this type of problem but I know I could have saved a lot by doing it myself.

    • bwet profile image

      bwet 5 years ago

      i hope i will never break my guitar necks. but this lens is sure useful.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Cool Lens, I hope I never need to use it; my friend just bought me a guitar for my birthday.

    • MohkaUK LM profile image

      MohkaUK LM 5 years ago

      Awesome tips, I thought they were impossible to fix!

    • jupiter justice profile image

      Asher Socrates 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you for the great lens.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I lifted the bridge on my Yamaha about 1/2 mm to eliminate a slight buzz, and filed down a couple of the fret irons. This cured all of the buzz, and I still play it 20 years on!

      I have never attempted a neck repair, although this is common in mids guitars which are often wall hung or placed under the bed only to be wrecked when Mum vacuums.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 5 years ago

      I have to say when my stepdaughter's guitar broke years ago, we kept it for what seemed like forever. But because she never really became too interested, we eventually got rid of it. MY guitar on the other hand... well, I'd have to take it to a professional if I broke it. :) Really cool lens!

    • WriterDave profile image

      WriterDave 5 years ago

      Never fixed a guitar but if I ever do I will be referring to this lens!

    • robertzimmerman2 profile image

      Robert Zimmerman 5 years ago from SE Florida, USA

      only setups but interesting lens!

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 5 years ago

      I haven't. but great tips! We are too much of a throwaway society these days - it's good to know how to fix things properly rather than wasting them.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      great tips thanks for the info, Blessed

    • profile image

      aquarian_insight 5 years ago

      I have never had to do emergency surgery on any musical instrument, but after reading your lens, I think I could now. Great lens.