Woody would rather have slight discrepancies in the assembly of the head, neck and body determine the layout of the tuners than have it the other way around. Install the tuners “in the dry” before finishing. When located in the final orientation, drill the pilot holes for the tiny screws that hold the turner in their final orientation to the centerline. Of course, be sure to keep from drilling through the headplate on the front of the peghead.
Truss Rod Cover:
The last effort in the construction of the peghead is the installation of the truss rod cover. Woody makes this cover out of the same wood as that of the headplate, usually rosewood or ebony. Try to match the color of the surrounding wood in the headplate so that the color blends into the background. The truss-rod cover can be held in place with only one screw. Visually, the truss rod cover should not draw attention.
Chapter 11_ Peghead and Tuners
Manufactured guitar makers have molds, jigs and fixtures that ensure precise symmetry in each of the 20-50,000 guitars built yearly. Home-shop luthiers, generally, do not have this luxury... but they have a great deal more room for artistic expression. Guitar building in a home-shop does not require artistic expression, but it does require strict attention to detail and symmetry. The head of the guitar will stand as a display of how well the maker has managed this aspect of guitar building. On your first guitars, keep the design simple. Remember, function before form.
-or (more traditionally)-
> Keep the width of the peghead at top to a minimum relative to the width of the peghead at the nut. Flatten the arc of the sides of the peghead and the tuner layout. The Guild and the Woody pictured below have used this method. The Martin head, also pictured below, has straight edges but the line of the tuners is slightly curved. Notice that the 1st and 6th string tuners of the Martin are closer to the edge of the peghead than the 3rd and 4th string tuners.
Thicknessing of the headstock is discussed in the January, 2021 Luthier's Journal post (11a).. The dimensions of your tuners are primary in the design of your peghead. Illustrated here the dimensions of Schaller guitar tuners that Woody uses.
The 'converging line' theme.
Functional design and build considerations are primary, of course, to the design of the peghead. The luthier, however, makes artistic choices which should complement functional requirements.
Converging lines are a recognizable theme of Woody guitars and the headstock is no exception. The issue with this geometry, however, is that asymmetrical or unbalanced patterns are easy to pick up visually. Extra effort must be taken, therefore, to design and execute a layout in which the inlays and hardware are balanced around a common centerline. Your peghead design will probably have different challenges than some of those mentioned here. Nonetheless, the challenges of blending a functional with an artistic theme are the same.
If your peghead design is based on a plain, blank headplate, you won't have to worry with some of the discussion below. A few guitars down the road, you might want to make an artistic statement, most luthiers do, even it is only your name in mother of pearl, it could impact the layout of the peghead and tuners.
The back of the head looks quite different from the front as its lines of symmetry begin at the heel of the neck and converge through the length of the neck and peg head. The Woody neck is a 5-piece layup of mahogany and maple. The vertical laminates of mahogany and maple make the neck and head more stable as well as attractive.
There is a complete discussion of building the laminate neck pictured here in the August, 2020 Luthier's Journal.
Peghead Design/Construction Summary
> Design the peghead first, complete with length, width, and thickness of the finished peghead.
> The design should include the exact location of the center of each tuning post.
> Leave as much wood as you can in rough carving of the headstock. Give your design some room to move left, right, forward, or back as might be required after the center line of the body, neck and head are finalized.
> BEFORE the six tuner holes are drilled, make sure that the string path from the tuner post to the nut is clear and will not intersect with any other tuner post.
> Drill for the tuner hardware with a Forstner bit and be sure to back the peghead with a plywood scrap to avoid chipping out the edge of the hole when the bit breaks through.
Before drilling, make sure that the string path from the tuner post to the nut is clear and will not intersect with the next tuner post.
The hole that you drill for the tuner should be perpendicular to the surface of the peghead. Use a drill press and a Forstner bit and be sure to back the peghead tightly with a plywood scrap so that the Forstner bit will not blow out the backside edge of the hole when it breaks through. Woody drills these six holes one at a time, with a bench to support the guitar body at just the right height and angle. (Do not use a twist drill bit for this operation.)
NOTE: One might think that these tuner holes should be drilled way back before the guitar neck was attached to the body_ and you might be right. Woody believes, however, that laying out the tuner hardware requires that the common centerline of the body, neck and peghead has been fixed and finalized. In a home-shop situation, Woody’s experience is that the common center line might not be finalized until assembly of the head, neck and body is complete. We are talking here about a tolerance of one or two millimeters in positioning the tuners and the resulting string paths from the post to the nut.
After the centerline of the peghead is fixed and the headstock has been taken to the final thickness, the peghead veneer (headplate) and MOP inlay, if any, are installed as one piece. Choice of tuning machines and the design of the peghead influence the thickness and width of the headstock. Layout of the tuning machines is discussed below. Details regarding the installation of inlays come in a later chapter.
[A picture containing wall, indoor, black, guitar Description automatically generated] Unless one chooses to have a blank headplate as the face of the headstock, the layout of the tuners could be somewhat fixed by the installation of the headplate with its inlays. It should be the other way around. The layout of the turners (functional) should define the area remaining for inlays (art). Woody's peghead design, pictured below, is a case in point.
In the photo, the converging lines are formed by the 3rd and 4th strings on either side of the MOP inlay (instead of the maple strips). The inlay is, thus, framed by the guitar strings and the inlay pattern itself tapers from top to bottom. Again, the headplate, inlays and tuner layout are all installed as one complete design on a rectangular headplate 190 x 88 x 27 [mm]. The over-sized headplate is then trimmed back to the finished edges of the headstock beneath it.
That's it for this month. I'm getting ahead of schedule. If the comprenensive overview is completed a month early, so be it.
In the meantime, play safe_ stay healthy.
To this point we have only been discussing the shape of the peghead and the layout of the tuners. These are decisions made by the luthier. For some interesting ideas google: “guitar pegheads/ images”.
When the layout of the tuners is finalized, take an awl and, on the peghead veneer, mark the point which will be the very center point of the tuner post. Drill the holes for the tuner casings that are the diameter that your tuners require. The Schallers that Woody uses require a hole 9.7mm in diameter (~3/8”). Yours could be different.
To keep the tuners close to the same distance from the edge of the peghead, they must be placed on a curved line parallel to the edge. The issue with this tuner layout is that the 3rd and 4th-strings pass very close to the 2nd and 5th-string tuner posts. Care must be taken to ensure that the strings don’t touch these posts and/or the strings wrapped around them.
There is more than one solution.
> Change the geometry of the entire peghead (Fender style, Snakehead, etc.)
Peghead and Tuners
Traditionally, the peghead of the guitar is a feature that can be used to display the luthier's creativity and craft. Home-shop guitar makers have quite a bit of freedom in the design and ornamentation of the peghead. If the guitar has an artistic theme, the peghead design should be consistent with that theme.
One of Woody’s early pegheads is pictured here. In this design, the chrome tuner shafts and washers must be symmetrically placed relative to the light-colored, maple strips which converge from the top to the bottom of the head. These maple lines are only as deep as the headplate (veneer) covering the mahogany head stock (i.e., they are part of the headplate install).