Guitar repair – Setting right Humpty Dumpty – I

Humpty Dumpty…er…this Epiphone DR-100 VS came to me like this


‘Some of the king’s horses and some of the king’s men’ (with apologies to Lewis Carroll), had tried to put ‘Humpty together again’ (four times, according to the owner) but had failed in making the fix a permanent one. And so, it finally landed on my counter.

The owner said that he was willing to give it one last shot at trying to save the instrument, and I had my work cut out for me. No repair would be possible without first removing the old glue. This was no mean task for the glue tends to get into crevices and corners which not only impedes proper contact but also a proper glue-up later.

But as I assessed the instrument, I noticed that it had a rather pretty tobacco-burst. In the photograph it comes across much darker than it is.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that even the back and sides were solid mahogany, while the top was solid spruce.

The build quality was nice except that not a great deal of care had been taken in glueing on the braces, for there was loads of squeeze-out on either side of all the braces. Also, the bridgeplate looked to me as if it had been made out of some leftover spruce. If that is the case, I don’t expect it to last too long and should give way in nine to 12 months – provided this repair effort comes through.


The glue

To soften the glue, in order to have the best chance at removing it, I gave it a lot of heat. And as I heated it, I got a very familiar but terrible smell. I picked at the glue for sometime, before I realised what it was – Araldite!

I let out a string of expletives but that was all I could do and it did nothing to make the Araldite go away!

To have the best shot at removing the glue, I put on my magnifying head gear and began removing the glue. After a good 45 mins of labour, I had this to show for results. This is just one corner cleaned of the glue that was very obvious.

After one-and-a-half hours of effort there was more mess on my table but the mess on the two surfaces of the headstock was clearing.

This morning I finally managed to clear all the Araldite in sight (under magnification) from both surfaces. I had to go over the two surfaces twice each so that I could remove as much glue as I could see. Did I manage to remove all the Araldite? No way, but this is how the two surfaces looked!

I tried mating the two surfaces but there were certainly gaps. I expected nothing else considering that this was the fifth attempt at glueing the headstock. However, I wasn’t too worried about the gaps. Those would be filled with my saw dust and wood glue paste and sanded flush.

Would all this make a permanent joint? Nope! Pieces of wood would need to be installed at strategic points to actually hold the two parts together. The proper way of tackling a break like this is to cut two channels running from behind the headstock to the neck (leaving a gap where the truss rod would be) and installing splines. But that requires a proper jig which would help cut proper channels, taking into consideration the headstock angle, shape of the neck, etc. Too involved!

I have done these repairs before with just pieces of wood shoved in at strategic places and have never had a complaint. I see no reason why it shouldn’t work this time. 

But that is for later. First the two parts must be brought together – even if temporarily – so that the part two of the surgery can be performed. So, I put on a generous dab of glue on one surface and held on the mating surface where I felt it should go. 

A brad nail helped hold things together.

Now, a wait of 48 hours before I remove the nail and see how well things have bonded.

Next week: the second part of the reconstructive surgery!


Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

4 thoughts to “Guitar repair – Setting right Humpty Dumpty – I”

  1. Heartening to see somebody take the pain of thinking things through before going ahead to do them. Great commitment <3

      1. I do agree that outcomes are what drive the modern world. But it is also my humble opinion that the process towards such outcome is often as important as the outcome itself. The journey is as important as the destination, eh chief ?

        1. Yes and No!
          When one is garnering a skill, gaining an education, the journey is as important as the destination (if not more).
          When we talk of services offered it is always the end product that matters.
          If someone stops to appreciate the effort put into reaching the end result, it is an added bonus.
          I hope you agree!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *