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Thread: Cracked banjo headstock

  1. #1

    Default Cracked banjo headstock

    I've got a line on a cheap open back banjo that has a crack in the headstock. It looks like it won't open up, and at its worst is not half way through. The owner has been playing it that way for years. I've seen a lot of repair videos of catastrophic headstock failure, but none on milder issues. Would this be a CA glue candidate?

    Would you just play it until it opened up so you could get glue in the crack?
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    I would rub in HHG with my fingers while trying to open the crack as much as possible. A banjo doesn't have much tension, If it doesn't get in very far the glue will at least keep it clean so, if it does break later, it will be easier to repair. Also the HHG will bond to itself making again an easier repair later.
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  3. #3
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    CA glue is a very bad choice for this repair. If it does not hold [which is very likely], it will seal the wood pores on the surface of the break. Then, it will be nearly impossible to repair it successfully. I know of no glue that will stick to a surface that has been contaminated with CA.

    Pops gives you good advice here. Hot hide glue, mixed slightly thin, is probably the best choice. You can warm the gluing surface with a hair dryer, and gently flex the joint while rubbing the glue in. Do a dry run first with your clamps and cauls, then lay them on the bench next to you so you can get everything clamped up within a minute after you have applied the glue.

    If you have never worked with hide glue before, it would be better to have the instrument repaired by someone who knows how to use it.

    The next best choice for this repair would be Titebond Original. Use a fresh bottle. Avoid thinning it if at all possible. If it must be thinned, thin it no more than 5%.

  4. #4
    Registered User Greg Mirken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    If as you say this crack is unchanged over several years, I assume it starts at the nut and goes down toward the first fret and the back of the neck. Thus, string tension is holding it shut. My approach to gluing these is after removing the strings [duh] and the tuners, I use a clamp fixture to slowly and controllably open the crack enough to get a thin spatula in. Work in hot hide glue, flex it shut and open a time or two, and clamp shut.
    With the neck pre-warmed, hide glue penetrates deeply. Titebond would probably be fine for this but it just doesn't wick in as well.
    Shade Tree Fretted Instrument Repair
    Now located in Nevada City, California
    http://www.shadetreeguitars.com

  5. #5

    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    Just by chance did this happen in an attack on a bronze bull statue in New York?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    The crack is between the nut and the tuners, it is worse at one side and stops at the middle right in line with the tuner posts.Looking from the side it starts half the thickness of the peghead and gets shallower and more minute from there. My worry is not being able to spread it apart for glue, but since I've never seen a crack get better, eventually it will get bad enough to be able to fix. I hesitate to make it worse trying to open it up. Tuning is stable as is.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  7. #7

    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    CA is not appropriate unless it’s just a cosmetic crack. I just did a repair like this on a guitar. See if there is anything you can do to open the crack a little wider using stress - short of breaking off the headstock. Sometimes having it tuned to pitch helps. See if you can configure clamps to close the crack. I slightly thin Titebond with just a little tiny bit of water. I use compressed air to force glue as deep as I can. I spend a significant amount of time trying to get the glue as deep as I can. Without compressed air, you can use a medium guitar pick to pressure the glue into the crack also. HHG as mentioned might also be good but my concern is the working time while you’re trying to force the glue as deep as you can get it. If you can then clamp it and get squeeze-out you’ve most likely done a good repair.

  8. #8
    Registered User Greg Mirken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    The worry is not that it will eventually "get bad enough", but that a relatively minor shock could easily snap the headstock clean off. It will never be less expensive to fix than now, if you are averse to attempting the repair yourself.
    Shade Tree Fretted Instrument Repair
    Now located in Nevada City, California
    http://www.shadetreeguitars.com

  9. #9

    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    No, I'm going to add it to the growing list of repairs I've done. I went and traded my 199.00 Michael Kelly for the banjo with cash my way. The guy was happy to get a mandolin to add to his upright bass and banjo. Excited really, and I felt good parting with an instrument I wasn't playing. He's going to get me started on clawhammer, I'm going to get him going on fiddle tunes.

    We met in a park, and he brought hid Pisgah banjo to compare, and I brought my Arches F to show him what a good mandolin sounds like. Neither of us were dissuaded by tone or in my case, condition. Heck, if I can build a mandolin, I should be able to fix a headstock crack.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  10. #10

    Default Re: Cracked banjo headstock

    OK, I decided to give it a go. Basically used a small clamp to open the crack, liberally brushed slightly thinned titebond wood glue along the surfaces, cut a six inch piece of garden drip irrigation hose, and blew through it to force glue into the crack. I had glue coming out the sides while blowing from the top, and out the top from blowing from the sides. Then I cleaned all the excess glue off and brushed undiluted glue in the crack, then blew that in. I had rigged some nylon twine around the metal bar running through the rim, then another around the tuners I didn't remove, ran a small clamp to connect the two loops and tensioned the clamp. Squeeze out everywhere. I clamped across the joint with two more small clamps. We'll wait and see. I had glue coming out from beyond where I thought it ended, so I'm confident glue went everywhere.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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