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Strat Headstock Thickness


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I'm currently working on a swamp ash strat project and I'm about to thickness the headstock for the neck.

Does anyone know what the MINIMUM possible thickness is for the headstock before it is in danger of breaking? I know that most are around half an inch but I was just wondering whether it can get thinner than that because I like the look of thin headstocks.

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How thin you can go will somewhat depend on your tuning machines. Most require a certain wood thickness.

As far as strength, the strength and stiffness will vary depending on the wood. I'm assuming the neck isn't also swamp ash? You could go a touch thinner with Wenge or Purple heart than with Mahogany for example, or by back-strapping with carbon fiber . . .

-Todd

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Last 2 actual fenders I worked on had .574" and .558" headstock thicknesses. Not that it helps any. My notebook was right here, so I got curious and took a peek.

Actually that includes the finish. So, knock off at least .010" for a bare-wood measurement.

Edited by soapbarstrat
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so do you think its possible to get away with 0.47"?

I don't see any reason to try and "get away with it" when the normal thickness works. That said, I don't know if ~0.1" makes much of a difference in strength. But why not play it safe so you never have it break on you? :D

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I have a build where the fender headstock is only 7/16 of inch thick, works fine with ibanez tuning machines. Made of walnut.

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How thin you can go will somewhat depend on your tuning machines.

+1 for sure - this is the first thing you should look at.

Take a tuning machine, pop on the bushing and washer and measure the inside using calipers like so:

headstockthicknesscalipers.jpg

Basically, screw the bushing down as far into the tuner as it'll go and measure the inside thickness. Do the same with the bushing engaged in the tuner's thread by around 3-4 turns or enough as you feel will be comfortable so it won't shake out. This won't strictly apply to tuners with press-fit bushings of course, although it's not too dissimilar a process.

You can make a headstock thicker by recessing the bushing, which I have done on a lot of my builds so I can carve and sculpt the headstocks. Personally, I don't think you're going to break a 10mm (4/10") thick headstock unless it has a very weak point, such as under a back-bolted locking nut or grain runout, or is under a significant amount of operating pressure such as high gauge strings or lots of strings.

Since you're aiming for thin, I would post pics of the wood you are using, the headstock type (single piece or scarfed) and shape (to look at weak points) so a better idea can be made specifically as to how your build will work. I think that you'll be restricted by your machines before you'll be in thin headstock territory.

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I'd stick with the standard thickness too.

There are ways to make it seem thinner though-- you can carve the side opposite to the tuners (look at the Epiphone batwing headstock to see what I mean).

You can also leave the neck blank slightly thicker at the headstock, then shape the drop down a bit deeper. The headstock itself will be the same thickness, but the extra drop will make it look thinner. A couple of millimeters would do it.

Chances are, what you think is a thinner headstock is actually standard thickness, but something about the design makes it look thinner.

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Your headstock may not break but over time it will bend up slightly with string tension. (My own Strat does this)

On many Strat type guitars, if you put a straight edge on the bottom of the headstock and along the neck they will have bent up very slightly. To the normal eye you would never notice this, so would be probably wise to leave it a more standard thickness.

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