A Step-by-Step Guide On How To Make a Straight Headstock

No fancy tools required to make this awesome headstock for your cigar box guitar

By Glenn Watt

Thanks to craftswoman Farley Andresen for the demonstrating the work Straight heastock featured image

 No fancy tools required to make this awesome headstock for your cigar box guitar

Cigar box is in the name, but the neck is what turns the box into a cigar box guitar.

And the headstock – the part of the neck that anchors your tuning pegs – is a critical component to getting, and keeping, your CBG fully functional.

There are many ways to make a headstock, all with their own advantages. What you’re going to learn here is that making a headstock doesn’t require special tools, jigs, or skills.

In this article you’re going to see how easy it is to use simple tools to make a slick-looking straight headstock.

Tools you’ll need

A straight headstock forms a single plane with the neck. It’s also lower than the fingerboard.This difference in height angles the strings coming off the nut, and keeps them in place while jamming out on your CBG.

Check out how simple it is to make your straight headstock.

Gather together the following things:

  • Square
  • Small handsaw
  • Clamps
  • File / rasp
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper (coarse and fine grits)

Now, that’s a short list, right? Well, keep reading to see how a little time and elbow grease will give you a headstock to be proud of.


Map it out


Place the neck on its side. Measure down 5” (127mm) from the top end of the neck. Mark that spot on the side, just below what will be the front of the neck. While you’re at it, measure down to 5 ¼” (133mm) and mark the spot there, too. These marks will make the bottom bevelled edge of your headstock.

1 Measure length of straight headstock

Now, go back to the top of the neck. Measure down 5/16” (8mm) from the front of the neck, and mark that spot on the side. Then, go back to the marks for the bottom of the headstock. At the 5” (127mm) mark, measure down from the front of the neck 5/16” (8mm), and mark the spot.

2 Measure face of straight headstock

3 Measure down to face of straight headstock

Use your square, or whatever straight edge you have available, to connect the mark at 5 ¼” (133mm) to the spot you’ve just marked. This is going to be that bottom bevelled edge of your straight headstock.

4 Measure bottom edge of straight headstock

Go ahead and connect the two marks on the side of the neck 5/16” (8mm) down from the front.

Can you see the headstock starting to take shape?

That new line will be the front of the headstock.

5 Draw face of straight headstock

This next bit may seem unnecessary, but it’s critical to getting the front of the headstock to be as level as possible: those lines you’ve drawn on one side of the neck… repeat ‘em on the other side.

6 Draw lines on both sides of straight headstock

Then, at the top of the neck (soon-to-be headstock), use your pencil to connect both 5/16” (8mm)  lines.

7 Draw line on top of straight headstock

And for the last line drawn, on the front of the neck, connect both spots marked 5 ¼” (133mm) down from the top.

8 Draw line for bottom edge of straight headstock


Cut it out


For safety’s sake, clamp the neck down to your work surface, nice and tight. You’re about to get down to business.

At the line drawn 5 ¼” (133mm) down from the top of the neck, use your small handsaw to make a shallow cut.

Your square may come in handy here. Holding it against the line can help you to keep your saw blade straight.

9 Cut shallow notch at bottom of straight headstock

After you’ve made your shallow cut, angle your handsaw to match the angled line on the side of the neck. Cut along that angled line with slow, deliberate strokes.

Use your free hand to hold the top of the saw blade. This will keep the blade steady and straight while you make your cut.

10 Cut bevelled bottom edge of straight headstock

Stop your cut just as you meet the line that is the front of your headstock.

Now, take your saw to the top of the neck. Slowly score the line you’ve drawn at the top.

11 Start cut at top of straight headstock

Here’s where that little bit of effort to map out your headstock on both sides of the neck pays off big.

While keeping an eye on the far-side of the neck, use slow and deliberate strokes to make your cut along the line on the side of the neck.

This is some of the trickiest work you’ll do, but fret naught! You may run the saw off course a wee bit. If necessary, back up and take your time to adjust your saw.

You can also re-position the neck to cut the headstock. Try clamping the neck on its side with the headstock hanging off your work surface. In this way you can use your saw in a vertical position.

12 Adjust cut for straight headstock

Remember, even if the cut comes out rough, you’ll have plenty of time to file and sand it smooth.

After you make that long cut, hold on to the cut-out. It’s time to break out the wood glue.

13 Save cutout from straight headstock


Glue it together


Flip the neck so the back of it is facing up. Also flip the headstock cut-out so that the smooth side is facing up, and the bevelled edge is pointing to the tail of the neck.

14 apply glue to both pieces of straight headstock

Spread glue on the smooth side of the cut-out and the back of the soon-to-be headstock. Spread the glue around to get an even application.

Now place the cut-out onto the back of the headstock.

Here’s where you’re going to give your straight headstock a sweet looking bevelled joint.

Slide cut-out around until it and the neck make a joint that is as thick as the neck itself. So, if your cigar box guitar neck is ¾” (19mm)  thick, position the cut-out to create a ¾” (19mm) joint with the headstock.

15 Measure to maintain width at straight headstock joint

Clamp that lil’ devil up nice and tight, wipe off any excess glue that squeezed out, and let it sit for as long as your glue manufacturer recommends.

16 Clamp glued pieces of straight headstocl

Have you waited for the glue to dry? Good.

17 Wipe excess glue from straight headstock

It’s really hard to find the patience to let wood glue dry when all you want to do is finish building your CBG. But the longer you can wait, the stronger that straight headstock joint will be.

18 Remove clamps from glued straight headstock


Make it smooth


Firmly clamp your neck on its side to your work surface. A piece of scrap wood underneath the neck and headstock is a good idea here.

Use your handsaw to cut off the little overhang left at the top of your headstock.

The scrap wood will prevent you from gouging your bench, or worse, kitchen table. Yikes!

19 Cut off excess from top of straight headstock

You’re on the home stretch, now!

On the front and back of your headstock, use your rasp and file to smooth the roughest areas.

20 File rough surface of straight headstock

Next, sand the headstock to as smooth as you like. Start with coarse grit and finish up with fine grit sandpaper.

21 Sand straight headstock with rough grit sandpaper

80 to 100 grit is good for the rough stuff, and 220 grit works well to finish. But it’s up to you!

22 Sand straight headstock with fine grit sandpaper

Make your headstock the way you want.

23 Finished straight headstock


You’ve made a straight headstock


Now step back a minute. Ain’t that thing a beauty?

24 Finished straight headstock for cigar box guitar

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