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Mark Hatcher 03-21-2019 11:57 AM

Headstock Overlay
I've been looking forward to putting the headstock overlay together for this guitar. It is a large section of Amboyna Burl with a Padauk purfling line and Brazilian Rosewood binding. It will be my sculpted pillow style headstock. I believe the curves of the pillow will really show off the burl.

Here is a picture of the burl blank:

It has a hide away truss rod cover:

There is a lot to do to bring up the curved top and assemble the binding and purfling:

Here it is roughed out:

And a dash of Naptha to see what we're doing here:

This will go very well with the rosette. Amboyna burl is a pleasure to work with. When sanding it has a mild sweet cotton candy fragrance. Mix that with the smell of the BRW and it's intoxicating!

Nemoman 03-21-2019 12:20 PM

That looks incredible, Mark!

Your pillow headstock really accentuates the flowing lines of the burl--stunning!

Stevied63 03-21-2019 01:15 PM

Love your pillow top headstocks, Mark! This one is gorgeous!

The Bard Rocks 03-21-2019 09:07 PM

YES!!! on the hidden trussrod cover. Actually the entire head is nice- I can't think of a way to improve it more, not to my taste.

Guitars44me 03-21-2019 10:23 PM

Mighty pretty!
That burl is spectacular! Woohoo.

This is going to be another sweetheart!



Mark Hatcher 03-22-2019 03:48 AM


Originally Posted by Nemoman (Post 6013993)
That looks incredible, Mark!

Your pillow headstock really accentuates the flowing lines of the burl--stunning!

Thanks Nemoman, thatís what I was going for and Iím glad others see it!


Originally Posted by Stevied63 (Post 6014049)
Love your pillow top headstocks, Mark! This one is gorgeous!

Thanks Steve, It has evolved over the years but, basically itís a shape Iíve used since my first guitar.


Originally Posted by The Bard Rocks (Post 6014465)
YES!!! on the hidden trussrod cover. Actually the entire head is nice- I can't think of a way to improve it more, not to my taste.

Thanks! I thought of you when I decided to hide the truss rod cover. This was your contribution to this guitar, thanks!


Originally Posted by Guitars44me (Post 6014504)
That burl is spectacular! Woohoo.

This is going to be another sweetheart!



Thanks Paul, I started loading up on more of Amboyna burl as soon as I began using it on this guitar.

Thanks for following along!

Mark Hatcher 03-22-2019 03:03 PM

I worked on fitting the neck today. It will carry an elevated fretboard. I don't use a separate piece of wood for the fretboard extension, it's a continuation of the neck so it's a bit more fiddly to get the two neck surfaces flush to the body's side and top while maintaining the correct fretboard angle. Here it is pieced together to get a view on how this guitar will look:

Thanks for viewing!

DanR 03-22-2019 03:20 PM

That guitar is crazy gorgeous!

Mark Hatcher 03-22-2019 04:16 PM


Originally Posted by DanR (Post 6015173)
That guitar is crazy gorgeous!

Thanks DanR! This Penelope model is my oldest design and it has gone through changes over the years.

Mark Hatcher 03-23-2019 09:27 AM

Penelope Headstock
I am very excited about how this Amboyna burl is working out on the Penelope guitar:

I'd been eager to use this burl and when my client flew out to visit and discuss this build I suppose my enthusiasm helped sell him on the idea too. On the forum I refer to this as my sculpted pillow top headstock but, I really think of it as my Penelope headstock. I was thinking about how this design has changed and evolved over the years and thought I'd post the story:

First off, right from the beginning this basic design always received a mixed reaction. People seem to love it or hate it. I learned a long time ago that getting a strong reaction is often more important than whether it's liked or not so I felt undaunted by folks who didn't like it.

Here is a picture of my first guitar that I started in 2002 and you can see I was already attracted to the general shape:

It's quite a bit fatter. Back then I didn't know there was such a thing as mini tuners so it required more room to get those big tuners in.

You can see I already liked the idea of a couple extra laminates in the top to create additional purfling lines under the overlay for a little more detail and strength.

I discovered mini tuners when I made this 12 string dreadnought some time later:

I tried to retain the shape but, it was tricky laying out the design to keep a straight run on the strings:

Around this time I designed the Penelope guitar:

While designing the Penelope I wanted to update the profile of my headstock. I wanted to thin it down some (using mini-tuners) and emulate the shape of the Penelope guitar's body:

I also figured out how to start making my own custom wood tuner buttons and how to put purfling in and binding on those tight turns:

I'm going to stop here and continue later. There is a limit to how many pictures I can put on a single post and as you probably already know, I think and write in pictures.

Mark Hatcher 03-23-2019 03:02 PM

Penelope Headstock Part Two
Here is the Penelope Headstock story part two:

In February 2011 there were two exhibits in New York City I wanted to see. We were still living in New Jersey and Karen and I made a day trip out of it. First we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for this show:

There were three archtop builder's guitars on display: John D'Angelico, James D'Aquisto, and John Monteleone. These were all archtops which I just think are beautiful looking instruments and these were master's work. One detail that stood out to me on some of John Monteleone's guitar was that he had a radius similar to the fretboard across the top of the headstock. I took note of that.
After seeing this wonderful exhibit we walked down through Central Park to the the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art to see this exhibit:

These were all Picasso works in different mediums but all guitars. I found both exhibits very stimulating which really got me thinking. By the time we got back into New Jersey I had designed my sculpted pillow top headstock and my Penelope headstock took a big step forward. It seems the Monteloene guitars got me thinking and Picasso gave me a good shake!

It was at about this time I had just signed up on AGF and this is the first picture I ever posted on the forum:

Here is my thread titled "Jumping in Head First With a New Headpiece":[/url]

I felt I had actually came out with something new and original but, still kept it in the world of musical design. The contours of the top are not that different from the lines I love on an archtop but it's still my design. Designing something really new doesn't happen many time in the career of a builder.
I particularly like the movement of light as reflections run across the curves of the top. I couldn't wait until I could do one in Black Ebony where it really would be nothing but the reflections moving:

Of course it is a lot more work but, like anything else, it's only hard till it's easy!

I've never charged extra for this headstock and I get to make a lot of them. Like when I got the order for a "Lullabye" guitar for a client that wanted a guitar to sing his two little preschool girls to sleep at night. It was a no brainer that this guitar had to have a pillow headstock:

I'll have part three put together soon.

Thanks for following along!

amohr 03-23-2019 07:23 PM

Great story on the Genesis of your headstock.

Mark Hatcher 03-24-2019 09:14 AM

Time to Open Up Part Three

One issue with the curvy sides of the Penelope headstock design is standard slothead tuners need to mount to straight sides. Batson Guitars came out with a nylon crossover with Knilling tuner pegs. Although Batson's design had the standard straight sides it immediately occurred to me that these would mount on the sides of an open Penelope headstock design:

I think they look great and seem very much like standard Ebony tuner pegs but, they aren't. They are internally geared with a four to one turning ratio:

They have nicely done Black Ebony buttons. The planetary gear pins are mounted in a tapered housing so you can push in to tighten when turning much like regular wooded tuning pegs except these don't slip.

I selected my Penelope model as the best to offer as a nylon cross-over and designed a bracing set up for the tension and tone of the nylon strings. Of course, it was the Penelope headstock profile I chose to redesign as a slothead:

In 2002 when I was building my first guitar the last crappy #1 Xacto knife with it's wobbly #11 blade rolled off my bench onto my lap. I threw out everything in the shop that has Xacto on it and bought a violin makers fine steel knife blade blank and a ball of Play-doe. I used the Play-doe to fashion the perfect handle to fit my hand in several different holding positions and then I made that handle out of Maple, Black Walnut, and Cherry. It has been a constant source of joy since. Naturally, it was on my bench when I was designing the cut-outs for the headstock. See anything familiar?

And I was off making my new Penelope open headstock:

This has been a very popular option for my Penelope nylon cross-over.

The bass player, Graham Maby, from the Joe Jackson band (and many others) approached me about making him a custom bass. Graham loved that open headstock and wanted something similar for his new bass guitar. I use viola tuners for the nylon cross-over but, they also make cello pegs like these and comparing string tensions I figured we should give it a go:

One challenge was these cello pegs are about the size of Charms lollipops. Not the size they actually are but, the size you remember them when you first pulled one out of your trick-or-treat bag. In order to decrease the width of the overall headstock I alternated the tuner shafts so I could get them in deeper:

I'm proud of my Bella bass guitar and it has since been all around the world:

Part four to come,

Thanks for following!


Originally Posted by amohr (Post 6016274)
Great story on the Genesis of your headstock.

Thanks amohr!

Glenn23 03-24-2019 12:42 PM

Boy, this is good stuff!

Erithon 03-24-2019 01:35 PM

This is a real fun read, Mark! It probably deserves it's own thread.

I'm looking forward to part 4: I'd love to read about the design of your other headstock shape--the asymmetrical paddle. (I'm not sure what it's called)--and the open headstock that evolved from there.

Thanks for sharing!

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