Gretsch concert uke headstock repair

This uke came to me with a broken headstock from being dropped.Sad headstock

This is a Gretsch concert ukulele, although the body looks soprano-sized. The label says 9100-L, which the interwebz tell me is a long-neck soprano.



The Gretsch website claims that the neck is mahogany, but that doesn’t look like any mahogany I’ve seen before. Whatever it is, it’s a nice clean break. Unfortunately it’s right through the tuner holes. You can see above where one of the tuners is trying to pull out of the neck. That could be due to the drop, or maybe it was just getting worn.


Here it is after I removed the tuners.


I almost never use a brush for glue, but I did this time to make sure I covered the entire surface of the joint. I thinned the glue (regular old Titebond PVA) with just a bit of water to get it to flow better.

Just a bit of squeeze-out

Mashing it together with fingers shows just a little bit of squeeze-out, which is good.

alignment cauls

I used C-clamps to attach these alignment cauls so the repair would be in line front-to-back. The cause are scrap wood covered in wax paper. If you watch the Stew-Mac videos they have fancy clear acrylic for this, but I seem to be out at the moment.

close the gap

The quick-grip clamps provide pressure for the glue joint.

let it dry

Now I need to let it dry overnight.

tuner parts

Guess I might as well clean up and lube the tuners while I have them off.

after gluing

Well, that doesn’t look too terribly bad. I can clean it up a bit.

remaining side crack

Looks better from the side. I’ve also pressed the tuner bushings back down, as they were a bit proud of the surface. I also replaced a couple of chips around the tuner screw holes and reinforced the holes with CA (superglue) as the wood seemed pretty soft.

(Just as an aside, the real professional way to fix stripped tuner screw holes is probably to drill them out and insert a plug, then drill new pilot holes. And perfectly match the old finish. Next best is to glue a toothpick in there for the screw to bite into. But I think CA should be okay for this.)

clean it up

I guess I may as well clean it up a bit before I put strings on it. I’ve already done some touchup on the headstock joint – removing dried glue, and staining the crack with a furniture repair marker to darken it. (It’s alcohol-based stain, which is probably similar to what was used originally.) I also oiled the fretboard with lemon oil.

string slot widening

The G and A string slots were awfully tight, so I widened them just a hair. I polished the saddle with 2000 grit sandpaper, also. (Gretsch says it’s bone, but it sure does seem soft.)

to be trimmed later

I’ll trim these after the strings have had time to stretch out. I put GHS Hawaiian black nylon on, because that’s what I had on hand. It was delivered with Aquila Nylgut – which is my go-to string also – but the A had broken and I didn’t have a spare.


Now we wait to see if it explodes (unlikely) or stays in one piece. Then I’ll tune it up, trim the ends, and send it back home. It’ll take a week or so for the strings to finish stretching, but from what I can tell, it sounds pretty good.

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