Music Woodworking Workshop
How-To: Guitar or Bass Headless Conversion

A while back a friend laid a bass on me that had a huge crack in the headstock. He had feebly tried to repair it with a bolt and a couple of washers, but it looked like a lost cause. It got me to thinking that this instrument could be saved by simply flipping it upside down — put the tuners on the bottom and string the ball ends of the strings through the top.

I gleefully chopped the headstock off right above the hex nut for the truss rod and got to work on a plate for the strings to go through. I cut a piece of flat steel stock with an angle grinder to match the contour of the neck then drilled holes for the strings, the truss rod, and two screws to fasten it to the neck itself.

For the bottom of the bass body I routed out a cavity for the tuners to live in, then mounted them. Once this was done, I realized I’d need a guard so I wouldn’t bump the bass out of tune as I played. Since I was limited to a hammer, blowtorch, and a cast iron vise to use as an anvil, I did a redneck blacksmithing job on the tuning peg guard that came out surprisingly well.

While I was at it, I decided to sand and refinish the bass. Orange just wasn’t my style.

The bass turned out beautifully, and I’m proud to have revived an instrument that might have otherwise been relegated to the trash heap. If you’d like to see more detailed instructions on how I did this, check out my Make: Project.


In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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