Tag Archives: custom headstock

Guitar Retrospective #11: “HB Adventure Strat”


It’s been awhile since I posted a guitar retrospective. There are still quite a few to go to get caught up to present times, so here we go!

This guitar started life back in early 2008 as a guitar kit. I had been looking into other means of obtaining guitars to refinish and after doing several Squier strats (“Wild Horses”, “Koi Flower”, “Miartisme”) I wanted to try these kits I had been reading about. I had done an LP style guitar from a Saga kit before, but I had tracked down some strat and tele style electric guitar kits made by Grizzly, which was a big woodworking and metalworking machinery company that had a local store, so I was able to go and pick a few up to try out. It wasn’t a typical place you would think to find guitar kits. Turns out the owner of Grizzly was a luthier himself, who made some pretty amazing guitars, so he offered these kits and other guitar parts through his company. You can still get guitar parts there, but it appears the kits are no longer available. It was your standard electric guitar kit, decent body and neck, with a blank headstock (the stratocaster and telecaster style headstocks are copyrighted by Fender so couldn’t be reproduced and sold), and probably lower end hardware and electronics.


I remember the reason I wanted to try guitar kits was because you started with a complete guitar, and the body was a blank canvas, you didn’t have to do any work to strip it down before you could refinish it. But it was wise to do a rough assembly of the guitar to make sure everything fit together ok, so there wouldn’t be any fun surprises at the end.

For the finish, I had this cool looking green fabric, I don’t even know how to describe it. If I were to free associate I would use words like; Celtic, hippie, natural, earthy, lavender, forest, green, free, peace, love, unity. I felt it was a great opportunity to use on one of these strats, and it really worked out for getting a good placement on the guitar to maximize the graphic element and still remain a cool subtle look. I started with the front and decided to finish the back with fabric also, with a more subdued section of the print, but it works to keep continuity. Here are some shots of the process. Pretty simple with this one, used the standard material finish process I’ve come to know: glued fabric on, sanding sealer, cut it out, more sanding sealer (a lot), sanding, paint, clear coats, final wet sanding and polish.

The Front:



The Back:



The Pickguard:

The kit came with a plain white pick guard, I didn’t feel this particular look required a matching pick guard, so I didn’t apply fabric to it, but I didn’t want to leave it stark white either. I  decided to paint it the same color as the edges and burst of the guitar, which was a seafoam green. I thought that color worked really well to compliment the graphic on the print as well as brighten it up overall, as the main color of the guitar was a dark green. Man I can’t believe I used to have time to think about stuff like that.



The Headstock:

As I said earlier, the kit came with a headstock blank, which looks like this.



It’s just a paddle, which doesn’t look very good. I didn’t feel like dealing with this again myself, like I had with the Les Paul style guitar. So I talked to some people on the guitar forums I visited at the time, and found somebody that would cut them out for me in the traditional “strat” style. I sent them off, and they came back all nice and pretty, ready to go.

Also, during the process of refinishing this guitar, it became apparent who I was making it for. Some very close friends of mine were getting married, and try as I might, they just wouldn’t push their wedding date back so I could get this thing properly done in time to give it to them. (I know right!? So selfish.) I thought about my options, and realized I would just do as they do, and go with the flow, and use the opportunity to make it really personal, so I hand wrote the name on the headstock and added a personal note on the back. I don’t think I’ve had to admit this yet, but I did this on the day of their wedding  before leaving my house. I was working on this thing to the very last minute. It is by no means fancy, but I think it’s fitting, and it works, and that’s what I tell myself.


HB Adventure:

You’ve been wondering this whole time, “What the hell is HB Adventure”? I purposely waited until the end to tell you, because I worry about your attention span and wanted you to earn it. Let me be the first to say, Congratulations! Here it comes. HB stands for Hannah and Barry, two very dear friends who I knew separately and then came together to create a beautiful life, incredible love story for sure. <humor>You see Barry was my ex-boyfriend and Hannah was a chick I knew in High School, at least that’s how I remember it. </humor> They really lived life proper traveling and had a blog to tell us all about it while I stayed home making guitars and checking in on their adventures. Life is still happening over at HBAdventure.com, to the fullest to be sure. I really admire my friends who have always seemed to do life right, exploring and capturing the very best life has to offer, and leaving the rest. They teach that now to their two beautiful daughters.

But back in August of 2008, they were just getting married, and I had made a gift for them. I had taken the neck plate in to be engraved, as I was known to do for special occasions. (Mostly this is so they don’t forget who it came from, I hope they don’t know any other “Joe’s”.) 😉






Guitar Retrospective #8 (Pt. 2 The Headstock): “Landscape Les Paul”

Welcome to the 2nd installment of the “Landscape LP” project, where I will discuss the creation of the headstock. If you noticed in the first picture from Pt. 1, the guitar kit came with what they call a “paddle” headstock. Meaning, it’s just a blank, intended for the user to create their own style. They do this in these generic kits because the headstock shapes are patented by the company. So to cover their ass since it’s probably too expensive to get the license, they exclaim “you get to make it any way you want!” Great. Thanks for all that extra work. Well I turned some lemons into some some seriously delicious lemonade with this project, turning that square paddle board headstock blank into a perfectly fitted custom shape to complement the detail in the fabric print on the body, as well as match the print by finishing the headstock in fabric as well.

Here’s what I started with.

LP HS back

LP HS front










I set out designing the shape, figuring out what would get cut out. I didn’t want to stray too far from a tradition Les Paul style headstock design, so I used my little Jai face logo as a starting point to figure out the shape.

Traced a template to sketch ideas on paper, then transferred over to headstock when I was satisfied.

Traced a template to sketch ideas on paper, then transferred over to headstock when I was satisfied.


Cut it out using a coping saw, band saw, and a pneumatic sanding drum, if I remember correctly.

LP HS cut

Sanded smooth.

Sanded smooth.

Burnt it up a little, rough cut here. Maple is hard!

Burnt it up a little, rough cut here. Maple is hard!


Touched it up with sand paper and files to get the shape just right.

Touched it up with sand paper and files to get the shape just right.


Then I set about giving this headstock face a fabric finish. Same process as the body.  I chose the portion of the fabric from the back of the guitar, the night sky with a few birds. It was at this point I realized how well suited that shaped was, as it looks just like a bird flying if you’re looking at it head on.

After fabric has been glued down, and several coats of sanding sealer.

After fabric has been glued down, and several coats of sanding sealer.

After sanding the sanding sealer. Got into the fabric a little on the edges but that's ok, it's getting a paint burst.

After sanding the sanding sealer. Got into the fabric a little on the edges but that’s ok, it won’t really show.


Trim those fabric edges sharp and clean to the wood.

Trim those fabric edges sharp and clean to the wood

After clear coats.

After clear coats.









Polished to a lovely shine.












And all set up and ready to go.

Tuners installed and complete.

Tuners installed and complete.


I hope you enjoyed following the process of this guitar, it posed some new challenges which was why I was happy to choose this style and try out this kit. I expanded my knowledge and experience trying out some new things with this one, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out. And I know where it lives and get to visit it every now and then.