Guitar Headstock Decal Installation or Replacement
Guitar Headplate Logos: Inlays and Decals
In guitar jargon, the term “headplate” refers to an area of the headstock, the part of the instrument that typically holds the tuning keys, that is facing outward when the instrument is held in the playing position. It is traditionally the spot where an instrument maker places their mark to let audiences know who made the instrument that they are hearing!
There are two common methods of affixing a logo to the headplate. The first, is called “Inlay“. Inlay involves cutting a channel outline of the desired image or logo into the wood and then making a matching shape out of a hard material, typically shell or Abalone, to be glued within the recess. This is highly skilled work that can be made exponentially more difficult depending on the intricacy of the piece to be inlaid. Beyond merely displaying a logo, expert inlay artists may use the structure of the instrument as a canvas to weave intricate pieces that are an art unto themselves. Beautiful and durable, inlay is also difficult, time consuming, and expensive to create. As such, heavily inlayed instruments will typically command higher prices.
A simpler method of applying a makers mark to an instrument is via a decal. While there are a few different methods of application, these are all essentially stickers that are affixed to the instrument. A protective finish will often be applied over the decal to prevent damage. While they can still be quite stylish, compared to inlay, decals are much quicker and easier to install. They are perhaps most commonly associated with electric guitars in the Fender style, but decals can be seen on countless brands including Taylor and Martin guitars.
Replacing A Damaged Headstock Decal on a Taylor Guitars GS Mini
Pictured is the headplate of a Taylor GS Mini. As a budget conscious offering in the Taylor lineup, it features a decal logo on the headplate. Unfortunately, this instruments owner accidentally damaged the logo while using the headstock as a resting place for his capo. Zooming in, one can see that there are ripples in the logo near the letter “A” as well as a tear near the top of the letter “L”.
Fortunately, as a Taylor Guitars warranty service center, we were able to obtain a replacement logo for this guitar.
To begin, we removed the strings, tuning machines, and the truss rod cover from the instrument. With them out of the way, we were able to sand the headstock using a medium grit paper wrapped around a hard block.
Before long, the logo has been removed and we have a clean, even, surface to work with for applying the replacement decal.
After sanding, we sprayed a sealer coat of finish over the bare wood. Once dry, we set about affixing the replacement label that Taylor Guitars supplied us.
After taking care to locate and line up the center points of the headstock and the label, we began what proved to be the most finicky part of the job. The decals are quite delicate; Getting it separated from the cover paper and securely affixed to the headstock took a bit of care and patience.
With the label in position, we were ready to spray several coats of finish over the headstock to protect it and the label from damage in the future.
Had this been a glossy finish we would have followed with wet sanding and buffing to achieve a high glossy luster.
Since this instrument has a “flat”, not glossy, finish, after leaving the instrument to dry, the instrument is ready for a restring and setup before heading home.
About Calico Guitarworks
Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Contact us with any questions or book your appointment today.