Printing a Unique Guitar Headstock Jig


Profile of the Headstock Jig as an AutoCAD drawing
Profile of the Headstock Jig as an AutoCAD drawing
Custom 3D printed Headstock Jig completed
Custom Headstock Jig completed

Here’s a quick model and print of a custom guitar headstock I recently did for a buddy of mine, Brend from Gourley Music, who builds guitars for a living. He’s been crafting his own guitars now for a number of years and always makes something extraordinarily special whenever his skilled hands work the timber. Brend has been wanting to make something truly unique, a look and style that will be the signature for his guitar building efforts. Afterall there’s a traditional way of making guitars, a style that can be repeated over and over and over, or one that breaks with tradition.

The purpose of a headstock on a guitar is to hold the pegs of the instrument in place, from here each of the strings are attached and can be tuned by turning each individual peg. It’s called the headstock because it’s considered to be at the ‘head’ of the guitar, being the single general location where all the strings orient themselves. Traditionally, this is a simple rectangular shape featuring two elongated holes running longitudinally and three pegs on either side, but for his signature look, Brend penned an asymmetrical design with beautiful flowing curves and organic shapes, reminiscent of rolling waves and borrowing heavily from the design ques of other stringed instruments such as the violin. 

Design of the Guitar Headstock Jig

Model of the guitar headstock in Fusion360
Model of the headstock in Fusion360

What was need for this purpose was a Jig to be made of the profile of the signature headstock. This jig would be for cutting acrylic using a high-speed router, the clear acrylic then being used as the final template for shaping and sculpting the actual piece of timber to be used on the guitar.

Where my skills and services came in useful was for making this one-off tooling jig, taking the design from being lines and vectors on the computer screen and transforming it into a usable piece of hardware on the 3D printer.

Design for the headstock was drawn up in AutoCAD as a basic two-dimensional polyline object, I received the drawing in this most basic of formats, with the outline of the part needing to be given depth for the purpose. From this, it was a case of processing the shape with Fusion360, giving the jig a useable thickness, in this case 10mm was more than enough, and converting into an STL for slicing. 

STL model of the guitar Headstock being sliced in Cura
STL model of the Headstock in Cura

As this wasn’t going to be an actual part used on the instrument (PLA doesn’t have a good resonance for musical instruments), it was a simple extrusion of the profile only, not requiring any more advanced modelling features than this. 

Slicing of the part was completed in Cura with an infill of 20% and a layer height of 0.2mm. For its intended use, there was no need to go over the top with quality, after all it was going to be sacrificial to a high RPM router being run around its edge and because of this, hence the layer height only needed to be course and nothing finer. 

Printing the Jig

Guitar Headstock Jig completed on Ender 3 Pro 3D printer, printed in black PLA plastic
Headstock Jig sits completed on Ender 3 Pro 3D printer

The jig was printed on the Ender 3 Pro using a black PLA from Bilby3D. The print itself was simple and straight forward and as I’ve come to expect from the Ender 3 Pro, quality was perfect with no blemishes of the printed part. At an almost to 5 hours print time, it was completed with no fuss, able to be successfully printed on the first attempt. 

Completed guitar Headstock Jig printed in black PLA plastic ready for use.
Completed headstock jig printed in black PLA plastic ready for use.

Final Thoughts

It was a nice simple print for myself and one where I’m glad I could help out a mate. In my opinion, this is 3D printings greatest strength – prototyping and one-off parts. Yes, a 3D printer can definitely do many more things and produce better than prototype quality, but the ability to quickly and easily make such parts to a high level of accuracy is an area it is particularly good at and an area where it is overlooked in favour of other novel purposes.

Be sure to check out the Gourley Music Facebook and Instagram pages to follow and keep up to date with all the guitar building adventures from Brend in his workshop!

Additionally, if you have enjoyed reading this article please share on social media and while you’re there don’t forget to follow me, RB42, on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for updates and new posts. 

3D printed Guitar headstock jig and router being used.
Guitar headstock jig and router in use.

Baden Jones
Baden Jones

By day a controls electrician, by night blogger for RB42 – fascinated by new and emerging technologies, automation, manufacturing, electric vehicles and of course my first, true love Formula 1.

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