RESTORING AN ORIGINAL
Welcome to this month’s “Restoring an
Original.” We’re taking a look at a one-of-a-kind PRS that was custom-built for Neal Schon.
I was one of the lucky ones who saw Journey
out on tour this year. It was a superb concert!
The vocals, instrumentation, sound and lights
could not have been better—they rocked the
Target Center here in Minneapolis.
repair for this instrument to resonate with its
glorious sweet tone once again.
PRS Neal Schon Headstock Rebuild
PRS Serial Number: 2 64682; “Custom Built
For Neil Schon, Paul Reed Smith” written in
gold ink on the back of the headstock.
The first and most important challenge was
going to be attaching the headstock back to
the neck and securing its original strength. I
considered some form of dowel pinning. The
material size and substance was going to be
key in pulling off this restoration. After testing
density, strength, and tonal characteristics of
different materials, I decided to use 1/4”-diam-
eter carbon fiber rod.
home with an expensive collectable guitar!)
The medium cure epoxy was chosen not only
for adhesion, but for gap filler. Once the epoxy
was mixed, I lightly applied the glue to both
sections of wood and around the carbon fiber
pins. One of my concerns was the glue oozing
into the truss rod and not positioning itself as a
gap filler once clamped up, so I monitored the
glue by the touch of my hands, feeling for the
increased warmth on the underside of the glue
cup and by stirring and feeling for the increase
in viscosity. The difference in temperature and
moisture can really increase or decrease the
With the headstock snapped clean off, I knew
immediately that we weren’t going to be
doing one of our standard headstock reglue
procedures. It had a Floyd Rose locking nut
with two holes drilled through the neck for
the reinforcing chassis bolts to pass through.
One would think that two holes going through
the mahogany neck would make it vulnerable
there, but this break was after the holes on the
headstock side. In addition, a part of the restoration was going to be installing much lighter
tuning machines. These nice, A-grade Schallers
were very heavy for the size of the headstock—
perhaps a contributing factor in the break.
It was very important to maintain the integrity
of this PRS guitar. We needed to complete
these repairs without removing Mr. Smith’s
gold-colored writing on the back, and we needed to keep the mahogany neck looking natural,
with the least amount of scarring. Grafting in
reinforcement cheeks (removing a small amount
of material from either side of the headstock
joint and replacing it with small sections of
mahogany carved to fit perfectly) was going to
be too intrusive, and I certainly didn’t want to
spray a blotch of solid color “cover up” to hide
what was underneath. It was critical to keep
the details of this area looking original, which
would require “feathering in” the much-needed
For this procedure I cut two 1” sections, making carbon fiber pins with all ends slightly
beveled for easy installation. They were
inserted into the predrilled 1/4” holes on the
neck side. The body was mounted vertically
to the drill press and jigged up using Stewart
MacDonalds Cam Clamps (item numbers 3721
and 3723). Everything needed to be measured
and center-punched before using brad point
drill bits to drill the holes for the reinforcement
pins around the truss rod and the Floyd Rose
nut mounting holes.
I used a lower grade vise for clamping in the
headstock and drilling out the two 1/4” pinholes. This was very important, as I needed to
address the ten-degree pitched headstock. For
you repairers and luthiers looking for a new
and improved shop vise, StewMac’s Angle Vise
(item number 1820) offers a nice solution for
this kind of work, with 4”x1-1/2” jaws opening
to 4” and tilting from - 10 to
Once everything was dry
and according to plan,
ready to mix
try this at
time that the epoxy starts to kick, so I needed
to be ready to put the sections together at
exactly the right time or the repercussions
would be disastrous.
The glue was beginning to kick, warming up
with a slight thickening. The headstock was
inserted into the neck and neck pins with a vertically adjusted 50” grip clamp holding everything
tightly into place. The picture of the glued-on
headstock shows you the appearance of the
crack before drop filling with finish touchup. It’s
looking great at this point, so the finish touchup
is only going to make the repair less visible.
Sean at PRS confirmed that the finish was an
undercoat of polyester followed with an acrylic
urethane topcoat. We’ll apply the same formulation to address the finish separation.
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the
Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manu-
facturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by
a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar
making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by
instrument builders throughout the world.