How to Identify Guitar Maker Head Designs

By Ann LaPan
Headstocks come in various designs.

Headstocks not only play an important role in the function of guitars, but they also add character to the instrument's design. The purpose of the headstock is to provide a location for the tuning pegs that carry the strings to the neck of the guitar. Headstocks can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Pegs can be set on either side of the headstock, or all on one. Peg machinery is mounted on the face of the headstock or it rides in slots. Different manufacturers use different designs and machinery. Some headstock designs are patented.

Look for an insignia on the headstock of an acoustic guitar. Some of these are stamped; some are inlaid. Many of the brands that have been manufactured since the mid-20th century have a mark that is either the name of the guitar company or its logo.

Look at the shape of the headstock. In the early 1800s, when CF Martin first began manufacturing guitars, headstocks were beautiful swirly cuts of wood with delicate tuners and engraved decorations. Markers may not have been visible. Today’s headstocks are more hard angled, slotted or solid, and always marked in some way. The marker can be on the front at the top of the headstock in an inlaid script that reads CF Martin, or the name can be stamped on the back of the upper part of the headstock. Gibson guitars may be unmarked, but their “Dove Wing Peg Head” headstock shape is patented. The top of the shape is wings and the outer edges are slightly curved.

Examine the shape of a pointed headstock. Ibanez, ESP, Jackson and Washburn use pointed headstocks that are knife-blade shaped, with one straight side and one curved side. The straight side is where the tuning pegs are mounted. The Ibanez headstock is curved at the tip as though the point broke off and left a dip in the wood. The ESP headstock comes to a sharp point at the tip. The point on Jackson’s headstock veers off to the right but remains pointed, and the straight side of Washburn’s headstock slants at about a 45-degree angle from the neck.

Check whether the guitar has a rectangular headstock with rounded edges. The guitar may be a Rickenbacker if the sides and top of the headstock are curved.

Look for the Fender stamp or inlay on the headstock. Other than the Flying V guitars and other angular models where the straight lines of the headstocks coincide with the lines of the guitars, the shape of the six-in-line headstocks are straight on one side and quite curvy on the other, as it is with Washburn guitars. The difference is that the Washburn tips look as though they have a hook shape.

About the Author

Ann LaPan travels exuberantly in body and mind via planes, trains, automobiles and superb literature. A webmaster, website designer, graphic artist, accountant and musician (Jill of all trades, master of a few), she writes Today’s Horoscope for Shooting Star Astrology.com.