As discussed in Headless Guitar Resources for the Guitar Builder, the headless guitar design lends itself to the pursuit of an ergonomic guitar design. With the headstock’s weight removed and the tuners relocated to the body, the guitar’s balance improves significantly. This improvement in balance was one of the driving forces behind Ned Steinberger’s redesign of the bass. With its long neck and heavy tuners, the bass was an obvious choice for such a redesign. The guitar followed suit.
A also noted, headless guitar components can be expensive and difficult to find. Given this issue, I have been researching alternative solutions. One such solution can be seen at TK Instruments in the form of luthier Todd Keehn’s Hollow Body Electric Guitar:
Todd Keehn has solved the tuning issue by using Steinberger Gearless tuners at the body side. These tuners, designed originally as substitutes for conventional guitar tuners, are readily available from outfits such as Stewart-MacDonald and open up a number of alternatives. First, with the use of an appropriate headpiece capturing the ball end of the string, we no longer need double ball end strings. While double ball end strings can be difficult to find at times, conventional strings are available everywhere and in much greater variety. Second, this solution provides us with a way to accommodate a fixed bridge for those of us who aren’t interested in tremolos. The Hollow body, for example, uses a fixed piezo bridge. Third, for those with large hands, the large tuners are less cumbersome to operate than the small tuners on the Steinberger tremolo bridge and its alternatives. Fourth, although not the most inexpensive tuners, these locking tuners are priced comparably to more traditional looking locking tuners.
Finally, if you are at all interested in general guitar design, don’t let my focus on the tuning solution stop you from exploring the other elements on Todd Keehn’s guitars. Check out Anatomy of a TK and discover some of the interesting elements and details he incorporates into his various designs such as compound scale necks or Fanned Frets, stainless steel rod frets, asymmetrical neck profiles, etc.