Traditionally, a luthier’s peghead shape remains consistent from one instrument to the next. It is his or her thumbprint, a marker that can be seen and identified from a far-away seat in the concert hall. Keep in mind that this tradition took root in the classical milieu where a brand or name is not typically inlaid into the peghead. It’s a simple and very subtle thing to create an unassuming, but unique curvature that is carved into the very top of the instrument. It’s also very easy to get wrong! If your peghead is a dog, there is nothing good about your guitar that will keep one’s eye from being drawn to it!
Of course, later on, when steel-string guitars took hold in the marketplace, brand inlays became commonplace. Here again, the shape is settled on and maintained consistently. In the best cases, it’s not too fancy, and not too plain and sits well on a variety of instruments.
Other elements come into play such as the headplate wood, decorative trim, inlay, and the tuner choice. Players often show a preference for certain tuners based on their type and function. On a purely cosmetic level though, it makes sense to have an eye open for consistency. Choose tuners that fit well with the whole instrument’s aesthetic. Some tuners have an old-fashioned vibe, others are more modern. They can be more or less ornate. Of course, on a steel string, the decision to go with a slotted or paddle peghead will direct the entire organization of the peghead. A slotted headstock can be more difficult for the luthier to execute (luckily made easier by Luthiers Mercantile’s ingenious Headstock Slotting and Drilling jig) but it can add real value to the appropriate instrument.
Choose the headplate wood to either provide a neutral background (Ebony, or sometimes, Rosewood), especially when there is an artistic inlay included. Otherwise, you will probably want to match the back and side woods. If you choose a different wood than what you’ve used on the back and sides, then make sure it complements the overall design and does not make the instrument look to “busy” visually.