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Here is a topic I've heard discussed at my local shop for some time.  Some builders...Martin being one of them, take great pride in their Dovetailed (glued) neck construction.   Purists and collectors of vintage models claim this gives the best bond between neck and body.  It was also the method employed by stringed instrument manufacturers for centuries.  Martin uses this construction on 18 and above models.


Newer construction techniques have employed "bolt-on" or mortise and tenon construction....most electric guitars and some acoustic builders (Taylors and some Martins) now utilize this constructon.  Advocates of this type of construction maintain that modern day construction (CNC machines) make this neck bond equally as well and also makes neck set up and repair much easier.


Martin uses bolt on construction on the LX, DX, D1, D15, and D16 models since the mid 90's (older D15 and D16 models used dovetail construction).


Does anyone really care what kind of neck construction is used on newer guitars?   Do you think Martin may shift to bolt on necks in the future?   Some say that Martin will make this shift for easier neck set up and repair reasons.  They refer to Martin's late acceptance of the adjustable truss rod as an example of the company's slow acceptance of modern construction techniques.   Although Martin used steel reinforced necks for years....they were slow to implement adjustable truss rods.  Today, the adjustable truss rod is employed by almost all builders.  Bolt on necks might become the next common mode of construction. 


What do think about neck joint construction?  Let the discussion begin.

Tags: Bolt, Dovetail, Guitar, construction, on

Views: 8760

Replies to This Discussion

There is much debate in "set neck" over" bolt on" neck construction and it seems to always relate to the sound or lack of it that it generates from the guitar. To be honest with you I have heard wonderful tones from older acoustic guitars that had true screwed on necks with backing plates! Martin used to have a have a saying that "if you make the neck straight to begin with, you don't need an adjustable truss rod." Indeed you will find some purists that would not own a Martin guitar unless it had the older square stock non adjustable truss rod, claiming that the tone of the instrument is better with this arrangement. In my opinion the only way to really tell if there is an unfavorable difference in tone between a non adjustable rod over an adjustable, or over a dovetailed neck joint compared to a mortise and tenon would be to use the SAME guitar body with the different setups. You would think that a major player like Martin would have done this and used objective opinions from a team of listeners before they would ever change their marketing and maybe they have. I would like to think so because I am such a huge fan of their guitars. My view is if a particular method of construction has worked well and sounds great then don't change it, but shortcuts are sometimes sure to come in a bad economy or highly competitive field.
As you say, Taylor really started something with their CNC machining and bolt on necks. I have both kinds of guitars and the best tone is obtained with my tennon necks, but these guitars are also higher priced with better tone woods so this is not a definitive comparison (more later). I've always thought the neck vibration was more important than folks realized, because I play banjo and this is certainly true for a banjo. The guitar top is heavier and vibrates less than a banjo so it doesn't transmit as much through the neck. Banjo necks are bolted on and the attachment must be strong and secure. While I agree there is some harmonic transference down the guitar neck and back again, I'm not so sure it means a lot to the tone. As an example, I recently bought a $5,000 hand-made classical guitar and it has an adjustable truss rod. I had never even seen a classical with a truss rod before and I was very apprehensive regarding how it would affect tone. After playing this guitar for a couple of months I can tell you that it sounds fantastic and I'm getting to the point where I believe adjustable truss rods are the best idea for classicals. Guitars change over time and being able to reset the action, without having to send the guitar to a luthier, is a very desirable trait. I know we are talking about bolt vs neck tennons here, but the principles (effects and repairs) are the same. But... in the interest of conducting an empirical comparison test, I will volunteer for a brave, self-sacrificing duty: The folks reading this can send me (at a minimum) a 1937 Martin D-28, a D-45 (any year), a top of the line Taylor, and at least 20 other guitars each of neck tennon and bolt design. I will test them and let you know how it turns out regarding tone, repairs, and playability. Of course, this will probably take about 30 years as I want to eliminate all variables and one is certainly how well the guitars will open up with age. Hey, it's the least I can do for my friends at AG Martin Owner's Discussion! Mike.
That's a wonderful sacrifice you are offering to make for us! Let me know how many guitars are shipped to you. I'll be waiting for the results in twenty-thirty years! Will you be publishing the results in AG magazine? ; )
I have both types. The two Martins with the glued & dovetailed necks as well as my vintage 1964 Framus which has a bolted on neck & if I were to be perfectly honest, I cannot hear any different in the instruments. I've never left a link in the message forum before so I'm hoping this takes you to my photos.*jMlA*zClYpld/Framusboltplate.JPG__The man that restored my Framus works at Martin. He was intrigued by the bolted on neck & said in his years of restoration & repair on instruments he personally thought the bolted on neck was the better way to go, albeit not 'as pretty'. So maybe there's something to that too.
The link above did not work for me, however, clicking on the litlle photo of you takes me to your member page where I viewed your photos. Wow....that bolt on is really a bolt on! I had a Fender acoustic many years ago with a similar neck. It was a Fender Villager 12 string. It appeared to utilize the same neck as a Tele or Strat. This type of neck on an acoustic is fairly rare. I can see where an electric player would probably prefer this type of neck....especially if they play Tele/Strat type of instruments. Chuck
Chuck, yes, it occurred to me immediately after I hit submit that posters needed only to do that to go to my page. Don't you just love those 'senior moments'? LOL!

It is indeed a very sturdy, no-nonsense bolt plate. And the laminated neck is also incredibly strong. After all these years it's like sliding your hand along buttered glass, tho' I don't do it justice. It also has a very unusual bridge & saddle. It is somewhat like an electric bass bridge or electric guitar bridge in that each set of strings can be adjusted. Which has proven to be SUCH a boon! Each set of strings sits on a little bone wedge & that can be moved with a screwdriver used on the tiny screws. I will post a photo of that too. When I post the pic you will see it's been moved. My brother in law built guitars in Ontario & he readjusted the bridge to it's correct position.
Personally I go with the glued in neck...I believe that the companies that use the bolt on necks do so, for the most part, to cut down on warranty repairs. I know that sounds archaic, but it's just my opinion. I have two Martins from the 70's/80's and they do not have truss rods...I believe Martin began using truss rods because it lowered their warranty repairs on warped necks...Gibson has had adjustable rods for years and Martin finally got on the bandwagon. Gibson tried to overbuild their acoustics in the 70's and nearly went bankrupt because players in that purchasing bracket could tell the difference. Again I hate to be a snob, but I have been playing for 35 plus years and I have played a lot of guitars in that time and I can tell the difference! All of the acoustics I have had and still have, including the ones I have built myself, have a glued in neck...even my electric 12 string. I believe that every detail that goes into building an acoustic guitar effects the could it not! The big makers have tried for years to introduce things that made it easier for them and convince us that it was "better" or "just as good." The bolt on neck thing is a recent example...right now good tone wood is dying out and they want us to believe that these substitute woods are "as good," I just don't believe it and never will. There is no substitute for quality materials coupled with quality build to make a quality instrument...period. I am not in any way saying that there is not a place for synthetic materials in guitars...Ovation staked their reputation on it, but at the time there was nothing else like it amplified...nobody in their right mind at the time would have set aside their Martin D-28 ion the studio and put a mic in front of an Ovation and been satisfied! I know I am generalizing here, but I just don't like to be told by big companies what sounds good. Note also that for a lot more money, you can buy a Martin, Gibson, and even a Taylor made in the old way, with a dovetail joint and HIDE GLUE...of course you pay a lot more money...there is a reason for that!
"HPL"...come on Martin Guitars, it's counter top with a picture of wood on it! There was a great "Letter to The Editor" that I can't believe Martin ran in their Sounding Board Newsletter showing a new "Little Martin" at a campground and the owners said that not only did it make a great travel guitar, it made a great cutting is the picture...'nuff said.
For those of you who have purchased these guitars made with synthetic materials or with bolted on necks, if you are happy with they way they sound and play then that's great! It's just not for me...
Edward (the snob) ;-)

Edward - while I agree with you in theory, I do have to concede that 1) bolt on necks & 2) HPL Martins are not all inferior instruments. Does the Martin D12X1 sound like the MartinD28-12? Hell no! But then we're comparing an $600.00 guitar to a $3000.00 guitar? I don't think the comparison's fair, do you? I have the D12X1 as you know & it has a pretty good sound for a 'plastic' guitar. I didn't expect it to sound like the D28-12 so wasn't disappointed. The top is still Sitka Spruce & imo the top is the important place for the tone wood. I did however, try mine against a $1300.00 Takamine EF-381C & frankly it blew the doors off that one. Plus the Tak had enough room between strings & fretboard that I could have driven a Hummer under. The D12X1 still has all the other features that we've come to appreciate in a Martin.

My Framus has a bolt on laminated neck & I've never had any problems with either since 1964. I wish I could say that for the Gibson LG1 I finally gave up on due to truss rod issues it had. =(
I don't have any vid of myself playing but there's a guy on You Tube who plays the Framus Falcon6 which is the 6 string version of my Framus 12 so you can get some kind of idea what it sounds like. Back in the stone age when I bought mine it cost me $368.00.
I I said, I am passionate about acoustic guitars so I get caught up in it all! But, yeah, I don't expect an HPL guitar to sound like a $3000 Martin D-28 with it's choice woods and glued in neck...but I don't want a person purchasing an HPL model to think that because it has the Martin name on the headstock that it's as good as the D-28 either. And that is where I take issue with the big companies...their hype would have you believe that it does. As long as a person knows what they are paying for and THEY like the sound it makes, I am all for it! I just have a real issue with a $4000 Taylor (made mostly by machines) with a bolt on neck with neck shims which allow that player to easily adjust the action, or the $3000 Martin Model with the Allen wrench adjustment to "adjust the action on the fly" (Martin Guitar with the Babicz Adjustable Neck) being billed as, and compared to a high dollar acoustic that's been crafted by someone who is an artist! I too have my opinions about the pickups systems that claim to make an acoustic sound like an acoustic only louder...I am a staunch user of Fishman under-saddle pickups and preamps...they are in all of my stage guitars, but I would never claim that they sound like the Gibson J100 extra they are loaded into from an amp...there are way too many acoustic variables there that make that impossible. I feel the same way about the Aura line by Fishman and their claim that they have "modeled" expensive guitars in different environments and you can call it up with the flick of a switch and make your guitar sound like that...that's absurd!
I have heard a few albums by artist who simply plugged in their acoustic using the undersaddle pickup and mentor Stephen Stills did it on his solo album "Stills Alone", and it sounded like rubber bands over a cardboard box! I just highly resent companies publishing so much hype about these things until the general public accepts that as normal and correct! Oh boy, here I go again getting up on my soapbox and talking it all too seriously, but hey, this is why were are here right? I just love debating and agreeing on so much here in this forum and I would never want anyone to think that I believe that I am always right...I am just one of many with a strong opinion! Keep strumming! Edward

P.S. I am also smart enough to know that guitars encrusted with fancy inlays sound better...if they do it's only because they reserve the best tonewoods for these instruments since the cost is so high. A Martin D-45 is pretty much the same as a Martin D-28 structurally, but it has much prettier woods and a lot of handfitted inlays that you have to pay extra for.
Hello again Edward, I'm just catching up on this old thread of yours. I too am a person who has been playing since 1970 and I've picked up a thing or two even though playing music had always been my hobby; at least until I figured out how to make a living out of it and built my 1st recording studio in 1995.

My experience has been with some Martins and many, many Taylor guitars and that has been diluted with teaching myself, harmonica, flute, trumpet, sax and anything else I could get my hands on, like a WX5 wind controller that plays like a sax (or flute) but can emulate 256 simply changing the Yamaha VL70m (with turbo chip of course) settings. Still, I know guitars pretty well and can tell you with absolute certainty that outstanding tonewoods ARE NOT a thing of the past. Sure, Koa is rare and old growth forests have been harvested. The same goes for Brazilian Rosewood... but, there are plenty of outstnding alternatives out there and once those fine instruments reach their prime, say in 20 or 30 years (or more) they will be every bit as precious as any "rare" wood and sound at least as good. Try out a brand new Macassar Taylor and compare it to any Brazilian you may have heard... you will be pleasantly surprised.

As for NT vs. dove tail / glued on necks I am of the mind that the easier it is to repair the better the design. I don't believe the glue or joint add anything to the sound and my NT all Koa Taylor K65ce will blow away most any 12-string I have ever heard. It's relatively young at 8 years of age but the tonal qualities of Koa are so different than say Rosewood and Englemann Spruce that it is hard to say anything other than a great guitar is a great guitar and the voices are as unique and appealing as the many voices in the human choir. I'm sure the responsible builders not only have a large supply of Master grade woods tucked away for the right buyers but that they are dilligent in their efforts to protect resources and see that harvests will continue well into the future. Meanwhile, all of us can debate it ad infinitum but the truth is that there are plenty of wonderful tonewoods that will be used in place of the soon to be too difficult to acquire; Madagascar, Macassar, Walnut to name just a few of the lesser know but terrific options.

For fun check out "True North Guitars" here in Northern Vermont. Dennis Scannel is building guitars on par with the more well-known luthier, James Goodall. The maturing of the woods of each new guitar as it ages and the way that the parts start acting more and more as one integrated whole over time will determine what guitars sound best. It's a matter of finding a quality instrument that withstand the test of time so that its' true voice can one day be heard in full bloom.

PS: Thank you for your insight on the other guitars that I have not had the pleasure of playing.
P.P.S. In regards to your comment about Taylor guitars using technology to evolve the design and manufacture of their guitars as a negative feature; may I point out how that exact approach to car building allowed the Japanese to eat the GIANT American car manufacturing lunches (dinners and breakfasts) over the past 30 years? Higher quality and responsible pricing that allowed them to take over what was once our private domain.

Now add to that my recent experience with a relatively young Martin J40 from 2005. That $4,400 (MSRP) guitar had PLASTIC bridge pins that stuck out 3/32 of an inch farther than they should have. Is that the type of quality Martin is putting into all of their guitars in this difficult market? I surely hope not. Not in my 15 year love affair with Taylor guitars have I seen a single episode of shoddy "fit and finish". I've owned their solid wood guitars from the wonderful 310, 410 (yuck), to the 514, 555, 714, 810-wmb to K14 and (now own) K65ce and 955e and all were perfectly manufactured... no short cuts and no flaws... just the right guitar for the budget. This was during my 15 year "searching phase" after the destruction of my beloved 1971 Martin D12-28 and as it turned out I was only truly happy with a Jumbo. What people need to do is to go into a high end guitar dealer that offers multiple lines that can be compared side by side so they can decide for themselves and not just buy on a name. Let's also not forget the incredible boutique guitars that are now being built as well for those with a passion t have their guitars custom made, which now also includes Taylor's BTO (build to order) program. In my experience I would be much more inclined to search out a superb guitar that is at least 10 to 15 years old so I could take advantage of some of the tonal aging that will have already begun to occur.
Well I knew this topic would stir up some heated debate. And we know Ed's not a snob. Anyone viewing his capo collection would know that! ; ) I am fully aware of the fact that some people will pay more for the glued dovetail neck construction employed by Martin....many people feel that this makes guitars employing this type of construction more valuable. And they are correct as long as people are willing to pay a premium for this type of construction. I kind of wonder how many guitarists and collectors feel that this type of construction is worth the premium?
As far as warranty repairs go, I imagine that a fairly new Martin may be repaired by Martin, however, this is not a slam dunk. Martin gets out of a lot of repairs with their "not responsible for humidity/or lack thereof" clause.
Frankly I am not too impressed with Martin's "limited" life time warranty. I've watched the certified Martin repair guy at a local dealer turn away too many guitars from warranty work. Things that I've seen him accept readily are separation between the top and side, or internal bracing that flat out got loose.
Cracks,warped necks, lifted bridges or frets? Good luck.

Ed, I loved that LX chopping board!! many of your guitars would you try that with? I have an LX with a wood top. Of course it does not compare with my "collectables". However, I find myself (as an ameteur) only taking my LX, my Takamine D-18 copy, or an Ovation to jams or trips. I could not bear to see one of my high end guitars damaged or lost. It would be different if I were a professional. Now if I could only gid rid of that onion smell on the LX!!!


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