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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: 8773

Replies to This Discussion

I don't think I can add factually to all that's been said here, but my personal preference is the 'old-fashioned' way. I'll take the set necks, please, though I've played some bolt-ons that sounded just fine.
Well I guess you do like "old fashioned"! You have a nice collection of old Martins. I like your mix of body styles also. I'm predominantly small body ( 2-0, 1-00, 2-000, and 1-0000) with a couple of D and J bodies.

What was the guitar without a bridge and strings?

And last but not you really have 2 custom guitars on order at the same time! I am envious!
Jody, I think if you boil it all down, we're talking as much, if not more about preferences as we are which guitar is better, & which one is inferior. Those who like the dovetail/glued on neck will contend it sounds better too. Personally, I like the 'old fashioned' neck application myself. I think it looks better than having a metal plate & bolts on the back of the guitar. That clean, uninterrupted wood appearance is much nicer.

Having said that, I own three different kinds of guitars being discussed here - the dovetail/glued neck variety, an HPL backed guitar as well as a bolted neck model. So all I really need to do to compare is pick one of them up.

They all sound different. But unless I had the identical guitar, one with bolted on neck & one with glued neck, I can't honestly say *what* makes them sound different. I have a friend who owns a Martin D18 identical to mine & bought a year previous to sounds different than mine does. Mine is the 175th anniversary special guitar...would that make a difference in the sound too? I dunno. Just nuances mind you, but still different.

Great discussion too, btw. I love hearing how everyone feels on the subject.
I am with you on that's just great to have a place (this Community) where we can all voice our opinions! I would never want to make someone else think that their idea is wrong, or worse, dumb...I just love the forum and I have learned so much from so many! Thanks, Edward
Jody, I think if you boil it all down, we're talking as much, if not more about preferences as we are which guitar is better, & which one is inferior.

I completely agree...if my response in any way indicated that I was criticizing, I was not. I think I said I'd played bolt ons that sounded fine.
Charles, I guess it shows that I'm an 'old' Martin girl, in more ways than one, I suppose at this stage of the game. :-) The one without the bridge is the 0-18K before its restoration work. I committed the ultimate sin in having it refinished but the wood was in really bad condition - even purple in two rather large places from the case having been wet with the guitar inside at some point. The wood grain was raised and the finish completely gone on about 75% of the guitar. I opted to have it redone and it's beautiful now. I've taken some flack for that call, but I'm happy with it. There's just something about the old guitars, even with tone factored out, that just intrigues me.

I do have two on order. I figured the Circa would be done first, but John Slobod had some personal and professional things come up that slowed the process so the Wingert is actually due to be done in a month or so after almost two years of waiting. Hopefully the Circa won't be too far behind. It's just like Al Petteway's 00 maple except for some cosmetic differences. They will truly be my dream guitars...
By the way...bolt on necks do not always look as obvious as a Fender. The bolt on necks of Taylor and the current DX, D1, and now the D15 and D16 are also bolt ons. They don't look like a bolt on. Rather than a dovetailed joint they use a mortise and tenon. The mortise and tenon is bolted on inside the body. If you look at the piece of wood that the serial number and model number is on, you will find a thin wooden cover on the neck block. This thin piece of wood covers a nut and bolt holding the joint together. They go to a great deal of trouble to make the bolt on neck look like a glued dovetail neck! And....many boutique builders also use bolted necks. Some will give you an option of either type of construction.

The D15 and D16 were once glued dovetails. The fact that Martin is gradually changing their models over to mortise and tenon bolt ons is why I brought this question up in the first place. The special CF Martin IV guitars use bolt on necks on higher end models. The John Mayer model also used bolt on construction on either a 000-28 or an OM-28. I think the trend is obvious....the bolt ons are coming....the bolt ons are coming!!! Run for your lives!

It could be that one day (how soon???) the only way you will be able to get a glued dovetail will be through the custom shop!
I recently built, or shall I say assembled, a D style guitar from a kit offered by a guitar parts suplier company. The same kit offered a choice of "bolt on" or traditional glued neck. Well it was a no brainer as to which I choose. To me the Martin sound was built on certain construction techniques they had employed for decades on their guitars. I knew what the glued neck sounded like on a D body and I went with that and I was not disappointed with the finished product. I like traditional traits in traditional guitars and say if originally a guitar had a bolt on neck and received some of its' original tone from that bolt on neck, I would not to buy that particular guitar with a glued in neck. Its really not a question of being a snob, to me its being realistic.
Speaking of Martin necks though, can anyone tell me way Martin is notorious for neck resets compared to say Gibson? Always been curious and thought it might have something to do with Gibson in general having a beefier top construction?
LOL! You're right! I just checked my hubby's D15 & sure enough, there's the wood cover. I'll be darned. ;)

So what does this actually indicate? Is it that Martin is becoming less of a guitar because they've opted to bolt the necks on now? Or have they learned a valuable lesson over the years & made the obvious leap to better their product? It's anyone's call.

I defy anyone to tell the difference. Maybe cheaper models vs pricey ones, but then there's more than just bolts vs glued coming into play. Do a test. Go into a music store, ask the salesperson to play the same song on some instruments while you're blindfolded & then you tell them which ones are glued necks & which have the bolted on neck. I bet you'd surprise yourself. =) I think it's as much psychological as it is factual.

As to the HPL & Tusq vs ivory, I am of the camp that Martin is still attempting to keep the integrity of their guitars but needs to be aware of dwindling resources to build them whether we like it or not. Conscience dictates how they make a lot of their guitars today too & they aren't going to intentionally put out an inferior product. There is too much competition out there for them to drop the ball on this. Just my mumble opinion of course.

Like Ed said, nobody is "right" or "wrong". It is all I prefer a .38mm pick & my sis prefers a .50mm.
Ginger and Joe, are correct. The only reason I started this discussion is because this is but one area that guitar construction is evolving in. I think we should all be aware of these changes and also be aware of what we prefer in a guitar. That does it sound and feel! If it sounds right and it feels "don't matter" how it was constructed. As long as it is constructed with fine craftsmanship!
Joe.....I've always envied some one willing to construct his own instrument (I've built nothing more complex than a comb kazoo!) . There is a very good reason why Martin requires more neck resets than Gibson. The reason is an example of how Martin is slow in adopting changes! Sort of like how they are gradually changing over to "bolt on" neck construction.

Many years ago....neck reinforcement was accomplished with using a hardwood rod embedded in the neck. Then some one got the bright idea to insert a steel rod in the neck. After the majority of builders adopted steel re-inforced necks...Martin did the same. Martin did not jump to steel re-inforced necks until they were perfected (wouldn't want to degrade the Vintage sound of a Martin!). Then, some one got the bright idea to make the re-inforcing rod adustable! Again, the majority of builders perfected this type of construction and Martin was the last to employ this type of construction (wouldn't want to degrade the Vintage sound of a Martin!). As a result of Martin's slow adoption of re-inforced and adjustable necks, Martin guitars required more resets than other guitars. This reputation is what forced Martin to apply the newer technology.

I think the moral of this story is that Martin will not employ anything that will degrade the models that have established the "Martin" sound. However, like all the other builders, they will eventually apply technology that makes sense. And, like all businesses, in order to keep afloat, they will add entry level instruments to get future customers. In my opinion Martin (under its current family ownership) will put out the best they can at every level of cost. And if my little LX guitar and LXM tenor make good chopping blocks too than I won't hestitate to take them on motorcycle and camping trips! But then again, I would not try to compare them to my 0-18T or my D-41.

If one day CF Martin should sell out to say....AMF sporting opinion would not remain the same!
Kudos Chuck!
I don't think anyone could have said that better. There is some wisdom in 'letting the other guys iron out all the kinks first' & then when the technology's perfected, apply it. And I think as far as the lesser expensive Martins go, not being entirely made of wood affords people who could otherwise never own a Martin to have one. That's not a bad thing. They still do have the best necks imo & they are still built to Martin's stringent standards whether they are chi chi wood or HPL.

I do think it's understood by everyone that these guitars will *never* sound like the others because I doubt they have the capacity to absorb sound like say a D-41 et al. I could be wrong - time will tell I guess.

And I'm thrilled you introduced the topic here because it's something that is contested a lot since these guitars were introduced.
I agree...we have had a field day with this topic and it has been fun...We all have our own opinions and they are all great. Again, I said before and will say it again, I just love this forum where we can all come together and share our passion for acoustic guitars! Thanks to Chuck for getting the ball rolling and to all of the rest of you for making it interesting! Edward


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