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View Full Version : To the Martin afficionados: Mortise tenon vs. Dovetail neck joint


blues2rock
10-28-2009, 09:45 AM
With all else being equal, what's the difference in tonal qualities?

Is one joint stronger than the other? A few more years before a neck reset is required?

I assume mortise tenon is cheaper because it comes standard on all the "lower model" Martins.

Thanks,
Jason

Placida
10-28-2009, 10:02 AM
Ten page thread here. :D

I have both types of joints on my guitars. Tone-wise, I really haven't detected a difference. It's a vibe thing mostly, but others will chime in I'm sure.

Taylor Martin
10-28-2009, 10:27 AM
Here we go again..... :D

blues2rock
10-28-2009, 10:36 AM
I tried searching for a thread about this subject but couldn't find any. I certainly don't like contributing to any over-post here.

rmyAddison
10-28-2009, 10:40 AM
I have one M/T neck, on my OMC Aura which is my only acoustic/electric and stage guitar if I can't use microphones. It is also my least expensive Martin so comparisons aren't really apples to apples.

Can I tell it's an M/T neck, not really. Martin use M/T necks on their less expensive guitars, even though the Aura is nudging $4K it's far from high end in Martins lineup.

Apparently it matters to Martin, and since they are the experts and have 175 years behind them I cede to their decisions. Some folks swear the dovetail joints and wide nut Mod V neck contribute to the sound of many of their high enders, I don't know but they do seem to be the Martins I end up buying.

Would I not buy an M/T Martin, no, I already have. DO the more expensive Martins all have dovetails, yes, for what it's worth.

cpabolting
10-28-2009, 10:41 AM
Mortise Tenon joints are lame.....

Kidding



Dovetail from what I understand is a more efficient and comprehensive way for the intonnation to pass from the neck to the body of the guitar. Has to do with resonance.

Brackett Instruments
10-28-2009, 11:01 AM
Mortise Tenon joints are lame.....

Kidding



Dovetail from what I understand is a more efficient and comprehensive way for the intonnation to pass from the neck to the body of the guitar. Has to do with resonance.

IMHO that's kinda true, but it's not just a DT/ M&T thing. The way Martin does their M&T necks has a tight fitting neck joint, that's also glued. The makes the neck/body act like one piece, just like a dovetail. The bracing in Martins guitar with Dovetail necks is quite a bit different than their M&T guitars so a tonal comparison between them would not have much, or anything to do with the neck attachment. Neither would be more or less likely for a neck reset, that's got more to do with internal construction of the "box" than the actual neck joint itself.

My views on neck joints. A tight fitting neck joint, like a (properly fit) Dovetail, or a tight fitting M&T will be tonally similar. (IMHO a M&T doesn't have to be tight fitting, so I didn't use the term "properly fit") A neck joint that's looser fitting, meaning the tenon doesn't fit tight in the Mortise, or a butted bolt on, will be tonally different than a Dovetail, or other tight fitting joint. these differences are subtle, and neither is tonally superior, they're just different. With a tight fitting joint you can expect slightly more overtones, and slightly less sustain. This it due to the dampening cause by the neck and body acting as one big piece of wood. With a looser fitting joint, the neck doesn't absorb as much from the top so the top is left to resonate longer, but some overtones are lost. These differences are subtle. Looser fitting doesn't mean, "bad" or "sloppy" it's just different methods. By "looser fitting" I mean that the neck just isn't tied to the body in as many dimensions.

Howard Klepper
10-28-2009, 11:55 AM
With all else being equal, what's the difference in tonal qualities?

Is one joint stronger than the other? A few more years before a neck reset is required?

I assume mortise tenon is cheaper because it comes standard on all the "lower model" Martins.

Thanks,
Jason

1) none
2) both are strong enough for any difference not to matter, unless you are thinking of using the guitar as a weapon.
3) no difference in time to a reset.

blues2rock
10-28-2009, 12:23 PM
1) none
2) both are strong enough for any difference not to matter, unless you are thinking of using the guitar as a weapon.
3) no difference in time to a reset.

Simple and to the point...and from a luthier! Thanks to everybody that responded:)

Jason

15 Man
10-28-2009, 02:41 PM
I've been told I still have a pretty good ear for music and how an instrument sounds. I've played similar models of both Dove Tail and M&T jointed necks; and I can't really hear much of a difference. In each case, all the components are all wood. The "bolt" that holds the 2 pieces to an M&T together is a wooden dowel; and yes there is also an actual bolt that helps hold things together. But that's more of a precaution until the glue dries than anything else. And (like someone above said) the whole thing is also glued together. I agree with whoever above said as long as it's a good tight joint, it shouldn't make a lot of difference. A Dove Tail also takes a lot more time to install; where the M&T is more cost effective. Someone once said to me that one isn't really a lot better than the other. They're just different means to get to the same result. That's where I am on this.

jackstrat
10-28-2009, 02:51 PM
A ton of great guitars use the mortise and tenon bolt on neck including Huss and Dalton, Breedlove, Collings, Goodall, Bourgeois, etc.

Why?

Because it takes years of experience to develop the Martin skill of dovetailing a neck. Evidently, it is still very much a long hand process.

Think about neck angles and all the variables that have to be met to dovetail the neck/body joint.

That's why the newer builders use a bolt-on.

Does it make a hill of difference...Probably not. Frankly, the bolt on probably can be set to higher tolerances during assembly.

Taylor has it down with their combo of precision machining and shims.

JackL

brianmay
10-28-2009, 03:11 PM
If you're prepared to put your hand in your pocket, do your research, play a few guitars - there aren't too many bad ones out there if you're a little bit discerning.

I certainly wouldn't be put off a particular guitar because the neck is held on using one method rather than another.

Vive le difference!

For those who believe, no proof is necessary, to those who don't, no proof is enough - applies to guitars as well as life in general.

Best of luck to all you M&Ts and Dovetails, may you all make good music :D

JoeCharter
10-28-2009, 03:33 PM
If you look strictly at Martin, you might be inclined to think that rosewood is "better" than mahogany and dovetail is "better" than mortise and tenon. The guitar industry is going through a bit of nostalgia and the most desirable instruments are those that are based on yesterday's instruments.

Switch to Collings, and the parameters are completely different. Collings uses the mortise and tenon joint but people would be hard pressed to accuse them of trying to cut costs...

We live in a world where people are ready to pay more to have scratches on their Strats and Teles, so the answer isn't always logical.

SpruceTop
10-28-2009, 03:47 PM
With all else being equal, what's the difference in tonal qualities?

Is one joint stronger than the other? A few more years before a neck reset is required?

I assume mortise tenon is cheaper because it comes standard on all the "lower model" Martins.

Thanks,
Jason

Hi Jason,

I have a Martin DC-16RE AURA (mortise-and-tenon), a Martin D-15 Custom Spruce & Rosewood (mortise-and-tenon), a Martin DC-28E (dovetail) and a Martin D-18GE (dovetail). They all sound good and I'd attribute most tonal differences to the bracing patterns and woods used in these guitars. I think the mortise-and-tenon joint isn't inferior to the dovetail joint tone-wise or sustain-wise. Collings uses mortise-and-tenon joints on their guitars as does Huss & Dalton and other makers too.

I'd suspect the mortise-and-tenon joint would help facilitate any repairs and adjustments to a guitar when it's necessary to remove the neck.

Regards,

SpruceTop

blues2rock
10-28-2009, 04:43 PM
Oh wow, I didn't know M&T uses actual bolts? So in essence, it's a bolt-on neck?

Placida
10-28-2009, 04:49 PM
Oh wow, I didn't know M&T uses actual bolts? So in essence, it's a bolt-on neck?

Not to my understanding, at least with Martin. There, the "bolt" is used to hold the two pieces together while the glue dries. Because it's an additional cost to remove it, it's simply left in place - no harm done. It's not a true bolt on neck in the same way a Taylor or other brand is constructed.

Tim McKnight
10-28-2009, 08:37 PM
Oh wow, I didn't know M&T uses actual bolts? So in essence, it's a bolt-on neck?

Some do and some don't. Martin uses their (1) bolt to apply clamping pressure and then removes the bolt after the glue dries. I use two bolts along with glue and the bolts remain in place after the glue dries.

Is their a tonal difference? :eek: Yes, there is and its measureable.

darylcrisp
10-28-2009, 09:44 PM
Jason

In our home, we have samples of each. I've never thought to notice a difference-and definitely have never "heard" anything from any of our Martins to make me wonder about the neck designs.

what we buy, we buy because of how it sounds and plays, simple as that. design, added adornments, or cases they come in doesn't matter to my family. with that, i will tell you we had 2 OMJM's(these have the M/T neck) and they are killer OM's. I've played well up the Martin chain comparing and have yet to find anything better for myself. I did recently trade my OMJM(since we had two of them) for a 0018V(DT neck), its a totally different animal as far as woods and such, and a much different sound.

so simply put, we are really happy with either. long term neck reset never enters the picture for our purchase.

i don't think you can go wrong with any of the big name guitar companies-no matter what style neck they use(martin, taylor, goodall, etc).

buy what sounds and plays great to your soul

daryl

theEdwinson
10-29-2009, 03:35 AM
I'm a builder, so I'm very opinionated. On my first dozen or so guitars, I used a hand-cut dovetail joint, made to the specs outlined in Bob Bennedetto's book, Making an Archtop Guitar. It took a good bit of practice to get it right, but I figured it was worth the extra work to own the skills. Every guitar since those early ones, I've switched to a Mortise and tenon bolt on joint. I figure that either joint will work out to be equal, provided they are well-executed and precisely fit, without any slop or gappage.
Bob Taylor was the first major designer to stand out proudly, and publicly proclaim the efficacy (superiority?) of the bolt-on neck joint. The current Taylor neck joint is pure genius, and easy to do if you have CAD/CAM technology at your fingertips. Many other builders, large and small, have since followed suit, with excellent results. My current mortise/tenon guitars sound better than my early dovetails, but that's because I'm a more practiced craftsman now, not because I switched neck joints. If it's done right, you really can't fault the mortise and tenon, or the dovetail. As for tone production, the neck joint has little noticeable effect, if any, in my opinion, unless it's badly done. What really matters is the quality of craftsmanship. I agree with Woody B and 15 Man. -edwinson

theEdwinson
10-29-2009, 04:31 AM
If you look strictly at Martin, you might be inclined to think that rosewood is "better" than mahogany and dovetail is "better" than mortise and tenon. The guitar industry is going through a bit of nostalgia and the most desirable instruments are those that are based on yesterday's instruments.

Switch to Collings, and the parameters are completely different. Collings uses the mortise and tenon joint but people would be hard pressed to accuse them of trying to cut costs...

We live in a world where people are ready to pay more to have scratches on their Strats and Teles, so the answer isn't always logical.

Amen to that, Brother. I buy my jeans at the Army-Navy store, still wet from the indigo dye. Scuffs are earned, not manufactured. And furthermore, when you see a long parade of Grampa guitars sauntering through the repair shop, you start to see trends where they go wrong and need to be fixed. It gets you thinking, how old is the guitar I'M making going to be, when it starts limping, and sitting down a lot?
I like the idea of a guitar that becomes a village elder when it reaches the equivalent human age.
Does anybody out there have an antique dining table with bolt-on legs? Did it ever break? How did you fix it? Is it still beautiful in all its aged glory, or did you finally have to burn its remains in the fireplace?
Neck joint/tone? I agree with 15man. -edwinson

cpabolting
10-29-2009, 05:01 AM
Jason

In our home, we have samples of each. I've never thought to notice a difference-and definitely have never "heard" anything from any of our Martins to make me wonder about the neck designs.

what we buy, we buy because of how it sounds and plays, simple as that. design, added adornments, or cases they come in doesn't matter to my family. with that, i will tell you we had 2 OMJM's(these have the M/T neck) and they are killer OM's. I've played well up the Martin chain comparing and have yet to find anything better for myself. I did recently trade my OMJM(since we had two of them) for a 0018V(DT neck), its a totally different animal as far as woods and such, and a much different sound.

so simply put, we are really happy with either. long term neck reset never enters the picture for our purchase.

i don't think you can go wrong with any of the big name guitar companies-no matter what style neck they use(martin, taylor, goodall, etc).

buy what sounds and plays great to your soul

daryl


Yes...but you have compared the OMJM with the OM-28 John Mayer Signature Edition (It has a dovetail neck)? The difference is significant!