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Martin Guitar Purchase - Neck Issues

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by cap217, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. cap217

    cap217 Supporting Member

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    I have been looking for an HD28 for a while. Looking for the "right" one. Martins are pretty consistent so I have come across a few. I narrowed it down to older specs of 1 11/16" nut and 2 1/8 string spacing. The 2018 dont have this. Anyways, I found one but the action was a little high. I bought it and took it to my well respected guitar guy for a setup and look over. He took out his straight edge as he usually does first and told me the neck was off because the neck with the straight edge hit the bridge. I am sure my words arent explaining the neck angle here properly but this is a common thing so Im sure you get it. He told me that the straight edge should align with the top of the bridge. Martins shift over time. This guitar was a 2008 and rarely played. I ended up returning it and am on the search again.

    The action was 1/32 too high for me and he said he didnt have the room to lower the saddle much.

    Questions:

    - Is the tech accurate? He told me to take a straight edge when buying acoustics and measure the neck angle to the bridge.
    - Is this something to worry about? Or is it being picky?
    - If it is being picky, thats ok I guess. I have time to find the right one.
    - Is this common? I know older guitars need neck resets but it didnt cross my mind that newer ones would.

    PS
    I took my J45 and it all checked out. Happy about that.
     
    strike3 likes this.
  2. Frozen Rat

    Frozen Rat Gold Supporting Member

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    He sounds like he knows what he's doing. If the neck has shifted where it's out of line with the bridge and he cannot lower it any more due to not enough saddle showing (which in addition would compromise the break angle) then that guitar was due for a neck reset, which realigns the neck properly on the guitar and is not cheap.

    And yes, it's something to worry about because the cost can be up around $800 to fix that.

    I wouldn't say it's common on a guitar that is only 10 years old, but not impossible either.
     
  3. cap217

    cap217 Supporting Member

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    I guess I am asking if this is something I literally have to look at with every acoustic guitar purchase? He made it seem like with every Martin I should be checking and never commit to a purchase until he checks it out. Collings he said has never had this issue (that hes had in the shop obviously).
     
  4. davess23

    davess23 Member

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    How much the guitar was played isn't as relevant as whether it's been properly humidified. If it hasn't, the resulting geometry changes can make even a new, unplayed guitar need a neck reset. A reset isn't major surgery, and ironically enough it's something a lot of older Martins need, but for a skilled tech to do it right costs at least a few hundred bucks. If you like that D-28, maybe you can make a deal that allows for fixing it up.

    BTW, a Collings certainly can need a neck reset-- mine, both in their mid-20s, did after many years of playing-- but since Collings necks are bolt-ons, the procedure is quicker and easier.
     
  5. Tony Done

    Tony Done Member

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    I'm with your tech, and the first thing I check on any glued-neck guitar, regardless of its age, is neck angle. Neck angles vary even in new guitars in most makes, including Martin, who have recently gone from a lifetime to a five year warranty on neck resets, so buyer beware. I would never buy a glued-neck acoustic that had a low neck angle, unless the price reflected the cost of a reset. This is the reason that, for me, bolt-on necks, especially the Taylor system, are a very big plus.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
    GGinMP likes this.
  6. Frozen Rat

    Frozen Rat Gold Supporting Member

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    You should make a practice of checking this on any potential purchase. First check the neck relief and then see how much saddle is left at the bridge. If there's a lot of saddle left and the relief is good and the action isn't too high then you're good to go. To check relief, capo at the 1st fret and then hold down the bass E string at the neck joint and see how far the string is above the frets in the middle. You should have a little bit of distance, but not much.
     
  7. rowdyyates

    rowdyyates Supporting Member

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    Tops sink when guitars are “dry”. Before I had a neck reset I’d make sure it’s properly humidified for a while; maybe a couple of months. This might take care of the problem. If you get the neck reset, and proper humidification brings the top back up, then you’re back to the same problem and might have to reset the neck again.
     
  8. zombywoof

    zombywoof Member

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    I am still trying to wrap my head around the 2 1/8" string spacing at the bridge on an acoustic. Do any acoustic builders even provide a string spread this skimpy?
     
  9. cap217

    cap217 Supporting Member

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    Martins d28 were before the 2018 changes. At least in the years I was looking at.
     
  10. mmn

    mmn Member

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    Yes, he's right. If you lay a straight edge on top of the frets with the thing tuned to pitch it should touch the top of the bridge. The saddle will raise the strings above that. You should also check the relief. If it's severe either direction then you may not have enough adjustment in the truss rod to correct it. You should check the string height at the first fret and the 12th. And condition of the frets. Minor wear can be dressed out. Major dips and divots could require a re-fret. If all these things are good you probably are ok and it can have a proper setup to play like you want. If they are not you may be looking at some expensive work.

    If it has no truss rod and is relatively straight (highly unlikely), you'll be fine. If it's not, then a neck reset and leveling/re-fret may be required.

    I usually offer to go with my customers to look at used and vintage guitars just to give them my opinion on what it will need and estimate costs.
     
    GGinMP likes this.
  11. mmn

    mmn Member

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    Just one more thing. Wood moves. It always moves. Older, more stable wood moves less, but it moves influenced by temperature and humidity fluctuations.

    When you add stress/tension, such as strings tuned to pitch, it moves more. It will reach a state of eqililibrium with a given temperature and humidity. But when that changes, it will move.

    You might think that a 60 year old neck with no truss rod has moved all it's gonna move. You might think that if you remove the neck, plane or sand it flat, reinstall it, string it up with the same gauge strings, same tension, it won't move. Bzzttt. Nope. It will still move. See, you've changed the situation. There's less mass in that neck. There's more freedom for the wood that's left to move. And it will. Over time. Not as much as it did originally, but it will move.

    So just understand there will be periodic adjustments needed in a neck, any neck. A truss rod simply makes that much, much less of an issue. It can help reduce the amount of movement in a neck due to tension and facilitate straightening a neck bowed due to string tension.
     
  12. tammuz7000

    tammuz7000 Member

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    I really like the new necks on the new martins. I’d play a few of them and buy from a reputable dealer with a return policy. They also changed the bracing for the sound. I think I’d look st a Hd28v is you are looking used. A short saddle is a sign a neck reset might be needed. I passed up on a very good sounding om28 with a short saddle and it was new. I never took a straight edge shopping but I have taken string heights and measured relief. I wouldn’t be afraid of buying used and have bought both ways new and used.

    Tom
     

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