NECK AND NECK
Martin Guitar Necks
Ebony and Steel Truss Rods
The following information taken from Mike Longworth’s transcription
of the Martin Shop Orders indicates which wartime Martins were built
with Ebony truss rods
place of the usual steel rods due to wartime restrictions on the use
presenting this here as a general guideline since Mike’s work, while
tremendously helpful, did include quite a few errors. The
contemporaneous Shop Orders
include errors as well. So the guitars themselves
should always take precedence, and info from the logs should be
verified by looking at the guitars.
guitars are our friends and never lie! Put a magnet to you
guitar’s neck, and it will tell you immediately if it has a steel
truss rod buried inside or not!
in fact, was the basis of Longworth’s ongoing work. What most
folks mistake for the “Martin logs” is actually Mike’s transcription
of the logs used as a starting
for adding his notes from observation of the guitars he inspected in
person. He was always looking to verify and add to what he saw
in the original shop orders
most guitar listings from the wartime period are followed by an “(E)”
or an “(S)” to indicate “Ebony" or “Steel", quite a few are not.
In some cases where we have a
string of “(E)”’s with a few in between with none, It seems fair to
say that the lack of an “(E)” would indicate the opposite, but we
can’t know for sure.
indicated here with an * which of these are not noted but may be
reasonably presumed from context.
let us know which of your guitars can help clarify the ambiguous
The “Bar frets” wedged into the
fingerboard on Martin guitars built before 1934 have the
additional benefit of keeping the neck straight. So
all Martins built before
August 9, 1934 57305 have
ebony neck reinforcements or no reinforcement at all.
When Martin switched to T
frets, a steel T bar was added to the neck’s interior to help keep
the necks straight.
classical guitars, and size 5 Martins never had steel truss
with the following serial numbers should have ebony neck
reinforcements due to wartime restrictions:
#80863 - 83107
81118-29* (*not noted -
All have ebony truss rods.
All have ebony truss
#90150 - 90360
#91623 - 92495
91960-71 (partial - 4 with E,
8 with S)
#93233 - 93623**
(**not noted - presumed E)
Jan 1 - May 3
# 93624-95295 -- not noted - presumed S
#95296 - 97909 (E)
All have steel truss rods
Neck Sizes and Shapes
So what makes a neck feel thin or fat?
have lots of Martin guitars, from 1834 to the 1960's, with lots of
neck sizes. And I have some that I'm really in love with, such
as my early January, 1930 OM-28
has an unusually wide 1 13/16" wide neck which feels extremely
shallow, and Gibson necks from c. 1930 that have a similar feel.
most folks are fans of the 1 3/4" necks from the '30's, and I'm used
to wide necks - I grew up with a 12 fret 1964 00-21NY with a big neck,
and can even
my 2 1/8" Roy Smeck - the 1 3'4" doesn't feel as comfortable in my
hand, and the wartime necks feel great to me. Some folks
consider the Gibson AJ to be the
Grail. I'm allergic to it's neck. If I don't get it out of
my hand immediately, I'm in pain with cramped hands.
I started to catalog the details of my guitars, I learned something
interesting. Wartime Martin necks that felt "fat" to me,
actually measured exactly as deep
necks that felt much thinner, front to back. This is when I
learned that it's all about the "Shoulders". While some necks
have an obvious "V" and others are round, there are
gradients in between. And it's the contour of the shoulder- the
part of the neck that's missing in a "V", not the depth of the dead
of the neck, that usually determines how thin or fat a neck
The Move to Thinner Necks
phased in steel strings between 1922 and 1926. They apparently
didn't see any need at all at the time to change the neck size, either
to accommodate steel strings,
because steel strings allowed them to do so.
neck was slimmed, however, in 1929, from 1 7/8" to 1 13/16", for
Perry Bechtel's OM "prototype". Evidently, this was not
considered enough, or they simply realized
could go further, so the production guitars were tweaked further to 1
3/4". A 1/8" change from 1 7/8" to 1 3/4" is considerable, and I
do believe this decision to
been clearly influenced by banjo players. The 14 fret neck was
requested by Al Esposito for the 4 string Carl Fisher tenor guitar,
which we know was fashioned to
banjo players as the banjo waned in popularity. Even in the
months before Fisher, the tenor guitar was introduced by Martin for
banjo players with a 1 1/4" neck, a tiny
compared to any previous Martin. I believe that this idea is
reinforced by the fact that Martin continued to produce the 12 fret
with the exact same 1 7/8" neck width, with
changes at all after nearly a century, allowing Martin to offer the
traditional wide neck to traditional players, and the new thinner neck
to these newer converts to the guitar.
has seldom made changes on their own accord, but almost always due to
customer demand, either by the market in general, or more often in
response to specific requests.
1939, the market spoke again, as musical styles changed from those
based on traditional right hand finger style playing, along with a
more intricate left hand technique, to
with a "plectrum", often with simple strumming and "cowboy chords", as
a simple accompaniment to singing. So Martin responded in 1939
with a relatively minor 1/16"
from 1 3/4" to 1 11/16". As tastes and musical styles and
techniques have changed once again with the times, Martin has more
recently tweaked their product line back
the direction of 1 3/4" necks.
the left is Martin's first unsuccessful attempt at a longer neck on a
tenor guitar, with no doubt designed for banjo players.
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