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Martin Guitar Neck Reset - Fitting the Dovetail

The Martin is slowly but surely coming together.  I don't know if you're tired of reading about it, but I'm reaching the point where I want to see it together - mainly so I can play it!

Last week I took a big leap towards conclusion.

I need to temporarily set the neck and put some strings on it so I can test the neck set under tension.  You may recall that the neck and body were already separate when I got the guitar, so I have no real idea how good the neck set is.

It's pretty clear that someone has done a good clean job taking some material off the dovetail.  I need to shim the dovetail a bit to get a good fit - not unusual.  I stuck some pieces of card stock into the joint as a dummy shim, and measured them.  About thirty-five thousandths of an inch thick.

Then I cut two pieces of poplar about that thickness and glued them into the dovetail. 

I used a couple of makeshift cauls to clamp the shims into place while the glue dried.

Here are the glued shims.

Since the joint is blind (i.e., I can't see into it when the neck is attached), I need some way to measure the tightness of the fit, and determine what needs to be shaved off.

I got this idea from the great Stew-Mac neck setting DVD.  Brian Galloup demonstrates this method of determining the fit of the joint.  I think it's brilliant.

Take a couple of pieces of carbon paper and put them in the joint.

Then slide the neck into the joint.

The carbon paper will leave marks on the dovetail, which you can then scrape off.  You won't need to take much material off.   In this image, the dark blue mark is what I'm scraping off.

I had to do this a lot - maybe 30 times - and each time the marks changed, and the dovetail fit got deeper and better.

Next I'm going to try and rig up a jig to hold the neck in place so I can string it up and get a good look at the neck set.

The Complete Martin Guitar Restoration Saga
Restoration begins
Repairing heel break
DIY chisel for bridge plate removal
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.1
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.2
Steam removal of bridge plate
Bridge plate removed
Tongue brace removal
Crack repair and brace scallop
New bridge plate Pt. 1
New bridge plate Pt. 2
Patching hole in top
Final fitting of top patch
Installing carbon fiber rod
Fret removal
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 1
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 2
DIY fret bender tool
Refretting Pt. 1
Refretting Pt. 2
Tuner shaft repair
Neck reset - dovetail fitting (This page)
Measuring neck set with DIY jig
Gluing the neck with hide glue
Tortoloid Pickguard
Fitting bridge pins
Brace reglue
Making bone saddle
Making a buffalo horn nut
Restoration completed


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