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NeckJointJigSQUARE300 O'BRIEN NECK JOINT JIG & TEMPLATES
A simple, elegant jig that helps you easily attain correct neck alignment. Plus, with the included template set, this clever jig routs both the mortise and tenon accurately.
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Hundreds of Redwood tops to choose from. Including Sinker Redwood! Available in 3 grades.
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New and approved model made in-house!
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Available in an Indian Rosewood/Spruce kit
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Even-colored, straight-grained, easy to work
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April 2016

AprilBlogDovetailBoltOnNeck300Dovetail vs. Bolt-on Neck Joints 
by LMI's Sales Manager Chris Herrod

There is a great debate in guitar making (and playing) circles about which is the best way to attach the neck of an acoustic guitar; using a dovetail joint or a mortise and tenon bolt-on joint. Clearly more guitars come out of the factories with a bolt-on neck. But when it comes to high-end and handmade instruments, adherents of both methods are well represented. Here at LMI, we sell pre-carved necks with both types of joints and both sell about the same. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two methods?

DOVETAIL
The dovetail joint is borrowed from furniture making where it used to create a visually attractive connection that incorporates the pressure of wedge geometry to reduce play and creep, creating a tremendously firm and rigid joint. The mortise and tenon are glued together to better seat the halves. A guitar neck’s dovetail joint differs greatly from those used in furniture in that the joint incorporates empty space within it so that the luthier can dial in the perfect neck angle as the neck is seated (there is no “air” in a furniture dovetail joint, normally). Still adherents claim that the dovetails tightness results in greater tone as a more rigid neck will absorb fewer vibrations from the string. The fact that they were used on coveted, vintage Martin and Gibson guitars is reason enough to employ a dovetail joint for many. On the negative side, seating a dovetail joint can be far more difficult and time consuming than a bolt-on, and when it comes time to do a neck reset on the guitar (to correct the action), loosening a dovetail joint involves the relatively difficult maneuver of injecting steam into the joint using a narrow, hollow pin inserted into a hole drilled (inconspicuously) into the appropriate fret slot above the joint.

BOLT-ON
The “pros” of using a bolt-on neck are implied by the negatives of the dovetail! It’s much easier to set-up and rout the mortise and tenon, to seat the neck and to repair the joint, if need be. In a factory or busy shop, time is money and because of this the bolt-on neck’s popularity has grown steadily over the years.

Some argue, that the sound of these guitars is not as robust as in a dovetail instrument, but there are many who strongly disagree with this opinion. In reality, there is just as much solid wood contact in a bolt-on joint as in a dovetail joint. In the end it can be difficult to point out exactly what is creating an improvement or decline in tone quality with so many factors at play in any one instrument and with the supposed differences between them being so subtle.

One thing is for sure though. The sometimes daunting job of routing either a dovetail joint or a bolt-on mortise and tenon joint, with all its particular geometry, is made much, much easier when using LMI’s clever Neck Joint Jig, designed by Robbie O’Brien. Click the link below to learn why this tool is so popular with today’s luthiers.

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