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  1. #1

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    What is your opinion on/experience with the issue?

    Seems like some people swear all guitars will eventually need one and others say its on a case by case basis.

    In vintage guitars after the wood has had decades to age and settle under string tension does it seem logical to assume that if the issue hasn't already cropped up that its likely NOT going to, also assuming that its living conditions are stable (no massive fluctuations in temp or humidity) and that the instrument is generally well cared for?

    Why should some be so lucky as to never need one and others require attention as little as 10, 20, 30 years after production, even within the same model or in guitars using roughly equivalent designs/materials?

    I'm no luthier- maybe the learned could drop some knowledge on the laity.

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  3. #2

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    A well made archtop should not need a neck set. A flatop usually over time needs a neck set but not always. This has to do with how different they are made and archtops allow for instant adjustment.

    My guess is most original early 16 inch L5’s and Loar’s have never had a neck set. These are the oldest archtops around.

  4. #3

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    I remember the late archtop builder Jimmy Foster telling me that if one of his guitars ever needed a neck set, he was going to saw the neck off. He was not about to ever steam a neck off. The dovetail and build are not really meant to be taken apart as such.

  5. #4

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    Archtops also usually develop some top sinking over the years which counter balance the movement of the neck and maintain the action.

    I don't know if it's something to celebrate but it eliminated the need for a neck reset of my vintage Gibson.

  6. #5

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    Inevitable? No. But, if the guitar needs it to function properly, it's not something to fear, or pretend it isn't necessary, and suffer the consequences of failure to act. Some luthiers are experts on the process. It's best, like when needing a medical procedure, to research the doctor's, in this case the luthiers, to see how many they've done, what kind of guitars, etc. I know one that over the course of his career performed many on vintage Gibson's and Epiphones, and was quite good at it. Restoring vintage instruments often involves a neck reset. My understanding is that it's also very common with old Martin's.

    An old guitar that for whatever reason needs it, it's not the end of the world. It can be thought of as the beginning of a new chapter in the instruments life, a life filled with promise and great music. I've personally witnessed unplayable guitars being turned into excellent vintage instruments because of it. Those that shun old relicts, or prefer they be tossed in the kindling pile, might be missing a diamond in the rough! I've discovered one or two over the years.

  7. #6

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    Most all old Martins have had a neck set for sure. I have not seen an listing for a vintage Martin at Grhun's that did not say it had had a neck set. On the other had I have seen very few Gibson archtops that have had to have them, some but not many. Stromberg guitars are interesting in the way the Elmer made the neck and neck joint they were easy to take off. He used very little glue from what I understand and if done just right it was possible to simply pop the neck of with a timely blow in the right place. I have never seen it done but I remember Bill Barker telling how that worked. I have seen a few D'angelico's with neck sets but again the number is not big. Just plan on it for a flattop in maybe 20 years or so depending.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    Most all old Martins have had a neck set for sure. I have not seen an listing for a vintage Martin at Grhun's that did not say it had had a neck set. On the other had I have seen very few Gibson archtops that have had to have them, some but not many. Stromberg guitars are interesting in the way the Elmer made the neck and neck joint they were easy to take off. He used very little glue from what I understand and if done just right it was possible to simply pop the neck of with a timely blow in the right place. I have never seen it done but I remember Bill Barker telling how that worked. I have seen a few D'angelico's with neck sets but again the number is not big. Just plan on it for a flattop in maybe 20 years or so depending.
    That is the beauty of the Taylor approach. Knowing that flattops need a neck reset over time, Taylor guitars use a bolt on/shim method of neck attachment that permits a neck reset in about 30 minutes of a guitar techs time.

  9. #8

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    Interesting.

    What design differences make the flat top more prone to needing one? Don't archtops and flat tops both use a dovetail joint at the neck attachment? Forgive my ignorance- I could probably google this, but, I'm in here already.

  10. #9

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    All I can say is Taylor's while perfectly fine functional instruments. Are flat or thin sounding and generic playing guitars.
    For me I'd much rather a Martin,Gibson, with its long term issues.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by BiscoDrew
    Interesting.

    What design differences make the flat top more prone to needing one? Don't archtops and flat tops both use a dovetail joint at the neck attachment? Forgive my ignorance- I could probably google this, but, I'm in here already.
    You can adjust the saddle posts on archtops. Because of that there is more room for reducing the action on archtops than flat tops. Other than that, I don' think there is a difference.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    All I can say is Taylor's while perfectly fine functional instruments. Are flat or thin sounding and generic playing guitars.
    For me I'd much rather a Martin,Gibson, with its long term issues.
    I have a cedar topped Taylor (714CE) that blows away every Martin that I have owned (I have owned 7 of them over the years, including a few high end models) and has a better neck profile than any Martin that I have ever played. Knowing that an expensive neck reset will never be a cost of ownership is just icing on the cake.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    You can adjust the saddle posts on archtops. Because of that there is more room for reducing the action on archtops than flat tops. Other than that, I don' think there is a difference.
    I think the geometry of a flattop puts more tension on the neck than an archtop and because of this, a neck reset is inevitable on a flatop and is not always so on an archtop.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    I think the geometry of a flattop puts more tension on the neck than an archtop and because of this, a neck reset is inevitable on a flatop and is not always so on an archtop.
    It's possible. But the force on the neck that pulls it forward is the product of the angle between the strings and the neck as well as the gauge of the strings. Guitars with the same action and strings will experience the same force (vectoral force) regardless whether they are flat top or archtop.

    The difference is archtops necks have more of a back angle due to the higher bridge. That back angle at the dovetail might be giving archtop necks more structural strength. As you said empirical evidence support that too.

    I have seen many old archtops however with very low saddles. Including my 1934 L-75. If it weren't for the slightly sunken top, it'd have needed a neck reset according my tech.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by BiscoDrew
    Interesting.

    What design differences make the flat top more prone to needing one? Don't archtops and flat tops both use a dovetail joint at the neck attachment? Forgive my ignorance- I could probably google this, but, I'm in here already.
    A flat tops pulls the bridge up and top. The complete opposite of an archtop. Flat tops over time the top will get a bulge around the bridge. All the tension of the strings pull directly from that point.

    An archtop is completely different pull from the tailpiece and downward pressure on the soundboard. The way the tops moves and vibrates completely different pivot points.

    To but it bluntly……It is like Night and Day….in difference…..Cole Porter vs. Led Zeppelin.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    A flat tops pulls the bridge up and top. The complete opposite of an archtop. Flat tops over time the top will get a bulge around the bridge. All the tension of the strings pull directly from that point.

    An archtop is completely different pull from the tailpiece and downward pressure on the soundboard. The way the tops moves and vibrates completely different pivot points.

    To but it bluntly……It is like Night and Day….in difference…..Cole Porter vs. Led Zeppelin.
    Yes on the sound board end there are big differences, but I think his question was about the differences that affect the forces on the neck and the need for neck reset repair.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Yes on the sound board end there are big differences, but I think his question was about the differences that affect the forces on the neck and the need for neck reset repair.
    it is all part of the equation and yes the tension on the neck is different as the angle over the bridge. Also if the top and bridge pull up 1/16 of an inch that can be huge on the action of the guitar. On an archtop if the guitar settled in and changed by 1/16 of an inch, that is nothing you just turn the wheels on the bridge an adjust. Neck reset has to do with the top and the bulging and can also be the actual joint. It really depends and archtops can even expand upwards at the place of the bridge with changes in humidity.

    Jimmy D'aquisto..................." The archtop guitar is the ultimate acoustic guitar, it allows all the variables to be change without any real structural work needing done. It produces way more variations and possibilities in tone and volume."

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    it is all part of the equation and yes the tension on the neck is different as the angle over the bridge. Also if the top and bridge pull up 1/16 of an inch that can be huge on the action of the guitar. On an archtop if the guitar settled in and changed by 1/16 of an inch, that is nothing you just turn the wheels on the bridge an adjust. Neck reset has to do with the top and the bulging and can also be the actual joint. It really depends and archtops can even expand upwards at the place of the bridge with changes in humidity.

    Jimmy D'aquisto..................." The archtop guitar is the ultimate acoustic guitar, it allows all the variables to be change without any real structural work needing done. It produces way more variations and possibilities in tone and volume."
    See my post #13. If the action and string gauge are the same, the force is the same. Assuming of course the the guitars have the same scale length and tuning. If the string tension is different with the same length, the notes would be different.

    The action determines how much of the string tension translate to vectoral force pulling the neck upwards.

    The difference with regards to the structure is the back angle of the neck (note this doesn't affect the force exerted by a given action). The back angle might make archtops necks structurally stronger against that upwards pull.

  19. #18

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    My '62 Super400 CES has had a re-set at the same as the top was re-finished - so I was told by the seller and the guy who actually did the work some 15 years ago. This fact allowed me to buy the guitar which otherwise would have been waaay out of my budget .... I never learned WHY the neck was fixed and it's also not visible except under a black light.
    Speaking of flattops and the way the neck is secured onto the body : if I'm not mistaken it was Micheal Gurian who first introduced a "glue-less" system using ebony dowels for the neck/body joint, in the early to mid 70's ....

  20. #19

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    As I see it, the need for a neck reset is the result of distortion of the guitar body(mostly the top, but also the back) resulting from years of string tension(it's not a neck problem per se, it's an issue with the body, although it manifests itself as high action/low saddle or bridge). I have done numerous neck resets on flattops, and many vintage Epiphone archtops: every Epiphone, but one, that I've owned, or fixed for a customer, has needed a neck reset, because the bridge is very low, and has obviously been shaved down, and/or the adjuster wheels removed, etc. While the top, on. a flattop, pulls up, the top on an archtop is pushed down, from string tension. But in addition, I think, the back loses some of it's arching(it flattens, from neck block to tail block), from the string tension, and the effect is...high action and a low, often shaved down bridge. I've only worked on two vintage Gibson archtops, and one of them had a very low bridge, so I reset the neck. I like to see a bridge height of 3/4"-1" on a vintage Epiphone or Gibson acoustic archtop.

  21. #20

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    It's pretty straightforward with a hollowbody, especially a flat top - the sound of the guitar depends on the top being flexible, but flexibility increases the chances of a neck reset. So any design is a balance between responsiveness/resonance and strength. Martins are notorious for needing neck resets, but when they beefed up their guitars to reduce warranty claims, the guitars weren't so well regarded. Like any piece of engineering, it's a compromise, and sometimes wood just misbehaves.