Martin Guitar: Surprise Dovetail Repair

It’s nice to know that guitars can still surprise me.

I guess.

This one was certainly a surprise. This is a lovely little Martin. It’s in for a neck reset. Looking at the guitar before I started, it was very obvious that the neck had already been off at some point. It wasn’t re-attached terribly well and had been shimmed near the fingerboard as if it had been over-set during a previous neck reset.

So, I didn’t anticipate everything would be factory-pristine in there but I wasn’t expecting this.

What the heck? Martin guitar neck reset throws up a surprise

Huh!? What the…

It’s a bloody-great hole. Look at the close-up inset.

Martin guitar neck dovetail in need of repair

And there’s another one around the other side.

I’m guessing what happened is that the last person to remove this neck didn’t have a good grasp on how to do it non-invasively. He or she removed the heel-cap (that little bit of wood glued to that vaguely-triangular part at the bottom of the heel) and drilled two enormous holes into the dovetail to try to gain access.

To be fair, that heel cap is reattached really well—I hadn’t noticed any evidence it had been off but it must have been.

This isn’t the best way to remove an acoustic guitar neck. Here’s how I perform a basic neck reset if you’re interested.

Make it sound

I can’t just glue this neck back in like that.

Since the holes were drilled, they’re round. A couple of lengths of dowel—slightly down-sized first—will do the trick.

Glue ‘em in.

Acoustic guitar neck repair - Martin dovetail joint

Replacing drilled out wood to repair the dovetail joint of a Martin acoustic guitar

You can See that the near dowel protrudes past the dovetail and into the continuation of the hole in the ‘face’ of the heel.


Anyway, once the glue’s dry, it’s a simple matter to cut away the excess dowel with a chisel.

Now, maybe I can get on with that neck reset.