3/01/2017

1990s Martin D-16 Dreadnought Guitar





This guitar (it's a customer's long-time squeeze) is certainly well-traveled! It no longer has its neckblock plate with a serial or model number stamped on it, but I'm pretty certain it's a 1990s D-16 considering the satin finish (now worn to gloss in many places) throughout. These newer, bolted-neck Martins have been and continue to be a lot of bang for the buck. My main issue with them as far as repairs are concerned, however, seems to be mixed design flaws as they age.

Often the bolted necks get loose or bridges lift a little too soon or -- in the worst case -- the necks are a little funky. This one has already had its bridge replaced (and had a bone saddle when it came in), but I also found that despite having a nice, tall saddle, the fretboard extension ski-jumped just a bit and the truss rod no longer functioned enough to straighten the neck.

Therefore, work on it included work-arounds -- it got a fret level/dress which also leveled the extension frets with the rest of the board, I compensated the bone saddle, and got a little bit more adjustment out of the rod by installing a spacer in front of the rod's nut and the rod itself. That gives the threads a little more room to bite. After that I took off some excess tension by stringing it with 54w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12 strings rather than "regular" 12s to shave a few pounds of tension in the middle (where the strings are usually 4-6lb more than the "outside" strings). In the end, it plays on-spec with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, though the truss rod is adjusted as far as it can go. The relief in the neck is a healthy 1/64" at most, though, and seems stable. Phew!

Still -- don't get me wrong -- most of these D-16s just need a little attention to the frets and a good setup after 15+ years. Obviously, it's the ones that need help that wind-up on my doorstep. Otherwise, they sound about like the "standard" new D-18s -- and that's a pretty good target to shoot for.




These necks have a fast, modern, C-shaped profile that gives you the feeling of a newer electric. The board has a 14" radius and is rosewood with pearl dots.









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