Jonathan’s 12 fret steel-string
Here is a little bit about Jonathan’s steel-string; one of the projects that I’m currently working on. This is very much a subtle custom build. Although the guitar is based on my Model 1 shape, Jonathan wanted a 12 fret neck.
As I’m sure many of you know, it has long been the common view that 12 fret necks “sound better” than 14 fret necks as the bridge is positioned more towards the centre of the soundboard. It’s certainly true on this guitar that the bridge is closer to the centre. But if you look at how many classic American guitars have evolved, I don’t think the same can be claimed. Look at early Martin 12 fret dreadnoughts and compare them to the 14 fret neck version, you’ll see that rather than the bridge position moving south, the shoulders are squared off giving a smaller upper bout. The same is true of the 000 and other models. Some may argue that the larger upper bout increases the physical volume of air inside the guitar and that enhances the tone. However, I do think that it is the position of bridge, moved towards the centre of the soundboard, that will really make an audible difference (as of course, does Jonathan!)
So, having decided upon a 12 fret neck, Jonathan also asked for a cutaway to enhance access to the upper frets. I’ve made quite a few 12 fret cutaways in the past and feel that this is an excellent arrangement.
You have to continually evaluate and improve your guitars and something that I had wanted to do for a while was to extend the carbon fibre neck stiffener into the body and Jonathan’s is the first one that I’ve incorporated this idea into. (I’d been trying to figure out how to route the slots!) The CF is glued into the neck block and the neck itself and runs across the neck/body joint. This must increase the rigidity of the joint and to my mind improve the guitar’s performance as vibrations can’t be absorbed. Also, it should eliminate the possibility of distortion of the fingerboard over the body joint that can happen over a prolonged period of time.