All About Dovetail and Bolt-On Neck Joints
Although its mechanics are invisible on most acoustic guitars, the neck joint provides fodder for endless discussions among pickers and luthiers. Two designs (and their variations) dominate steel-string guitar construction: dovetail and bolt-on. Both approaches are found on guitars of all price and quality levels.
A dovetail neck joint is a traditional woodworker’s joint. On a guitar, it takes the form of a V-shaped, flared tenon on the neck’s heel, which is fitted into a matching mortise in the body’s neckblock. Properly fitted, a dovetail joint is very strong and lightweight, and many people argue that because it offers a larger area of direct wood-to-wood contact between the neck and the body, it positively affects a guitar’s tonal properties.
The bolt-on approach uses hardware to attach the neck to the body. In most cases, the bolts run parallel to the fingerboard and pass through the neckblock, meeting threaded inserts in the neck’s heel. Some designs also bolt the fingerboard extension to the top of the body. The biggest advantage to a bolt-on neck is that it makes repairs and adjustments very easy, because the neck can be removed without any complicated procedures.
Excerpted from Understanding Your Guitar