Feel Like A Heel

Necks and Heels on C. F. Martin Guitars

The earliest Martin guitars had what is known as an "ice cream cone" heel, for obvious reasons:

Many of these necks have a raised fretboard extension, and are adjusted by a clock key mechanism.

The most beautiful ice cream cone heel must certainly belong to this guitar and it's twin in the Martin Museum, referred to by Martin as the earliest instrument they know of to come from the hands of C.F.Martin Sr., with elegant stripes of ebony and ivory.

Comparison of neck joints with clock key adjustments on the Stauffer and Hudson Street Martins.



  The first "Spanish" Martins were a distinct style with specific features, including a line though the middle of the sides, and an elegant heel, often made with two pieces of wood.

1840's Spanish Style Martin and Coupa



1840's Spanish Style Martin

On this 1850's Style 2-24, we can see a more conventional, and less elegant heel, though still a 2 piece heel, unlike later Martins.

1850's Martin 2-24


I've measured a few early Martins and rated the curve of the heels with two numbers indicating the distance in 32nds of an inch from the guitar body to the shallowest point of the curve and the distance from the guitar body to the peak at the end point of the heel:

Early Spanish Martin & Coupa

18/26 curve 2 piece heel 

1840's Spanish Style Martin

18/26 curve 2 piece heel

Hybrid X 1-28 

21/26 curve 2 piece heel 

Pearl zig zag border size 1

22/26 curve heel

Pearl Rosette 1-28 

22/26 curve heel

The regular zig zag border size 1

27/30 curve heel

The regular zig zag rosette size 1

27/30 curve heel

Spanish heel Style 2-24

23/24 curve 2 piece heel

The backstrip extending through the heel cap seen on the Martin & Coupa above is a vestige from the early Spanish guitars of Cadiz, many of which had a backstrip which continued on to the heel.

Recio, Cadiz

The early instruments made by Orville Gibson carry on the tradition from Spanish guitars of a back that continues forward to cover the heel, as opposed to a separate heel cap. 


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