Everyone I know in bluegrass talks about the late 30's D-18s. I have been told that they were braced lighter and this was changed in the early 40's.
Is there any truth to the lighter bracing ?
Were they forward braced?
I did a search but found nothing.


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I just checked over my reference material and couldn't find anything except references to scalloped bracing which I think you already know about. It doesn't seem that the dreadnoughts really caught on until the mid to late '30s but I don't think the scalloped braces were dropped until sometime in the early to mid '40's so that may be what you are looking for after all. All my old bluegrass friends are crazy for "pre-war" Martins because of the scalloped braces too.

I've never heard or read anything about a connection between X brace placement and heavy or light bracing before now. As far as I know, the bridge position and neck length was the dependency Martin used to determining X brace placement.

I wasn't sure if they were forward or not.
I suspect You can find all the answers You need by checking the "Martin bracing library"-thread at UMGF. You can probably ask directly in a post and get the respons from Henk (Signature "Fool For Wood").

Thats a great site, thanks
I might not sleep for days, this Martin Bracing Library is great. I haven't gotten to a late thirties D-18 yet, But everything else and a lot to go. Thanks again.
Be careful what you ask for!
I had a similar curiosity a few years ago.
Before you click the link, put on a pot of good coffee, locate an easy chair- it could take a while!
Back in l973, I got a blueprint of a 1936 D28. The two parallel tone bars are moved farther back than they are now, and the front of the main X brace is 1"" behind the soundhole, where the newer scalloped brace models (after 1943) have the front of the main X bracing 1 1/2 " back from the sound hole. There was a change in the position of the tone bars sometime between 1933 and the early 40"s.
Hi Stephen,

Do you happen to remember where the sound hole was placed? It seems to me that sound hole position will tell us part of the brace placement but the S. H. may be shifted a bit too.

The sound hole position has not changed. The fourteen fret neck and 25.4" scale length dictate the position of the sound hole. I remeber comparing six Martin Dreadnoughts from 1936 to 1975 and they were all the same.
If the bracing was stronger it was in response to heavier string guages. But "bluegrass" really didn't become "standardized"until the 1970s and there was a great more variety of style and instrumentation that was graven in stone like now. Players played whatever suited them and much of the music was tope 40s pop songs done with a "twang."

Always remember that BG and Rock and Roll are "picking counsins" = pose WWII styles based on the fursion of prewar styles so it's only as "orthodox" as you want it to be. I've in the "bluegrass heartland - Ralph used to be a neghbor, Jim and Jesses were from the next town, Sarah Carter came from my home town while Dock Boggs came from the next one over . So I'd not nit pick ad naseum about an instrument if you like it, it plays like you want and makes you happy. Times were when instruments were expensive that a musician adapted his style to the instrument - not wasted 50 instruments hanging on a wall trying to find his taste! IHMO

The Martin site also has a light overview of the pre-war bracing, in their history section, but this is only the tip of the iceberg...


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