Guild dreadnaught bracing patterns: 1971-1995

GardMan

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I purchased my first Guild, a 1972 D-35, in January 1973 ( a story that I have retold several times on LTG, and will save retelling again for another day). Sometime around 1986, I purchased a second D-35 (from 1978), for Anne. I immediately noticed that the two guitars, tho the same model built just 6 years apart, differed significantly in weight: the 1978 D-35 (subsequently weighed in at ~5.5 lbs) was notably heavier than my 72, which is my lightest Guild, at just 4# 4oz...

Altho my interest was piqued, investigation of the weight difference lanquished for more than 20 years. Then, in the summer of 2006, two "life changing" events happened: (1) I found "Lets Talk Guild, " and (2) I bought two more Guilds dreads from eBay auctions: a 74 G-37 Bld with arched maple back (top dated Apr 1974) , and a 74 D-25M with arched mahogany back (top dated Aug 1974). Built just a few months apart in 1974, I initially thought I would audition them, choose the one I liked, and resell the second. Little did I know that these two guitars would set me out on a quest to experience the different tone woods Guild used on its line of dreadnaughts, leading eventually to a 71 D-44 (pear wood), 76 D-50, 81 D-46, 92 D-55, 94 DV-72 NT (turquoise) 94 DV-72MK (malachite), and 95 DV-73 (turquoise, coral, onyx, nickel silver).

As I accumulated my small collection of Guild dreads, I again noticed the difference in weights: the two dreads from 71 and 72 were markedly lighter than those made later in the 70s, and into the 80s and 90s. This time, However, I started poking around, first with my fingers, feeling around inside the sound hole and the neck block, and then looking around inside with an automotive inspection mirror. I fairly quickly discovered that Guild changed the bracing of the upper bout on its dread models sometime in the middle of 1974, guitars built prior to the change included a "popsicle brace" between the transverse brace and the neck block. In contrast, all those built later have a neck block extension that reaches (or comes close to) the transverse brace, flanked by two thin "wing braces:" see figure... (sorry for the links... apparently there are different "rules" for posting images in blogs)

The top dates on my 74 G-37 (which has a popsicle brace) and my D-25M (which has the neck block extension and wing braces) pinpoint the date of the change to between April and August 1974. As new guitars came in, I would look inside and see how they were braced... and fellow LTGers added observations from their own dreads, all of which are consistent with the bracing change occurring in mid-1974.

As part of my NGD ritual (as I change strings and set up each new guitar), I use an inspection mirror to look inside at the top braces flanking the sound hole, knowing that Guild often stamped the top completion date on one of these braces (the practice of stamping dates inside the top stopped sometime in the 80s). Imagine my surprise in Feb 2007, when I looked inside my newly arrived 1992 D-55 and saw a large plate surrounding the sound hole, instead of individual braces flanking each side of the sound hole. For several years, I considered that this new bracing pattern might be specific to the D-55 model, until I found the same pattern in a 1994 DV-72MK that I purchased in fall 2014. After a little research, and comments from a number of LTGers, it appears that the sound hole reinforcement plate was a bracing feature in a number of dreadnaught and jumbo models from ~1984-1994 (it has been documented in models including the D-15, D-55, D-65S, DV-72, JV-72, and a DV-73 from 1994). According to fellow LTGer West R Lee, Hans Moust suggested that the sound hole plate was introduced to reinforce the rosette region of the soundboard during this period, when soundboards might have been thinner. Guild apparently returned to individual braces flanking the sound hole sometime at the turn of 94-95... My DV-73 (neck block date in Jan 1995) was individual braces flanking the sound hole. see figure...

Altho my primary on-line guitar hangout is "Lets Talk Guild," I have also spent a considerable amount of time over on the "Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum," where I have learned a lot about guitar construction reading the technical threads. I particularly found the Martin bracing library interesting. One of the techniques that intrigued me, sometimes referred to as a "Henkogram"(for the UMGF member who advocated the technique), uses lights placed inside the guitar body to image the placement of the top braces thru the guitar's top. The braces show as shadows in the image. I filed the technique away, planning to try it out with my Guild dreadnaughts during some future string change. That was a couple years back...

Well, I finally got around to experimenting with Henkograms during my "semi-annual mass Guild string change extravaganza" in December 2015... I used 6-9 battery operated undercounter LED puck lights (from the local Lowes) placed in the body of each guitar (the guitars were on a stand, and the lights were balanced somewhat precariously on the back braces), a cardboard and black felt cover over the sound hole, and my digital camera on a tripod. Exposures ranged from 3 to 15 seconds for the images shown. The D-35 was my first attempt... too much ambient light made the flare on the treble side, and I only had 6 lights, leaving the neck block area somewhat underexposed. I went and bought another pack of 3 lights (3 for $10), and used 8-9 lights for the other images. Here are the results obtained with my five remaining Guilds: see figure...

Individual detailed images of each of my current stable of Guild dreads can be found here... (click on any thumbnail for an enlarged view).

You can see the changes in upper bout bracing, from the "popsicle" brace of my 72 D-35 to the wing braces of all subsequent builds, and the shadow of the "soundhole re-inforcement plate" in my 1994 DV-72MK, compared to the separate braces surrounding the sound holes in all of the other dreads. My 1992 D-55 also had a sound hole plate, as does my newest addition, another DV-72 (turquoise this time) from February 1994... observations from other LTGers suggest this bracing pattern was in use between ~1984 and 1994.

It,s also apparent that the positions of the lower bout braces and tone bars vary a bit... it's hard to tell if this variation from guitar to guitar, model specific, or year specific. But, at first glance, it appears as if the '76 D-50 and '81 D-46 bracing patterns are quite similar, while those on my three DVs (which are nearly identical to each other) are somewhat more similar to that of the '72 D-35. Is the the "vintage" bracing pattern represented in the model numbers? So, here's the revised sketch (also linked above) of the Guild bracing patterns I have observed (the tone bar differences in different guitars with pattern 2 aren't really shown)...

This last image shows diagrams specifically comparing the bracing in my two '94 DV-72s (neck block dates from Feb and Apr 1994) and my '95 DV-73 (neck block date from Jan 1995). A question that has been asked more than once on LTG... "What is the difference between the DV-72 and DV-73?" Based on my observations, I would conclude that if the two DVs were built in the same year, West R Lee's answer, quoting/paraphrasing Hans Moust: "Inlay!" is correct. However, given that most DV-72s were built in 1993 and 1994, and thus incorporate the sound hole reinforcement plate, while most DV-73s were built in 1995 and have two thin braces flanking the sound hole, one might argue that most DV-73s are braced differently from most DV-72s...

I'll conclude by saying that I have only sampled a small number of Guild dreads from a just one Guild factory (Westerly, RI). I'd love to hear of any variations observed in other models or individual instruments. For example, Hans Moust has mentioned that Guild experimented with a modified "fan" bracing on some D-40s at some point (in the 60s?)... I'd love to see a Henkogram showing that bracing pattern!

Thanks to everyone that stuck fingers, mirrors, or cameras into their Guilds for me!
Dave Gard 26 January 2016
 

Badger

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Bravo! Very good research work.
I'd like a similar one for Jumbo. do you know?
 

wileypickett

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Cool!

Is there a discernable difference in sound between, say, the DV73 and DV74, where you have basically the same guitar, but with different bracing patterns?

I went to look at a pair of Guilds in Newport, RI, some years ago. The guitars were both lost causes, but the guy selling them used to work for Guild. When I asked him what his job was, he said, "Blowing up guitars!" Because Guild extended lifetime guarantees to their guitars, and because they had a fair amount come back for (free) repair under warranty, they hired this guy to basically stress-test guitars and make structural change recommendations that would reduce the number of guitars likely to need repair.

I wonder if some of these bracing changes came about due to his recommendations. Certainly we all know that more heavily built instruments were introduced over time.

What's the brand name of your puck lights?
 

GardMan

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Hey Wiley... just saw you posted. I don't check this blog that often.

All of my DV-7Xs have distinct voices... the 1995 DV-73 (which has the "more traditional" sound hole braces) has a bit more treble sparkle or jangle. Still has that rosewood bass, but is more balanced overall? The '94 DV-72MK (malachite; with the soundhole reinforcing plate) has the smoothest "luscious" tone... with more emphasis on the bass end. It's very similar to my '92 D-55 (which also had the soundhole reinforcement). The '94 DV-72NT (turquoise, also has the soundhole reinforcement) is in between... more "bark" than the 72MK, but not as much sparkle as the 73. I hope to be adding an '82 D-70 soon, and am eager to compare...

The puck lights I used don't have a brand name molded on them, and the packaging is LONG gone. They have 6 LEDs/light, powered by 3AA batteries. I got them at Home Depot, around $10/3 pack. I don't see the same lights on their website now... but it shouldn't be hard to find something suitable. My search criteria would be (1) Battery powered (no cords to deal with), (2) six or more LEDs/light (brighter is better), (3) Cheap! (maybe this should be #1). I got even lighting using 8-9 lights in a dread body... I'd guess a big jumbo (F-50) might also need that many, but a smaller body, like a F-20, might only need 5-6...
 

GardMan

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Badger,
All I have are dreads, so that's what I looked at. I have never seen a comparison of bracing in Guild F- models, other than what a handful of folks mentioned in my threads on LTG (including examples with a soundhole reinforcement plate in the early '90s).
 

GardMan

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While changing strings and making some adjustments to my new (to me) 1982 Guild D-70, I took the opportunity to photograph the layout of its top braces, for comparison to my other Guild dreadnaughts:

1982 D-70 small.jpg


In 1981-82, the D-70 was (as far as I can tell) the top of Guild's dreadnaught line (the D-80 was introduced in 1983), and was one of the first (if not the first) dreadnaught model to come with factory-scalloped top braces. However, it seems that the actual layout of the top braces of my 1982 D-70 is not substantially different from other Guild dreads of that time period. Notably, it has the neck block extension and wing braces found after mid-1974, and the placement of the X-braces and tone bars is nearly identical to that in my 1981 D-46 (which has ash back and sides), as shown in this comparison of several of my Guilds (past and present):

Henkograms compiled (revised July 2020-2).jpg


You can see in this compilation of Henkograms that the placement of the tone bars in my three mid-90s DV-7Xs (bottom row; two DV-72s and a DV-73) is subtly different from that in the three examples from 1976-1982 (top row right 3 images; D-50, D-46, and D-70)... which might be a contributing factor to the "vintage" tone of the DV-7X models (there is a bit more discussion in this thread...).
 
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GardMan

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A short word about bridge plates...
The photos in the posts above (in links and inserted images) document some of the changes in bracing in Guild dreadnaughts between 1971 and 1995. However, my observations suggest that Guild also changed the composition of the bridge plates in its dreadnaughts during this time period.

Although both of my Guild dreads from 1971-72 (71 pearwood D-44 and 72 D-35) had maple bridge plates (the D-44 might have been a replacement), all of my Guild dreads built from 1974-1982 (76 D-50, 78 D-35, 81 D-46, and 82 D-70) had rosewood bridge plates.

1972 D-35 with maple bridge plate.
1972 D-35 bridge plate.jpg


1981 D-46 with rosewood bridge plate.
1982 D-46 bridgeplate.jpg


Given the limitations of my small sample size, it appears the switch from maple to rosewood bridge plates occurred across all dreadnaught models, incl introductory models like the D-25M was well as top-of-the-line models like the D-70.

Particularly interesting to me is the comparison of my 1972 D-35 (with its maple bridge plate) and my (now sold) 1978 D-35 (with its rosewood bridge plate). The 72 D-35 has a warm, woody tone... with moderately strong bass, good mids, and sparkling trebles. In comparison, the 78 D-35 (with rosewood bridge plate) had much more emphasis in the mids and trebles, and much more volume.

Furthermore, all of my Guild dreads built between 1992 and 1995 (incl 92 D-55, 94 DV-72, 94 DV-72MK, and 95 DV-73) have/had maple bridge plates. Given that these are all "high end" dread models, I can not say if the change back to maple occurred across all dread models, or was restricted to those at the higher end of the line. However, the maple bridge plates on these models might be another significant factor in their tonality... these four rosewood-bodied guitars sound(ed) much more similar to each other than they do to my 82 D-70 and (now sold) 76 D-50.

I just noticed that Badger's 1987 D-60 (he posted a pic above) also has a maple bridge plate. That suggests that maple bridge plates returned as early as 1987, at least in the high end models.
 
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GardMan

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With GAD's permission, I am going to copy a few replies regarding top and back bracing from this thread discussing my '82 D-70 and DV-7Xs...

Nice comparison and very interesting! Can you describe the shape of the top braces? Are they tapered or straight? Flat-topped or peaked? Also, are the #3 and 4 back braces tall and thin or wide and flat? I'm wondering if these factors are relevant to the sound differences you observed.
My recollection is that all the top braces and tone bars in all my Guilds are what would be considered "tall and thin." I don't recall seeing any that would be "wide and flat" on the tops, tho' some of the back braces might fit into that category. I have some old photos taken inside some of the dreads that illustrate the shapes...

The braces and tone bars are all sanded to shape, in the profile of what looks like a half ellipse, as in the straight braces of my 1981 D-46 (note also the rosewood bridge plate):


My '76 D-50 would have come from the factory with braces very similar to the D-46, but a previous owner "shaved" them to give much more taper


Compare the two tone bars in front of the end block with those of the D-46. The small part of the X-braces that shows in the photo also shows evidence that they were shaved, as well (you can also see where some superglue ran thru the bridge pin hole while I was repairing the crack in the ebony bridge).

The D-70, D-55, and all of the DV-7Xs have "scalloped" bracing, as seen in this image inside the D-55:

As seen in the D-55, the middle span of the X-braces and longer tone bars are "scalloped," and the ends are a bit more "hollowed out" to a curved profile, rather than the more straight taper seen in the D-46 (the scalloping in the D-70 and the DVs is a bit "neater" than seen in the D-55... no tooling "fuzz" left on the braces in those). The scalloping on the DVs MIGHT be a little more extensive than on the D-55, but I no longer have the latter for a good comparison (and I haven't stuck a camera into the DVs or D-70 ).

Another feature I first noticed in the 92 D-55 was the two-piece end block, with the pieces oriented "cross-grain." The end blocks of all my DVs are like this, but none of the earlier models. I presume it is to help prevent splitting of the end block if the guitar is dropped on its end pin.

Also note the maple bridge plate in the D-55. All my DVs have maple plates.

Anecdotally, it appears to me that the braces and tone bars in the D-70 might be SLIGHTLY thinner and less tall than those in the DVs (I no longer have the D-55, so can't compare). But I have never tried to measure the braces with calipers... it's just too awkward maneuvering around inside thru the sound hole, and I am always afraid of dislodging a brace.

From the Henkograms the positioning deference’s appears subtle to my untrained eye.
The most obvious difference is in the spacing of the tone bars in the lower bout and treble side (bottom and right of each guitar in the photos).

In the D-46, D-50, and D-70, the lowest of the treble side tone bars (above the X-brace, just below the pickguard) almost aligns with the long first (upper) tone bar of the lower bout.

In all of the DVs, the lowest treble side tone bar intersects the X brace nearly midway between the two lower bout tone bars.

To my eye, it also appears that the DV models have a somewhat smaller bridge plate... but I don't think I can be sure w/o finding a way to measure them.

Also, are the #3 and 4 back braces tall and thin or wide and flat? I'm wondering if these factors are relevant to the sound differences you observed.
Honestly, I had never looked much at the BACK braces... so just took a quick one at all six of my current Guild dreads. If the brace numbering is from the neck block to the end block,

The first and second back braces are tall and thin, maybe as tall as unscalloped top X-braces, and sanded to a somewhat half elliptical shape in all my examples.

In all of my examples between 1972-1982, #3 & #4 are wider than they are tall, and they are shorter than #1 and #2. In the 3 DV-7Xs, #3 and #4 appear to have a nearly square profile... about the same width as those in earlier models, but slightly taller. Still shorter than #1 & #2.
 
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