From the Factory | November 10, 2021

What the Plek is Going on Here?

Well, there is always a lot going on at the Martin factory! But, today, we’re here to talk about the Plek process (also referred to as Pleking) and why it’s so important to the playability of your guitar.

Playability can be defined, in its simplest terms, as the overall feel and comfort of your guitar as you play it. Pretty intuitive, right? And the first thing that may come to mind when you think about the playability of a guitar is the comfort and set up of the guitar’s neck. And that is, of course, a key factor. But there are a few other things that can also affect playability, such as the string gauge, the actual size and shape of the neck, and the scale length of the guitar. 

Taking all of this into consideration, Martin ensures great playability in every guitar we make from the very beginning of the manufacturing process right through to the very end. But one of the most important processes for playability is the Plek process which is done at Martin using a Plek® Pro machine.  

What is a Plek® Machine?

A Plek machine is a sophisticated computer-controlled machine that was engineered in Germany as a tool for use in guitar production factories with the purpose of achieving optimum playability for fretted instruments. The Plek® Pro, which is what we use here at Martin, includes an additional component called a string tension simulator (STS).  

How does this Plek Pro work?

After the guitar is fully assembled and finished, it is placed, without strings, into the String Tension Simulator (STS). The STS simulates a predefined string tension for each individual neck, so the truss rod and guitar neck react as if under string tension. 

The Plek machine scans the fingerboard, going over every single fret and recording its values. It then generates a graphic image of the fingerboard and provides the operator with the optimum angles that are needed for that particular instrument for optimum playability. It shows the operator where it might have a high spot or a low spot in the frets. 

Once the operator has these values, they can make minor adjustments using the Plek machine. The machine has a small grinding wheel that lightly grazes each fret where it needs to be adjusted to produce the absolute perfect playability. The Plek machine also cuts the nut, if needed, and it can regulate the saddle so everything is perfectly aligned. 

With the exception of the Authentic Series, we Plek every wood guitar in both our Nazareth and Navajo facilities, except for our Authentic Series guitars. The reason we don’t Plek our Authentics is because they don't have an adjustable truss rod and that is because they are built just as they were in their year of origin. 

At Martin we Plek our guitars at no charge to you, which is an incredible value. If you were to take your instrument to a service center to be Plek’d, it could cost you hundreds of dollars. And it’s understandable because Plek machines come with a very hefty price tag. But we feel they are worth every penny because we want every fret on every guitar we make to ring clear and true for you.

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