Issue Guitars, Project Guitars

Surprisingly – and proudly – I am seeing more and more people coming to me asking about issue “project” guitars.

This is naturally something I didn’t invent, it’s been there for ages: people buying old battered stuff and putting it together in the shape of a splendidly fixed, even modified, reinvented working guitar.

The core point of the matter is the belief that buying older battered wood “cheaply” (or even cheaper than an original, “mint” condition similar/identical model would cost), will allow us to have the guitar of our dreams. I think this is fairly true, although there may be some “caveats” (i.e., “be careful!) to keep in mind. Will get there.

I’m taking this chance because of a guitar I got yesterday morning (I think I bought 5 or 6 guitars this last August).

Here’s a picture before I begin with the description.


I think I had posted the link to it in the eBay Watch Post, among other guitars I was/am keeping an eye on.

Reason being, I am the first one to experiment what I suggest one could try as well: I never sit on a chair inventing stuff that you should do if I haven’t tried that myself.

To this day, I think I “did” some 5 or 6 project guitars that were initially “issue” guitars.

My definition of an issue guitar: a guitar/main guitar part (usually the body, but I have started a project guitar beginning with a vibrola!) that corresponds to a guitar model/type that I have always wanted and or could never afford, could never find, would never pay for “that much” (as is the case of ’50s Les Pauls, for example). The guitar has “issues”, i.e., problems. Might be one single problem such as:

– scratches (to “some” it’s a problem: to my eyes, it’s beauty!)

– cracks (cracks do not lead necessarily to broken parts, though it’s risky)

– broken headstocks

– broken heels (neck joints)

– missing parts

Please note that usually, I do not take into consideration “large projects”, such as projects that involve having to re-build the body (i.e., got a body and got a neck). That I haven’t done and probably won’t do unless some conditions come into place. It’s rather a long process.

Also, I do not take into consideration “bent” and unusable necks. Necks HAVE to be in good condition, i.e., with appropriate fixes, can be put in perfect working condition again. Rebuilding a neck is a lengthy process that bears several risks in my opinion so I try to stay away from it.

How do I “assure” that these conditions are met/verified? I talk to the (reputable) seller. I NEVER take into consideration auctions with few seller’s feedback or negative feedback to begin with. NEVER.

I try to deal with sellers with at least hundreds of excellent dealings and I write them and wait for their answers. If I consider the answer “fishy”, I will trash the auction.

So PLEASE beware. The internet – in these hard times – is full of frauds everywhere. You MUST have eight eyes. Two eyes alone won’t suffice.

Having said this, let’s continue on.

The above mentioned and shown guitar is a 1969 Gibson SG Standard. It’s really full of issues.

Several cracks on the heel (actually, the neck has come off during shipping: see below):



Pretty bad, huh? Does it scare you away? Does it make you think “god, that guitar is gone, unusable, needs to be trashed…”.

It may suggest that to you. Well, you have to keep in mind that THIS guitar came in in far worse condition. It had the same type of neck crack and the headstock was split in two.

With the help of a GOOD luthier (THIS is another MANDATORY point!) the guitar was put together in probably its best shape since its birth as a whole instrument and it now is the most incredibly sounding and PLAYING guitar of my entire collection (30+ guitars).

Weird, huh? In other words, “project” guitars can give you the biggest satisfactions that you can imagine. They can surpass the quality of instruments you bought as a whole or new, and your affection for project guitars can also be more intense due to the work you’ll have to do to restore the instrument to “whole” condition.

So, this 1969 Gibson SG Custom “idea” came to me a long time ago. There are several ones – at least two – on the bay right now, but they have far too high prices for my tastes.

Since I have always dug a lot Angus’s Customs, I finally decided that I wanted one.

Angus has at least two SG Customs of the late ’60s/early ’70s (up and not further than 1971):



The latter image is the same identical model to my newly acquired “issue” 1969 SG Custom.

The first picture instead refers to Angus’ first Custom, one that he must like a lot, since he used it several times during the years, much as a Live guitar and maybe some as a recording guitar, too.

Much probably, that first Custom came in the same fashion as the second one that is, Walnut color, three pickups, golden hardware and vibrola.

I really think Angus has had that one refinished in black back then. OR it might have been a rare “custom” color, too: it would be interesting to gather more information about it, though till to this day I was never able to find anything about it.

So, in short, this 1969 Custom will now:

– go to the luthier for a neck re-glue

– have a white large “batwing” pickguard added (two pickups only, three pickups configurations are harder to play because of the middle pickup: it will get in the way of your pick).

– pickup covers (aged “gold”)

– bridge (aged gold tunomatic)

– tuners (probably grovers, aged gold)

– new “bone” nut

– plek job, maybe a refret job if needed (need to re-glue the neck first)

– revisited circuitry

– I’m keeping the DiMarzio pickup on the bridge. It’s fairly old, and I think it’s going to rock. The guitar has also had some kind of “active/passive” switch, or “in phase out of phase”. That is going to stay, too.

That will be pretty much it.

So now you know where I stand where I’m talking issue guitars!



(more pics of this “issue”, to be fixed 1969 Gibson SG Standard)