Issue Guitars, Project Guitars

05 Sep 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)




Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

  • avatar
    Posted at 07:29h, 09 January

    Great article Fil! Very informative. I’m looking into an “issue” SG Custom right now that I’m seriously considering but one drawback is that due to a refin about 25-30 years ago it’s missing it’s serial number. Pots date it to mid 65, heel dates it to 66-68. No breaks or other issues other than minor parts changed here and there. Bridge was changed to Nashville style but with a good luthier could be changed back to ABR-1. Price seems right. Would love to hear your thoughts!

  • avatar
    Posted at 11:12h, 29 December

    Wanna see a good luthier at work? Look here:
    Just can’t stop reading 🙂

    • avatar
      Posted at 21:39h, 29 December

      Hello Mr Banane!!
      It isn’t a bad idea, there are some Luthier in my department !! I talk with an vintage music professional and I wait his mail.
      Thank you very much for reading my post!!


  • avatar
    Posted at 14:08h, 13 November

    Hy Mr Solodallas!!
    I wanted to have yours tips: I’ve got an Epiphone sg g400 with all electronics from a ’74 Gibson sg (T Tops are very excelent humbucker ^^).
    I search an old Gibson’s body and I can’t find.
    Where do you find Gibson’s body?
    Thank’s for reading!!
    (Sorry for my english, I’m a french guy ^^)

  • avatar
    Posted at 22:15h, 25 October

    Fil can you help me find an ‘issue’ guitar? i do love my guitar i have now but i just need more options. Ive searched the past couple wweks but i ain’t having much luck in finding one. I just can’t afford all the Gibson’s on ebay. I like that 68 SG in the ebay watch post but i just dont have 6 grand laying around. I’d appreciate your help.

  • avatar
    Posted at 20:46h, 15 October

    Yo Fil , ever had the thought of attempting to make an copy of Peter Greens Les Paul somehow?

  • avatar
    Posted at 20:45h, 10 September

    I recently bought an 83 Gibson Invader (bolt on neck that looks like a Les Paul) with multiple issues at a local garage sale. The electronics area took a shot and broke through the 1/4 inch mahagony face and three of the post were missing. Second, the neck had rough spots all over. The good parts? It still had the original humbuckers. The neck was straight and the frets weren’t worn. It was an authentic Gibson and the price was only $45.00. My luthier says the hole in the body can be masked by a pickguard he will fashion. He’s wired the pickups and say they sound better than a new Studio model . Total cost of his repairs will be $200 and I will have another guitar in the stable alongside the 81 Firebird and the 04 SG. Not all ‘issue’ guitars turn out this well. Follow Fil’s rules.

  • avatar
    Posted at 19:58h, 10 September

    fil speaking of project guitars could you look at these plans for my epiphone SG special? i need your opinion on it to see if its something youd at least review http://joltthehedgehpg09.deviantart.com/art/plans-for-my-SG-175904807

  • avatar
    Posted at 04:56h, 08 September

    Hi guys, one general question. Does a broken/fixed neck affect tone and sustain?

    • avatar
      Posted at 08:09h, 08 September

      Not if it’s fixed well, but it can be more prone to breaking if it’s done badly. Slash broke the neck on one of his Les Pauls and actually said it sounded better than before once it was fixed.

  • avatar
    Posted at 16:52h, 07 September

    Hi Fil,

    I would like to ask another question. You said that you’re living currently in Italy ( I’m not exactly sure ) ? But then how do you buy guitars from the US, etc.? Don’t you have to pay taxes then ?

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:14h, 06 September

    Don’t keep the DiMarizio. It is wound a lot more than the pickups Angus uses and it Uses a Ceramic Magnet and will sound a lot hotter than the Alnico 2/5 Magnet(s) Angus uses.

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:10h, 06 September

    oops, sorry wrong button, THIS is the link: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=79746&id=1448241619

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:08h, 06 September

    hey dallas!!! i got a little project going on myself… this is the link to my page, tell me what you think… http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=79746&id=1448241619 also, where can i get good capacitors and pots at a fair price???

  • avatar
    Posted at 14:36h, 06 September

    Angus actually had 3 customs if you look on the back of the fly on the wall cd (remastered) he has a red guitar with a white full face pickguard and 3 pup’s

  • avatar
    Posted at 10:40h, 06 September

    Hey Fil, are you going to keep the Walnut finish on it or have it painted black?

  • avatar
    Posted at 20:50h, 05 September

    Can’t wait to see it and hear it Fil! How much did you pay for it, if you don’t mind me asking?

    • avatar
      Posted at 04:27h, 06 September

      I never mind: this place is exactly for this! I payed 1.6k USD for it. I think the time it will take for it to be ready mainly depends on my luthier’s timing to fix the heel. Then, it might already be ready for a video!

  • avatar
    Posted at 16:48h, 05 September

    woww i lovee the guitar Fil 🙂 cant wait to see how it looks when ur done! are u going to make it a 3-pickup guitar?

    • avatar
      Posted at 04:29h, 06 September

      Not sure. Three pickups are nasty to play because of the middle pickup getting in the way. Probably going to remain a two pickups, just like Angus’ black one 🙂

  • avatar
    Posted at 14:31h, 05 September

    How long, do you think, before you’ll get a tune out of it?

    • avatar
      Posted at 04:31h, 06 September

      Strictly depending on the luthier. I could bring it to him to day or tomorrow, depends on his schedule. If it was depending on me, it’d be ready today 😉 In reality, it glue will have to dry and heel will have to be secured. Might take a month.

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