12 months in a drainage ditch.. still works!!!

Custom Guitars

I built this guitar a few years ago for my friend Billy. It was my first neck-through and it utilized EMG 81/60 pickups and Billy really loved it.

Billy regularly played it on stage with his band in Mississippi.


Then, in December 2018, it was stolen out of his vehicle.

We launched a nationwide hunt, posting pics everywhere and scanning craigslist posts for months. Nothing, it was gone without a trace.

Almost exactly one year to the day that it was stolen, Billy was outside working on his house when his dogs went crazy. He walked around the front of the house to see what the commotion was and there was this crackhead-looking kid walking by the house WITH THE GUITAR!
Billy chased him down and demanded he turn it over, the kid dropped the guitar (which fell out of the case.. which fell apart) and took off running. Billy pursued him with righteous indignation and caught him. Billy demanded an explanation whereapon the kid pulled a gun out and Billy decided that retrieving the guitar would probably be enough today.

He went back and retrieved the guitar. Apparently, the original thief (or thieves) had stashed the guitar in a drainage ditch, perhaps intending to retrieve it later, but who knows.
It lay in a drainage ditch in Mississippi for 12 months. It was dripping wet and was somewhat worse for the wear.

The pic in what’s left of the case shows how it was then. Check out the slug on the back of the headstock.

After it dried out, he sent it to me to see if I could do anything with it.

The fretboard was half off so I steamed the rest off. Amazingly the neck below was still dead straight. I pulled the frets out of the board as some of them had lifted.. and it was just nasty. After a sanding I figured the board could be saved so I filled the crack and refretted it. I soaked the tuners in ‘metal rescue’ which is something I’ve used for rust removal on motorcycles in the past. I also socked the trussrod end and most of the screws in it.

The electrics.. I popped the cavity cover off and it looked pretty good in there. I plugged it in and tapped the pickups with a screwdriver.. they worked! Even with the rusty 9v battery that spent a year in the ditch. What a testament to the resiliency  of EMG pickups, something to be said for sealed pickups!

I had to clean the contacts on the jack socket and lube the selector switch but other than that, we were good.

Billy said he wanted to retain the black staining as he thought it was now part of the ‘mojo’ of the guitar (he’s Native American and very spiritual). I glued on the board, put a new nut on and set it up. Plays and sounds just as great as it did when I first built it. Tuners work fine after lubing. The apparent deamination on the neck and headstock seemed to be caused by swelling of the woods at different rates. Once dry, it looked was better and the joints are solid. I’m just applying Tru Oil to the back of the neck to make it feel better and then I’m mailing it back to him.


Chalk up a win for the good guys!!!

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By David Gregory

All material Copyright 2017 David Gregory. All rights reserved. Do not use any material without express written permission.