A Guitar Resurrection…

The Rock & Roll Gods do indeed smile down upon me from time to time…

My Niece Megan and her Husband Jeff gifted me a Peavey DW-3 acoustic guitar they ran across, since neither of them play. They’ve both seen my t-shirt which reads, “You can never have too many guitars”, more than once. True story, and thanks so much to you two!

When I first took it out of the case, all I could do was shake my head. It was apparent to me that it was totally neglected, never receiving any sort of maintenance whatsoever since it was new, not even a change of strings. In the words of the immortal George Carlin, the previous owner is a good example of people who ought to be strapped into chairs and beaten around the head and shoulders with a hammer.

This is my first Peavey and, while no longer manufactured, I was able to find its specs on the web:

– Dreadnought body
– Mahogany neck
– Rosewood fingerboard
– Solid Spruce top
– Rosewood bridge (unfinished), back and sides (finished)
– Active electronics w/tuner
– TS unbalanced as well as XLR balanced outputs
– Scale length: 25.5″
– Nut width: 1.69″
– 20 frets

That’s a pretty nice array of features for a mid-range guitar. I definitely saw potential, and decided to do whatever was required to bring it back to original condition, or at least as closely as possible…

1) I tried firing up the electronics control panel, which of course was stone dead. A check of the battery compartment revealed what was without a doubt the original cheap-assed RAYOVAC 9-volt battery (not even an alkaline). To my relief, it didn’t leak any acid into the electronics, and I immediately replaced it with a brand new Duracell. Bingo, everything came back to life.

Active electronics control panel

Due to the condition of the headstock, fret board and strings, I dared not even try to tune and play it at that time, for fear of causing further damage.

Head stock - Before
The headstock and strings as received, what a mess.

2) The rustiest strings I’ve ever encountered were removed and shit-canned, carefully but pronto. There was no doubt in my mind that if I stuck my finger with one, I’d be on the way to the hospital for a tetanus shot.

Further confirming my suspicions that this guitar had never received even a string change was the condition of the bridge pins. They were pristine, probably not removed since factory installation.

3) Seems some sort of animal life was once inhabiting the interior, so it was blown out to remove dust, spider webs, and Lord knows what else.

4) Next, on to the fret board…

The rosewood was so dried out, I was amazed it wasn’t cracking. I applied a thick coat of Dunlop 65 Lemon Oil, which it soaked up like a sponge. The same was true with the rosewood bridge.

In the end, it took three coats of oil to get them back into good condition. I’ve never seen any sort of unfinished rosewood guitar parts soak up so much of this stuff.

As you might imagine, the frets themselves were also extremely dirty, as well as pretty badly oxidized. I buffed them up using my Music Nomad Fret Polishing Kit, but once wasn’t enough to remove all of the muck there either. So, I gave them a second polish, and their shine returned. Not perfect, but orders of magnitude better than they were.

At left is the fretboard as received, at right after oiling and fret polishing, and at bottom the amount of crap removed from the frets themselves:

5) On to the body…

I first checked that all hardware was tight, a good practice during normal string changes as well. The retaining nuts for the low-E and G-string machine heads were completely loose, so all of them were tightened along with their rear mounting screws, the strap pins, and the control panel/output plates. Seemed like almost every piece of hardware was loose on this guitar, to some extent.

As you can see from the headstock picture above, the machine head tuning pegs and surrounding hardware were filthy. Even though they’re brass, they happily cleaned up nicely using just some Windex and a bit of elbow grease. Whew, I thought I might need to remove them, so a bullet dodged there.

I then applied Dunlop 65 Guitar Polish to the entire guitar body, rear of the neck, and head stock, then buffed it all out. Afterwards, it shined like a new pretty penny.

6) Finally, ready for new strings!

I’ve used Ernie Ball Slinky strings on all my electric guitars/basses forever, and recently noticed they came out with a line of bronze strings for acoustics called “Earthwood”.

I had three sets of these on-hand, as I was planning to try them on my other acoustic guitars as a comparison to the D’Addario strings I normally use. But, this presented a golden opportunity to check out their performance.

With these brandy-new strings installed, I tuned it to pitch and checked for neck bow, intonation, and the other usual guitar set-up items. As it turned out, all were all miraculously perfect, and I didn’t have to touch a thing. Another bullet dodged, no truss rod adjustment needed, which always make me nervous.

All that done, I set it aside for a while to allow the new strings to stretch out, then re-tuned.

7) Time to test the active electronics…

I crossed my fingers, and plugged it into my amp using a standard, unbalanced TS 1/4” cable. The guitar roared to life, with absolutely great sound.

Next, I tried the XLR balanced output, which was equally if not more impressive. This is a great feature for gigging guitarists on-stage, as a balanced connection results in much less line noise when using long cables. I’ve never even seen a “stock” guitar with an XLR output jack before.

Active electronics - Unbalanced and balanced (XLR) outputsA few other unique features about the electronics:

– Beside the usual volume, bass, mid-range and treble controls, it also has a notch filter knob. For those unfamiliar, this allows you to cut certain frequencies, which is handy for preventing feedback.

– Once adjusted to taste, all of the knobs can be pressed in and recess into the control panel, moving them well out of the way while playing.

Active electronics - Recessed knobs
Control knobs pop out to adjust, and press in to lock.

– A phase switch, which can be used to prevent bass response loss, and also to eliminate “howling” if present by inverting the output signal.

Holy fucknuts Batman, there’s even a microphone built-in to this thing!

I assume this little microphone (don’t even know where it is) is intended for street performers, and honestly it sounds terrible. No worries, as a control to balance the guitar and mic output is also present on the panel. That will obviously stay fully biased to the guitar side, but it’s just one more thing I’ve never seen on an acoustic guitar before.

Well, if you made it this far, I’m all done!

Head stock - After
Overhaul complete, a bit of a difference, you think?

The entire process took a whopping 4 hours to complete, but saying it was well worth it is an understatement. It’s now not only a very nice looking instrument, but more importantly effortless to play with a nice, low action. As a result of the fret polishing, bends and vibratos are a piece of cake as well.

I was beyond happy to be given the opportunity to resurrect this poor instrument, which needed one hell of a lot of TLC. Once again, many thanks to the Ostlers, I certainly appreciate it.

I now like this Peavey better than my Godin Seagull, which is actually a more expensive guitar. I have a feeling it just may be my #1 when recording acoustic guitar tracks from here on out!

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