Most guitarists dream of owning a real vintage guitar. Due to an increase in demand for quality vintage guitars, they are becoming very expensive. These relics are difficult to come by these days. You’d mostly find individual parts of age-old guitars like the neck, nuts or pickups. The sellers tend to make more money from selling the parts separately than the whole guitar in one piece.
An original relic Stratocaster from the 1960s with its exquisite time-worn finish would cost a fortune. The highly coveted guitars are naturally worn from several decades of use. Some of them with rusted hardware and worn parts can be found on display at music shops. A lot of manufacturers now produce a series of guitars that have the classic vintage look. These are more expensive than standard guitars.
Another option for vintage guitar enthusiasts that cannot afford is to create a historically accurate replica of their favourite instrument. Getting it done correctly requires passion, patience and a bit of skill. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with making a relic out of your new guitar. It can be very challenging and time-consuming but the admiration and compliments that follow at the end of the venture are worth it.
Should I Relic my Guitar?
A Strat that has had a good relic job is captivating. The abrasion appears natural with several parts looking worn from being played for several decades. It has a unique feel and looks very different from other guitars. Giving your guitar a relic job doesn’t necessarily imply that you are trying to mislead people into thinking that your instrument was one formerly played by a famous guitarist. People may also assume that the worn parts are from playing the instrument for years.
After a relic job, guitars become easier to handle and more pleasing to touch after acute edges have become worn. There is a feeling of calmness that comes with playing the guitar as you get a solid grip on the worn parts. When your palms get sweaty, it does not just slide off the neck like it would the standard new guitar with a poly finish. This enables you to relax and sample different playing styles with confidence.
The tone that comes from an aged guitar is sharper than that of an instrument covered completely in a poly finish. The finish on a standard guitar seems to dampen the vibration and tone that comes from the tonewood soundboards are made of or the bridge of the instrument. Fitting a high output pickup system after the relic job will ensure that u can amplify your tone with minimal loss in sustain for a consistent sound. A low output pickup gives you a more detailed sound, making it possible to feel every note.
Detailed information on how to relic a Stratocaster is not readily easy to come by. A lot of people earn a living from designing these custom instruments and would not like to make their techniques go public. It is important to note that after the relic job, there’s no going back. You would have successfully created a vintage instrument that looks work from several years of use and abuse.
The guitar ends up looking like it had been handled recklessly for several years, being played in hot and humid pubs with lots of smoke and alcohol spilt on it. Genuine vintage guitars tell a story of memorable gigs. Intentionally defacing a guitar to recreate the appearance of a true vintage version requires an understanding of the way a series of events and environmental conditions may affect parts of an instrument. Also, note that the mortgage value of the instrument will drop after making a relic out of it.
Having a good eye for detail and a few readily available tools will enable you to replicate the scratches and streaks that appear as a result of decades of hard playing. A new Strat has a very attractive finish and making a relic out of it would require that you dismantle the instrument piece by piece. It is not difficult to disassemble as the electronics on the guitar are all installed on the pickguard.
You would need pliers, wrench, screwdrivers to take the guitar apart. Sandpaper, sanding block, steel wool, hand dryer, etchant, linseed oil, paper towels and disinfecting wipes would be used for the ageing process. A soldering iron may come in handy for disconnecting and reconnecting input jack wires or ground wire from the Tremolo string holder.
Creating a Worn Neck and Body
A guitar begins to wear from places that receive more impact when handling the instrument depending on the style of play of its owner. Mostly around the neck, the control buttons, pickup, areas where your arm rests while playing or the back that gets scuff marks from rubbing against your belt buckle.
Spend extra time on these areas that get more contact while sanding the entire body of the guitar using sandpaper fitted onto a sanding block. Use the wipes and paper towels to clean powder off the sanded parts until it appears the way you want. You may want to dink up the body a bit with your screwdriver before applying linseed oil to it. This could be done to parts of the neck and headstock.
Oiling makes the surface smooth. Remember to wipe off excess oil and allow it to be absorbed for a few minutes. You can use the hand dryer to get a weather checking effect which naturally appears as a result of playing in different climates. Heat up part of the surface with the hand dryer and spray frosty liquid on it. The surface cracks as a result of expansion and contraction from the cooling effect of the liquid.
Distressing the Pickguard and Metal Parts
You can create scratch marks on the pickguard using the steel wool. Use sandpaper to give it a smoother surface. Then wipe excess shavings off the pickguard using the wipes and paper towel.
The steel wool can also be used on the metal parts to make it rough. Smear etchant on some parts of the metal surface and allow for a few minutes until u get the worn look that you desire. You can then wash it off with enough water.
Polishing after assembling the guitar improves the appearance of the worn finish. It adds the right amount of glint to the old surface.
You feel liberated after the job is done. You do not need to go through the whole process of ageing it naturally or worrying about extra scratches and dings. You can comfortably play in your preferred style and enjoy strumming on your guitar.