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How to Relic a Guitar

Guitar Relicing is the practice of making a new guitar look like it has been on the road gigging for years. It’s basically taking the guitar and beating it up, scratching it, nicking, scratching and dinging it up, and forcing 20 years of traveling and shows into a weekend.

How to Relic Your Guitar

Purchase or Make It Yourself

The Fender Custom Shop have a line of vintage guitars that they make and will relic for you. The big issue here is you pay an arm and a leg for that service.  From an article I seen, they do the same thing that is listed here as far as throwing the body around the parking lot and dinging the neck and body with a hammer and sandpaper.  If you have a cheap guitar, you can follow some of the info here to give it it a road-worn look at a fraction of the cost.

Body and Neck Aging

The Body and Neck are up to your taste.  You can really bang the hell out of them and have a guitar that looks like it’s been thru 2 tours of duty, or you can have just a small worn section to give that babied hand-me-down appearance. First step is to rub the body down with Naptha (Zippo Fluid) to help tarnish the paint job a bit then, Using fine sandpaper or steel wool, you want to wear down the areas that get the most use, such as:

  • Back of the Neck
  • Between the Frets (Front of Neck)
  • Front of the Body (Where your Forearm Rubs)
  • Edges of the Body

After you rub down the finish a bit to get the wear that you like, you can remove the neck from the body and drop the body around on some concrete or ding it with a hammer to give it some texture. Once it has a few nicks in the wood, you can use a solution of 3 parts water, 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part Amber wood stain, wet a rag and give it a quick rubdown to darken the nicks and dings. Another quick rubdown with Naptha will clear up the rest of the body and remove any excess.

Put the neck back on the body and then remove all the hardware to age.

Hardware Aging

Here’s a great way to do the hardware:

  1. Get a thick plastic container, at least 12″ x 12″ inches square with a flat plastic lid.
  2. Drill small holes in the lid, spaced a couple inches apart.
  3. Get a bottle of Muratic acid. This is sold at all home depot/home base, supply type stores.
  4. Get a nice respirator with good vapor filters and a place with lot’s of ventilation cos’ it stinks!
  5. Pour 1 or 2 inches of muratic acid in the bottom of the container and cover with the lid.
  6. Arrange the hardware on top of the lid, without any parts touching, screws touching are OK.
  7. Cover entire bucket tightly with black plastic trash bag.
  8. Leave overnight for aging and check in the morning to see how things are progressing.

You can pull a part out and wipe off to see how the aging is going. Make sure you use nice rubber gloves. Leave in longer if more aging is desired.

When the parts are done, pull them out and rinse off with soapy water. Make sure you oil any moving parts, like the bridge pieces, screws and tuners otherwise they might freeze up.

Now, after they hit the color and style that you want, put everything together again, tune up and enjoy the look of a old vintage guitar without the 20 yr wait!

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