How to Relic a Guitar

How to Relic a Guitar

Why do we have this fascination with vintage guitars?

Different people will give you different answers, but we can all agree that the sound, the look, the feel, the history is what attract us to vintage guitars. Let’s be realistic, how many people have $5,000 to $50,000 to buy an original vintage guitar? We’ll go over different techniques you can use at home to transform your standard guitar into a piece of history – or at least how to relic a guitar.

The reasoning behind writing this book was my constant desire to age a guitar, but also frustration because the information necessary to transform an ordinary guitar into a vintage looking guitar is not easily found anywhere. So how did I come up with these techniques? Well, trial and error, message boards, websites and talking to experts in restoring vintage guitars. I also did a massive amount of research in the history behind the instrument, different paint types, woods, painting techniques, aesthetics changes and also electronic changes. Not to mention different hardware used throughout the years. All this collective information helped me get closer to my goal, replicating vintage guitars.

This project started four years ago, and I’m still learning how to relic a guitar. It’s more a hobby than anything else, but keep in mind, you can make money (and I will show you how in the later chapters) by practicing and mastering the art of aging a guitar. At the end, you can also get involved in restoring vintage guitars. Yes, it is an art; this is why many people prefer to buy a relic guitar instead of making one. But remember, practice makes perfect and perfect makes money.

Are You Up for the Challenge? You Can Ruin a Very Good Guitar

You can choose to take on this project for many reasons. Who knows, you may be able to make a living out of aging guitars; I’ve done it. I’ve sold guitars through word-of-mouth and through eBay and made more in one week than what I made by working in an office for one month!

I tried to incorporate every aspect of aging a guitar in this book, but I’m sure I missed a thing or two. If there is some information missing or not clear in this booklet, your input will make a difference when it comes time to update and reissue this information for future publications. At the end of the booklet, you’ll find information in how to contact me and let me know your thoughts and concerns. I’ll be happy to help you with any further questions you may have. I warn you, I’m not an expert, but together we can exchange ideas and at the end, we’ll find the answers to any obstacles in this project.

Here we’ll go over when is a good idea to age a guitar and when is not. Take in consideration the risk of permanently changing the appearance of your guitar. We will also go over the materials you are most likely to use to complete this project. Keep in mind, with practice, you’ll come to find out that you may need different materials to get the job done; but for now lets concentrate is the essentials. We will discuss what kind of guitars are best for aging and why. We will also explore the importance of the history behind the guitar we are trying to replicate.

When to Age or When Not to Age a Guitar

It’s very simple, you will make mistakes and at the beginning you won’t be totally happy with the result. Therefore, if you can’t afford to mess up a guitar or to cause permanent aesthetic damage to your guitar, then don’t touch it. On the other hand, if you have a guitar (or a couple of guitars) that you think won’t make a difference to you if they get messed up or not, then this is going to be a lot of fun!

The first time that I aged a guitar was a Mexican made Fender Stratocaster. It cost me $304.00 after taxes. To me, this was a price I was willing to pay, or should I say, willing to risk, in case the job didn’t turn out the way I want it to. If you think this is too much money, there are electric guitars out there for $99 (new at Guitar Center) or you can get one used for less than that. I don’t recommend experimenting with your favorite guitar especially if you paid a lot of money of it. Start with something cheap, but if you can’t afford to buy a guitar for the sole purpose of this project, then risk it with the one you already have, but keep in mind, the first time it will not turn out the way you want it to. There is a chance that it may turn out better than you thought, but that is a risk you have to be willing to take and live with.

Aging a guitar should be a fun project; it doesn’t matter how relic a guitar; if you follow directions or how many times you do it, it always comes out different, one better than the other. But that’s the fun of it; you are creating a piece of art. It’s not an easy task, trust me, it can be very frustrating, but you must be patient and continue to practice. You also have to consider the price and the time it takes to transform a standard guitar into a vintage looking guitar. I will provide you with as much information as I can with regards the price and time involved in completing this project. Analyze this information, and make a decision form there to, or not to, go ahead and embark in this project.

Materials You Will Need

The following are the materials I constantly use (these are not all the materials you will need, but are the essentials):
• Phillips Screw Driver (one with small head and one with a large head)
• Slotted (Flat) Head Screw Driver (one with small head and one with a large head)
• Stainless Steel Measuring Gave (found at any hardware/electronic store)
• ½” Wrench (to be used for removing/attaching control knob fasteners)
• Hammer (small and large)
• Surgical Knife with Different Attachments (found at any hardware/electronic store)
• Scissors (small and large)
• Sanding block (you can find this in the paint department of any hardware store)
• Sandpaper – 1500, 1800 and 2000 grid (found at any car parts shop –
• Etching Solution (found at electronic stores – or – internet search as “etching solution”)
• Clear Lacquer Aerosol Spray – Nitro (
• Tinted Clear Lacquer Aerosol Spray – Nitro (

If you plan on re-finishing the guitar in a vintage color, then you’ll need the following:
• Vintage color Aerosol Spray – Nitro (
• Fender Amber Color Dye Blend (used for refinishing the neck –
• Primer Aerosol Spray (any hardware store)
• Decals (
• Painters Tape (blue thing size- found at any hardware store)
• Electrical Soldering Pen With Fine Tip (found at any hardware/electronic store – nothing higher than a 10 watt pen)
• Sandpaper – 220, 320, 400, 600, 800 and 1000 (in addition to 1500, 1800 & 2000)
• Standing block (you can find sanding blocks on the paint department at any hardware store)

Also, very important, having a clean place to work. Take precautions and cover the floor where you are working, and don’t forget the safety percussions with working with any of the materials listed above.

Thanks for reading how to relic a guitar. Come back in a couple of days for part two of many.
About Grasshopper James 37 Articles
Hi I'm Grasshopper James from Montreal. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting. I've been rocking it here since 2007 with my Fender Stratocaster American Standard, Fender Telecaster American Standard, Fender Blues Deluxe '57 Reissue, Ibanez TS9, Boss TU-3, Boss ME-25, Boss GT-3, Boss OD-1, Ernie Ball Slinky 10-46, Jim Dunlop Jazz III Pick, and a Parkwood PW-510.

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