Relicing Guitars: Making New Look Old

Relicing Guitars: Making New Look Old

What is Relicing?

Relicing is a term used to describe the various processes used to make new parts or instruments look old. Though it may sound simple, when done properly, the job is far more involved than simply throwing some dirt and scratches onto a piece and calling it a “relic”. At its best, it is a detailed simulation of the aging process by professionals who have studied and documented the aging of vintage guitars.

Why Relic a guitar?

Vintage guitars are coveted for their look and feel as much as for their sound. In our shop, there are generally two situations in which relicing comes into play. The first is relatively straight forward. In our busy shop, we have the pleasure of working on vintage instruments with some frequency. Though we always prefer to retain original parts, sometimes they have have degraded to a point where this is not possible. When parts must be changed on a naturally aged instrument, it is sometimes necessary to artificially age the new parts in order to match the look of the old. If not, the changed part will stick out like a sore thumb. We wholeheartedly endorse relicing for this purpose.

The second is when a client has a modern instrument and just wants to give it more of a vintage vibe or look. Though we understand this desire, vintage guitars are objectively super cool, we can’t always justify this practice. For starters, since we are first and foremost a repair shop, our primary concern is how the instrument plays. If there is any issue with playability, we strongly recommend clients to focus their money and attention on that before worrying about aesthetics.

How to Relic a Guitar?

Many times clients don’t quite understand how much time and effort goes into the process of relicing. For starters, the client must decide how far they want to go. Do you want it to look like a guitar that has been sitting in a case for 50 years, like one that has seen the inside of every honky-tonk and barroom in a 500 mile radius, or something inbetween?

For a full relic, the first step is to disassemble the entire instrument. This allows us to perform the various processes needed to age one part without adversely affecting another. For example, areas of the body may be heated and rapidly cooled in order to promote finish cracking and checking, but we wouldn’t want to subject the neck to that and potentially have it warp. Various chemicals may also be applied to the hardware such as the bridge, control plates, tuners, etc. in order to age them, but we have to be careful to avoid the pitfalls that could come with that aging. For example, while we might use acid fumes to age a bridge plate, we wouldn’t want to use that process on the tuners as it would also age the gears inside and prevent them from working smoothly. For that reason we utilize different methods for different parts.

How much does it cost to relic a guitar?

The costs associated with relicing vary depending on what needs to be done. Relicing individual replacement parts is relatively straight forward and can usually be done for a small upcharge to the regular installation. However, clients seeking a full instrument relic should expect a bill for between 3-5 hours labor.

About Guitar Repair Long Island:

Guitar Repair Long Island is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. We fix all fretted instruments, including: guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, and ukuleles. Conveniently located in Ronkonkoma NY, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest, and reliable service. Our vast experience in all aspects of instrument repair ensures that we can help with whatever your needs are. Contact us or book your appointment today

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