So you have always wanted that dream mid 50's guitar with it's unique played in look and sound but just can't afford it? Can't quite scrap enough cash for a custom shop relic? There are other ways....read on for some ideas!
There has never been a better time to have a go at putting together your dream axe. There is a plethora of great and reasonably priced guitar parts out there including bodies, necks, pickups and hardware all ready for assembling into something unique and playable. For most people with some experience of basic DIY and a good soldering technique, this is a real option for something special you can't find on the shelf. A quick Google Search or a visit to Ebay or Reverb will soon show you a wealth of guitar parts. Be warned though that some of the parts available aren't always what they seem and there are some low quality guitar parts floating around, especially on auction sites. Here at Smoke Tree Guitarworks we offer a range of bodies and necks for your build finished in vintage accurate nitrocellulose lacquer and accurate vintage spec body shapes and neck carves.
Finishing/ageing/relicing - DIY vs Pre-Finished
This is when experience really helps! Finishing a guitar is a real work of art and an expensive and time consuming process for the hobby builder. In my experience it is far easy for the beginner to get a better finish using wood dyes and natural look finishes. Shooting lacquer is not for the faint hearted! If you don't have the time or the knowledge to attempt finishing yourself then there are plenty of pre-finished guitar bodies and necks out there for your build. However if you plan to relic your finished guitar then try and source a finished guitar body/neck with a thin full nitro finish as thicker poly and plastic type finishes are much harder to relic and often do not look very authentic. When it comes to relicing nitro always remember at first - less is more. It can often be tempting to go too far and go a bit crazy with the relic job. Most real vintage instruments actually do not show up lots of ageing and are often more subtle, with a bit of light forearm wear, belt buckle rash and some weather checking. Most vintage instruments don't look like Rory Gallagher's Strat....but obviously some do!
Tips and Hints for an Aged Finish
When relicing a guitar try not to reach for the screwdriver and power tools and start hacking at your newly bought body! Try to think how actual wear marks are made and where the impact points would be. Most old, used vintage guitars have some forearm wear and this can be lightly recreated with some fine sanding and acetone solution to gently remove the finish from this area. Other areas of wear commonly seen us belt buckle rash on the back of the guitar. There are several ways of doing this...but if you think about what item may have caused it you could even recreate the wear with that item! Other impact points tend to be around the sides if the guitar has fallen over in its life, around the input jack where failed attempts to get the cable in have resulted in knocks, and also at the tip of the headstock where knocks have been picked up over a guitars life. Try and think logically and go carefully and slowly. Weather checking is another commonly seen trait on a vintage instrument. This is much harder to recreate and has a lot to do with the thickness and type of finish present on the guitar. We have our own way of recreating it here at Smoke Tree Guitarworks but we're keeping that tip to ourselves at the moment! Do your research and look at as many pictures or even better real vintage instruments before starting and carefully map and note the wear marks so that you can more accurately copy them. If this all sounds too much then remember that aged and reliced items can be bought with a pre-aged finish including our range of relic guitar parts.
Assembling Your Instrument
Once you have obtained your guitar parts then the next job is to put them altogether to make an actual instrument that can be played! Remember to have the guitar set up properly once it is assembled, something you can do yourself with some basic tools, or leave it to a professional guitar tech.
We hope you have learnt a little something about the art of ageing guitars. If you would like to see our range of relic aged guitar bodies, necks, parts and complete relic guitar builds then please visit our Smoke Tree Guitars website!