Tuesday, September 1

The Parts-o-caster: Part II - Relic-ing

Ok. Relic-ed guitars. I'm not a huge fan. I see things like this, and I think, idiots will pay for anything. Do you really want a guitar that looks like it's been run over by a truck twice, and dropped a hundred times, and had cigarettes burned into it? Why would you take a new guitar, sand the neck, strip some paint and rust the metal parts, and then charge an extra $300? I mean, I guess the obvious answer is that there is a market, but why would you pay another $300 for the same guitar, just beat up?

Image. That's all it comes down to. People are obsessed with the image that they project. They want a guitar that looks like it's lived badly for 60 years when they themselves are only 16. I do firmly believe that a guitar should look the way it's been played.

That being said....I relic-ed a few parts on this project. My reasoning: Yeah, I really can't defend myself against anything that I just said. Things like pickup covers and tuning pegs, I really don't like them to be too shiny. They just don't look right. Is that an image thing? Yeah. But the psychologist in me says that, if I feel like I'm playing an old guitar, then my old, soulful guitarist inside will respond. Even if I am consciously aware that the guitar is not, in fact, as old as it claims to be. I'm doing it to trick my id, not everyone else. Is that legit?

I don't know, but what's done is done. And, to be honest, I'm really happy with the finished product. Maybe that's all that matters. Maybe I just have to bite my tongue when I see people paying a thousand dollars for a guitar that's worth maybe six hundred. Maybe.

I did look pretty heavily into this, because I didn't really feel like having to buy multiples of all of my parts in case I really screwed something up. Now, I'll pass the wisdom on to you!

To be perfectly honest, the entire color scheme of my guitar may have been completely determined by this:

That's a knob from a vintage Fender amp. And I wanted it to be my tone/volume knobs. First, it looks B.A. against a white pickguard. But other than that, not having a number to look at forces me to use my ears to dial in the tone I want, and it makes it harder for me to fall into the same set of tones every time I play. Plus John Mayer did it. Don't judge me.

But yeah, mostly it just looks cool. But not with stark white pickup covers. Oh no. The problem is that this knob is not quite white, and not quite cream, but somewhere in between. So I couldn't just order matching pickup covers. And if I were going with an off-white pickup cover, a perfectly clean neck would look weird. And with an older neck, a shiny new set of tuners would just stick out like a sore thumb...

You see? This is how it starts...

First, only because it took the longest, I had to deal with those pickup covers. A lot of people suggested soaking new pickup covers in any manner of staining things, everything from coffee and tea to soy sauce, to human, umm, excrement. Yeah. So I went with tea.

I made it really strong, but before I put the covers in, I roughed them up a little with some sandpaper. Then, I soaked them, but only half-way. After all, you only see the top of a pickup cover when it's installed. Like an iceberg. It would be weird to have them unformly "exposed to the sun", or whatever it was that I was going for by doing this. I moved them around a few times, and left them in there for something like three days, checking every few hours until I thought they were done.

Now, on to the metal parts. First, the magical aging liquid. I had to go to the darkest parts of Africa to obtain this esoteric elixir.

The goal of using Vinegar is to simulate X number of years of human sweat and grime. The thing you're actually simulating is the weak acids that are in that sweat eating away at the metal. Unless it's chrome. Chrome is very good at repelling acid. So, we take non-chrome parts and soak them in a weak acid.

Some people use Hydrochloric Acid instead of Vinegar. Some people are way more extreme than me.

Of course, the really, really important parts, like the tuners and the springs, I didn't want to soak in acid. Some said it would be okay, some said it would really hurt the guitar's playability and, essentially, destroy the very thing you're trying to build, so I decided to err on the side of caution. Will it detract from the aesthetics? Yeah, probably. But the biggest goal I have here is making a guitar I can play.

So for the tuners, I just took a brillo pad to them. It really did a good job of making them look worn, but not fake. I did the same thing with the bridge plate and bridge saddles.

As for the body and the neck, I very, very (very) carefully put some dents in them. I'm actually very careful with my guitars, so I don't want to play something that looks like I couldn't take care of it. I don't know if that makes sense. But I didn't chip any paint or make any deep gouges. I just made use of the corner of the workbench to make some little dents and dings. Nothing extreme, but it had to go with the rest of the guitar.

Next, some assembly required...

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