Are Relic Guitars Stupid? | Would You Own One?

Vintage guitars are sought after by many players and collectors because of the age and rustic look. A worn out looking instrument has an appeal to it that players in certain genres really like. Then there are others who keep them pristine, protecting them from the slightest scratch!

Ultimately unless it’s put in a case and left there, the instrument will eventually get damaged, which adds to this fascinating appeal. But is it okay if players like this new fad or are relic guitars stupid?

Relic guitars are only stupid if the job was done incorrectly. The process of relicing is like applying a proper finish, if done right it’s good, if not then it’s silly for a person to make the purchase. A properly reliced guitar can look very good and fit the vintage vibe it was intended too.

Not everyone is getting on the bandwagon, some people think it is a terrible idea no matter how it turns out. But perhaps we just need to let people like what they want. This might go deeper than you think, if the model is already worn, then you have to worry less about it getting scratched. Right?

Are Relic Guitars Stupid?

What is Guitar Relicing?

Relicing is the process of aging or distressing the finish and parts on an older looking model. Normally the guitars chosen are instruments that were used during a certain time period that might match a musical genre.

For example, a Fender Telecaster has a long history and has made many appearances in many genres but is known as a vintage guitar. Players who are into older music or vintage, prefer to also look the part themselves.

Builders will then take a brand new guitar, load it with older looking parts then strategically chip, wear and scratch it until it looks old. There are some builders who do this exclusively as part of their business model and are quite good at it. The use of older looking vintage parts, beat up and worn add to the appeal and really do make them look dated.

And while it isn’t as easy as just scratching it up with a screwdriver, the process of relicing is quite involved. And if done right can truly look “old”. If done wrong however, it will be noticeable and less sought after. 

The Point of Relic Guitars

A well used guitar that has made it through the ages, can sometimes look beat up with its chipped paint and worn finish. This look has a very large vintage vibe to certain players. They like it so much that they will normally pay good money for these instruments. Some will even say the guitar feels and sounds vintage because of how it looks even if it’s not very old.

Relic guitars can be purchased brand new yet look terribly worn. This is just as good as the real thing if the job was done right. Players apparently don’t care how old it really is just as long as it looks the part. This can add to the look they are going for which is a part of their musical genre.

If you’re playing old school rock from years past, the relic guitar fits like a glove. A brand new model with an immaculate paint job will cut it, but not like a reliced one.

Do Guitars Naturally Relic?

While some people would prefer a naturally reliced instrument, they are not available in abundance. Yes guitars will relic over time naturally, but this could take decades to happen! Many of the naturally reliced models today have been toured with and well used by musicians past. A guitar is well aged normally at the end of a player’s career.

Anyone who is just getting started in their music career that likes the look doesn’t want to wait decades to have one naturally wear out. And so a market was born, and builders began to meet the demand. But just like a great finish, relicing requires an experienced hand.

Some People say Relic Guitars are for Losers?

There are a number of people who think that it is a joke and it is faking authenticity. And on one hand, if someone is lying about the age of the instrument, then yes it’s not cool. No one should be tricking another person to profit. Others just hate it because the guitar represents an instant gratification society that just wants things now. Whatever it is, what’s the big deal?

Anyone who plays or likes reliced guitars is not a loser. They just want what they like, and that’s fine! Most people who say this about others haven’t played one and are normally just speaking on opinion alone. Most builders that produce relic instruments are actually really good at what they do. It’s not normally just about how it looks, but how it plays and sounds.

If you have never played a well built relic, then you might be missing out on an amazing feel that allows you to dig in like no other guitar. A good builder can not only make it look old, but make it feel and sound that way too. A lot of them also put in newer electronics like Fishman pickups that transform them into amazing rock machines. But not all relics are made alike, just like any guitar out there, some are just bad.

Can you Relic a New Guitar?

The thing about relicing a guitar is that it can be done to any make or model. The instrument can be new or old, it doesn’t matter! Most relics sold by boutique builders are new models that they have built to look old. They go through the process of sourcing older looking components and then assemble great playing and even better sounding guitars. 

Throughout the process they artificially age it, making it look worn like it was played for 30 years. But before the process took place, it was painted and finished like a new one would. Players can order guitars from builders to look a certain way, be a certain model and even have certain parts in it. 

You can custom order whatever you like and even instruct them on how to wear it. They can then take it from there and get it done. If they are good at it, you wouldn’t know any better. Most boutique builders will put their brand name on the headstock and so that is usually the only way to tell that it isn’t an old vintage, well known brand from years past.

Should You Relic A Guitar?

While it might seem pretty easy to relic a guitar and make it look old, it actually isn’t! A lot of people just assume you can take a screwdriver to it and scratch it up. Maybe even scrape it and use a tool in a drill to wear the paint. But this only produces a terrible looking ruined finish, not a relic.

Proper aging takes methods formed by experimentation. I have seen some poorly reliced guitars and you can tell it was done by a person, it doesn’t look old, it looks wrecked! But there are some luthiers who know what they are doing! By trial and error and experimentation, they have found ways to make them look truly reliced.

So if you are planning to give it a try, research methods used to get it there and give it a try. If you have a guitar you can ruin and repaint in order to try again, then at some point you will get it. But if you have a great instrument you want to relic and have never done it, take it to a pro! Cause if you don’t want it ruined, they at least have a better shot at getting it done right.

Are Relic Guitars Stupid?

So are relic guitars stupid, only for losers? I don’t think so and I hope you don’t either. While there are opinions about it, people are entitled to buy what they want. As long as things are done in truth and it isn’t hurting anyone, it’s fine. It is simply another way people want to express themselves and there is nothing wrong with that. Who knows, perhaps your next favorite song on the radio will be written on a relic.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear.I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!