It is worth bearing in mind that this is being written from a British viewpoint; by that I mean that I am having to refer to the limited materials, chemicals and proprietory products that are easily obtainable here in the UK. Some far better products are available in the USA for instance, which cannot be purchased "over here". I will of course refer to those products in this section, but don't expect to find them in the UK. Similarly, to our friends in the USA - and indeed throughout the world - please forgive any references to products where I have used the common English name, which I know will mean something completely different in the States!

For all the relicing work carried out on my Telecaster guitar, I used everyday products which are readily available in any DIY or hardware store - I think the contents of Pic 13 are self-explanatory!


One vital thing is often ignored by novice relicers... click on Pic 14 to enlarge it - note that where the pickguard of this 1970 Telecaster has been removed, the finish underneath has rarely seen the light of day and has therefore not aged like the remainder of the body.

Before I started any relicing work, I cut blank 'cover plates' for the pickguard, bridge and control plate areas (Pic 15) out of 1.7mm thick hard plastic (same material I use for making 'vintage' single-ply pickguards), and then drilled them and fitted them to the body once all the hardware had been removed. This enabled me to sand, wear and discolour the body whilst leaving the original finish in those areas untouched. As this is a poly finished body, I could never get the same dramatic colour difference as the 70's body with the nitro finish, but the results (Pic 16) are clear to see. We don't tend to get much sunshine in the UK, but during the summer months when I was working on the guitar, whenever possible I took it outside and left it on a stand in the bright sunlight - over a period of time, the sunlight will slowly start to fade the finish to give it a more 'natural' look.


I decided to start the project with replicating the arm wear on the upper body (Pics 17 & 18) which - on a poly finished body - is probably the hardest part. There is a really thick layer of poly over a very thin paint layer, so this task requires a lot of trial & error, and endless patience! I started to slowly wear away the poly layer using a Scotch-Brite abrasive pad (much gentler than sandpaper at this stage), then as I appeared to be getting nearer the paint finish, I switched to a fine wet-and-dry sandpaper (keep it wet, and keep wiping away the poly 'gunk'). Once you can see the wood colour starting to show through the paint, switch to 0000 grade steel wool, but LUBRICATE it first (I used WD40) and gently rub - working from the bridge towards the edge of the body - applying more pressure as you get nearer the edge so that the paint 'feathers' away until bare wood is reached. If you are careful, you can achieve the 'almost worn through' effect as in Pic 18. Remember - rub a little, wipe clean, rub a little more etc. Keep checking the thickness of the remaining finish. You can always take a little more away, but you can't put it back on.... Use the same technique on other areas of the body where the finish may be worn away (such as the lower edge where the instrument may be rested on the player's lap when sitting down to play - see the 1977 Telecaster in Pic 19 for example).

Pic 20 I deliberately avoided putting too many surface 'dings' in the body - a guy from Fender's Custom Shop advocates putting screws, keys and other sharp objects all over the body and rolling them around and pressing them into it, but I think it looks too contrived. As a rule of thumb, never use the same object twice to make your dings - the chances of that happening in the real world are minimal. Try to imagine you are actually gigging and the sort of 'accidents' that might happen to your guitar - like turning round and banging against a mic stand, a drum kit, an amp or a guitar stand - the three larger dings you can see in the pic are from the metal corner piece of an amp, a stand, and the sharp corner of... a coffee table! Smaller dings were made by bumping into door handles and table edges, etc. Take the guitar to the object - not the other way round. Make it real. Try rubbing a little brown shoe polish into the dings with a cotton bud to make them look like they've been there for years.

One of the most common signs of ageing is always around the edges of a guitar - particularly the lower front & rear edges (Pics 21 & 22) which is quite easy to replicate.