how to fade guitar finish

How To Fade Guitar Finish: Relic Finish A Guitar

So, how do you age a poly guitar finish? How to fade a guitar’s finish? How to make my electric guitar look like a relic? What are the different guitar finishes in the market? Does 

fading my guitar would lessen its build quality? When it comes to guitar finishes, these questions usually come out, especially if you are trying to make your guitar look like an old one. So, we decided to give you clarity when it comes to this topic and to help you make your own decision for your guitar.

So, what is the story about all these musicians loving the old-look guitars? It was in 1995 that Fender first introduced its new aged guitars at the NAMM gear show. Fender’s idea on this one is to create a vintage wear and tear look on an electric guitar newly made from its manufacturing facility.

JW Black, one of the pioneers of the Fender Custom Shop, saw an aged Stratocaster from his friend and showed it to his boss, John Page, and was impressed by it. Black then came up with the idea to make relic guitars as one of the regular product lines under the Custom Shop catalogue. The idea became a hit with Fender customers that within the first four years, they were able to make more than 4,800 aged Fender guitars from the Custom Shop.

After Fender’s success in making relic guitars, Gibson also started in 1999 to produce their own relic guitars with the help of Mr. Tom Murphy. The paint of the Gibson guitars appeared to have been faded, their nickel-plated parts were purposely tarnished, and the lacquer finish was dulled perfectly. After some time, the company’s techniques really developed, and in 2005, they introduced the Eric Clapton ES-335, which has a feigned decay aesthetic.

How Do You Age A Poly Guitar Finish?

Polyurethane guitar finishes are considered to be the industry standard for guitars, so if you see guitars in the stores, most of it has a polyurethane finish. Poly finishes are more environmentally friendly compared to the nitrocellulose finishes in the past. When you apply multiple layers of poly on any surface, no solvents remain, which is a good thing for the environment. Polyurethane is also much easier to use and to be applied on guitars.

When applied, polyurethane is much thicker and stronger compared to other materials, and they also give a more glossy look to the guitar. They are more resistant to cracks and more resistant to being worn out. Guitars with a poly finish can retain their shine for a very long time and do not easily fade.

This is why if you want your guitar’s finish to fade naturally, then having a guitar with a poly finish would really be hard for you. So, if you are still reading this, you are in good hands as we are now going to teach you how to age your guitar even if it has a poly finish.

To age your guitar, first remove the neck, pickguard, strings, bridge, and all other electronic parts attached to the guitar’s body. After, get a piece of metal and start to compress the guitar’s sides, and aim to chip away the finish of the guitar. Focus on the sides of the guitar rather than in the center as it would be much easier to chip away. 

After doing it, heat up the guitar body for some time, and then put it in a cold place. If you are having snow in your location, you can leave it outside. Repeat these steps three to four times. After, start again to chip away some finishes on the sides. For the center part, top and back, you can use any hard materials to press on it as it will help to lessen the guitar’s shininess from its poly finish. Repeat these steps until you are satisfied with the result.

For the guitar’s hardware, you can soak them in a bowl of muriatic acid, as it will give an aged look to your guitar’s hardware. After you finish, you can now start to assemble back the guitar parts, including its hardware and its pickups.

How To Relic Your Guitar

There are many guitar owners who are already loving the relic guitars. So, how to do it? The first thing is you will need to remove all the parts of your guitar, similar to what we have done in the first method. The next thing is you will need to remove the varnish by using very fine grit sandpaper. Do not worry, as this step is similar to what companies do in their relic guitars.

After this step, you put the guitar’s body outside, and after it gets too hot, place it in the refrigerator to cool it down. Repeat this process until the guitar’s finish starts to crack. 

For the metal parts of the guitar, you can make a scratch on them by using scissors or a screwdriver. Another way is to use a fine metal file, steel wool, or wet sandpaper and rub it on the metal parts. This will eat away the surface of the metal, resulting in a better look for a relic guitar.

For the plastic parts like the guitar’s pickguard, you can also make random scratches on it using a scissor or a screwdriver, or even any sharp materials as long as you do not cut them. Sanding or filing the guitar’s pickguard also will give a more aged look. After sanding, use a small amount of dark solvent-based wood stain, as it will give the effect that you are looking for in relic guitars. 

So, how do you age a poly guitar finish? Guitars usually have a poly finish as this is the industry standard, but the problem is that poly finishes do not easily fade. So, if you want your guitar to have an aged look, you should scratch the guitar’s finishes, especially on the sides, as it will give a more relic look from the scratches.

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