How to relic a guitar in two easy steps!

Here’s how to relic a guitar the easy way.

Step 1: Buy a guitar.

Step 2: Play the hell out of it for 40 years!


My friend Tony followed these instructions to the letter. He bought this Les Paul Deluxe back in 1971, after trying every Les Paul in town, and has played it for hours almost every day since. I’ve never seen real player wear like this: there’s a huge divot on the treble side of the bridge where he used to rest his pinky, all the finish on the back of the neck is gone, the bridge pickup ring has been scalloped from the string vibrations, and the heel has been completely rounded. Simply unreal – I shudder to think of how many hours have gone into this instrument (not to mention blood, sweat, and tears).

Tony had this guitar refretted many times over the years, and the fretboard had been planed thinner and thinner with each job. I thought we could get one more refret out of it, and encouraged Tony to have stainless steel frets installed, so he’d never need another refret again (stainless steel is much stronger than the typical nickel/silver fretwire). The inlays were almost completely worn through, and since the fingerboard was so thin, it wouldn’t be safe to recut the board and install new ones, so we opted just to leave what little he had left. Tony couldn’t bear to be away from his guitar for long(!), so against all odds I managed to complete the entire job in under 24 hours! This was just about the most difficult refret I’ve ever done – the guitar was practically falling apart in my hands! The fretboard chipped away at the slightest provocation and most of the screws were completely corroded and frozen solid. Plus, a section of binding had broken off and then had been ignored for decades, and so the shelf for the binding had worn away, prompting me to recarve the entire shelf by hand to replace a small piece of binding. Yikes!

Check this thing out – now THIS is how you relic a guitar!

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I finished this guitar only 5 minutes before Tony arrived to pick it up – new frets, new bone nut, new tune-o-matic bridge, and complete setup. I think it came out beautifully, and I’ve asked Tony to leave his guitar to me in his will (fat chance, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!). Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to take a picture of the completed job (it basically looks the same anyway, just with new frets, bridge, and nut), but I think it will suffice to say that Tony was blown away. I woke up this morning to find this text from Tony on my phone:


Thanks for your kind words, Tony! It was my pleasure – now, about that will…

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