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Relic stencil

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Hi and welcome!

I doubt there's any stencils available for relicing.

But don't worry, there's simple ways to figure out how to achieve a natural looking artificial wear! Just think about where and why the most wear would be. Grab the guitar and see where the fragile areas are.

On the body one obvious spot is the forearm slant. As you'll wipe it with only your forearm and sleeve, the abrasion is subtle and should blend into the finish seamlessly so fine paper on a random orbital sander might do the trick.

On the bass side above the bridge and middle pickups is where you'll hit the wood with your pick in a curved motion so  a coarse grit sandpaper in a 40 cm radius movement is the key. Maybe even using a metal pick? If you have a pickguard, scratch it along the same radius.

The surroundings of the strap buttons also wear. If you use strap locks, you'll be hitting dents around the buttons. And the strap will create something close to the forearm slope, just check the movement range of the strap while playing and exaggerate a bit.

On the back you'd get belt buckle rash, random dents and strokes right in the center, sort of dozens of asterisks scored with a length of rebar including some random hits. The belly carve wears naturally at the edge, again doable with fine paper with the random orbital.

A length of rebar is a useful tool for both hitting and scraping to mimic random accidents like scraping with the steel wristband of your watch, leaning on the guitar with the body end on the tarmac with some pebbles, laid on a dirty floor etc. Random dents can also be made by laying various sized pebbles on the body and hitting them lightly with a hammer.

And then the neck... The headstock is relatively easy, it gets bruises at the tips and edges and sometimes on the flat surfaces as well. The rebar and some small stones do the trick. Hit and scrape with the length until you get the desired looks.

The actual neck is a more difficult thing. It wears naturally where you play the most, i.e. the cowboy chords area, both sides. But if you're a soloist the upper frets get their share as well. Think of the most used keys and the pentatonic patterns for them and you'll find out the frets and strings that get the most of bending and overall usage. Do it subtly, though, as every serious guitar player should wash their hands before grabbing the instrument!

Finally, remember that "random" is they key word. You'd normally use a T-shirt but one day you have your Levi jacket on and slightly hit the forearm bout with the brass button. Similarly you keep your fingernails short but one day your file was missing and in eager you grabbed some chords so hard your nails scored the lacquer of the fretboard. And then you hit the final chord with the pick you lent from a heavy metal friend, a 3 mm thick piece of hard material.

Poop happens...

Something like this on the front side:



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A couple of second thoughts:

  • How far are you planning to go? The Rory Gallagher Strat has very little paint left, the SRV one a bit more. Jimi Hendrix's Strat has only a little wear, mostly around the edges of the lower bout.
  • Bare wood won't stay bare. The finish will be substituted by sweat, grease and gunk resulting a satin grey with brownish grain lines.
  • Different finishes age and wear differently. Nitrocellulose lacquer used on the examples above tends to check and chip off along the crack lines where there's excess stress. Polyurethane is harder and wears off mostly like rubbed with fine sandpaper. Both crack and chip when hit.
  • Don't forget plastic and metal parts. White plastic will get yellow, all plastic may warp, chrome will partially wear off and oxidise, the screws will rust... Ammonia fumes often are used metals, heat and UV rays age plastic. There's also tinted lacquer for making white plastic look older.
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