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Relic Guitars: Learning to Love It


Relic, Relic, Relic

All pics below are some recent relic guitars I've done. See all our relics!

I never thought I'd get into relicing guitars. I actually fell into doing it because I sell used guitars. Prior to that I held to the belief of many guitarists: "Relicing is just as bad as buying pre-ripped Levi's!" 

Then one day I realized sometimes you don't start with a "perfectly good guitar" and relic it. Sometimes you get a guitar that looks like crap. At that point you have three choices: throw it in the nearest dumpster and toss in a match; sell it for next to nothing--or try to make the wear/tear look nice, aka--relic. 


That's what got me to attempt my first relic. So after reading a few online posts and scrabbling through the garage for some sandpaper, my first "relic" left a lot to be desired. But I learned some things.

What I figured out was relicing a guitar can be a lot of fun--but it's also back breaking work. It's a never-ending learning process. With each project, you learn new techniques--and make new mistakes. Bottom line: It's a ton of work--BUT ultimately can be extremely rewarding. 

gibson 50s tribute les paul guitar relic

Most of my projects happen because I have a guitar that's beat up--and ugly. So I try to transform its "ugly" into "vintage." And though it's hard work, it becomes a labor of love. There's something nice about thinking maybe a guitar you worked on will be cherished for years by its owner. 



Relicing is very personal. What looks good to one person looks like pure crap to another. In fact, there's a big contingent of musicians who balk at the whole idea of relic guitars. We've all seen the indignant forum posts: "Wannna know how to relic a guitar? Play it for 30 years!" My take?--if someone wants to beat up their guitar, and it makes them happy, that's their decision. 



While relicing elicits some strong opinions, most would agree it's here to stay. Gibson and Fender have dudes making a science of it--cause guess what? People are paying big money for beautifully beat up guitars. Now that I do guitar relicing, I see the world in a new light. Like maybe if I beat up my car just right, it'd be worth a bundle. Or maybe I could relic ...my cat?

V. Wade Contreras has been the owner of Still Kickin Music since 2007. He played for years in bands in the LA area. Now that he has a wife and kid and needs to eat more than Ramen once in a while he makes a living buying and selling really cool used guitars.

2 comments

  • Moderator

    A cheap Gibson Tribute? Definitely grab that! These are not easy to find cheap anymore. Sounds like a good un. cheers!

  • Richard Rudkin

    I picked up a cheap 2013 Tobacco burst tribute, complete with banjo tuners. The ugliest guitar i have ever seen! It got a similar treatment to yours, and nows it us my No1! Cheers

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