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Close-up of the disressed pickguard

Distressing my Butterscotch Telecaster Body

More as an experiment than anything else, I decided to have a go at relicing the body I finished in August.

I based my techniques on the TDPRI article “How To: Relic Your Guitar“.

The first job is to add a few knocks and scrapes. I dropped a set of keys on the front and back and gently knocked the edges in a few places. Any damage on the lacquer surface acts as a centre for cracks and the crazing radiates out from dings.

Rather than use a chilling spray, which I find gives small “china plate” checking, I placed the whole body in a domestic deep-freezer overnight (thanks Pete!) Using a freezer causes the lacquer to crack in a natural manner, across the grain.

As you can see below, the freezer treatment resulted in fine, subtle cracking such as is often found on vintage instruments.

While the body was still very cold, I rubbed it all over with brown dye which stained the bare wood and penetrated the cracks. Once the body warms up, the cracks will close so it’s important to do this whilst still chilled.

I also gave the relic treatment to the pickguard, applying the typical wear patch.

Close-up of the distressed pickguard

Close-up of the distressed pickguard

Photographing the detail proved very difficult as my autofocus camera kept focusing on whatever was reflected in the body, but here are a few pictures to show the results. You can click on the photos to see them full size.

Crazed lacquer around the jack socket

Crazed lacquer around the jack socket

Lower edge of body

Lower edge of body

Lower back of body

Lower back of body

Lower Horn

Lower Horn

Behind the bridge

Behind the bridge

Edge of the body

Edge of the body

Front of the butterscotch Telecaster body

Front of the butterscotch Telecaster body

Back of the butterscotch Telecaster body

Back of the butterscotch Telecaster body

Butterscotch Telecaster body with hardware fitted

Butterscotch Telecaster body with hardware fitted

17 Comments on “Distressing my Butterscotch Telecaster Body

  1. I reckon a couple of fag burn marks on the headstock would look good too. Nice job steve.

  2. Nice job Steve , not overdone as some are . I’ve got a 59 blonde tele thats about the same state as that one .
    A question, i noticed the underscratch plate area is lighter . did you mask it off and apply a stain to bite in before the final clear coats ? or did you sparay a thin light colour coat ?

    • Thanks Mark, yes I tried to keep it subtle. The tan-lines were done by fitting the hardware and spraying a tinted lacquer before the clear coats. It’s all shown in the post here http://wp.me/p1xK3I-aS

  3. You mention a brown dye used to go into the open cracks after the freezing process, what type of dye did you use?, obviously it is something not so strong to soften the nitro.

    • It is StewMac ColorTone Stain – medium brown I think – watered down with alcohol.

      You can use any alcohol- or water-based brown stain or wood dye and lots of people use shoe polish, you just need to get some “dirt” in the cracks!

      • Hi Steve, thank you for the excellent tips and video tutorials! Your aerosol lacquers are far superior to any other I’ve tried. Just brilliant.

        Anyway, I’d like to try this aging technique but I’m a bit worried about rubbing the stain into the cracks. Perhaps a stupid question but isn’t there any danger of the stain going deeper into the crack and ruin the finish underneath by dis-colouring wood?

        Could you be please a bit more specific on how you did that? Many thanks!

        • I’d suggest using the dye quite dry, you certainly don’t want to soak it. I just dampened some mutton cloth with dye and wiped in on, then off again.

  4. This is a great tuttorial, I also watched the spraying video, finaly a video that shows the whole stuff.
    Thanks I will use this step by step

    Maarten

  5. Can I use old tea bags to make a stain for the cracks? I always have dozens of them. Will that work? I should think my guts will be properly tannine stained by now.

    Making a replica of Springsteen’s tele/esquire and looking to do a light relic job on it so it looks like it did on the Born To Run cover.

    Thanks

  6. Thanks for the excellent video and instructions, will be following them slowly, getting ready for my first Telecaster spray job, will be buying your Butterscotch soon, thanks again Steve

  7. you did an exceptional job on this beauty, I am going to use this as a guide for a Catalpa tele project I am working on.

  8. Hi,

    How did you get the body colour different on the underside of where the scratchplate would be?

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