Squier Telecaster Relic Review
Item: Squier Telecaster Relic
Inspiration: I picked up this Squier Fat Telecaster many years ago – and it’s a really good one (a friend who used to work at Fender played it and felt it was every bit as good as a US Fender which was nice to hear). Over time it had picked up a couple of big chips in the poly finish but otherwise it was pretty pristine. Recently it had been set up as my “Keith Richards Tele” (open G tuning with the bottom string removed) because I wasn’t really using it too much any other way. Cut to the chase and on a rainy Saturday I decided to see what a bit of relic’ing would do.
I have done lots of reading about the way that people approach creating a relic, but I wasn’t keen on making this a drawn out process, so armed with the bits and pieces of knowledge picked up online I dismantled the instrument.
Step one was to do the body. I started with some 80 grit sandpaper in the traditional wear spots (which also coincided with where the existing chips in the poly finish were). I was intrigued with how this would work as just about everyone seems to say that a relic ‘d poly finish will never look any good compared with nitro. Thing is, my goal was to make this 90s era guitar look like I imagine it will look in 30 years time – NOT to try and make it look like a 50s guitar. With that in mind I felt like I didn’t have to follow the “rules”, I just had to try and recreate 30 years of wear using some very basic tools and skills!
After the 80 grit sanding – which went really well and achieved what I was after, I went to 240 grit and sanded the entire body. I wanted to kill any sheen on the finish. Then I took an old metal tap and banged it on the body a few times, dropped a couple of heavy object on it, etc etc. There’s no science to this – I just tried to imagine where things might hit it in everyday life! Next I went to an even finer grade of sandpaper, before finishing off with 800 grit wet and dry. I love a silky smooth feel on a guitar and this baby certainly has it!
Next step was the neck, which was again sanded back to get most of the finish off the back of the neck – and then given the wet and dry treatment. I “wiped” the sandpaper over the decal (I never wanted to remove the Squier one and replace it with a vintage Fender one), and then did the obligatory cigarette burn under the bottom E.
Finally, I made a strong cup of tea, dipped a rag in it and wiped it over the exposed wood parts of the neck and body.
For the hardware, I simply went at it with wet and dry sandpaper to remove a bit of shine and add some micro scratches. The scratchplate was also sanded and then wiped with the strong tea early on in the process so it had a couple of hours to lightly colour.
And that, dear friends, is about it! It took a total of about four hours to do it all.
Image: So, what’s the verdict? I think it looks pretty good – not too over the top but enough to give a relic feel. It looks a little like the Fender Joe Strummer model with that very matt finish. The hardware could certainly take a bit more work to get the right look though.
Investment: Seeing as this was an instrument already hanging around at home, and I had all the tools and sandpaper I needed, this cost nothing! I don’t think I’d ever spend money on a guitar to turn it into a relic – unless it was a pawn shop cheapy and even then I’m not sure.
Intrinsic Qualities/Intanglibles: There is no question that doing a relic job on this guitar has brought it back to life. It wasn’t doing too much other than hanging on the wall prior to this, but now it feels great and I regularly pick it up to play – that has to be the ultimate goal in a project like this. I think the biggest lesson learnt in this process is to make sure you work within the limits of the instrument you have: a 90s Squier isn’t ever really going to look like a 50s Fender, so don’t try (unless you are a genius at this kind of thing)!
If not this then: As I said, I don’t think I’d ever buy a guitar to relic, but this project has made me think about doing another one of my old basses that’s already a bit scratched up and not getting enough love.