Brand new Strat: $700. Beat up Strat: $1000
August 28, 2007 2:52 PM   Subscribe

The Wacky World of beating up guitars to add value."Normally, even one of the resulting scratches or dings on a brand-new instrument would make a guitar enthusiast cringe. But in the hands of Mr. Eldred, they are the first steps in the process of creating a "relic" guitar -- a brand new instrument that has been deliberately aged to simulate decades' worth of rock-and-roll wear and tear."
posted by KevinSkomsvold (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The slideshow is particularly noteworthy for how they recreated Andy Summers' Telecaster.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:54 PM on August 28, 2007

Another way to do this is play the damn thing, preferably in bars/clubs.
posted by Mister_A at 2:57 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

that's shockingly stupid.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:09 PM on August 28, 2007

Gawd that's dumb, but typical consumerism. People want that tore up look of a famous guitar without having to pay the real dues of getting it there.

Reminds me of when Eddie Van Halen first came up, and everyone was coming out with these single pickup one knob jobs. Eddie said in an interview he thought it was funny, since the way he ended up with that is he took his guitar apart and couldn't figure out how to put it back together, so he just connected wires until he got sound out of it.
posted by Eekacat at 3:10 PM on August 28, 2007

Don't think the article mentioned the new Fender EVH re-issue. You can have it for $25,000!
posted by bardic at 3:15 PM on August 28, 2007

i'm not buying a wii until i can hire a professional to yellow the plastic, break off pieces, get unidentifiable sticky crap on it, and generally fuck it up until it looks like my old NES
posted by maus at 3:18 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is exactly the sort of shit I want to do for a living.
posted by luftmensch at 3:21 PM on August 28, 2007

I don't know who they think they are, smashing a perfectly good guitar.
posted by eriko at 3:39 PM on August 28, 2007 [5 favorites]

A recent New Yorker article on truly-stressed and simulated-stressed guitars: The Musical Life -- Fine Points.
posted by ericb at 3:42 PM on August 28, 2007

Another New Yorker article about guitar makers: Struts and Frets [PDF].

The article also mentions "relic guitars:"
One afternoon this winter, I watched a man named Tom Murphy systematically beat up a brand-new Les Paul. Murphy, who is fifty-six, works for Gibson’s custom, art, and historic division. He has thick forearms and ruddy features and a boyish devotion to the guitar heroes of his youth. Every week or two, the company sends ten or twenty guitars to Murphy’s workshop, in Marion, Illinois, and he sends them back looking as if they’d been played for fifty years. When I visited, he began by etching some lines into the lacquer with a razor blade, to mimic the crackle of an old finish. He shaved the edges off the fingerboard, so that they looked worn by countless earsplitting solos. Then he took a bunch of keys and shook them over the surface, like a spider skittering over glass. To imitate years of belt wear, he held an old buckle against the back and whacked it a few times with a hammer. Then he flipped the guitar upside down and slowly ground the headstock into the concrete floor. A “Murphyized” Gibson sells for twice the cost of a regular Les Paul, and Murphy’s signed Jimmy Page replicas (complete with cigarette burns) have gone for as much as eighty thousand dollars. Fender’s aged guitars have been equally successful. Customers can choose from various degrees of wear, from Closet Classic (“played maybe a few times per year and then carefully put away”) to Heavy Relic (“played vig- orously on a nightly basis”) to the Rory Gallagher Tribute Stratocaster (“worn to the wood”). When I asked Matt Umanov, whose guitar store has been a fixture in Greenwich Village for forty years, why people buy these instruments, he made an impatient noise. “Ninety per cent of this business is male-oriented,” he said. “In my opinion, most purchases are governed by four words: the zipper is down.”
posted by ericb at 3:51 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

I adore Eddie Van Halen, think that the first Van Halen album is one of the standout records of rock history, and man, the guitar tone on that album was truly awesome.

But $25K for a replica of that guitar? Ridiculous.

The kind of guitar that can be bought with that kind of money, well, there's just no reason to do it outside of insanity or Too Much Cash™ disease. I'll give you an example: the most expensive guitar in my small collection is a one-of-a-kind wonder from a Canadian luthier and madman Alex Csiky, who builds his instruments by hand, each one a completely unique work of art. There's nothing like it on the planet - the redwood top is insane, and has some of my fingernail imprints, as it's a soft wood and lacks any kind of urethane coating. It's wide and open, the sound is expansive (almost too much for distortion), it plays like a dream and looks cool as ice. Cost me $1650, and I bought it over the net, without even playing it first. It's remarkable, truly astounding. I've never regretted buying it, and will probably never even consider selling it. Take a look at the other instruments on his site - at $2000, this thing is crazy, and costs 1/10 the price of that VH replica.

I doubt that the collectible value of that replica will ever go much about the $25K price tag (I might be wrong on this point), so I wonder if it even makes sense as an investment (unlike just about any Les Paul from the fifties). The idea of fabricating authenticity is really odd, and says something about the value system of our society. I appreciate the craftsmanship and eye to detail, but wonder if it's a waste of time and talent.
posted by dbiedny at 4:03 PM on August 28, 2007

This sounds like it's for nerdy collectors rather than players. The article didn't mention if each "replica" guitar came with a pamphlet describing when and how each ouchie was accomplished. For $25,000 they damn well better be accurate!

This is like the exact opposite of a guy who drops $250 for a Mexi-strat and keeps the plastic paper stuff on the pick guard.
posted by snsranch at 4:04 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nth'ing the 'this is retarded' talk. I got my first guitar recently, and I made sure to get one it perfect shape, because i wanted every scratch and wear mark to be mine, and no one else's.
posted by Mach5 at 4:06 PM on August 28, 2007

Zachary Guitars is really run by Maddox , right?

P.s., your favorite guitar/luthier sucks.
posted by ssmug at 4:26 PM on August 28, 2007

This has been going on in the antique business since forever. There's a market for old things, and there's a larger market for old-looking, not-as-expensive things.
posted by zippy at 4:26 PM on August 28, 2007

Indonesian craftspeople/artists (in Bali and Java in particular, I think) are often also very adept at creating sculpture and furniture that looks antique, but is of course actually brand new.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2007

Yea there's nothing new about the "old/worn" look. "Aging" a brand spankin' new guitar is dumb. All of that ugly that comes with years of hard work is how a guitar gets it's soul.

Mach5, congrats, that's a sweetie. It looks like you're already playing the hell out of it.
posted by snsranch at 4:41 PM on August 28, 2007


Alex has attitude, but he has the guitars to back it up, IMO. I qualified the post by using the term "madman", but I'm primarily addressing the quality and playability of the man's instrument, and not making character judgments about the man himself. Last time I checked, there are lots of highly creative people that have inflated egos. Welcome to the Earth. But hey, you're doing a great job living up to your MeFi handle, keep up the, um, good work and all.
posted by dbiedny at 4:43 PM on August 28, 2007

everything is fake anymore, and seemingly valued the more for it.

*shakes fist, orders you off the lawn*
posted by quonsar at 4:56 PM on August 28, 2007

On the tour, Mr. Summers's bandmate Sting is playing a replica of his worn 1955 Fender Precision bass. The company says it made just one copy for him, and hasn't approached Sting about a production model of his instrument.

posted by Asbestos McPinto at 5:01 PM on August 28, 2007

It's funny, in hot rods they rat rods which are designed to look old but they're also supposed to be cheap. This seems to me more like taking a new BMW and beating the hell out of the paint and then saying it added 500% to the value of the car.

I seriously hope the guitar collector idiots who buy these things lose money on them and the market dries up. Then guitar companies can get back to trying to make actually better guitars rather then just putting out "special editions" of the same thing over and over again. Take a lesson from the comic book business, basing your business on collectors is a very short term game.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:02 PM on August 28, 2007

This is like the exact opposite of a guy who drops $250 for a Mexi-strat and keeps the plastic paper stuff on the pick guard.

I laughed, but don't diss the Mexican Fenders for playabiliy. I bought a Mexi-Jazz in '91, threw some Seymour Duncan hots in it, and it's my most-played bass out of a stable of 9. It sounds and plays as good as any American Jazz bass I've played.

Speaking as someone who once held SRV's #1, I do love weathering on old Fenders, -- I think a tobacco sunburst P-bass looks best missing 40-50% of its paint -- but its gotta be real. It takes years and years for your forearm to rub through the finish, and cheating is bullshit. This is like wannabe skate punks who sit and scrape their trucks on the curb so it looks like they've done monster grinders.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:19 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is like wannabe skate punks who sit and scrape their trucks on the curb so it looks like they've done monster grinders. Now THAT'S funny!

I'm not knocking the guitars of course. The only bass I've ever owned is a mexi-P-bass, it buzzes a bit, but that's my fault!

But I guess that's kind of what I get from this thread. An older guitar that has been nicely broken in just has it's own unique feel and sound. You can't/won't/don't get that from taking sand paper to a freshie.

This reminds me of an AskMe where someone was asking about getting the grime off the fret board. Whoever that guy was, he EARNED the grime.
posted by snsranch at 5:30 PM on August 28, 2007

This is how I afford my Rock'n'Roll lifestyle.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:30 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter: unidentifiable sticky crap
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:33 PM on August 28, 2007

You can't/won't/don't get that from taking sand paper to a freshie.

But don't forget, the sound of actually taking sandpaper to a guitar is a good one! Especially if you do it on the strings, just above the pickups, running through 6 daisy-chained Ratt pedals and into a Marshall stack. Sweet.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:37 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Whoa. I was just having a conversation about new jeans I've seen at the mall with carefully applied stains and paint drips.

And how I would explain that peculiar fad to, say, space aliens. Or an Amish man.

Of this, I just don't know what to say. Except that to me, ownership of an instrument like this would be The Mark of the Douche.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:39 PM on August 28, 2007

I paid almost a grand for my SRV Signature Strat but like hell if I'm going to let anyone "beat it up" other than me.

production guitar as close as possible to Stevie's rig: sure

EXACT DUPLICATE of his #1: no way
posted by mrbill at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2007

If I were going to spend 20 grand on a guitar, I'd be having Bob Benedetto make one for me. But of course, I have a thing for jazz guitars...
posted by Eekacat at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2007

Eek, those are pretty.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:45 PM on August 28, 2007

Hey flapjax, is that like 1500 grit or something grindier? Cuz I'm gonna try that.

I've thought of being a luthier, but wood and I are like kids with clay, it'll be ugly and best used as a door stop. Hmm, considering this thread, I should get started right away!
posted by snsranch at 5:48 PM on August 28, 2007

The World Famous: heh, thats true, it is 'faded', but i got it because it was $500 and was a friggan SG! It just doesn't have the nitrocellulose finish. Plus, it just felt so good in my hands. You're obviously a guitarist so I'm sure you know the feeling :) .
posted by Mach5 at 5:51 PM on August 28, 2007

let those who have never worn acid-washed jeans throw the first stone
posted by any major dude at 6:07 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Mach5: You're killin' me, man. I soooooo want an SG, just like the one Townshend played on "Who Live at Leeds," that being the greatest live performance of all time.

Sorry, couldn't help myself. End derail.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:09 PM on August 28, 2007

Hey flapjax, is that like 1500 grit or something grindier?

Definitely case-by-case, sns, depending on the genre you're working in. For Healing/New Age, I'd probably go for a fine grind. You'll want something heavier for Albanian folk songs.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:11 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is endemic in the furniture and flooring industries: wailing on floorboards with chain for that authentic "antiqued" look, adding crap to finish to make it look like there's fly-specks on wood.

It's the absolute worst in modern faux living, IMO. I can understand people being fooled in antique stores: "aging" techniques there have a long and established tradition, designed to part the customer from his money. But walking into a Pottery Barn and picking up an "antiqued Southwestern" bookshelf? Screw you, Consumer Unit. Buy a new bookshelf and take the time and pride to have it worn in by your experiences, not the mood of a factory worker with a claw hammer on an assembly line.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 6:53 PM on August 28, 2007

Bora Horza G.: as long as your going there, this reminds me of growing up in the 60s & 70s when people had furniture that replicated crap from the middle/dark ages, to include fake "coat of arms" and crappy iron-work knights in armor from Tijuana. And golden laced sombreros too. Oh so tacky, kitschy and etc.

flapjax, wait for it on MuFi. Good or bad, I'm blaming you! :}
posted by snsranch at 7:03 PM on August 28, 2007

Willie Nelson's guitar. During his well publicized perils with the Internal Revenue Service, Willie was so worried that they might try to take Trigger away from him that he hid his guitar at his manager's house for safe keeping.
posted by Sailormom at 7:24 PM on August 28, 2007

I just wanted to say that my 1990's Les Paul Standard has a gash in the bottom where I dropped it on Hwy 61 in Mississippi while posing for a photo with a highway sign, a row of chips out of the headstock where some previous owner carved out the serial number for some unknown purpose, a weird stain on the front from spilled beer in a Tennessee honky-tonk, blood in the pickups from one spectacularly messy set and a slightly bent tuning peg on the G string from falling off the stage in the middle of one particularly heavy solo, and it laughs at these wussy guitars before pulling down their shorts and then goes back to drinking straight whiskey and telling stories.

You wanna buy it? You can't pay for these kinds of scratches, sorry.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:49 AM on August 29, 2007 1990's Les Paul Standard has a gash in the bottom where I dropped it on Hwy 61 in Mississippi...

Really? I heard it was on a service road to I-95 just outside of Hartford, Connecticut... ;-)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:53 AM on August 29, 2007

Really? I heard it was on a service road to I-95 just outside of Hartford, Connecticut... ;-)

Ahhh, but I have a photograph to prove it. Plus, I never let the facts get in the way of a good story. ;-) right back at ya, slick.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:09 AM on August 29, 2007

So, not to toot my own horn, but my Telecaster picked up a lot of its distress in a pretty cool way: stolen out of my apartment, tossed in a trunk, pawned, recovered by police, beat to shit in transit, and returned to me with a big EVIDENCE sticker still attached. Still played just fine, and came out looking like a bad motherfucker.
posted by COBRA! at 7:10 AM on August 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

(Cobra! ...fantastic story!)
posted by applemeat at 8:12 AM on August 29, 2007

Yeah, that is one cool story, and it's probably very similar to what my instruments would say about me if they could talk.
posted by micayetoca at 5:54 PM on August 29, 2007

Another way to flavour finish faster ... four hands, one guitar.
posted by phoque at 9:03 PM on August 30, 2007

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