There's nothing like the feeling (and sound) of sliding a perfectly good guitar body up and down your asphalt driveway. Welcome to the world of relics.
I not sure why I even began this project, although I think it's because I had an "extra" 1980s Floyd Rose laying around. Although both the body and neck are by Ibanez, I picked them up separately off of different sellers on eBay. The super-thin "S" body is made of mahogany and the dark gray is its original color. The trem route is for a pull-back Floyd, so I had to drive a big-head screw about halfway in the cavity so the Floyd hits something on the return. I also had to do this on my Jackson JTX. I can't stand pull-up Floyds! Also, because the body is so thin, I had to saw off about 1/4" of the Floyd trem block - not too bad. I believe the body and neck came off of S370 and S470 models, although I can't remember which came from which.
The neck ended up giving quite a bit of trouble, as the frets were really popping out. I sent it to Randal Perkins at Holland RIT Music in Holland, MI (he also did my Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Sport neck) and had him totally re-fret it. It is a beautiful neck, though, with cool diamond-shaped inlays and white binding. Other than that extra expense, this project was a breeze.
For hardware, I decided to go with a single bridge humbucker and left the middle and neck slots open - I kinda like the look, feel, and sound of that. I chose a chrome Gibson Angus Young signature model and wired it up myself - great-sounding pickup. I had a set of chrome Gotoh tuners laying around and tracked down a set of black Schaller straplock buttons. And that was it.
CLMT is short for Clairemont, the community in San Diego where I grew up. It's also the name of my in-house recording studio. I placed a CLMT logo on the headstock and even "Dremel-ed" CLMT into the wood on the back of the body.
Overall, this is a really cool guitar that plays with a "broken-in" feel - which, I guess, is the whole point of a relic guitar.
UPDATE: June 2014
I replaced the 1980s Floyd Rose with a chrome "reliced" Floyd Rose Special, so I can use the German-made trem on another project. I also switched the modified stock Floyd nickel-plated brass block with the correct-size 32mm brass Big Block.
UPDATE: February 2016
Another change for my thin-bodied Ibanez. I had heard some good stuff about Giovanni pickups, so I took out the Gibson Angus Young humbucker and replaced it with a GCH-1 model, which is actually "F-spaced", so it works out better. (I ended up just selling the Gibson on eBay.) It only comes in zebra, so to keep the same overall look, I purchased a separate chrome cover, aged it up a bit, and wired it up. I have to say the Giovanni GCH-1 sounds incredible. This honestly might be my best-sounding guitar now. It's really that good.
I love the Danelectro look. I suppose it's from 1970's photos of Jimmy Page with the 59-DC and even the mid-1990s when STP's Dean DeLeo whipped out a U2 for the Big Bang Baby video.
I honestly didn't buy this guitar with the intention of turning it into a "relic." No, some bad drilling led to that. More on that in a second. I bought this black guitar from Guitar Center in Towson, MD back in June of 1999 for a couple hundred dollars. I liked the way it looked and dug the idea of having Danelectro Lipstick pickups. The only thing I wanted to upgrade this guitar with were the tuners and the straplocks - that was it. Sounds easy, right?
Well, I a set of Sperzel locking tuners, but the holes in the headstock were too narrow in diameter. No problem. I just had to re-drill the holes to a larger size. That's where the problems occurred. The cheap wood and my unsteady hand led to splintering wood and this quickly turned into a relic project. No matter, I eventually got the Sperzels in there and although it looks pretty bad, they're in there snug.
Of course, installing the Schaller straplocks was easy, right? Wrong. The bottom strap button on the Dano 59-DC was a push-in button, like you'd find on an acoustic. Bottom line: The screw hole was too big for the Schaller. Not impossible, it just required a bit of a dowel.
I really didn't care for the stock bridge on the 59-DC, so I decided to upgrade it to a Schaller roller bridge. Simple, right? Well, I didn't consider the fact that this guitar was a semi-hollow body, and because the Schaller bridge was larger than the stock bridge, I missed wood when I attempted to drill new mounting screw holes for the Schaller bridge. I got it to work, but the new bridge is at an angle. Oh well.
That's about it. I did take the guitar in to the shop to have an on/off switch wired in. That replaced the output jack hole, which I re-drilled for the side and put on a chrome football jack plate. I also sanded down the back of the painted neck, to try to get a touch of the real wood. There was a lot of paint back there! I sanded to a point and gave up - it's a beautiful mess!
As with the Scootercaster, I added a few well-placed destruction accents to make it look used. My Danelectro 59-DC is dedicated to my cat, Blackie, who died in 1999. I scratched "Meow" on the back of the guitar, and I gave it the serial number BLKE31899 (March 18, 1999), the day Blackie died. This has got to be the biggest piece of crap with six strings I have ever owned, but it has such a cool tone. The 59-DC is the main guitar on one of my favorite song, Azure, from my 11 expressions of me CD.
UPDATE: February 2020
This old axe was in need of a tuneup, so I fixed a few things. First, I replaced the stock output jack with a new Switchcraft, added a bridge ground wire, and re-soldered some of the joints. Otherwise, the pots and switch (complicated with the dual-centric volume/tone pots for each pickup) work fine. My next upgrade was to straighten out the Schaller bridge, which even though it was intonated, looked bad before the fix. Lastly, the headstock was a splintered mess from when I did a crappy job of widening the tuner holes and installing Sperzel locking tuners, so I sanded it down, repainted it black, added a new Danelectro waterslide, and installed new Gotoh locking tuners (the Sperzels were shot). The guitar looks and plays great - still a wonderful sound plugged in or on the couch!
This one all started with the neck. I've always loved the traditional, New York-style ESP headstock, and when I found a maple one on eBay in August 2006, I pulled the trigger.
At first, I was going to match this boat-back neck with a Charvel-type body I picked up that is now part of my Texcoco guitar. But after attending a Queensryche concert in DC in November 2006, and seeing guitarist and ESP player Michael Wilton on stage, I decided to work this neck into a Queensryche guitar project.
The neck was in pretty bad shape when I got it, so I decided to send it to my buddy in Michigan, Randal Perkins at Holland RIT Music, to give it a complete re-fret. I also had him seat a new graphite nut. And although the neck still had its original ESP logo on the headstock, it was pretty worn, so I went ahead and upgraded it with a new red vinyl ESP Custom decal.
I found a used transparent white alder Srat body (manufacturer unknown) on eBay that came with a Wilkinson tremolo and decided to modify this to fit my needs. Because I wanted to go with a humbucker in the bridge position, I had to route out the #3 single-coil route. I then located a guy who sold vinyl Queensryche tri-ryche decals in black, red, and white (I love eBay!) and proceeded to stick them all over the body. My original plan was to use a custom skull knob, but it wouldn't fit the volume pot I was using, so I routed a hole in the body and glued it in there. I ended up using a black Ibanez knob that was originally on my 1983 Kramer Pacer (circa 1987, far right).
In terms of parts and electronics, there's really not too much to it. The two-pivot Wilkinson trem is very smooth. I located a single-humbucker black Strat pickguard and placed decals on that. I went with left-handed black locking tuners (cheaper), and black Schaller straplocks, as well as a black Strat input jack. And I finally found the perfect guitar to dump a Seymour Duncan Invader in! And I wired it up myself.
Before I placed the tri-ryche decals all over the body, it really looked like EVH's Strat from the first album. I have to admit I was tempted to stripe it at this point! But I fought the urges, and gave it a big-time Queensryche look. Since the neck was kinda old (circa 1985), I decided to sand and scuff parts of the body to "relic" it. I also scratched/engraved Anarchy-X into the body, as this was a cool instrumental off of Queensryche's 1988 masterpiece, Operation: Mindcrime. I even got a matching chrome Anarchy neck plate.
The neck has a very good feel and the frets are perfect (now...). The Invader pickup is so hot, it's almost impossible to describe. The magnets in that thing are "oh my god" powerful. Definitely powerful enough to crank out Queensryche tunes.
GRETSCH DOUBLE JET
For Those About To Rock... I've always loved AC/DC, but I've never been a big fan of the Gibson SG guitar - Angus Young's signature axe. But there's something about Malcolm Young's Gretsch guitar that made me go out and get one.
I picked up a black 2004 Gretsch Synchromatic G1921 Double Jet guitar from a music store in Nashville in late 2005. Although new, the guitar arrived in lousy shape, so I had to do quite a bit of work on it. My original plan was to to make it a relic-looking guitar by scratching and denting the body and removing the neck humbucker - just like Malcolm Young's signature Gretsch.
After carefully damaging the heavy luan body to the extreme, I re-wired the entire guitar, adding a new volume pot and and output jack. By removing the neck pickup, I made both switches (3-way and tone shaping) and two of the three pots (master volume and tone) inactive. So even though it has all of these switches and knobs, only the bridge volume pot is wired up and working. I left the stock wrap-around bridge alone and added black Schaller straplocks.
As far as the neck, I had to perform a major cleaning on it. I sanded down the back and applied lemon oil on both the rosewood fretboard and the maple back. I replaced the stock tuners with chrome locking Grover tuners and even added a new Gretsch decal.
The stock Gretsch bridge humbucker sounds really cool and the neck feels great. There's something about a guitar with a big hole in the neck humbucker position. Notes seem to ring out more and I like the way it looks (just like my Fernandes Monterey Special and my CLMT). Even Malcolm would be proud of this one.
This project was one of the most fun and rewarding projects I've ever done. Loads of fun and it turned out better than I expected.
It all started when I saw a new guitar on Guitar Fetish's site in late 2009 - the Xaviere XV-JT90 - based on the infamous Fender Telemaster (1 2). The model comes stock with GFS pickups and I really love the Jazzmaster body shape with the Telecaster bridge/pickup and the neck mini humbucker. I'm drooling just typing this! So I went with one of these in black and right away I decided two things - I would relic the heck out of it and I would replace the stock neck with a Mighty Mite neck with a Jackson headstock decal.
When I received the XV-JT90, I was impressed with the alder body and the tone of the GFS pickups - a Little Crunchy Mini humbucker in the neck position and an Alnico Fatbody 10K Overwound in the bridge. I can't say enough about the quality and value of GFS pickups. Other keepers on the axe were the vintage Tele ashtray bridge, the pots/wiring assembly, output jack/plate, knobs, and the chrome control plate. And oh yeah, the mint (light-green) pickguard.
So what could I possibly do to make this guitar better? I swapped the stock neck (junked) for a V-back Mighty Mite Strat neck (rosewood fretboard). I added a black Jackson decal to the headstock (same as on my Jackson Dinky Tremma and Jackson Monaco Strat guitars) and added some chips, dents, scratches, and burn marks. I then installed some GFS locking tuners (Sperzel style) and roughed them up a bit, too, along with the two string trees. After that, I replaced the stock chrome neck plate for an old, beat-up chrome Jackson neck plate I had bought on eBay a while back. And of course I replaced the strap buttons with some older-looking chrome Schaller straplocks.
Then came the "relicing" process. I sanded, scraped, and dented the black Xaviere body (wood, pickguard, and hardware) in the appropriate places and that came out really cool. I shouldn't enjoy destroying things so much! I added a white vinyl Felix The Cat decal behind the bridge, and roughed that up a bit, as well (since it's a white decal on black, the Felix image actually shows as a negative). Then I burned and scratched both pickups and the bridge. Lots and lots of fun. I find that adding a little wax to the pickup face makes it seem older and more abused. It also seems to permanently discolor the chrome cover and pole pieces, too. Bonus!
So after all that, I noticed that the body's neck pocket was just a little too big for the Mighty Mite neck heel (2 3/16"), so I had to add some thin cardboard to each side of the pocket to ensure a snug fit. And that was it. So I strung it and set it up and plugged it in and played it. Wow! Even before I plugged it in it feels so comfortable. And those GFS pickups are amazing. Great crunchy tone from the neck and a hot Tele bridge pickup. I absolutely love the way this guitar looks, feels, plays, and sounds. (I'm still drooling!)
This guitar started off life as a Rogue Telecaster copy that I ordered from Musician's Friend back in February of 1996. As soon as UPS delivered it, though, I started to modify it - in a big way. I always wanted an old, beat-up butterscotch Tele, but I didn't want to spend $1000 on one. I mean, there's not too much to a Tele - a slab of wood and a couple of pickups. And I'm too cheap to spend a grand on the name "Fender."
The first mod was buying a matched set of DiMarzio Twang King single-coil Tele pickups. Let me tell you, these things live up to their name. Nothing but twang! I was thinking about replacing the maple neck, but after sanding it down, I thought it was worth salvaging.
But how to make the body seem used? Simple. Take off all the hardware and slide the slab of wood (4-piece maple!) down the street a few times. (I really did this!) I also abused it in several key places with various tools from the garage. I think it actually looks thoroughly used.
As for the hardware, I bought an All-Parts ashtray bridge with three saddles. Of course, I added Schaller straplocks and a set of chrome Sperzel locking tuners. The knobs are Carvin.
I was going to leave the original black pickguard on the guitar, but it was pretty cheap. I was at Henri's Music in Green Bay and I saw an old Tele Jeannie pickguard in a junk box for $5. It was kaleidoscope on one side and a black/white cow-pattern in a fur-like texture on the other side. Talk about weird! Oh well, it gives the guitar a little character.
The name Scootercaster comes from a pet rabbit that I once had named Scooter. He died in early 1996 when I was putting this guitar together. This relic axe is a tribute to my little fallen friend. This was the first guitar I ever recorded on my Fostex studio (Six Days off of man makes plans and God laughs).
UPDATE: April 2013
Even with my prolific Tele kick, this has still got to be my best-sounding one. But in early 2013, after about 17 years, the controls got real scratchy and it was time to take it apart. Still in there was the stock 3-way switch (cheap) and the stock mini pots (500K - no wonder it sounded so good!) and the original jack (again cheap). The key to this Tele is the DiMarzio Twang King pickups, so to keep that same killer tone and upgrade the parts, I went with a pair of Carvin mini 500K pots, a CRL 3-way switch, and a new Switchcraft jack. I also replaced the original .047 tone capacitor with a Sprague Orange Drop .047, and added a .001 volume cap. I was able to re-use the thick chrome control plate, the chrome Carvin knobs, the jack plate, and the 3-way "Top Hat" swich tip. I wired everything up and we're back in business - and that should be the last tune-up this axe ever needs!
Probably my finest relic project. I found this Tele body on eBay in this terrible condition and fell in love with it. It's an All Parts swamp ash classic Tele body, with brown and yellow paint and it looks like it's been in a fire - literally. It has so much character and texture to it.
I decided early on to go with a humbucker pickup in the neck position, so I had to route out some wood on the body. I picked up a cheap maple Tele neck (Mighty Mite) and roughed it up considerably. I sanded most of the satin finish off the back and stained it before oiling it to give it a more-used look. It was the first time I used stain to treat a neck and it turned out pretty good. I even burnt part of the headstock to make it look like a cigarette had been burning there for weeks.
As far as the electronics, I purchased a set of Lindy Fralin Broadcaster Hybrid 2% Overwound pickups, using just the bridge model for this guitar. (I used the chrome neck model for my Texcoco guitar.) I then picked up a set of Dragonfire Alnico Chrome 'Buckers, and dumped the neck model in the Tora Tele. (I ended up putting the bridge Alnico Chrome 'Bucker in my Galveston Travel guitar.) On eBay, I stumbled on a beat-up chrome Tele control plate, complete with the 3-way switch, pots, knobs, and wiring. That enabled me to easily wire up everything myself. The bridge pickup sounds pretty typical for a Tele. The Fralin Broadcaster has a decent tone, but it isn't as smooth as the Kinman pickup in my Fender Esquire guitar. The neck pickup, however, is one of the best sounding neck pickups I have ever heard.
The rest of the hardware was easy. Also on eBay, I tracked down a worn chrome All Parts Tele bridge and supplemented this with three new brass saddles. I took a set of new chrome Schaller straplocks and swapped them from an older guitar of mine, putting the tarnished ones on the Tora Tele. Thankfully, Tele pickguards with a neck humbucker route aren't too hard to find, and I scuffed mine up pretty good. I also seriously scuffed up the chrome neck plate. I also added a set of chrome Sperzel locking tuners, but didn't damage them too much.
The only issue I had with this project was the waterslide decal that I originally intended to use. I had purchased a Tokai decal, and I wrecked it while attempting to put it on the headstock. I had an old vinyl Warmoth decal from Speedy Signs so I cut that up and used four of the letters to make the word Tora. Works for me.
I kinda missed performing the "relic" work on this guitar body myself, but I love the end result. It's a lot of fun to put these beat-up guitars together and when completed, they feel, play, and sound terrific. As I stated earlier, this is probably my finest relic project (to date).
UPDATE: April 2013
In an effort to use my set of Lindy Fralin Broadcaster Hybrid 2% Overwound Tele pickups for my Fender '50 Esquire -2 Pickup- pine project, I removed the Fralin bridge pickup and swapped it out with a Tone Emporium '52 Tele TE-05 bridge pickup, which I lightly aged. The Tone Emporium pickup sounds great and this switch will allow me to use both Fralins on one guitar (the Fralin neck pickup was in my Texcoco Fretless). Great value and quality on the Tone Emporium set.
Other Smithtone guitars Relic'd by dragging down the street:
Charvel EVH 1978 Explorer
Charvel EVH Explorer Striped Classic
Charvel EVH Frankenstein
Charvel EVH Pine Tele-Wolf
Charvel WD Red Bull
Ernie Ball Music Man EVH -Poundcake-
ESP Jazz Bass
EVH Jackson-Kramer Bumblebee
EVH Striped Series Frankenstrat Road Worn
Fender '54 Pine Super Strat
Fender EVH 77 Black Strat
Fender EVH 78 Frankentrat
Fender EVH Frankenstein Baritone
Fender Precision Bass -Active Vintage-
Fender Vintage Pine Tele Bass
Gibson Les Paul Junior Melody Maker
Gibson LP Melody Maker Frankenstein
Kramer EVH 82 Baretta
Kramer EVH 85 Frankenstrat
Kramer EVH Blue Frankenstein
Red Devil II
Tokai Classic P Bass
THE PINE WORKS "21"
Fender '49 Spanish Electric
Fender '50 Esquire -2 Pickup-
Fender '51 ''Nocaster'' -No Guard-
Fender Broadcaster Jr
Fender Esquire ''Hot Mod'' -No Guard-
Fender Esquire -Split Rails-
Fender Esquire -Tapped-
Fender ''La Cabronita'' Especial Custom
Fender ''Nocaster'' Esquire
Fender Telecaster -'73 Merlot
Fender Telecaster -Bigsby-
Fender Telecaster -Dirty Harry-
Fender Telecaster -EMG '76-
Fender Telecaster -Strat Tone-
Fender Telecaster -Strate Plate-
Fender Telecaster -Texas Special-
Fender Telecaster -Western-
Fender Tele-Bigsby PAF
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