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Relic finish on a real 1954 Fender Esquire...

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  • Relic finish on a real 1954 Fender Esquire...

    I have a real one. When I bought it 20 or 25 years ago it had already been refinished at least twice. Probably with spray cans.

    But it's mostly original. I even have the original ashtray cover for the bridge.

    A previous owner put a black bakelite Tele pickguard on it and since Esquires are already routed for a neck pickup, he put a now very old Seymour Duncan Tele neck pickup in it.

    I have an original white '57 white pickguard though, and it isn't cut out for a neck pickup.

    The pickguard of mine was probably white, although it might have been black.

    Dawn at Naked Body Guitars did a great job refinishing the body and neck.

    She completed the finish cracking and distressing on the body. Looks great.

    But she got sick and ran out of steam and didn't complete the relic job on the neck.

    She refinished it but didn't crack the finish or distress it.

    It's finished in Nitro and I'm ready to do it myself.

    But I cannot get the finish to check and crack. It freezes and turns frosty white but won't crack.

    I've watched Youtube videos and the guys heat up a small area with a heat gun, and then hold a can of electronics duster upside down and spray the area, the finish freezes and cracks and looks 50 years old.

    But when I do that I cannot get the finish to crack no matter how much I heat it up or freeze it.

    Any tips?.

    Here's a pic of me and the guitar prior to Dawn refinishing it properly.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Lewguitar; 08-16-2020, 12:18 PM.
    “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr

  • #2
    Some of my nitro finishes have checked naturally almost as soon as I buffed them out and assembled the guitar.
    Others i have stuck in the freezer cycled with a heating duct with zero results whatsoever. And years later they still show nothing.

    Maybe a few marks or dents might help, as the finish then has a weak spot. You see the real old finishes with checking origination from these marks.


    • #3
      I spent the day yesterday relicing the neck myself. It might look like I put too much wear at the first fret but I was following the shape of the old wear marks that were still visible.

      Then I found a photo of Nancy, Roy Buchanan's '53 Tele, and tried to copy some of that fingerboard wear along with the wear I could see on my guitar.

      But I used a hair drier and a whole can of electronics duster and all I could get to crack is the Esquire decal Dawn put on it. I'll put it together today and post some photos.

      Need to decide whether to use the old white pickguard and wire it like an Esquire or use the black bakelite pickguard and old Duncan neck pickup. It looks almost as old as the guitar.

      I'll probably do that since the pots are no longer original. The three way switch is original as are the knobs.

      I do have a set of '51 Fender lap steel pots in the case but they're rusted and super scratchy sounding. Almost like they'd been under water. Maybe they have!

      I'll probably use the Duncan neck pickup and leave it wired like a modern Tele. That's how it was when I bought it 20 or 25 years ago.
      Last edited by Lewguitar; 08-16-2020, 10:59 AM.
      “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr


      • #4
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        Ok...this took a lot of time to do over the last few days.

        What I did was gently sand off the "new" finish (that's now almost 10 years old) on the neck and fingerboard with wet-or-dry 220 sandpaper, following the gray, genuine wear marks that had permanently stained the wood.

        I tried not to overdo it and just sanded the finish off down to the old gray wear marks already worn into the wood.

        After the finish was sanded off in those spots I rubbed it out with 000 steel wool, and then made a slurry of garden soil and a little water and rubbed it into the bare wood with my bare hands.

        I let it dry, and then rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool.

        Found some stones in the garden and banged it up a little but didn't get carried away.

        My goal was to make it look like it did, wear marks and all, before previous owners refinished it.

        So I tried to restore it back to looking 65 years old.

        I think it turned out pretty good.

        The last photo is of Nancy, Roy Buchanan's old '53 Tele.

        I noticed his was not worn nearly as much between the nut and first fret as mine, but was worn right up to the highest frets and beyond.

        Mine wasn't worn that high up so I left it alone and stopped where my guitar's original wear stopped.

        Previous owners of my guitar must have played a lot of cowboy chords! lol
        Attached Files
        Last edited by Lewguitar; 08-16-2020, 11:44 AM.
        “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr