EGR's Great Tele Relic Experiment: The Nitty Gritty On The Neck & Fingerboard

Tele-Relic-NeckExhibit A: (photo, left) Inspiration for our Relic’s neck, courtesy of this gorgeous ’56 Masterbuilt Super Reilc over at the Music Zoo.

So having put the body of our so-called Tele Relic to rest (save a few minor dings and scratches that still need to be added,) we have moved on to the most dangerous and delicate part of this entire project––aging the neck and fretboard.

Yes, we intentionally put this part off until we had enough experience damaging the other, less sensitive areas of the guitar––in the hopes that we’d build up lots of wisdom about what NOT to do. I’m glad we did, because with experimentation on the body pretty much behind me, I’m definitely feeling more confident about not screwing this part up.

As you can see, we’ve dug up a few photos to help us visualize the final piece, and in that spirit we’ve begun to wear down our Telecaster’s neck bit by bit.

First step was just taking off the general sheen of the poly––I used 600 grit sandpaper for this. Ultimately we will be spraying the entire neck (fingerboard, frets and all) with nitrocellulose finish, and that stuff just isn’t going to stick well to a glossy poly coat.

Roughing it up is pretty much required.

And it’s here, before you start blasting the finish away and spraying the neck with amber, that you need to give some serious consideration to all of the steps in this process.

As I understand it, to get the kind of aged, darkened and grimy looking dings and worn-out spots that you see on Relic necks, you pretty much have to sand and ding the neck down to bare wood in those areas and then apply a suitably colored dark wood stain (oil based.)

Of course, once you start spraying with amber, any unfinished areas are going to go bright orange, so after dinging and staining, but before finishing with amber, the best bet is to give your neck a few coats of clear nitro. Once that dries, and those unfinished areas are protected from overstaining, you can apply the amber.

So, after the basic sanding (which was fairly light, and left the neck still with all of its finish intact,) I decided to try my luck emulating the wear along the back of the neck.


So far so good. It took about an hour of dry sanding with 200 grit sandpaper to get the finish off like I wanted. Next step for this side of the neck will be to stain that freshly bared wood, and perhaps add some extra dings and such.

Much to my surprise, the fingerboard was actually easier to do than I expected, although I did come to the realization that I would need to put the entire guitar back together and then string it up in order to have some really good guides for where my strategically placed “wear and tear” should go.


As you can see, it went quite well. After sanding down the areas I thought looked most natural, I pretty much doused the whole fretboard in a medium-dark wood stain, and let it soak in good.

It’s not perfect yet, but I believe with a little more work, and a nice dark amber stain over the top, the neck is going to look amazing.

I guess we shall see, eh? Wish us luck!