Monday, January 13, 2014

More Relic'ing (aging) on my latest Funster P-Bass

Having completed my most recent Funster bass guitar build (see previous post), I decided to push the relic'ing (cosmetic aging) of the instrument further, including all the hardware, the body and a bit to the neck. Because I have already sanded off the gloss on the body, as well as some of the paint all the way down to the wood, and gave the neck an aged, vintage nitro tint, I thought the hardward looked a bit too pretty. I searched online for ways to age the metal parts, and learned that a diluted hydrocloric acid, called Muriatic Acid, is available at any pool supply company. Simply (but CAREFULLY) pour some into the bottom of a plastic container (tupperware, etc), then place a cover with holes on the top. The metal parts sit ON the top (not in the acid), then sealed with a large plastic bag.

Not wanting to totally disassemble a working bass after completing the setup, neck set and intonation, I took the semi-lazy way: I removed a few screws, the strap pins, string tree, the nut and washer for the input jack and the chrome volume knobs, and placed them in the bag on top of the acid bath with new chrome pickup and bridge plate covers (which will conceal the non-vintage bridge quite nicely),  checking every few hours (I ended up leaving them for a full day).

For the tuners, I left them on the head, removed the strings and wrapped the head in the bag over some acid. I knew this may corrode the finish on the head/neck a bit, but this would probably make it look older and a bit more worn when completed, so let's roll the dice!

While the head and parts were being attacked by acid gasses, I went at the body some more. I went through 3 cans of compressed air held upside down to super-cool the front (being careful to stay away from the electronics), and even though the finish was poly instead of nitro (which checks and cracks easily), I still heard some loud CRACKS creating some great crack lines here and there. I then took a plumber's torch to parts of it, and the finish started bubbling and creating a gold-like pattern which looks pretty cool. The body was looking like shit more and more, which is making it look better and better!

The metal parts aged very nicely; after soaking them in a bit of baking soda and water, I cleaned them up and re-installed.

The tuners also aged well (the shine was taken off, with some discoloration). I did not leave them in as long as the other metal parts, and cleaned and oiled them so the (rather poor but adequate) performance of the tuning machines would not be affected. As a nice bonus, the back of the head and neck were affected a bit, and looked a bit more worn.

Once reassembled, I realized the new gold-anodized Fender pickguard looked too clean for this trashy bass, so I went online researching photos of actual old, scratched up anodized pickguards, and came up with one they looked great - not too messed up, just worn down a bit around most of the edges, with a few scratches where the input jack is located. I used fine sandpaper, a bit of steel wool, and for good measure a little acid to match the old pickguard (I masked with blue tape to not scratch the paint finish, not wanting to remove the pickguard itself for fear of messing up the setup):

I'm very happy with my first Relic job on a bass; not sure if I will do it again, but I am considering doing a bit more to this headstock, and possibly the front of the neck (with more cold-induced cracking and possible staining certain classic worn-in areas). I have also just aged a new neckplate and screws, and when I get a chance I will swap them out as well.

The bass will make it's live public debut this weekend. I am hoping it's full on the bottom, and balanced throughout, and will only be able to tell in a loud, live performance situation, so this bass gets broken in with Zeppelin Live (!

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