How to Age Guitar Binding

Updated February 21, 2017

Turning a guitar into a "relic" or making it look older then it is has become a popular modification on guitars due to the extremely high prices that true vintage instruments get on the open market. The craft has expanded from adding a few dents and belt buckle wear to creating a guitar that looks like it's been used during every show of a 20-year long concert tour. Some aspects of creating a relic guitar are simpler then others. Ageing the binding on a guitar can be one of the most challenging steps of this process. A guitar's hard coat finish will yellow over time, which makes a guitar's binding look yellow. Mimicking this process is the key to success.

Expose the guitar's binding by using a flat metal scraper to remove the guitar's existing hard coat finish. Only the hard coat that covers the binding should be removed. Chemical methods for removing finish should be avoided since it can leach under the hard coat and could cause issues with the finish peeling on the body of the guitar.

Protect the surface of the guitar from overspray by covering all hard coated areas with blue painter's tape. The only exposed areas left uncovered should be the guitar's exposed binding.

Mix a small amount of amber into the hard coat you plan to use to reseal the guitar's binding. You must use the same type of hard coat originally found on the guitar to promote proper adhesion of the finish. The amount of amber mixed will determine how dark the binding looks when finished. Ten droplets of amber per quart of hard coat will be enough.

Apply the new amber tinted hard coat to the guitar's binding. This will take several applications. Follow the manufacturer's directions on how thick you can apply the finish and for how long it will take to cure. When finished your finish should be slightly thicker then the original finish. This will allow for sanding.

Remove the blue painter's tape and sand the newly applied finish flat with the guitar's existing hard coat. Complete this in several steps starting with 600 grit sand paper and then move to 800 grit, 1,000 grit, 1,200 grit and then 1,500 grit sandpaper. This will give you a smooth finish. To finish, polish the guitar with a buffer and polishing compound.

Add additional age to the binding by using small flat head screw driver and Phillips screw driver to ding the edges of the binding. Striking the binding with the head of the screwdrivers will chip the finish. The more you do this, the more aged the binding will look. This should be done to the degree you are happy with.

Wipe the chipped areas with damp tea leaves and then wipe clean with a paper towel . This will add a darkened look to the chipped areas in the hard coat. This process can be done after the whole guitar has been chipped, scuffed and prepped so the relic process will give a consistent look to the finished project.

Things You'll Need

  • Scraper
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Amber dye
  • Hard coat (polyester or nitrocellulose)
  • Spray equipment
  • Tea leaves
  • Sanding paper
  • Buffer
  • Buffing compound
  • Paper towel
  • Screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
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