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Thread: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

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    Default Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    What do you think of antiqued or 'distressed' instruments? First, I'm very happy for anyone to do their own thing and have their own preferences. However for myself, I prefer to see wear and tear I put on an instrument myself, with 300/200/100 or whatever years of fiddlers' wear (or none) before me. Done well, of course it's a high level skill on it's own, and I can see that a 'bench copy' of a valuable instrument can be a very useful thing to have for day to day gigging and preserving old instruments - I hear there are a quite a number of orchestral string pros who do that now. But on the electric guitar side of things it does seem to be getting a bit silly when e.g. exact copies of Rory Gallagher's famous Strat (with more Gallagher worn authentic bare wood than varnish) are turned out in their hundreds. I suppose the acoustic equivalent would be a copy of Willie Nelson's nylon strung with the hole worn right through the top. What do you tell your friends about why you bought one of those? I do own a couple of lightly distressed Chinese workshop violins now, just because they were better value than other options and came with it well done (no more 'cufflink marks' under the strings, where no cufflink ever hit a fiddle). However I'd be very happy to look at and play instruments that look what they are, absolutely new.

    What do you think?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Generally in agreement. All of my instruments are "distressed," but that's because they're at least 30 years old; some go back to the Civil War, and there's a whole bunch from the late 19th century.

    When I heard that Fender put the tuners on their "Heavy Relic" Telecasters through an acid bath to make them look aged and neglected, that sorta pushed my "what the?" button. There's a whole lot of posing going on, when 18-year-old kids want an instrument that looks like some rockabilly dragged it around the juke joints in the 1950's. Nothing that the Custom Shop did to that instrument to make it look old and worn, made it a better instrument to play, or made it sound better. And. like the ol' Bird In the Gilded Cage, "it's not what it seems to be."

    Having said that, if you search for threads discussing Gibson's Distressed Master Model F-5's, you'll find general agreement that these premium-price instruments are very fine mandolins. I'd just opine that it isn't the "distressing" that makes them so special.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    You don't really see it in the mandolin world, but in the guitar world I'm a fan of Nash Guitars and their relic-ed electric guitars - I had one of their T-63 Telecasters and it was a really nice instrument and the relic job on it wasn't over the top at all, so I thought it looked great. I also like the stuff that the Pre-War Guitar Co. guys are putting out and for awhile there was desperate to get one of their 000-18's with a shade top and level 2 distressing.

    The other side of the coin would be the folks who obsess about keeping their instruments dead mint to the point where they look brand spanking new. I take good care of all my instruments but they all get played A LOT, so honest wear is going to happen and I'm fine with that. I enjoy putting the mileage on an instrument and don't mind if it shows it.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Is it requisite for the owner of such an instrument to present a distressed appearance in toto? That is, would one also have to wear distressed jeans with the proper amount of fading and tearing, as well as a flannel shirt with various worn-through areas, over a T-shirt bearing several tears, holes, and faded areas? Could there be an alternative approach that would involve wearing suitably worn-in overalls? Would a sun-bleached baseball cap be a necessary accessory, or perhaps a rumpled cowboy hat with a proper dappled appearance? Would one's sneakers also have to be splotchy and worn down - or is this where an exemption would be allowed to permit wearing a $1200 pair of Air Jordans? Asking for a friend.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    I had the opportunity to try three Eastman MD515v mandolins.

    They were the first and only three to arrive in New Zealand. It hadn't been made clear to anyone involved in the ordering that they would have "distressed" finishes. I bought one, and a friend - a very well respected luthier - bought one as well. Both of us would have preferred they didn't have distressed finishes, but it wasn't a deal breaker, and we'd waited nearly two years for them to come to a New Zealand dealer.

    We both really liked the idea of varnish finishes - I guess maybe the varnished Eastman finishes come distressed as a matter of course?

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    I saw a very good old picker at the Pearl Bluegrass Jam playing a well worn old guitar, the guy had the chops and the semi-pro experience. I asked about the axe and he said it was a brand new custom build. The distressing looked like authentic wear and matched the old picker quite well.

    JB, his costume also matched

    Hell, mine generally does too, but I come by the worn out clothing quite honestly.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Is it requisite for the owner of such an instrument to present a distressed appearance in toto? That is, would one also have to wear distressed jeans with the proper amount of fading and tearing, as well as a flannel shirt with various worn-through areas, over a T-shirt bearing several tears, holes, and faded areas? Could there be an alternative approach that would involve wearing suitably worn-in overalls? Would a sun-bleached baseball cap be a necessary accessory, or perhaps a rumpled cowboy hat with a proper dappled appearance? Would one's sneakers also have to be splotchy and worn down - or is this where an exemption would be allowed to permit wearing a $1200 pair of Air Jordans? Asking for a friend.
    You may soon see my clothes listed at inflated prices in the ads under "Mandolin Accessories." I remember distressing going on in the furniture business when there was a rise in the popularity of antiques in the 70's. First, it was a con. An antique dealer would put a few nail marks and gouges in a relatively new piece, then bury it in earth for a couple of months before selling it as an antique. After that, furniture manufacturers started distressing items without being dishonest about it, and there was not only a market, but a high-priced market, for distressed furniture. In the 70's, there were pre-frayed bellbottoms and in the 80's, pre-ripped jeans. I never saw the point. With my musical tastes -- ragtime, 20's and 30's blues and such, I figure I play distressed music (or perhaps it's just distressing).
    Last edited by Ranald; May-11-2021 at 7:28pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    One of my all-time favorite TV shows, "Lovejoy," starred Ian McShane as an antiques expert with an uncanny ability to spot overlooked antique treasures as well as such intentional fakes as you described. He would sometimes have to engage in some distressing of his own in order to catch these culprits and for other reasons. I'm not adequately conveying how immensely entertaining this was. Check it out.

    My instruments are fairly well distressed, too, especially the ones I've used for gigs. Molly's pumpkin finish is closer to Sheraton Brown. But I'm leery of cleaning her up, as I did a test spot and it looked like bare wood underneath. I'll have to see what my luthier thinks.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    The Pre-War Guitar Company specializes in this. Martin also recently came out with a "road" version or something. I don't get it myself - it comes off as highly poseur-ish. Like people buying already torn up jeans.

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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Not for me. I appreciate honest wear on an instrument. Because it's honest. Faking wear and tear is pretty much the height of posing (Definition = intransitive verb. 1 : to assume a posture or attitude usually for artistic purposes. 2 : to affect an attitude or character usually to deceive or impress)

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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    I've read that the Derrington signed DMM 's went through a lot more than just some sanding down,including some sort of secret and lengthy U.V. light exposure process among other things..

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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Guess its like buying stonewashed denim with the knees ripped open , when sold.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    People pay money for distressed jeans, leather jackets and other clothing items. It's not unique to our world but people like the look of the instruments their heroes are playing and many times those instruments look like Monroe's Loar did. There are other reasons to make distressed instruments. Some people don't want to take their valuable irreplaceable instrument on the road so they have copies made. One of my favorite "copyist" is Bruce Harvey. If you're on Facebook check out his page at E-Stamp Guitar Reproductions.

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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Okay I get what you guys are saying about new stuff made to look worn. But what do you think about a newbie/not very good musician preferring a naturally worn instrument? Is that different, or still a little poser-ish?

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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Okay I get what you guys are saying about new stuff made to look worn. But what do you think about a newbie/not very good musician preferring a naturally worn instrument? Is that different, or still a little poser-ish?
    Perfectly fine by me. Years ago, ok decades ago, I had my choice of two teens Gibson mandolins. One very pristine, the other well worn, both at the same price. I chose the well worn one as it sounded better and that meant more to me than what it looked like.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Okay I get what you guys are saying about new stuff made to look worn. But what do you think about a newbie/not very good musician preferring a naturally worn instrument? Is that different, or still a little poser-ish?
    The reality is that nobody should care what you do and don't prefer in what an instrument looks, plays, or sounds like. This is a free country. Just don't even attempt to use a capo on a mandolin at a Bluegrass jam.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    I’m in the wabi-sabi camp—believing that years of small wear marks and finish checking on a carefully maintained and lovingly played instrument are a thing of beauty because they capture its use and history. For that reason, I don’t favor the industrial contrived relic-ing which seeks to imitate and short-circuit that process. Here’s a partial definition that could refer to the wear on a musical instrument: “'Sabi' refers to the beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.”

  27. #18

    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    I like well done relics, especially electric guitars. I got a Telecaster recently, and stripped the nasty poly finish off the neck and fretboard. Before oiling and waxing it, I rubbed some dark stain on then wiped it off. Rather than looking like a 25 year old guitar with some damage to the bulletproof plastic finish, it looks like one where the nitro was worn off.

    I also took off the pearloid pickguard and replaced it with black. Both changes made it look better (and play better) for me.

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    I have no problem with it. In fact, besides Nash guitars, the Fender Custom Shop Masterbuilt instruments are stunning to me. And I've handed a few and they feel like an old, worn in instrument. Now, are they for everyone? No. And for my Finnish-American band, I prefer a used, but not that worn of an instrument. That could change if someone were to offer me a Gibson DMM for free to see if it clashes with the band, I'd be willing to try.

    And, yes, I remember the Lovejoy series. Quite good. The books were a touch better, IMO. But also very quirky.
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    People do things different from me. I don’t question their taste, usually, and ignore their comments about mine, usually.

    I learned that a long time ago.
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    ... would one also have to wear distressed jeans with the proper amount of fading and tearing, as well as a flannel shirt with various worn-through areas, over a T-shirt bearing several tears, holes, and faded areas? ...
    Or go REAL authentic with the proper bloodshot eyes, crooked nose, missing tooth or three, cranial scar the shape of a long-neck bottle?
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    All my instruments have been distressed my my innate clumsiness or erstwhile honest wear, bar aroma, cigarette ash,(back when I used to smoke) beer spillage. It’s all mine. Buying a “relic-Ed” instrument that seems to have really not had much more than accelerated deterioration of what a week ago was brand new finish seems a bit silly to me but, that’s just my curmudgeonly outlook on that. Buy what you like, treat it as you decide is appropriate but, don’t expect me to stand in awe of an instrument that looks like it’s got fifty years of wear which was made in February unless, it’s got the guts as well.
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  36. #23
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Or go REAL authentic with the proper bloodshot eyes, crooked nose, missing tooth or three, cranial scar the shape of a long-neck bottle?
    Sure, why settle for half-measures? I mean, if you're trying to project a certain faux-authentic image, might as well go all out.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Or go REAL authentic with the proper bloodshot eyes, crooked nose, missing tooth or three, cranial scar the shape of a long-neck bottle?
    When did this conversation switch to banjos?

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  40. #25
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antiqued/distressed instruments?

    What the -? Are you inferring these traits are intrinsically characteristic of them folks what pick b*njos? Seems prejudicial to me! Then again, if the shoe fits ... Besides which, there is plenty of evidence, anecdotal and attested, that b*anjos cause distress.

    That said, I'm pretty sure Ed was just saying that if you're going to affect some sort of distressed look with your instrument, and then your clothing, you might as well continue and adopt a distressed look for your person. Regardless of instrument.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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