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Relicing Comes To Acoustic Guitars, But Is That A Good Thing?

Relicing a Martin guitar on Bobby Owsinski's Production blogTaking a new electric guitar and making it look old, or “relicing,” has been around for a while and is not without controversy. Is it being done to fool people into thinking that’s it’s an original model so they’ll pay more? Is it to replicate the feel of an older instrument? It’s had a lot of players and dealers scratching their heads for some time, yet artificially-aged electric guitars continue to sell well and at a premium. Acoustic instruments have been somewhat immune to the trend until lately, when Martin Guitar began offering relic versions of old favorites like the 1937 D-28.

We’ve seen this process in the audio industry as well as individuals have tried to pass off newer versions of a vintage standard by making it look highly used. In fact, go to a gathering of audio geeks and invariable a story will come up about someone trying to pass off a new piece of gear (usually a microphone) as something older for a higher price.

But acoustic guitars were supposed to be immune from this because of the difficulty in simulating the aging process. Martin attempting to be both diligent and up front about it. The custom shop masters  simulated wear by slightly rounding the edges and making softer corners, and also using a thinner lacquer like what was used in the 30s (in the case of the ’37 D-28)/

The big deal, however, was in the way the wood was treated to give it the similar cell structure of a naturally aged older instrument. This comes from a centuries-old practice called torrefaction that heats up the wood in an oxygen-free environment. Martin has actually been doing this since 2015 because one of the byproducts is an improved stability to the wood after completing the process.

Regardless of how well it’s done (Fender does it exceptionally well too), the question still remains – by relicing, are you trying to deceive someone into thinking it’s something it’s not, or just make it sound and play better. I can’t decide myself. What do you think?

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