by Jef | 3,4 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 2 Minutes
Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster

This Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster looks familiar?  ·  Source: Fender


The UK guitar forum ‘thefretboard’ has an interesting debate currently getting many of its members all wound up over Fender Custom Shop guitars with relic finishes. The reason they’re all getting hot under the collar is images showing, well, take a look for yourself.


In the thread started by poopot, forum users have uploaded images of Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster models described as ‘Masterbuilt’ models that have the same or very similar relic patterns. Check out the images of two such guitars with the relic pattern replicated on two different Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster models:

Poopot' Fender relic Stratocaster comparison

Poopot’s Fender relic Stratocaster comparison · Source: Poopot/thefretboard


But these aren’t the only images around with this wear pattern. A quick search on the internet pointed us here. It’s a closed Reverb auction for a “Fender Custom Shop ’60 Stratocaster Ultimate Relic, Masterbuilt by Jason Smith, Black with Gold HW”.


Here are some other images from the fretboard thread:


Fender relic Stratocaster 3-Tone sunburst

Source: thefretboard

Fender Relic Stratocaster 3-Tone sunburst

Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster

Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster with a similar wear pattern · Source: Fender

In these images, the wear pattern across the top of the pickguard and also by the jack socket looks very similar. But assuming that these images are genuine photographs of Masterbuilt guitars, do they point towards the use of stencils or automated processes in the manufacture of premium guitars? Here’s another question: Even if that was the case, would it put you off buying one of these? Some customers might expect each guitar to be a unique, one-off product produced without the use of stencils, given the price range of thousands of Euros. Are those expectations justified? Let us know your view in the comments section below!

More Information

We reached out to Fender about this issue in advance of publishing this post, but have yet to receive a reply. If they get in touch about this, we’ll post their reply here.

Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster

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33 responses to “Fender Custom Shop Relic guitars: Stencilled finishes on premium instruments?”

    Zampuuji says:

    Busted! There’s no doubt in my mind after viewing these photos, that something is being scammed here. Sad day when you can’t trust the Fender Custom Shop to give the buyer what customer thinks is utterly unique , but it’s not.
    Not to mention, at a whopping price to begin with!
    It’s disappointing, as I trusted this part of their business to be above reproach.

    David says:

    Reminds me of the health food stores in the 70’s which; once a product began to grow mold on it, they would mark up the price because ” it’s organic”.
    Putting stenciled road-rash designs on new guitars and then charging more $ for them is gouging, no matter how you look at it. And a phony old guitar won’t make your phony playing any better.

    Fenderman says:

    Relics are stupid

      Dane says:

      Just imagine someone offering to relic a perfectly new Ford Mustang for a $10,000 premium. People would be calling the asylum for an emergency.

      …. come to think of it, we live in strange times. Maybe this WILL be a thing in 5 years!

    B T says:

    Obviously when you’re talking about a price around 9k dollars for a “master build”, every single aspect of the guitar should be custom, there’s simply no question about that. Fender needs to clarify that the master build is just the high end line of guitars and they’re not truly custom even though they’d like you to think that. Its a bummer that they cut corners on a ridiculously expensive instrument while advertising it as totally custom.

    Charles Glisson says:

    Anybody who would spend “Good Money” on a “Relic Guitar” is a

    Wa hu says:

    Lol what pieces of sh*t, those things cost sooo much money damn straight they should be unique. Especially since the majority of the cost comes from the fact its relic….

    S. R. says:

    It may be a shame that expensive “custom” guitars have the same relic jobs, but it isn’t very surprising. Take a look at the Road Worn series, they all shared the same “wear” patterns. It might have been excusable, as those guitars were more affordable production models and not expected to be unique.

    David Parker says:

    This is just going to turn into people arguing about the very idea of relicing a guitar. More than one person will say, “Relicing a perfectly good guitar is STUPID. I relic my guitar the old-fashioned way: I buy a new guitar and play the shit out it!” Or something like that.?

      Edgeconnector says:

      Which makes perfect sense – the idea of buying a guitar that looks like it has been played a lot can only be to make you appear as a seasoned guitarist that has played your guitar for thousands of hour. It is different from buying a pair of mechanically pre worn and ripped jeans – where the idea is to look as cool as the people that found that you didn”t need to buy new clothes All the time. But both exploit the insecurity embedded in us as a social species.

    Scudderboo says:

    A fool and his money……kjv

    hooleydooleydoo says:

    It is so silly that people buying copies of vintage guitars so they can themselves imitate their idols or otherwise pretend that the aging has any value are concerned that their phony wear isn’t unique to their guitars.

    Michael says:

    I didn’t realize that this would be surprising, but I understand people’s disappointment.
    I formerly worked for PRS for a number of years. I would routinely give factory tours to artists, media, and guitar nerds who made pilgrimages to our little island. They would routine be a bit deflated when they saw guitar necks and bodies being roughly carved and routed in our CNC machines. They’d say “oh. I thought they were ‘hand made.'” I would carefully explain that the machines only do the roughest shaping and routing-work that when done by hand is very time and labor intensive but not the most skilled labor. The hand shaping and sanding, however requires much skill and experience. Anyone who has ever visited the PRS factory during work hours will have seen workers sanding necks and bodies by hand- making light strokes with 220 grit sandpaper and then stopping to carefully examining under a light and sliding their fingertips across the wood until it “feels” like it should (oftentimes to tolerances to thouasandths of an inch.) Anyone who expressed disappointment about the machines I would encourage to see how Fender and Gibson utilize machines on their masterbuilt instruments- they do A LOT more than roughing out. However Fender and Gibson makes hundreds (possibly thousands?) of instruments per day and PRS makes 60-100. It would obviously be impossible to maintain consistency and quality if every one was 100% ‘hand made.’

    Restless Spirits says:

    Scratching the paint off the most popular guitar shape of all time so it looks well seasoned or unique is fraudulent. It isn’t an antique, in any other case it would be a factory reject or at best a factory second. But you have to give Fender marketing credit for getting people to pay 4 times the price of a new guitar for the illusion of authenticity. One of the best scams since telling people light beer wasn’t just watered down lager. No one ever lost money underestimsting the taste of the American public.

    DiCaprio says:

    Even though the finish is Relic, it still needs to be artistically directed with no actual damage to the instrument. I mean, face it. You’re buying a fraudulent instrument to begin with. It’s brand new!! I think this argument eats itself and is a pointless find.

    Jim Bob says:

    Given that you’re taking about an almost identical body in the comparison photos, it only stands to reason you’re going to see similar distressed markings, after all the same equipment “distressing” the finish is going to encounter similar material, and close to identical shape, pattern, etc. Unless you see the same pattern on a completely different body, it’s fair to say you’re seeing a similar finish, not an identical one. If you want completely unique, start with a unique body. It’s like seeing images in burnt toast.

      JDS says:

      These guitars don’t have “similar” wear patterns. They have IDENTICAL wear patterns. Compare the images closely.

    Ian sheridan says:

    Fender make relics because people want them.
    The wear patterns are based around examples genuine examples of wear on some vintage guitars, so it’s inevitable that they will have similar patterns.
    Meanwhile I’ll play my very neat well looked after squier, and leave these for the cork sniffers

    I do not know why..but the shape of a Strat does not inspire me to play..I just love the shape of a Les Paul no matter what people say about Gibson…I can play a Les Paul fo hours on end…

    Name* says:

    Lol, if you care so much about authenticity, get an OLD guitar. That this even is an issue, baffles me.

    bob says:

    …for a second, I thought people were done trashing on people who like relic guitars…or people have matured enough to understood that preferences are opinions and there is no right or wrong so there is no point to this gang mentality of “our opinion is correct so therefor your opinion is wrong”…
    Maybe someday people will allow other people to have a different preference without needing to bash them for liking something that is different than their own taste…
    or maybe this will go on forever.

    John Moss says:

    In my opinion, if you’re going to custom build and relic and instrument commanding a premium price for the package that it should be relic’d by hand, and that each guitar should have its own unique character. Anything less is less that what you’ve paid for.

    Unapologist says:

    it is irrelevant if you like relic’ed guitars or not. If it is a Custom, for that price you should get something unique, not something done by Wall.E

    bob says:

    look up the relic guitars on Sweetwater or anywhere really, they don’t all look the same…this article shows several guitars that have the same relic patterns…but in reality, they are not ALL the same wear patterns.
    Just the ones shown in this article for the purpose of demonstrating some look the same.

    Jack says:

    It’s just a guitar made to look old and worn, just to make more money for them and we cows pay a lot off cash for a new guitar that looks old but is new, a real old fender from the 70’s sets you back th same amount off cash but than for the real thing…..

    Al C says:

    I worked for the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, CA for a year. I’m surprised users hadn’t realized this earlier. There’s NOTHING custom about that shop. Daily, finished bodies and necks get sent, from the same mill to both the regular production line and the “custom shop”, where there would be a smaller line, but a line nonetheless, of workers doing the assembly, in a total Ford-style production line, because there’s no actual building happening here at all. Those guitars “comissioned”by specialized stores or collectors that required the relic process went to Jorge, who’s been at that post for 17 years, who would go to the template rack, grab a template according by the guitar’s era, pencil in the pattern and get to work, going through about one guitar every 2-3 hours. And that’s how you waste $5000-25.000

    phidoh says:

    Dont all to-be relic guitars start out as standard production guitars anyway?

    Scotty K says:

    @ abimanyuboentaran.
    I don’t why you have to throw in a Gibson is better than Frnder comment in a Relic topic article. So i’ll accomodate, Gubson is like Eric Lindros, greedy management with overpriced product thats delicate from the neck up . you drop it once and its broken .

    The Telenator says:

    I own vintage ’60s Strats, non-relic F Custom Shop, and relics … and a bunch of pricey beautiful PRS guitars. It’s all a tax write-off for me, plus I made a true fortune in my chosen music career. I rarely play a real ’60 Strat live because I don’t want them anywhere near you — the public. So I tend to play relics live instead. No sweat … and I can afford it, plus I love the feel and sound of a top-shelf relic. Most of the harshest criticism I see about relics, custom shop or $5k PRS for that matter comes from guys who can’t and will never afford them, have never even played or touched one, and have no real performing experience with them. It’s a big part envy and sour grapes. Make some serious money with your playing, and your attitudes will be adjusted. Meanwhile, I spend my disposable income as I pretty please.

    Andrew Latimer says:

    I would imagine if Fender are using a stencil that stencil is being used on raw bodies for 2 reasons keep the cost of paint down and less man hours chipping away at a fully finished body .Fender is a production line yes you can tell them what you want but still and as for the relic job i have seen many vintage instruments and i have never seen wear patterns like the guitars in question so yes you are getting something unique uniquely wrong maybe they should invest in various stencils

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