Like all physical objects, guitars acquire a patina over time; a distinctive pattern of wear and tear, and sometimes damage, that conveys their history. At five years of age, Carolan has already acquired some dinks and dents of its own and so we decide to give it a ‘once over’ with our camera to see what kind of a state it’s in. There are a few dents on the soundboard, while the bridge bears the scars of recent surgery (see Post 66), contributing to a somewhat wonky, but we think charming, toothy smile. While least immediately visible, the scratches and dink on the neck are the most noticeable to the player as they can be felt when fretting chords and notes. Finally, we’re surprised to encounter a hole in Carolan’s super hard Hiscox case suggesting that it has saved Carolan from some more serious damage at some point.
We can remember where a couple of these came from. One of the dents on the front was the result of clumsily smacking our guitar into a table while moving around. We seem to remember that the one in the middle of the neck came from a fall (the sound of a guitar falling over has to be one of the worst noises you can hear).
Whether such patina detracts from the value of an instrument is a much contested question in the guitar world. The guitar industry has made much of the idea of relicing of late, with some customers paying extra to have their new guitars distressed in the factory ‘custom shop’, much like one might buy a pair of stonewashed jeans. It’s a controversial topic to be sure, but certainly generates business for the guitar industry.
So here’s question for you. If you lost your guitar or it was damaged beyond use, would you want to have it recreated in a personally reliced form, by which we mean would you want some of its patina reapplied when it was recreated? And if so, which patina? One might reapply its patina from a golden point in its history, when the instrument was in its prime. Or one might apply only ‘good damage’ that tells an interesting story and suggests a rich history, but not ‘bad damage’ that hinders playability or sound. And of course patina can also help identify a stolen guitar (though Carolan is already uniquely positioned in this regard).
Should there even be some kind of service that routinely scans and health checks your guitar, capturing its evolving patina throughout its lifetime as yet another value component of its digital footprint?