Relic Guitars The Hague interview by Professor Guitarism.
Hi Frans. This is Baris from Guitarism. Welcome to my passion. Now lets begin with your very first beginnings. Whats the story behind the Hague?
Relic Guitars: RGTH started back in December 2015. Before that, Robert and I were building guitars from our garden shed just for fun and hobby. When our first builds sold quickly, custom orders were coming in and soon after that, we were building 150 guitars in the evenings and weekends. A year later we decided to make the company official. Last year we moved twice to bigger workshops so as to give our expanding business more space and to accommodate the large machines we need to build our guitars.
We’re still a small custom shop, we build around 250 guitars a year, both on special demand and in small series. Our focus is on building vintage style guitars. Custom (hand) made, for a ‘factory price’. That way everybody can have a high quality handmade guitar for a descent price, including our unique lifetime warranty.
Felt curious when I first knew that you were from Holland. Couple years ago i had an interview with Luke Wetfield from Rebel Relic Guitars that was also from your homeland. An American vibe from Holland or European taste on relic guitars, right? Does it confuse other people? And is there some kind of growing tradition on relic guitars in Holland?
Relic Guitars: I sincerely believe there are many great guitar builders in Holland. I can name 10 of them by heart from whom I’d buy a guitar instantly, without hesitation. But to answer your question… No, I don’t think our clients get confused between RR and RGTH. We both have our own signature in building and aging guitars. We’ve never had a client who was also thinking about buying a RR and I bet Luke can tell you the exact same thing about his clients.
About the tradition you are referring to… I am not aware of that. But I guess ‘relics’ are hot at the moment and the huge misunderstanding that any moron can drag a guitar behind a car and relic it is still very relevant. Lots of builders try it to attract a new group of guitar players but most of them fail in a way. You can make a guitar LOOK old, but it’ll never PLAY and SOUND old unless you really know what you’re doing.
Can you please tell me about the raw materials for your guitars? What kind of woods you choose, what origins do they have, do you have any kind of acceptance criteria etc?
Relic Guitars: Most of the woods we use are the obvious choices for any guitar builder; (red) alder, swamp ash, old pine & mahogany. For the necks we use maple (US or Canadian) and Indian Rosewood. We’re not that much into the flamed, quilted or birds-eye versions of those woods. Just a matter of personal preference. We only use AAA+ versions of the woods above and most important the wood has to be light and resonant. You cannot judge a book by it’s cover, but you can most certainly judge a piece of wood by knocking on it.
For custom orders we’ve used paulownia, zebrano, basswood and a whole lot of other woods as well, but we don’t stock them.
What advantages do your guitars have Frans? Why someone should think of buying your guitars instead of any other brand? What do you offer your customers exclusively?
- We build all guitars by hand. And by that, we mean not by CNC or any automated machine.
- All our guitars have a lifetime warranty on defects
- We use premium woods, lacquer and hardware
- Our clients are in charge of the building process. If you want a Jazzmaster with a Strat trem system and a Tele neck that sounds like a ’58 Les Paul we will build that.
- We are not afraid to try new things, new processes and new techniques to make our instruments sound the way our clients want them to sound.
- We offer the best instruments for the best prices.
Can you please give some details about pickups of your guitars? Are they historically accurate pickup clones or modern ones for today’s needs?
Relic Guitars: We custom order them to our specs all around the world, including the Netherlands. Our pickup guys are specialists, make all pickups by hand and do an awesome job
Your products have very elegant line of aging. They are so realistic and seem like they have their own stories. Whats your point, concept about “relic making” concept?
Relic Guitars: We build our guitars the way our hero’s built them half a century ago. Our relics are not just optically old. They really feel and sound old as well. We have figured out a process to age the woods and pickups in a way our guitars can seriously compete with any true vintage instrument.
I especially liked the replicas of celebrity guitars like “blackie”. It seems there is detailistic afford on them. Do you have special stories about them?
Relic Guitars: Projects like “Blackie/Brownie“( Eric Clapton) or the “Black1” (John Mayer) are indeed special to us. We like to to things right, or do not do them at all. When you make a reproduction of a famous guitar, the devil is in the details. Our clients expect a true 1:1 replica, so we will do anything to keep that promise.
There is undeniable interest on relic guitars recent years. That’s why there are some other relic Strat/Tele builders, Fender Custom Shop releases too many relic guitars and Fender releases affordable “Road Worn” models. What’s your opinion about why? Why do people love those very dirty looking instruments?
Relic Guitars: That’s a discussion we have had way too many times. I recon any guitar player should be able to play what he or she wants and we should all stop trying to explain what the heart wants. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the discussion should focus on why players still want a 1 cm thick poly finish on a piece of crappy wood and pay way to much for it 🙂
I have never played any of your instruments. But they are looking as same as extremely expensive original custom shop guitars. But how about the sound, the playing comfort?
Relic Guitars: Our guitars sound as good, or better, than any, much more expensive instrument. Ditto for the playing comfort. I can tell you a thousand things, but to only way to be sure is to try one yourself. Words are only words.
How is your import/export situations? In how many countries can your guitars be bought?
Relic Guitars: We export all over the globe.
What is the limit of success to you? Are you satisfied about the position you are on?
Relic Guitars: Bill Nash is one of our big heroes and we’d like to grow to his proportions. Somewhere in the 1000 guitars a year region and a small factory. But we’d rather have 250 happy clients than 900 ‘so-so’ happy clients.
Do you have endorsees? Can you tell me about your projects about endorsements?
Relic Guitars: Yes we do have a couple of endorsees. Some very famous, some unknown. Most important to us is to have a connection with the musician in question. Sales, gigs and record deals come after that. Some of our best endorsees are the guys you’ve never heard of. But we love to work with them. They’re considered family.
What aftersale advantages you have? Can you give a strong support?
Relic Guitars: Well, I guess the lifetime warranty says it all.
Thanks Frans. I wish you all the best for your guitar biz. I wish someday i could play one of your instruments. Take care…
About Professor Guitarism:
Fan of: Electric guitar. Metal, rock, progressive rock, blues, fusion jazz and classical music. Star Wars & Lord of the Rings (books). The Alien. Marillion. Iron Maiden. Dream Theater. Frank Zappa, etc.
Columnist since 2005. Published many interviews with: Seymour W. Duncan. Steve Blucher of DiMarzio. Lindy Fralin. Yuriy Shiskov. Steve Morse. Guthrie Govan. Bill Nash of Nash Guitars. Joe Satriani. Dave Weiner. Tony MacAlpine. Alex Skolnick. Dream Theater. Ian Anderson. Tim Mills of Bare Knuckle Pickups, etc.
Fields of interest: Once had a humble custom shop. Now only medium to advanced level electric guitar modifications at home. Electric guitar pickup modifications and sometimes even winding them. Trying to play guitars never done before and, naturally, achieving more and more guitars.
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