Joe Strummer Replica Telecaster. Final adjustments to detail.

Basically – the guitar plays just fine. It holds tune well, and the action is great. No fret buzz, and an authentic bite to the sound on the bridge pickup. Perfect for knocking out chords whilst getting that “electric leg” action working in overdrive.

But as I’ve been getting to know the guitar, and in comparing it with photographs of the original – I just can’t help but think that the “Trash City” sticker looks way too fake. It just looks out of context. The amount of original sunburst finish visible around the bridge also bugs me. There’s a little bit too much, and overall, the black / grey / sunburst / bare wood balance looks a little bit off. I don’t think the rust on the bridge plate helps matters. There’s just too much brown in there. I masked the bridge off too much when I painted the body. I’ve got a few days before handover. These should be easy fixes.

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The “Trash City” sticker was one of two I obtained. I now think I used the wrong one. The one I used has a reliced look OK – but the look is all down to the printing. Now I’ve had more time to look at it in context – it just looks like a photocopy. Even the missing areas around the edge of the sticker are die-cut and, despite me knocking them back with grit paper, they look too sharp and contrived. Overall – the finish of the sticker, with it’s even, matte sheen – doesn’t match up to photographs of the original, where the colours are brighter. These hues are slightly faded – again down to the printing – and it just doesn’t look right tonally. The other sticker I obtained, from Axetreme Creations in the US, has the shine I’d expect – together with a much better rendition of the colours. But -it’s also a little smaller than the other one.

All picky stuff, perhaps – but my original choice has to go. Removing the old sticker isn’t a problem. A little naptha is left to soak into the surface, and then the sticker is shaved off with the edge of a Stanley knife blade. I’m not too worried about any damage to the paintwork – since any nicks will only serve to add yet another layer of “authentic” patina. Eventually, the sticker is off, and I remove the last of the soft glue, with a little more naptha.

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Taking the new sticker, some 400 grit wet and dry and some micro mesh pads – I rough up the edges of the sticker while it’s still attached to its’ backing paper. Working across the whole face – the abrasives remove some of the “newness”, reduce the shine and, consequently, lighten the colours slightly. Once the sticker is roughly shaped – with the desired edge areas cut, and worn away by rubbing – I begin to go through the grades of micro mesh, over the face of the sticker. Starting at 3600 grade, and working through the grades up to 12000. Using a small drop of water helps to keep the mesh polishing – and also reveals the fact that there’s a slight coating to the sticker, which is effectively being polished back to a slight shine. The contrast between shiny and worn areas, adds to the overall patina.

Once the sticker is shaped and worn to the desired level. I add a few creases by scrunching up the sticker a little. I think it’s ready…

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For the sunburst area of body around the bridge – there’s no point in trying to go back and re-apply new layers of grey primer and black car paint. Far too involved. I’m approaching the adjustment to the finish in the spirit of a “running repair”. It’s an opportunity to add another bit of patina. I clean any finish wax off the body around the bridge with naptha. Once the body is clean and dry, I stipple on some black, casein paint, and let it dry. Once the paint is dry, it adheres well to the existing finish – but I knock it back a bit, here and there, by rubbing gently with a paper towel. This effectively polishes up the finish of the casein paint, and changes it from matte – giving it a slight sheen.

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The new sticker is then laid in place, and gently burnished down. The original on Joe Strummer’s guitar looks a little creased, as if badly applied. I did attempt to apply the new sticker with a similar level of abandon – but it just went on too straight. With the paint dry, and the sticker rubbed down, I go over the whole body – stickers and all – with a coat of Renaissance paste wax. This finishing wax quickly evaporates but leaves a thin, protective coat – which can be buffed up to a nice sheen. It’s enough to add a layer of protection to the casein paint. It also does the job of bringing all the finishes together, and making them a bit more consistent, overall. The original finishes of the guitar, stickers, metal control plate and scratchguard all showed slight individual variations.

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I read somewhere that Strummer used to stick set lists to the body of the guitar. I know there’s some photographic evidence that he used to stick lists to the back of the guitar – but I wondered if the rectangular, grey areas on the top sides of the upper and lower bouts might have been caused by sticking something there? It’s certainly a useful position from the point of view of the player. I found a JPEG copy of a set list on the web somewhere – which seemed to match the proportions of the area on the upper bout. Printing it out to fit, and then tearing it to size leaves a few raggy edges. I stuck it into place with nothing more than a few bits of sellotape. This lo-tech solution seems entirely authentic to me. I left the very edges of the list slightly exposed – so that they’ll dirty down and wear a bit more, over time. I’ll give it a few days and see if I want to keep it in place. It’s entirely fanciful and unnecessary, but it’s plausible and, since it figures the names of the songs of a cracking looking Clash set from 1982 – apparently written in Strummer’s distinctive hand – it’s just there to add to the fun of it all. Like I say – the eventual owner isn’t a guitar nerd. He’s just a huge Clash, and Joe Strummer fan. Looking forward to handing it over.

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