What are some good steps to make a guitar look vintage and grungy?
You know, like beat-up-ish?
Umm...play it for 30 years??? On a serious note you could always dip the plastics (Knobs, Pup covers) in tea or coffee, Use a Nitro finish on the guitar, take off the hardware and let it oxidize, drag it behind a truck? Just get a little creative, you'll think of something.
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sand off the paint in a gritty pattern, scratch lines below the strings on the pickguard, buy aged hardware...

the list goes on.

but i would just let it "look vintage" by itself and play it for a few years.
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why would you do that? most people dont try to do that it just happens from years of playing it

I saw on "made in america" fender would lightly smack the guitars with these metal balls on a chain to beat it up a little for people who special order it that way.
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I saw on "made in america" fender would lightly smack the guitars with these metal balls on a chain to beat it up a little for people who special order it that way.

thats weird. well its like the joe strummer, clapton and srv guitars they re-made. made em look like they really were and all. with paint chipped and cigarette burns on the headstock
What I did for mine was I used sand paper to start it off, around the edges, and then moved in slightly. Some spots I sanded more than others until I could see the natural color underneath the finish. Then I took a knife with a serrated blade and scraped of a bunch of finish. I think it looks pretty cool in my opinion, don't tell me it was stupid to do because the guitar was rough to begin with. Here's a pic (I've posted it before but it shows you how my beating looked at the end):
You gotta love strats
I like how arm wear on real vintage strats look. but Ive seen so many people try to recreate it by just sanding it and it looks like crap. real arm wear dont have sand paper scratches.

what I would do is tape around the shape of the are wear you want, sand it down to the wood then take of the tape and use an electric buffer and some swirl/haze remover and buff the sh*t out of it. and stain it with coffee. or go workout then rub a bunch of sweat and dirt in to it.

the coolest looking part of a vintage strat is the wore down maple fretboard.
take the maple neck and give it a thin vintage tint lacquer. then use a grinding tool to grid down the spots for the finger wear. and stain that with sweat or coffee.
if you take care of a guitar youve had for 40 years. it would have the paint wore down and the fretboard wore down from use, but their wouldnt be dings and scratches ( if you took care of it).
Nitro paint works the best.
and dont for get checking.
warm up the paint with a pen torch, then freeze it with caned air.
I've been working on that vintage look on my guitars...by playing in smoky bars for years...Otherwise I don't touch them except for a wipedown after every gig and a thorough cleaning a couple of times a year.

I've seen quite a few guitars "vintaged" the quick way, still haven't seen one that looks authentic. Either buy one 30 years old that's already worn and beat up, or play a new one 30 years and watch it happen naturally.
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