Fender Custom Shop – Postmodern, Journeyman, Signature, Relic – What Do The Different Names Mean?

We’re a proud Fender Custom Shop dealer and their incredible Strats, Teles, Jazzmasters and basses are the creme de la creme of Fender, built in their California ‘dream factory’. The Fender Custom Shop range has everything you could possibly want, so regardless of whether your taste leans towards old or new school, there’s a guitar that looks and sounds just right for you. The fact that you’ve got a lot of choice means that there are a lot of names and terms knocking about that describe both the actual guitar (Postmodern, Time Machine [YEAR], Artisan, Signature) and its finish (NOS, Journeyman, Relic, Heavy Relic, Closet). While it may seem a bit confusing at first, it’s actually very simple. Here is our list of the Fender Custom Shop names and what they mean.

Fender Custom Shop Postmodern

The Custom Shop Postmodern guitars represent six decades of ‘Fender firsts’. Fender have taken all the best bits of the Strat from the last 60 years and put it into one guitar; same with the Tele. The Postmodern Bass combines the best features of both the Jazz and P bass and merges them into one incredible instrument. The Postmodern guitars draw inspiration from past models to create something that’s suitable for any modern player whilst keeping that classic edge. Both the Postmodern Strat and Tele have modern, high output, hand-wound pickups that deliver a focussed tone with a wide frequency range (Ancho Poblano pickups in the Strat, Twisted Tele pickups in the Telecaster). They also have ergonomic updates like a contoured neck heel, fast compound fingerboard radius as well as medium jumbo frets and the tried and tested mid-60s Oval C neck shape. The Fender Custom Shop Postmodern series is quite simply, the most up to date range of guitars that Fender do; classic and time-tested but designed for the modern player.
Here’s a clip of the Ancho Poblano pickups that are fitted in many of the 2016 Postmodern Strats.

Fender Custom Shop [YEAR] Time Machine

Pretty self-explanatory. A 1961 Strat will look, play and sound like a Strat made in 1961 (albeit with a couple of subtle modern upgrades). These reissues share the same spec as the originals and in many cases, the Custom Shop actually uses the same tools as were used back in the day! The differences between these models can be as subtle as a slightly different neck profile to a different set of pickups and a wholly different feel. As a fan of chunky neck profiles, I have slightly fallen for the 1956 Strat – the 10/56 V neck shape is probably the most comfortable I’ve played on a Strat, and the sound, delivered by the hand wound pickups, is to die for!
Here’s a clip of us and guitar legend, Jerry Donahue, putting a Custom Shop 1961 Strat against an original model from 1962.

Fender Custom Shop Artisan

Luxurious and arty, but still very much Fender. The Fender Custom Shop Artisan range uses woods that might not normally be associated with Fender – walnut, maple and mahogany for example. These beautiful woods combined with gold hardware and AAA Birds-Eye maple necks make for an extremely eye catching range of guitars. Set within the Custom Shop Artisan Strats and Telecasters are classic pickups that, when combined with the different woods will deliver vintage Fender tonal characteristics with a slight twist.

Fender Custom Shop Claro Walnut Artisan Telecaster

Fender Custom Shop Signature

Again, these are what you think they are; signature models made to the specification of a particular artist. It’s worth noting that these artists will actually use these guitars on tours and on their recordings – if it’s good enough for Gilmour, it’s good enough for me! The Custom Shop Signature models are also sometimes modelled on an artist’s extremely rare vintage Fender, so this way you can get as close to an original as possible, without shelling out the small fortune it costs to acquire one. Fender Custom Shop signature models include David Gilmour, Michael Landau and Eric Clapton and are the perfect way to nail the tone of your favourite player.

Fender Custom Shop David Gilmour Signature Strat

Fender Custom Shop Finishes

Because many of the guitars within the Fender Custom Shop range are based on old guitars, a lot of people want them to look as if they have made it from the 50s or 60s to the modern day i.e. with a few bumps and scrapes, or relicing. Now, how much relicing is on a guitar can be a personal thing – some may want it to look really worn and used, whereas others want it to look brand new. Luckily, there are various options to choose from. It’s probably worth noting that whilst some of the guitars look old and worn, they are all brand new and are designed this way.

NOS – New Old Stock

These guitars look brand new and have no relicing. It’s as if you’ve gone back to the 50s and bought a new one straight from the shop, and brought it right back. The NOS finish is the one to go for if you want that shiny, brand new guitar look.


What it sounds like – it’s as if the guitar has been left in its case, in a closet for half a century or so. There won’t be many signs of use, so no major scratches or dings, but there will be a few light surface marks and some slight discolouration of the finish and hardware. It looks like it’s in incredible condition, but you can just about tell that it’s an old guitar.

Journeyman Relic

Ok, so imagine a guitar that has made it’s way from the 50s or 60s, having been played quite sparingly by a loving owner, mostly around the house but maybe also at a gig or two. There will be a few marks and scratches – no major knocks but you can tell that it’s seen a bit of action.


Now we’re getting to a guitar that looks like it’s been played seriously over the years. A guitar that has been gigged over decades and has the battle scars to prove it. Think scratches, dings, finish checking, but no major overall damage.

Heavy Relic

An advancement of the previous finish. The Fender Custom Shop Heavy Relic finish gives the illusion of a guitar that has been extensively toured for many years by a player who doesn’t hold back. Expect fair parts of the finish to be worn away as well as plenty of scratches and dings. A battle-hardened workhorse.



  • Ken Hill

    Do Journeyman relics still have the cracked checked nitro finish?

    • Yeah, they have checking and a few specs of relic-work but nothing major like a relic model.