Do you want to know how to cut a pickguard? Then maybe you are one of the guitar owners that love to make some DIY accessories for your guitar. Making pickguards can be difficult for some, but I can say that it is so much fun. Let’s go and learn how to cut a pickguard for your guitars.
So, what is a pickguard? A pickguard or also known as a scratchplate, is a piece made of plastic or other laminated material that is placed in the body of a guitar, electric, or acoustic. Its primary purpose is to protect the guitar’s finish from being regularly scratched by the guitar pick or nails of the picking hand.
There was no record of when the first pickguard was made, but it could probably be a couple of centuries ago, almost the same time the mandolins were invented. It is also believed that guitar pickguards were only incorporated into flat top guitars after the steel strings were also introduced to the market.
A great example of this theory is that the guitar company, Martin, used no pickguards for their acoustic guitars until regular steel strings and 14 fret models have started to be manufactured.
Nowadays, almost all guitar companies use pickguards for their electric and acoustic guitars. Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters are known for their iconic solid-body electric guitar pickguards and Gibson Les Pauls for their floating pickguards. For acoustic guitars, the oldest guitar company that still exists today, Martin Guitars are known for their iconic acoustic guitar pickguards.
How To Cut Different Types Of Guitar Pickguards?
Since the invention of the guitar pickguards, there are already many types of pickguards that are available in the market nowadays.
The first type of guitar pickguard is the acoustic guitar pickguard. From its name, this pickguard is used specifically for acoustic guitars, and they are made from a very thin sheet of plastic, which is usually 2 mm, and adhesives are used to stick it below the acoustic guitar’s sound hole.
There are two reasons why acoustic guitar pickguards are supposed to be made as thin as possible, tone and vibration. First, if your acoustic guitar pickguard is too thick, it can dampen the guitar’s tone, and if a guitar owner prefers the acoustic guitar’s natural tone the most, then there is no reason to use thick acoustic guitar pickguards.
The second type of guitar pickguard is the solid-body electric guitar pickguard. This type of pickguard is usually seen on Fender Stratocaster and Telecasters, which covers many surface body areas of your electric guitar.
From its design, most of the electric guitar’s electric components, like its pickups, potentiometers, switches, and wirings, are usually mounted on or placed behind the guitar’s pickguard, as it gives an easier way to repair the components when it encounters a problem.
The third type of guitar pickguard is the floating pickguard. Floating pickguards are usually raised slightly on one of its sides by metal support brackets, as it also allows for the height to be adjusted anytime to suit the guitar player’s preferred playing position.
This type of pickguard is usually found on top solid body electric guitars like the Gibson Les Pauls, and other Les Paul copied design electric guitars. You can also see it on many archtop hollow-body guitars like the many guitars made by Gretsch. The Guild’s archtop jazz guitar models also have used floating pickguards, with their volume control mounted on their top.
For Flying-V type guitars, it also has a specific Flying-V pickguard that usually surrounds most of the body of the Flying-V electric guitar following its shape. They typically wrap around the pickups and the knobs and some part of the guitar’s saddle.
Classical guitars rarely have an attached pickguard below their sound hole as they are usually used for finger-picking and are not subject to damages from guitar picks. The Golpeador or also known as tap plate, are usually mistaken for a pickguard, but it is attached explicitly to the flamenco guitar to provide a stable surface for the percussive tapping and striking with the guitar player’s fingers and fingernails.
Here are some templates for cutting pickguards for your guitar
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Pickguard?
There are many benefits to using a pickguard in your guitars, and not only that it can protect the guitar’s body from getting damaged from using guitar picks.
For acoustic guitars, the pickguard used can affect the tone to some extent. When your acoustic guitar is more resonant than it seems, then it means that the pickguard used affects its natural tone. If your guitar has a very thick pickguard, then it is expected to have a dampened tone.
An example of this is the 1965 Gibson Hummingbird, which got a bad reputation for its thick pickguard, resulting in its dampened tone.
A pickguard can also improve the aesthetics of any guitar. Many pickguards use contrasting colors or even floral inlay design, which significantly enhances the visual features of the guitar.
Pickguards are also used to hide the electronic components of a guitar. An example of this is the Fender Stratocaster which its electronic components sit behind its pickguard, and if you remove the pickguard, you can access its potentiometers.
Lastly, pickguards can also be used for autographs. When it comes to signature model guitars, it is common to see the artist’s signature on the guitar’s pickguard. These guitars can be sold for a very high price, but some collectors even buy a separate pickguard, as long as a legendary artist signs it.
How To Make Your Own DIY Pickguard For Your Guitar?
Although guitar usually comes with its own pickguards, if you prefer to make your own customized pickguard, there are reliable methods to do that.
First is you are going to need a scrap of 3/4″ wood that is big enough to be a template for your customized pickguard. You should also purchase a pickguard material, as there are already many pickguard blank custom sheets that are available online, and a double-sided tape.
You will need a bandsaw, drill press, a router with flush-trim bit and an optional chamfer bit, and sandpaper for your tools.
For the first step, grab the piece of wood and trace the shape of the original pickguard, or you can trace the shape of the pickguard you want to make and cut it out. The second step is to sand the wood to smooth it out and refine its shape. You want to be as smooth as possible to avoid ripples and dents on the wood.
The third step is to attach refined wood to the pickguard material using double-sided tape. You must remember that the template must face in the correct direction as the side of the material that is taped matters. You should also use a protective coating for the pickguard material to avoid being scratched.
The fourth step is to cut the shape. Using wood as your template also lets you use a flush-trim bit on the router to cut the pickguard material. The wheel on the flush-trim bit end will follow the shape of the wood, cutting the pickguard material in the shape that it is following around the wooden template. After cutting the shape, use a chamfer bit in the router and cut a chamfer into the edge of the pickguard material.
The next step is to drill the holes. Use the old pickguard and make it as a template to where the screw holes will be drilled in the new pickguard. Line up the screw holes in the drill press and drill into the new pickguard on the bottom of the stack.
It is expected that screw holes in the old pickguard will be slightly widened, so use a slightly bigger bit and set the stop on the drill press so it would barely touch the pickguard, so it would just widen the opening of the screw holes a little.
The last step before putting the new pickguard in the guitar is to clean up its edges. Remove the protective sheets from the new pickguard and use sandpaper to clean up the rough edges of the pickguard from the cutting and drilling.
Although almost all guitars, electric or acoustic, come with a pickguard, for those guitar owners who want to have improved aesthetics, making their own guitar pickguards is a great way to achieve this goal. Using different materials like plastics or aluminum, a DIY pickguard dramatically enhances the visual feature of a guitar.