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Cutting a pickguard

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by therealting, Aug 21, 2004.

  1. Hi there,

    What is the best way to cut a pickguard, assuming that I don't have a full workshop? I am prepared to go out and buy suitable tools (as long as the tools in question aren't of the $2,000 press drill variety).

    The pickguard material is acrylic, if that is of any help.

    Many thanks,
  2. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    band saw, fine fine fine tooth blade
  3. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    I am by no means a professional, but from the few basses I have built/ modified, I've found that using a jig saw/scroll saw, there seems to be a lot of names for it. It's a saw with a thin blade about 4 inches long that vibrates up and down. I call it a jig saw. The pickguard may have a tendancy to chip as you cut it due to the motion of the blade. Thus, I suggest, if it's an old pickguard, put some packingtape over the area you are going to cut on both sides. This will keep the acrylic from chipping and scratching as you guide it on the saw. If it is a new pickguard it may have a clear sheet of tape-like material on it. Don't remove it until you are done cutting.
    Oh and that saw you can get starting at about $100 for a basic one. Do a search for a company called Harbor Freight Tools. They usually have some pretty amazing deals.
  4. Factory pickguards are produced using a thick template and a router - usually a pin router or a router table. That's what you should use for the best results. You can rough your shape with the jig saw or band saw but then you attach it to the template as the guide and route it cleanly. Then a bearing guided chamfer bit is used to apply the beveled edge. Holes are drilled using the template as a guide and then they are countersunk. Acrylics are notorious for chipping while cutting OR melting and rewelding the cut together. Routing is one of the few methods of getting that smooth machine finish on the cut edge.
  5. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Interesting. I'm busy making a template out of 1/4" hardboard and a jigsaw, but I've never cut a pickguard before. Here's a few more questions:

    Any suggestions on pickguard material? Since I've never cut a pickguard before, I'm reluctant to ruin an expensive piece of acrylic. I'm gonna make a trial pickguard out of a square black plastic garbage bucket. Any other suggestions for cheap / good material?

    How "smooth" does the template have to be? I notice a few small grooves from the saw blade and I wonder if the router will pick these up. Or should I sand / file these out? [Update: I filed / sanded the template clean: it wasn't that tough.]
  6. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    cheap plexiglass, you can aways paint it.

    or get some thin stock of voidless ply wood, stain it, and it comes outnice
  7. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    I only dinkied with one pickgaurd and ran into the same kind of thing. I ended up going to home depot and picked up a doorskin for $7. 1/8 or 3/16" thick with nice, smooth nice grain on one side. Strong, lot easier to work with, lot cheaper, lot more material to make mistakes on. You can seal it, paint it, stain it. If you're good, you can make it look good. You still need a router for a professional look on the perimeter. But even without one you can pull off a respectable job with patience.
  8. Hmm, cool subject - alternate pickguard materials...

    1. I've got some (and think I can get some more) of 1/16" clear acrylic - smooth on one side, non-glare frost on the other. I've experimented with second surface painting and layering and there is lots of promise here. No perfection yet.

    2. I LOVE veneer!! I've been making cavity covers from my own "plywood" I've made from glued up veneer. If you alternate colors, you can get a nice effect when you bevel it. Put a figured veneer on top and you've got a pg that'll blind ya.

    3. For just the right application, you might try cutting a leatherette pg from an old Samsonite style suitcase. You can get them at the Goodwill for $2 or $3 and they are sure tough.

    4. Most hobby stores sell a poplar "hobby ply" used in doll house construction. Pretty much just a scaled down plywood in various thicknesses. Good to glue a laminate to or paint/stain.

    5. Plan ahead - not always possible in my shop but it would be neat to shave an 1/8" off the face of a raw blank and use that as a pg. It would totally blend with grain of the body. Stealth PG!

    6. Laminates - The old wood grains aren't the only things available anymore. Try a brand called WilsonArt for some of the most eyepopping textures and graphics you can imagine. The stuff is expensive but you'll get more than one from a sheet and the results would be worth it. Besides, if Reverend can make a whole bass from this stuff, we should be able to do a nice pg right?
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Never heard of that before. Is that basically a door-sized rectangle of veneer or thin plywood?
  10. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Yeh, it's basically just the face of a hollow core dore (as in bored and board - synapse misfire I guess). They've got like a pigeon hole setup from remnants they've cut and you might run across a small piece in there. Or they can cut the doorskin in half or whatever just to get it in the car.

    It's pretty practical stuff. I converted some onboard preamps to outboards and used an electrical junction box as the case and that doorskin was a lot more workable material for a lid than drilling those potholes through 1/8" thick steel lids. The plastic junction box's and lids were just too cheesee and less workable. You knew you had hold of something when you picked up the preamp in the steel box.

    Hambone - some interesting stuff. The piece about the thrift shop reminded me some of those places are varitable gold mines. The stealth picgaurd was a hoot. Kind of a front door Pedulla.
  11. use double sided tape and tape your pickguard material to a thick template base. (usually 3/8" ply or better) and get a bottom following 45 degree bit from Stew Mac, specially made for this task....and a straight flute bottom following bit (bottom following means there is an equal-to-bit diameter rider bearing bolted to the bottom to follow the template edge) for the neck pocket detail Takes no time.