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Pickguard removal and screw-hole fill.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by philthygeezer, Dec 20, 2003.

  1. philthygeezer


    May 22, 2002

    I have a gloss black body with a pickguard I want to take off and leave off.

    How can I get the old screw holes to be invisible? Do I have to refinish the body?

    Thanks again,
  2. There's no way to completely make the modification invisible without a refinish. But you CAN make it darn hard to see. I've done this before and with some care, you can get it to where even you will forget that it isn't perfect.

    Since you've got the pg off, you'll probably have a little chipping of the finish around the holes. That's common. You won't do anything to these flaws until later. Now, some folks use toothpicks for filling holes and that's OK for holes that are to be covered but since these are out in the open, you'll approach it differently. Toothpicks are a little small so you'll find the smallest hardwood dowel you can - probably around 1/8". From there, whittle, sand, or grind off enough of the diameter of the dowel, to go to the bottom of the screw hole and completely fill the hole. Glue it in with a wood glue. I leave a little dowel sticking up and a nice collar of excess glue around the base. Set it aside and let it totally cure.

    The next step is the trim off the excess dowel and glue. Use a straight blade razor held with the thumb and forefinger and slide the blade into the dowel right at the base. You are going to slice off the dowel to leave a perfectly smooth surface. Rock the blade back and forth through the wood until you're through it. If you are very careful, you can do this with minimal scratching of the surrounding black surface. What you wind up with is a nicely filled hole with only a small tan dot remaining to be colored. Once all the holes are trimmed flush with the top, acquire some black nail polish. Believe it or not, this is pretty high quality nitrocellulose lacquer and it's great for touchups. Also get a pint of acetone for a thinner/cleaner. Don't use nail polish remover since this has an oil in it to keep nails from drying out.

    The next procedure is to use a toothpick to drop some of the acetone right on the top of the trimmed dowel. As it soaks in, use the brush from the nail polish and pull up a nice drop of polish and touch it to the place you've just dropped the acetone. The acetone carries some of the polish into the fibers of the dowel and makes it black deeper. Do this with only ONE drop. Don't brush it over or touch it after this. It will just be a little mound of paint sitting there. Repeat for all of the holes and let it totally dry.

    When you come back, you'll see that the polish has flattened out and covered the dowel and surrounding cracks. You can stop there if you want and leave the slightly irregular bumps as is where the screws were OR you can make the attempt to scrape them down a little further with the razor blade. If you expose another color, you'll have to repeat the application step but it doesn't take long. Once you've gotten an acceptable amount of coverage and smoothness, you can polish the spots using a modified "french polish" method I got from the MIMF. This works good on fine scratches or the etching that CA can do to a poly finish. It takes some amber shellac, straight mineral oil and some paper towels for the process. Dip a towel wrapped finger in the oil and then the shellac and rub the painted area briskly. Don't do large circles, just a finger's width and polish it hard. Pull back and wipe off the spot and it should have picked up a nice sheen and filled the fine scrathes around the repair.

    That's sort of how I've done this before and although you could tell that something was there, one had to be right up on the body to actually notice.

    Hope this helps.
  3. philthygeezer


    May 22, 2002
    Fantastic! Thanks much.
  4. Hambone, I have a similar problem - I removed the pickguard from a heavily modded bass. MY problem is then that the bass body's finish is natural and nothing seems to be in harmony with the wood grain. A nice contrast would be to fill the holes with a darker hardwood like bubinga or wenge, but I'd still like to maintain the original look. Do you have any ideas or suggestions?
  5. A maple toothpick has a nice woody color. If you've got a somewhat aged finish - amber like - then I would suggest using just the shellac as a top coat. Any wood will get darker with a finish but that's a start. You could even make a nice slurry of glue and real fine sawdust and fill the holes with a finish like I've described above.

    Hope this helps.