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Steel Pickguard on a P-Bass?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Kyle Lee, Apr 13, 2019.


  1. Kyle Lee

    Kyle Lee

    Jan 31, 2019
    I am finishing up some extensive modding to my Squier Precision bass. Partway through I had an idea to make a pickguard out of a sheet of steel I had taking up space in my apartment. I already cut out the rough shape using tinsnips:

    20190412_174218.jpg

    I still have to drill/cut out the holes for screws, knobs, output jack, and pickups. Then flatten it a little and file and sand the edges so I have a pickguard and not a picksawblade.

    Only now have I been thinking of the pickups possibly picking up magnetic interference from being surrounded by steel. I looked up what I could about it, but found few detailed descriptions of what/how the interference might actually affect the sound. I'm looking for some feedback. What do y'all expect to happen with the sound, if anything? I'm not at the point yet where I can actually test it myself.

    For your consideration, I have Seymour Duncan QP pickups. Also, the bass in final form will be fretless drop-tuned to ADGC. I normally play DGCF, so this is me prototyping my version of BEAD tuning on my fretless.

    Thanks
     
  2. Will_White

    Will_White

    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    I can't say how it will effect the sound, but it can turn the pickguard into a microphone I have a steel pickup cover that picks up the body vibrations. In my case I like it because it adds all the warmth of the semi hollow body but you might not.
     
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I've done some testing on that specific subject. This version of the Trussart SteelScrollPeg uses 0.060" steel plates on the front and back of the body. Both of them are grounded, for shielding and safety reasons. So, we wondered whether putting a grounded steel plate surrounding the pickups would affect their sound. Theoretically, it might, by pulling on the magnetic field and changing its shape.

    IMG_4161B.jpg

    As an experiment, I assembled the bass with and without the plates on there. No calibrated measured test, but I couldn't hear any difference.

    Later, I rebuilt that bass with a single pickup and aluminum plates. Out of curiosity, I also tested that combination with and without the plates. If there was any effect, it was tiny.
     
    GotRoot?, CatchaCuda, pudge and 2 others like this.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    That's a good point. If the steel pickguard isn't fastened down solidly to the body, and can vibrate, it will send a signal into the pickup. An aluminum pickguard won't do that.
     
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    By the way, this is pretty easy to test for yourself. I assume that you have another playable bass. Lay it on the bench, plugged in. Listen to tone. Take some scraps of steel plate (any steel plate) and lay them on the body surrounding the pickup. See if it changes the sound. With a piece of wire, touch one end to the steel plate and the other to the outside of the jack (ground). See if that does anything.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
    tbrannon likes this.
  6. dwizum

    dwizum Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2018
    Lots of factory basses have steel surrounding the pickup. Here's my Ibanez ATK:

    IMG_20190414_144522.jpg
     
  7. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Apr 15, 2021

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