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Tort pickguard nuances

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Camarillo, Dec 22, 2019.

  1. Tell me about them.
    Are them related to certain periods?
    I noticed different nuances of tort, from brown to red, specially in various 62 reissues, P or J, american, mexican or japanese.
    I love the reddish on the 3 tone sunburst.
    jamro217 likes this.
  2. Ghastly


    Oct 18, 2015
    Mill Valley
    The brighter red with yellow blotches from the 60s is my favorite.
    cdef and nixdad like this.
  3. Bass4ThePublic

    Bass4ThePublic Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2019
    Kansas City
    Modern tort is garbage, if you want tort that looks like the real vintage stuff, get a spitfire tort.
  4. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    I find that the mids are more pronounced with the vintage torts. :)
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2019
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    What's the best tort for *______* ?
  6. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    The closest to original Fender tortoise shell is the red/yellow celluloid nitrate stuff. Spitfire arguably makes the best, but I’ve seen and owned very good examples from Warmoth and Allparts.
    eadg98005 likes this.
  7. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    Tort pickguards are interesting!

    Spitfire are the only guys on the block making period accurate tort. This comes down to the volatility of the materials involved apparently.

    Saying that, most tort pickguards are wrong for a number of reasons. A '60s tort pickguard has a thin black ply, whereas every modern pickguard has equally thick white and black layers under the tort. Vintage tort is also a thick slab on top of the upper white layer, whereas modern tort pickguards typically have a thin layer. When you see a true '60s pickguard the top slab of tort is thick enough for you to get a proper sideways look through it on the bevel.

    The tort effect in a '60s pickguard is fuzzier than in a modern tort pickguard. The colours blend into each other at the edges.


    Finally vintage pickguards have a 30 degree bevel, versus a modern 45 degree pitch. On aged pickguards this bevel becomes even more relaxed, down to 25 degrees or so, as the celluloid tort layer shrinks back. In the detailed photo here you can see how each layer subtly blends into the next, the black layer is thin and the tort layer is thick! There is also tooling chatter all over the bevel. The white layers aren't perfectly white either. At a guess the bottom layer is parchment white and the top layer is 'mint', but they aren't solid, consistent colours.

    My go-to mod for pickguards is to increase the bevel to 30 degrees.


    This is an Amazon 'Floer' pickguard I paid about £15 for (in a pack of two!). The red and yellow layer is pretty nice, albeit thinner than a vintage pickguard. I've decreased the pitch of the bevel to around 30 degrees. The white layer is too starkly white and the black layer is too thick.

    Oddly enough the '60s Fender used a different tort on '60s Mustang basses. The red is a lot redder, and there isn't a lower white layer. The layers are tort/white/black with a thick black layer.

    Most Tort Fender now make is too dark (though apparently '60s tort started out dark and fades over time). There is no 'movement' within this tort. The dark bits are dark, the light bits are like white/cream blobs, and there isn't much interaction between the two. Conversely Fender Japan used a tomato soup red tort for the longest time with no real variance in shade in it.

    This is what '60s tort is all about, per my description above:


    I've bought a lot of tort pickguards! Here are some, and the major issues with each:

    Cheap Ebay. Too much pink in the mix, some very dark spots and random almost white/cream spots. I increased the bevel on this pickguard to vintage specs.


    Less cheap Ebay, from Singapore! Printed tort effect with visible DPI. A photo of tort laminated onto a 3-ply white pickguard. Again added vintage bevel, but very overpriced for a cheap unit.


    Dark celluloid tort. Again quite cheap on Amazon. Looks like a Gila Monster. Good if you want a '70s Japanese 'Lawsuit' vibe as they used black/yellow big-swirl tort like this.

    Finally, here's some more I wasted money on!


    Top right is brown, 'celluloid' (allegedly) guard imported to the UK by somebody on the Basschat forum. The brown layer was thin, lifeless looking and shrinking rapidly around all the edges and routes. Note that it is deep brown, with small cream spots here and there. Check the second Gila Monster tort pickguard bottom left, and second pinky-tort pickguard bottom right.
    Swerve, tommyeadg, Basswgn and 15 others like this.
  8. Bass4ThePublic

    Bass4ThePublic Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2019
    Kansas City
    my Spitfire
  9. fretno

    fretno Supporting Member

    May 10, 2009
    Los Angeles


    Spitfire and the real stuff is 3 dimensional. You can’t see that 3 feet away but up close it to looks like the instruments soul is swirling embers.. which is pretty cool
  10. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The problem with real celluloid is:
    A. It’s violently flammable
    B. It shrinks

    It’s hard to believe nobody has come with something better than a printed version or celluloid, are the Spitfire guards real celluloid? If so, not sure I’d want one, knowing it will eventually shrink and crack at the screw holes.
    jamro217 likes this.
  11. Bass4ThePublic

    Bass4ThePublic Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2019
    Kansas City
    Iirc, spitfire says he makes his guards so they don’t shrink. Also, if you are exposing your pickguard (and the rest of your bass) so close to an open flame that it catches fire, I don’t think that’s the Pickguards’s problem....
    Camarillo and Bassdirty like this.
  12. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    Spitfire will make you one pre-cracked at the screw holes. I'm not even joking!

    Somebody on the Offset forums was trying to make epoxy tort, which looked quite good.

    Success! Epoxy Tort - OffsetGuitars.com

    I guess you have to make a perfect, flawless material that you then plane down and somehow laminate onto additional layers of plastic somehow. Even making 3-ply white pickguard seems tricky. What adhesive do you use?
  13. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    Let’s see.
    Talkbass arguments: :)

    Is this tort good for “......?”
    No one needs a tort pg.
    The audience doesn’t care.
    The audience can’t tell the difference.
    Why can’t a $15. pg suffice?
    You’re getting ripped off by the people selling more expensive ones.
    All tort pgs are the same.
    You poseurs are the only ones who would pay more for a tort pg.
    You think you’re better than I am.
    You can’t see the difference.
    If you think you can it’s in your mind.
    We A/B tested this so you can’t know what you perceive.
    There is no difference between 8 gauge and 16 gauge tort.
    I’m using IEM so I’m above this discussion.
    You’re playing too loud so get them to turn down or find another band that will appreciate your quiet tort pg.
    This tort is good enough for me so it’s should be for you.
    Is this the right thread to discuss Tort Reform?

    Did I miss anything? :)
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2019
  14. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    Bit of a straw man argument you've built there. Gilmour was only pointing out the issues around celluloid as a material.

    On an unrelated note Spitfire's preachy religious crap on his website is fairly nauseating to me. When it comes to business you need to keep your personal religious views in your pants and out of sight.
    BillMason, Guzzi Toad and Curtbass like this.
  15. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I point out the flammability issue not because you are likely to burn it, but because that is a large part of the cost, it’s considered a hazardous material to ship. It’s largely been replaced by modern plastics for that specific reason. I’m just surprised nobody has found a convincing replacement. It usually has to be shipped ground only. Watch a few videos on burning celluloid, and you’ll see why no airline wants it in their planes. Celluloid picks make excellent fire starters!

    I bought some real celluloid checker binding (the only kind I could find) for my Ric clone build. I burned about 2” of it for yucks, like rocket fuse! Explosively flammable.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2019
  16. Bass4ThePublic

    Bass4ThePublic Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2019
    Kansas City
    Never knew that! Learn something new every day.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  17. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    Older tort pickguards appear to warp and mottle in part around the tort pattern. I've seen some where the differently shaded areas almost telegraph up through the top of the pickguard like outlines as they shrink.

    I guess the swirl and 3D quality of the tort effect comes from volatile plastics not mixing together especially well. You would be trying to capture something like that using inert, stable modern plastics.

    I still think that you could make a modern pickguard look more closely like a vintage tort pickguard. Use a slightly thicker slice of whatever that top material is, use a thinner black layer, use parchment sheets instead of kitchen appliance white, and use a 30 degree bevel. Spitfire shouldn't be the only guy making a killing from using these specs.

    The Chinese pickguards have to reach me in Scotland somehow. They must travel in an aircraft, right? When you carve these pickguards they smell like camphor, which makes me think they are celluloid? Camphor is used as a plasticiser and stabiliser in nitrate celluloid (presumably not used much in vintage pickguards).

    Did Fender make this stuff, or did they have a contract with a supplier? It is odd that they used a different type of pickguard material for the Mustangs, given that they were budget instruments.

    Bassdirty likes this.
  18. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The Chinese ship anything to anybody, want some formaldehyde soaked drywall? Most stuff from China comes via container ship, not plane. If it has that distinctive “ping pong ball” smell, it’s probably celluloid. Oddly, some of the shipping restrictions apply only to celluloid pickguard blanks, as if a cut guard was less flammable somehow. I bought a cheap one for my son’s 93’ MIM P Bass. It’s a photo print, but looks pretty good at a glance.
    Axstar likes this.
  19. Davbassdude


    Mar 16, 2012
    The Reddish tort on 3 color sunburst with a rosewood fretboard (with a 1.5 inch neck at the nut) is my ideal Precision Bass!
    Camarillo and cdef like this.
  20. I tgought we had all convened that tort were a must have pickguard? Now someone throws a wrench and adds nuances to this TB concensus we are in trouble.
    BillMason likes this.
  21. 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 11, 2021

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