1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Vinyl decal instead of repainting pickguard?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Milk, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    A few weeks back i forgot to put a bid (I was sick at the time) on a replacement pickguard for my bass which i was very bummed about seeing as my bass is a fairly obscure Ibanez from the mid 90's that was only made for a few years so getting a replacement pickguard (it had never been used, still the price stickers on it) for it was probably basically a once in a lifetime chance since they stopped making them probably 15 years back. So i decided why not paint it. But after reading about how to go about doing that, it seems rather an involved process and im not sure i'm up to it. As for having one custom made, too much money.

    So earlier today i had what seemed an easier idea...how about getting a blank vinyl car decal in the color i want my pickguard to be (orignally black but thinking of changing it to white) and cutting it in the shape of the pickguard (i imagine removing the pickguard and just cutting around it..though cutting perfect holes for the pickup might be a little more problematic especially since the sides are rounded) and just apply it over...

    Now I dont know anything about car decals and how easy or not they are to cut (i imagine easy enough since its the point of getting a blank) and apply on a bass but it seems to me that would work fairly well.

    I found this site for the blank decals:


    Would be 16$ including shipping. AND if i don't like it i suppose removing it wouldnt be too much a problem.... i imagine anyway. Then i still have my original pickguard.

    Anybody ever tried that? (probably) Do you think that would work well enough and look alright?
  2. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    What's so involved with painting it? Get yourself a $2.50 rattle can specially designed for plastic and have at it. Way easier than any decal.
  3. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    If the existing pick guard has a beveled edge, cutting the vinyl may be more difficult that you imagine. If I were in need of an unavailable replacement pick guard, I'd probably either buy a thin sheet of plexi from the hardware store and use the existing pick guard as a template, and just make a new one. Or, better yet, just order a pick guard blank from any of the on line resources, like StewMac, and make a new one.
  4. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    I read about some people who did it with not so great results, old threads from this forum. Also, i like the idea of being able to revert to original if i want to...

    Hmm yes...it has in fact a beveled edge...

    About a pickguard blank...which i didnt know i could get... Seems to me like THAT would be very hard to cut.
  5. I used to "change" the pick guard on my Ric all the time with decals. Did it to my jazz bass too IIRC. I used some sort of thin decal that came in sheet form from a hobby store. I think it was made for model airplane wings and such. It was easy to work with, easy to squeeze the bubbles out if you got one, and cheap. I remember doing a black/white checkerboard thing on the pickguard and also the headstock of my Ric once. looked cool.

    This stuff was easy to remove as well and left little to no adhesive residue.

    I remove d the PG to apply it, and used a VERY sharp exacto knife to trim around the edges. You need to be good with your hands, and patient. A rush job will look like it and could damage the PG.
  6. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az

    The beveled edge would complicate the process of cutting the vinyl to fit the pick guard.

    Yes, without a jigsaw, or bandsaw, it would have to be done by hand, or with a razor knife, and that would be difficult. With the right tools, it would not be very difficult.
  7. nashman


    Feb 11, 2011
    This is a vinyl "car decal" that I cut with a razor knife. The bevelled edge was no problem - just use a brand new blade. I even put the pickup cut-outs on top of the pups. It's holding up well so far and is easily removed with no damage.

    Attached Files:

  8. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Looks good! Are those air pockets under the decal?
  9. SunnBass

    SunnBass All these blankets saved my life.

    Aug 31, 2010
    Columbia, Mo
    Yes, but nothing a credit card and a little elbow grease can't resolve.
  10. nashman


    Feb 11, 2011
    Yes there are a few air bubbles - and perhaps some bits of wood debris from applying on my not so clean workbench. Mostly visible under bright light. I probably could have been more careful and the results would have been even better.
  11. I have covered 2 pickguards with vinyl. It is not a difficult process. You can go to your local sign shop, they have many different colors to choose from. Remove your pickguard and clean it well. Cut the vinyl larger than you need. Use soapy water to help you place the vinyl on the pickguard.(NOTE: You only need 2-3 drops of soap in a spray bottle of water, too much soap and it will not stick) Spray the vinyl and the pickguard, then lay the vinyl on the guard and use a squeegee to work the bubbles out, work from the center out to the edge. Once you have it smoothed out, LEAVE IT ALONE!! I messed one of mine up by getting in a hurry. Leave it for a day or so to let it dry. Then take a sharp razor blade and run it across the edge to cut off the excess vinyl. Take your time and you will have nice looking results, if not, you are only out a few bucks and some time. It can always be removed later if you decide to go back to the original finish.
  12. Abaroa


    Apr 27, 2010
    I have a vinyl decal in my pickguard. It is a decorative vinyl I got from a home centre.
    It works pretty well. The sticker is very thin and it streches a bit and sort of grabs the contour,which helps with the belved edge.
    The hardest part when putting it up was making little holes for the screws ( if you dont, the sticker will catch and twist and pull and then rip the sticker. Learnt this the hard way). The second try I used a needle to punch the holes before driving the screws.
    No problems after almost a year.
  13. Copying a pickguard isn't hard but you do need the right tools, and the right tools are a router table and a pattern bit, the type

    I imagine that you could use the original pickguard directly to cut the copy, but I typically use the original to make a pattern in MDF, and then make all future copies from the pattern.

    Use thick double back tape to stick the pickguard to the MDF.
    Set the depth of the router bit such that the bearing rides on the old pickguard and the cutter only touches the MDF.
    Fire up the router and drag the MDF around the router bit cutting the shape of the pickguard into the MDF.
    Drill a hole in the MDF in the pickup hole to make clearance for a small diameter pattern bit to fit through.
    Repeat the router process to make the pickup holes in the MDF.
    Use the original pickguard as a guide to drill the pickguard screw holes through the pattern. Use a drill press so the holes go straight and square through the MDF.
    Use locate the center of the volume and tone pot holes and drill a corresponding pilot hole through the MDF with the same tiny drill used to make the screw pilot guides.
    Remove the pickguard, and there you have a pattern which you can make many copies.

    Order some cheap pickguard material on eBay.
    Wait a month for it to arrive from Shainghai.
    Double back tape it to your pattern.
    Set up the router depth so the bearing rides on the pattern and the blade cuts the plastic.
    Fire up the router and drag the pattern around the bit cutting the shape into the plastic.
    Install a 30 degree pattern bit and drag the pattern around to cut the bevel in. Don't cut a bevel into the neck area.
    Drill a small pattern bit clearance hole where the pickup hole goes.
    Repeat the router pattern process to cut the pickup hole.
    Set the pattern face down on a drill press and use the thru-holes in the pattern as a guide to drill the screw holes and the pilots for the volume and tone pot holes.
    Remove the pickguard from the pattern.
    Use a step drill to cut the pot holes, or a Roper-Whitney punch. A regular drill may grab and break the pickguard on a hole this big.
    Lightly sand sharp edges with very fine grit paper.

    Thar ya go! Totally cheap pickguard reproduction... Assuming you already have the router, table, bits, drill press...

    What MAN doesn't have a router table and a drill press?!?!? I PIDDY DA FOO!

    Or ya could just ship the original off to Pickguard Heaven or one of the other places on the Internet that make custom pickguards. That's a lot cheaper than buying the tools to make one picguard.
  14. prd004


    Dec 3, 2010
    As a retired Auto body guy who has applied hundreds of decals on cars where even one air bubble is a massive failure, I offer some pro wisdom to anyone who wants to attempt this in the future:

    You need a plastic squeegee, a spray bottle and some liquid soap.

    Make a mild solution of 97% water and 3% soap, and put it in your spray bottle

    Try to work in as clean environment as possible, close the windows etc

    Remove the pick guard from the bass

    Spray a thin mist of soapy water over the entire pick guard and apply the vinyl or sticker

    The cool part is, right now is you can still position and move the sticker now until its exactly where you want it

    Now use your squeegee to work all the air bubbles out, starting in the center and working towards the edges. All the soapy water and air bubbles will come out quite easily, and barring any rogue dust particles you should be smooth as glass!

    Hope this helps. You can find a good squeegee at any auto body supply, like Wesco (in Washington).

    OP, your design looks pretty cool
  15. All the ideas above seem too complicated.

    Contact paper! Maybe even plaid or something. :p
  16. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Best way to avoid air bubbles is to put a little windex on the sticky side of the decal. You can wet it good if you need to, the more windex you use the easier it is to reposition. Once you are happy with placement, hold down near the edge and take your squeegee, DL, whatever and push the liquid out from under the decal. Work from the middle toward the edge. It's a feel thing with how much pressure to put on the squeegee so take it light to start with and get a feel for it. the wetter it is the more prone to sliding and as you push liquid out, the better it will stick. Once you've pushed down the whole thing once, grab a paper towel and sop up any standing windex, then start back at the beginning and push it again, catching the excess as you go. Once you have it down good give it some time to dry good and you will be good to go. If you have any bubbles you miss and it dries, take a straight pin and punch a hole in the middle of the bubble and push the air out with your squeegee.
  17. Shaky


    Jul 6, 2006
    Roanoke, VA
    Decal, what an awesome idea! I have an old Frankenstein guitar with a couple empty pickup holes in the pickguard I might try to conceal this way. I am sure you would probably still be able to see them, but it would probably look better.

    Nashman, love the "Dark Side of the Moon" theme.