Have any of you guys ever replaced a factory pickguard with an aftermarket? Was curious if they were custom made to fit or if you bought them already cut for certain guitars. I know between three different model guitars I own the guards vary in shape and size as much as 1/8" or better. Any other advice or tips would be appreciated as I’m treading on unfamiliar ground here.
Great topic Bulldog!
I’ve replaced the pickguards on both my Gibson J-60 and my Collings. It’s not that bad and actually kinda fun.
To start with, a clean removal is key. Heat the pickguard with your wife’s hair dryer and use something to start the peeling off process. I used a thin teflon coated spatula but I’ve heard of people using fishing line, putty knifes or gasket scrapers (the latter I would not recommend). If it’s too sharp, you could gouge into your finish. Heat it up just enough to get the glue to liquify and it will peel right off. DO NOT OVERHEAT or it will cause your finish to blister. This is why I recommend a hairdryer. A heat gun is ok but will get hotter faster, so be careful. Today’s nitro-cellulose finishes are extremely tough and it will take more heat to ruin the finish than it will to get the glue loosened up.
After you get the old pickguard off, then you have to clean off the glue and residue. You’ll want to use Naptha for this process. I used Ace Hardware VM&P Pure Naptha. It won’t hurt the finish but it will take a while to get all the glue off. Use a soft rag or an old T-shirt keeping it wet with the Naptha. Again, it will be time consuming and you will probably need to scrape some with your thumb nails. Be careful not to go crazy and get into the finish.
All of that was the hard part. Now depending on what you install you may want to buy material and make your own. This is what I did on the Gibson. It had to be either exactly the same size or oversized because my Gibson is older and had a significant “tan” line. So I got some material from LMI and traced it and cut it out. This was my first experience and I broke a piece off while cutting it out. You must put it in hot water and keep it hot while cutting or else it will break. Well my Gibson is full of checking and finish cracks and even a bad top crack, so I just went with it and installed it anyway. After I finished cutting, sanding and beveling the edges, I put the two pieces together on my adhesive sheet and it turned out great. The broken off piece flows with the rest and it looks like a fine hairline crack.
The Collings was an aftermarket pickguard already cut. It did not match up in size but that’s ok. The Collings was new enough to not have a tan line. You can barely see where the old pickgaurd was but only if you hold it at a certain angle in just the right light.
Before you install the new pickguard, clean the top with Windex or some other cleaner that will remove the Naptha residue and any oils from your fingers. Next, lay the pickguard exactly where you want it. Study this and take your time. Nothing worse than getting it on crooked or not lined up with the soundhole rosette after all this work. When you get it where you want it, Tape the outer edge of the pickguard to the top and check again to make sure it’s still in the right place. This will create a hinge. You should be able to lift off the soundhole edge and open it like a book. when you “close the book”, it should fall right back into place. Now it’s for real, open the book, peel off the backing on the adhesive sheet and slowly and gently lay the pickguard back down working from one end to the other. Don’t slam it down all at once.
I wanted to talk more about making a bevel, installing the adhesive sheet and polishing but this is already too long. Someone else can jump in and may have some better ideas. I’ll post some pics later.
Thanks for the long reply J.W., that’s just the kind of detailed info I was hoping you would post. Excellent job explaining the process. The pickguard on the Collings is actually a little smaller compared to the ones on my Martins and other guitars so if I find one pre-cut a footprint might not be too much of an issue if I’m lucky. I can also attempt to make it myself if I have to. Whichever route I go I’d like it to look as close as possible to yours. I’ll also probably do a practice run on my old Sigma or Seagull before I attempt it on the Collings!
Here’s pics from the J-60. I made this from a Greven sheet I purchased from LMI. Notice the piece I broke off:
That’s a good looking pickguard. The break couldn’t have been in a better place in my opinion. From a distance it probably doesn’t even show. Your J-60 has some good mojo like my old HD-28. I like it!
Found a Tor-Tis pickguard I liked from LMII and did the swap today. First time job went without a hitch, thanks to the good advice from J.W.
Factory guard ready for the swap
Using a hair dryer and dental floss to get started
When I got about halfway I started using a little naptha with the blow dryer and SLOWLY started pulling it off
Patience is the key. I spent probably a half hour removing the old guard. There was only a minimal amount of adhesive left on the guitar.
Cleaned up very easy with a little naptha.
The new guard in place with taped “hinges”. Let it drop several times before removing the backing on the adhesive to assure it would fall in the correct position, and it did.
The finished product. The new guard was almost an exact fit. No tan lines and only about an 1/8" longer than the factory guard.
I don’t like your new pickguard. You should remove it and ship it to me so I can dispose of it properly.
Just kidding of course. That is a stellar pickguard. I like how it has three levels of opacity.
Sorry I’m so late to comment. Been very busy and out of town.
Great job. I especially liked the way you posted pictures of the process as you went along. I’m glad it turned out so nice.
I’m suprised to see your Collings already has a tan line. Your guitar is newer than mine (mine’s an '08) and it had no difference in color whatsoever. Must be the difference between German and Adirondack Spruce. It’s a good thing because my replacement is narrower than the old one. I was able to stay on the outside line as well as be in the right lines of the rosette, but the inside (under the E and B strings) didn’t cover where the old guard was. It’s all good though, you have to look hard in alot of light to notice it.
Anyway, nicely done. Looks like it was professionally installed.
What are you going to do with the old pickguard?
Thanks Mike. I think I’ll keep it on there for a while at least till my nerves settle down. I really like it. The camera flash gives it a very orange tint but it actually looks more brown than in the pics.
J.W. thanks again for your help. I guess Adi may be lighter in color than German, not sure. I don’t really know the history of mine before I bought it. Maybe the previous owner(s) played outside with it some. I got lucky finding a pre-cut guard that fit so well. Funny thing is, on LMII’s website this is one of the D-28 size guards. Fit great on the Collings but is actually smaller than the factory black guard on my 2006 D-28! I got all of the adhesive off of the old guard. Somehow during the process I put a lot of very light scratches running lengthwise on it that you can see if you hold it to the light just right. I’m sure they can be polished/buffed out. I’m not going to do anything with it, if you want it I’ll be glad to send it to you.