Fun or interesting materials for easy-to-make custom pickguard?
November 4, 2010 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of creative-but-cheap-and-easy-to-work-with materials I can use to make a pickguard for my new, cheap, Strat-like guitar. Challenge: I have virtually no access to specialized tools much beyond an X-Acto knife/utility knife, drill, and file.

I recently bought a cheap electric guitar so I can learn a bit about music and how it's made. The guitar is essentially a Fat Strat clone, with a few elements taken from a Tele instead (e.g., only one tone knob, Tele-style knobs, jack on bottom edge). It came with no pickguard (electronics are accessible from the back), and because it's not a straight Strat clone, standard Strat pickguards won't work. I know there's no real point in putting a pickguard on a guitar as cheap as this one, but I got it into my head that it might be a good opportunity to exercise my feeble creative faculties.

I thought about making a leather pickguard, and possibly even tooling it a bit, but it looks like it would cost more than the guitar to buy a big enough chunk of tooling leather, stain/conditioner, and tools for working the leather. Other ideas I have had: a piece of artists' canvas, gessoed and painted; a swatch of thick tweed or burlap; old LP cover; sheet metal thin enough to work with common tools; a thin (stained) wood laminate panel; corkboard; photo(s) covered in Mod Podge; thin ceramic tiles.

The big challenge is that I don't have a Dremel, jigsaw, or much else in the way of tools that would actually be useful for such a project, and I don't know anyone in this town I could borrow from. So it has to be doable with basic tools - knives, hand saws, files, drills, sewing needles, etc.

Help me think of a fun way to add a custom pickguard to my axe - any suggestions welcome. Thanks!
posted by dilettanti to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pickguards aren't really a requirement... if you're doing it for fun or looks then go nuts but otherwise you probably don't need one. I have 4 guitars - 2 with no pick guards - and I've played them all reasonably heavily with no damage to the ones with no guards. On the strat I have, the guard is a PITA more than it's helpful. Honestly they probably use guards on strats to make the wiring easier, more than anything else, as far as I can tell.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shelf paper
posted by rhizome at 12:20 PM on November 4, 2010

board game board
posted by alikins at 12:25 PM on November 4, 2010

jigsaw puzzle? My aunt used to put together jigsaw puzzles, and then she'd coast them with glue (or something) and frame them. Tacky, I know. But you could find a neat jigsaw puzzle put it together in a pickgaurd-esque shape (leaving it with open puzzle pieces around the border...which, I think would look neat) and glue it into a hard, solid thing and attach it to the guitar.
posted by phelixshu at 12:29 PM on November 4, 2010

You can use a self stick clear vinyl pickguard from here
The prices are pretty reasonable.
posted by shr1n1 at 12:41 PM on November 4, 2010

Think about office supplies: polyethylene plastic is used in varying thicknesses for binders/file folders, can be cut with scissors and attached with rubber cement. Also, I once used a self-stick screen protector for a Palm Pilot as a temp guard.
posted by klarck at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2010

Go to Staples/Walmart/CVS/Dollar store and get a 3 cheap 3 ring binders-the kind that are a single sheet of plastic with the clip fastened in the middle and 1 with a cheesy print on it. Cut out 8 pick guards with scissors/hobby knife. Laminate them together. You can probably use contact cement or spray adhesive for that task.


Cutting out 8 pickguards will stink for sure, but with the lack of tools, you're substituting time.

You might be able to find something equivalent without notebook pieces at TAP plastics, if there's one nearby.

Depending on your budget, laser cutting is surprisingly cheap. If a single guard cost you more than $30, I'd be surprised. Get a quote from pololu or a similar place.
posted by plinth at 1:09 PM on November 4, 2010

Your neighborhood is probably littered with political signs made of coroplast right now, and elections are over so they aren't doing anyone any good. Find one in interesting colors, cut to size, secure with a few screws. It's not the most rigid material but scissors will cut it and it's sturdy enough to stay on the guitar for years.

You could also use the back (white) side and paint as desired.

Downside: It's about 1/4" thick so it might get in the way of playing, depending on the setup of the guitar. But it's free and worth a try.
posted by mmoncur at 5:15 AM on November 5, 2010

Excellent answers, all - thanks! I am particularly intrigued by the ideas of using jigsaw puzzles and old board game boards - but it turns out that when I went grocery shopping last night, King Soopers had plastic binders for $0.89/each, in red and yellow. As my guitar is a deep blue, and I had been contemplating a circular pickguard, and I had just seen a Colorado flag on the way into the store, I decided to start with a pickguard in the shape/color of the "C" in the Colorado flag using the plastic binder material. Even in a single layer of each color, it looks pretty decent (I haven't cut it to fit over the pickups yet, but I have assembled the basic shape, and it looks pretty good). So I will hold the other ideas in reserve, and will keep my eyes open for good game boards (chess, Parcheesi, Chutes & Ladders, etc.) and fun jigsaw puzzles for replacement guards. Thanks for the ideas!
posted by dilettanti at 8:52 AM on November 5, 2010

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