Jump to content

Entry for February 2020's Guitar Of The Month is open - ENTER HERE!

Scott Novak

Wood Choice for Pickguard?

Recommended Posts

I'm refinishing a 1965 double pickup Gibson Melody Maker.  I want to replace the black plastic pick guard with a wooden pick guard.  The neck is a slightly yellowish Honduras Mahogany and the body is a slightly more reddish colored Mahogany.

I'm looking for wood suggestions for the pick guard.  The pick guard would also be supporting the controls.  As the pick guard will be relatively thin, I need a wood that will be sufficiently strong, as well as being complementary to the Mahogany body.

I also want to laminate a thin piece of wood the back of the headstock to thicken it, as it is too thin for some brands of tuning keys.

I'm also thinking about making a wooden pick guard for my walnut finish Gibson ES-335.

What say you?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well, here's what I know - disclaimer: isn't much. 

first suggestion: ebony.  allenguitar sells ebony fretboards that have splits and worm holes - i think it was 5 for $25?  ebony joins so well you wouldn't see the seems and it'd be black like the original, but a bit more classy.  obviously this would require some milling.  would also work well for the back of the headstock.  the black of the orig pickguard really compliments the black headstock... probably calculated... so I would consider that.

suggestion 2: mahog... I've ordered from here before https://ocoochhardwoods.com/scroll-saw-lumber/  the nice thing is their mahog was really high quality unlike the stuff I got from rockler.  probably have to go a bit thicket for strength w mahog, but you could reinforce it on the backside with any number of things.

3: generally those melody makers had a rosewood board... you could just take a black pickguard and glue rosewood lam to it. 

4: sky is the limit... woodtoworks has a lot of exotic pickguard sized pieces of wood... from burls to figured walnut.

5: rothko and frost... they have some crazy beautiful pickguard stock... now this is plastic/abs/etc, but some of the stuff there, like single layer pearloid or variations on tortoise shell that is anything but cheap and would look amazing!  i spend hours looking at the tortoise stuff!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What about glueing some veneer sheets together, to make a strong multiply. I've bought maple veneer sheets and bog oak veneer sheets off ebay quite cheaply - I use them for all kinds of jobs like contrast strips on necks, adding strength to thin wood control covers and even little slithers to shim a nut.

Reading your post made made me think black/white/black/white veneers glued together which would make it 1.5-2mm thick and be strong enough. Black would contrast nicely with mahogany. 

You can get much nicer veneer sheets, I've seen ebony veneers on ebay but they're obviously more money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One option would be Blackwood Tek, which is chemically processed environmentally sound softwood. It's durable, doesn't warp, polishes and buffs like the hardest hardwoods and with some luck it can have some nice grain. The pieces I've seen have looked like from the darkest ebony to a more modern ebony with a subtly visible grain pattern. Unfortunately there's no wide blanks available, but joining fingerboards (or pieces of one) might be an option.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've also been considering modifying the headstock for straight string pull.  For that I'd need to glue some mahogany to the sides of the headstock to widen it for the 1st and 6th string tuning keys.  Then it would also make sense to add a veneer over the front of the headstock and a thicker piece over the rear of the headstock

Before anyone gets too bent out of shape about modifying a vintage guitar like this, let me assure you that this had been a very abused guitar before I purchased it for $77.00.  Anything that I do with it will be a huge improvement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a friend/co-worker ages ago, who had a vintage melody maker... he took it and put a lovely burl top on... then put p90s in it.  looked a lot nicer after.  guitars were meant to be played... and once a guitar steps away from being all original... might as well go as far as you like.  just my o.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've already widened the pickup routes to accommodate  standard size Gibson humbuckers.  However, I'm winding low impedance pickups for the guitar as well as building a vacuum tube preamp with a transformerless low impedance input.  It will be about as far away from vintage as it can get.

I also contoured the horn area for easier access to the upper frets.  Nothing extreme, just rounding the original 90° edges.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

wait, you don't mean you are putting a tube in the guitar?  that'd be cool... maybe a nutube (korg).  sounds like some interesting stuff... going all bill lawrence on yer pickups.  should be fun to see this come together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, I'm not putting the tubes inside the guitar.  With a low impedance pickups there isn't much advantage to mounting the tubes inside the guitar like the Valvebucker.

Low impedance pickups have a wide bandwidth and you don't have to compensate inside your amplifier for tonal problems caused by high impedance pickups.  And of course the low impedance also makes them less susceptible to noise pickup.

Balanced cables also sound better than coaxial cables that are commonly used with high impedance pickups.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

one of the primary issues with thin wooden pick guards is the warpage.... I circumvent this by laminating a veneer to a piece of bakelite, then shaping the pick guard from that.... stays dead flat for as long as its a pickguard.... 

It can be finished in many ways... 

 

rk

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are two methods of laminating pickguards from veneer:

Guitar Repair A Wooden Pickguard:

make a DIY Wood pickguard  How To:

This guy glued thin strips of wood together to make a pickguard:

How to make a Guitar Pickguard:

This video just shows examples of wooden pickguards:

Wood Pickguards Custom Made...:

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny how the first guy tells not to use regular glue as the moisture of the glue would cup and warp the board. Yet the second guy used regular glue on a much larger piece without visible issues. Knowing that wood glue has always been used to attach veneer even on thin pieces of wood, I'd take the first guy's argument with a grain of salt. Also, he worried about scratching the wooden board with a pick and talked about how the epoxy will seep through the pores to the surface for added strength. As he had mixed "too much" of that epoxy already, why didn't he use it on the surface as well for scratch resistancy? Wouldn't the epoxy have been as good a choice as the super glue he mentioned? As he told, the vacuum process he used actually plasticized the wood so it was not about being extremely natural anyway.  Goes to show there's as many beliefs and myths there as in any detail in guitar building!

As a side note, in arch top guitars like the 335 you mentioned warping can be reduced also by applying a brace underneath the pickguard. Cross laminating would be better, though, since it adds strength to the edges as well, preventing splitting caused by an accidental hit.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So far the idea of laminating layers of veneer seems like the best one overall.  I'm not very keen on the idea of using a porous veneer, so epoxy probably wouldn't be necessary.  Plus, if you keep the veneer clamped flat while gluing I don't think that there would be a huge chance of warping.

Bracing the pickguard sounds like a great idea.  You would never see the bracing.  You could even radius the pickguard slightly for appearance if you so desired.

As the purpose of a pickguard is to protect the guitar from scratches, it makes me wonder what the best finish would be.  Epoxy is tough, but scratch repairs would be more difficult.  I'm thinking that for a pickguard a polyurethane varnish might be a good choice.

I've used thinned out polyurethane in multiple coats for oak door thresholds and that was extremely durable.  I applied 30 thin coats and completely filled the oak grain and they really looked great.

I also plan to make wooden pickup mounting rings for the ES-335.

Now I'm thinking that maybe I need to make wooden knobs for the controls and switches.

Perhaps a layer of ebony veneer over the pickup tops. would look nice.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what I know, epoxy is about the hardest wearing finish you can get on wood, harder than poly save shellac or oil. I wouldn't worry about scratching an epoxy surface with a pick.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Epoxy may not scratch, but it won't be as controlable as a polyurethane varnish.  With the polyurethane I can just start adding thin layers until I achieve the look I desire.  Polyurethane is also quite durable and probably more flexible than epoxy.  So I'm leaning towards using polyurethane for the finish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Valid point made. My experience with epoxy has been the 2k glue, also my experience with 2k poly is quite thin. If you've learned a good way to achieve a result you require, why fix something that is not broken.

 

Edited by Bizman62
Removed a non-working <salute> smiley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...