Introduction: How to Make a Custom Metal Guitar Pickguard!

Some people are perfectly content with a plastic scratchplate, and that's fine.
But for the rest of us rebels, we need something different. This is for you guys.
This is my first instructable, complete with a plethora of errors and incoherent rambling!
I hope you enjoy it!

As for the making of it, not all of us can own laser cutters and other fancy gadgets that our fellow . . . instructablers? use.
Everything you see was done using these three tools (and maybe some really rough sandpaper)
~Rotary tool
~Tin snips
~Metal nibbler

Neither the nibbler nor the snips are pneumatic, they're hand operated (such a manly device, eh?)

This was my first time working with metal, so if an idiot like myself can do it, so can you!

Step 1: Picking Out Your Preferred Piece of Metal and Cleaning It.

Although you can pick many different types of metal for this, I chose steel. In retrospect, that was very stupid, considering that I wanted copper, and steel is infinitely harder to cut. So I picked up a sheet of 22 gauge galvanized steel. I then cleaned it up with alcohol, 600 grit sandpaper, steel wool, and some elbow grease! So once you've got it looking vaguely respectable, move onto the next step.

Step 2: Tracing Your Old Pickguard

This is so simple, I don't know why I made a step for it. I just took a sharpie and traced it, remembering that I want to cut to the inside edge of the marker's line. If you want to keep your old pickguard, just wipe off any sharpie with some alcohol.

Step 3: Trimming Off Excess With Tin Snips

Now for this step, I just took my snips and made some cuts here and there, taking off as much as I could so the nibbler could do it's work easier.

Step 4: Drilling Out the Pup Slots and Holes

I drilled out the pickup holes, and used the nibbler to edge my way around, finishing with the metal cutting bit, and the burr remover. I then used my plain old, black and decker drill from the stone age to drill the holes.

Step 5: Cutting With a Nibbler (hard Part)

This will take some major time and elbow grease, and you'll probably develop CTS from the nibbler, so take some breaks. The nibbler works just the way it's name says, by "nibbling" small, 2mm sized pieces of metal. Get close to the edge when you're cutting, but leave a bit to grind off.

Step 6: Using Sandpaper and a Dremel to Even the Sides

I used extremely coarse sandpaper to remove many edges, and then I used two attachments on my dremel. The burr removing one (orange and conical) and a tungsten carbide metal cutting bit. You can infer what I do with either of them.

Notice my ultra high tech mounting technique for my dremel ;)

Step 7: Cutting a Bevel

This isn't really necessary, but it makes me feel more professional. Using the metal cutting bit, with my ultra high tech mounted rotary tool (see picture;) I can make a small bevel.

Step 8: Semi-finished.

At this point, you could just stop, put it on, and say "To hell with it"
You could "brush" it, (essentially just thousands of parallel scratches from sandpaper. . . you can find tutorials on here), or opt for my method, which was to electroplate it with copper. I won't go in depth on this, as there are much more knowledgeable people on here who can help you with this.

Step 9: My Finished Guard!

I personally like the look of tarnished copper, as opposed to the nearly pink-peachy color it has after it's polished. However, if you dig that, you could hit it with some clear lacquer and be done with it.
Anyways, here she is!
I would post a clip, but since it's almost purely aesthetic, I don't really see the point.

If you stayed with me this far, thanks!
Have a good one guys.

Comments

author
kwj23452 (author)2014-08-24

This has given me another idea to play with in my endless upgrades! Since I see so many lefties on here, anybody got good sources for left handed switches? I keep thinking I can just reverse wire the 4pole righty, but alas... no...

any lefty sources are awesome.

Thanks and a great post!

author
rgale (author)2011-09-30

Left handed musicians FTW

author
wkirby (author)2011-09-19

I'm wanting to make one myself, but I'm looking at using copper clad printed circuit board. Should be LOTS easier to cut, & still have that copper look.

author
zmohar (author)2011-03-06

Nicely done with the copper plating!

In fact, I am trying to do the same exact thing: copper plate a galvanized steel piece. I tried a tester piece that I put into a 2parts white vinegar/1part hydrogen peroxide solution with a 9 volt current. After a few hours I got a really nice copper plating on the steel, but it quickly flaked off.

What type of solution did you use? Also, what voltage/amp current did you use? How did you clean/treat the steel before you plated it?

Any tips you can spare would be greatly appreciated!!


author
mattc_43 (author)2010-09-09

Do you need to earth the scratch plate? I was just wiring up my guitar with aluminium checker plate scratch plate and I don't know wether it'll shock me when im finished! Sorry if that sounds silly!

author
tvi (author)2010-08-29

hey this is probably a dumb question: where do you track down pieces of sheet metal like that? i'm doin a similar project makin some custom mounting rings for some filtertrons. any arrows in the right direction are appreciated.

author
guitarman63mm (author)tvi2010-08-29

Not a dumb question at all! I bought mine at Home Depot, probably $6 or so, I can't remember. You could try a machine shop too probably, but I'm not sure about their prices.

author
LeviMan_2001 (author)2010-03-30

You should take the ground lead from the electronics and wire it to the pick guard (the wire that attaches to the jack's sleevey part, Not the j shaped tip part). That way you have tooons of shielding from RF (buzz).

author

I did just that, I just didn't add that in to the 'ible because it's not pertinent to actually 'making' it.  It's the ultimate in shielding, especially if you were to line the cavity with copper foil or whatnot.

author

Yeah, I think I might make one of these when I re-do my fuzzy guitar this summer (never do black fuzz, it gets matted and ends up looking like pubes).

author
Iridium7 (author)2009-11-28

 I want to make a brushed steel look, how can I go about this?

author
guitarman63mm (author)Iridium72009-11-28

     To the best of my knowledge, "brushed" metal is really just many fine scratches that are placed in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing.  The most common designs is the 'straight' (for lack of a better term) brush, where there are many fine lines going in the same direction.  The other is a circular brush, with many circular scratches.
     To make the 'straight' scratches, all you need to do is go back and forth with a sanding block equipped with a fine grit (I would imagine about 400-150ish, anything higher, and you won't see it, anything lower, and it's doing more than just scratching), taking care to ensure it's STRAIGHT.  If it isn't, it will look silly.  I know, because that's what I tried to do when I originally made this.  I plated it afterward because my brushing wasn't perfectly straight.
      I don't know what you would use for the circular ones, other than those stripping bits that have many strands of wire that go into your drill.

Good luck.

author
Iridium7 (author)guitarman63mm2009-11-29

 thanks, to help me with the scratches I will probably use a... don't know/remember what it is called. it looks like a T and it will line up to a table... one of those things to help make them straight. 

author
guitarman63mm (author)Iridium72009-11-29

A carpenter's square?  Good luck.

author
chevyboy666 (author)2008-10-03

good to see someone beside me who's lefthanded. good job.

author
Wesley666 (author)chevyboy6662009-08-25

Jimi Hendrix was a lefty but played a right hand guitar strung left. He also couldn't read music, he played completely by ear.

author
chevyboy666 (author)Wesley6662009-08-25

Same as me! :)

author

i agree. Yay southpaws!!!

author
Zayk (author)wellcausedwall2008-12-20

Power to the leftys!

author
jimi wtf (author)2009-08-02

didn't u have any problem by using galvanized steel? because that metal is ferro-magnetic, doesn't that affect the pickups or something??

author
I-Bleed-Syrup (author)2009-05-29

Lefty Guitarists FTW!!!

author
blckthng (author)2009-05-26

Pretty cool, i was thinking of something a little more shiny for my Strat, any tips of how to achieve that?, btw i love the finish on your guitar...

author
guitarman63mm (author)blckthng2009-05-26

Something 'shiny' eh? Depends on what you mean by that. If you mean a shiny copper, you could just put a clear coat on it and that would do it.
For shiny steel or something to that extent, you could do a Nickel II sulfate bath (At least I think that's the compound you use for Nickel plating). I tried to do something like that with a Bigsby-esque tailpiece I made, but for whatever reason, the galvanized sheet metal from Home Depot wouldn't take to it (or maybe my amperage was too low?)
Thanks, although the photos don't really do it justice, the flash washed it out. It's a simple mahogany stain on alder with tung oil.

author
abadfart (author)2008-07-30

i miss my chrome pick guard but i had to get rid of my telly :(

author
killerjackalope (author)2008-07-12

Hah, after seeing you chose steel I nearly went back and said you could electroplate it, but you did anyway... Another great thing about doing that is the steel is a lot tougher so a bump wont dent it compared to relatively soft copper, the tarnished copper looks great with the dark wood aswell, nice job. One thing I personally would add would be kind of large rivet style bolt heads to the attaching bolts, to give it a slightly more industrial look. Also you could electroplate the outer plate on the output jack cover to match the copper pickguard and if you wanted to go reall far you could plate the strings (assuming you use metal) without changing sound output that much, for the bolts gold might look nice on copper though highly polished chrome or silver looks nice as well... I went a bit mad there...

author

Thanks man, glad somebody else liked it haha. As for the rivets, maybe if I decided to go for that "steampunk" sort of look, I would have. I tried electroplating the nickel, but it didn't take. Go figure! I actually buy John Pearse strings for all my acoustics and hollowbodies, and those are bronze wound, so I suppose that as close as I could get? Cheers!

author

Well the rivets would give it a different look though not necessarily steampunk it would be similar, I just like that industrial look and I also thing big shiny bolts are a good addition to everything except cutlery... I would have thought you could take a bronze wound string and plate it easily enough but it may not stay too well and may come off as the string wears over time...

author
John Smith (author)2008-07-13

cool! very nice

author
LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-07-12

Very nice. Electroplating is a good option considering how expensive copper is. 5/5

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Bio: Well, I'm a musician, and left handed. That, and the fact that I like to make stuff. That's pretty much it. Oh, and ... More »
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