Introduction: How to Make a Guitar Pickguard

About: My name is Mitch. I make videos about the things I make and what I learn along the way. I have a Youtube Channel called Made by Mitch. I also love the coffee and the outdoors.

In this post I am going to show you how I made a pickguard for my guitar. I’ve had this guitar for a long time. The majority of my learning and playing has been with this guitar. It has traveled with me and been through a lot over the years. The plastic pickguard started to peel off a while back so I decided to make a new one out of walnut. This was a very challenging process for me, but it turned out great and looks good on the guitar as well. Check out the video for the all of the steps on how I made this.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Step 2: Prepare the Board and Cut Into Strips

I started with a scrap piece of rough cut walnut that was about 24” long and 6” wide. I first used the planer to get the rough sides off of the board and flatten it out. After this I had to cut the board into small pieces roughly ⅛” thick. I used the jointer jig on the table saw to cut off one rough edge of the board and then I used that new flat edge to run against the table saw fence to even up the opposite side. Then I started making “slices” of the wood. After each slice was cut I would move the fence 3/16 of an inch and make the next. This made the cuts roughly ⅛”. They weren’t all perfect but close enough. After I had all my slices cut out, I used my table saw sled to cut them in half down to 12”.

Step 3: Glue the Pieces Together

Next I had to glue all of the pieces together to make a solid piece that was about ⅛” thick. This was a very tedious process. I couldn’t use clamps to glue this together because of how thin the wood was. What I did was screw a scrap piece of wood with one straight edge to my workbench. I added glue the the edges of all the wood pieces and put them together in place up against board. Then I screwed another board on the opposite side of the pieces and used small wedges as a shim to get all of the pieces tight in between the two boards. This worked surprisingly well. The used paper on both sides of the wood pieces so the glue wouldn’t squeeze out on my workbench. This was a mistake. (More on that later) If you use anything to keep glue squeeze out clean, use wax paper. The last thing I did for this step was I put a board across the top of the pieces to hold it down from buckling upward. I screwed this board to my bench as well. I waited a day and then took this out of my makeshift clamp. It worked much better than expected.

Step 4: Sand and Flatten

After the panel was glued and dried, I spend about an hour getting the paper off of the panel. I used paper to prevent glue from getting all over my bench and this was a very big mistake. The paper obviously stuck to the wood and I thought I could just pick it off. Nope. I scraped, picked, scratched, and whatever else I could think of. I honestly thought I was going to have to start over. BUT after much perseverance, I got all of the glue off. I found the best thing to used for this was a razor blade. Once all of the glue was cleaned up, I sanded the panel really well. I started with 80 grit and went up to 220 grit. I finally started to see hope for this.

Step 5: Cut Out the Pickguard Shape

Before I could cut out the shape, I needed a shape to cut out. I am sure you can find templates online for a pickguard, but I had another guitar with a pickguard that I used the shape of. I just traced it onto a piece of paper and cut the shape out. I used hot glue to attach the paper to the wood panel and then I hot glued the panel to a sacrificial piece of wood before cutting it out. This made it much easier to cut and shape the pickguard without it chipping or cracking. If I wouldn’t have done this, I would not have been able to cut it out because it was very thin and brittle. Don’t use too much hot glue. You want just enough to temporarily hold this but not too much that would make it challenging to take off later (another mistake of mine) Then I used a jigsaw to cut the shape out. I made sure to cut about ¼” outside of the line. I then used a bench sander to shape the pickguard to the line to the final size. Once it was cut out, I used a flush cut trim saw to detach the pickguard from the scrap wood I hot glued it to.

Step 6: Apply Finish

Next I could apply finish to the pickguard. I had to repair a few little places that had started to crack. It was nothing major. Then I applied a coat of danish oil. As you may know, this is my favorite finish for walnut. It made this piece look amazing.

Step 7: Attach to Guitar

After the finish had dried, the pickguard was complete. All I had to do was attach it to the guitar. I cleaned the surface of the guitar and took the strings off. I added glue on to the pickguard and placed it on the guitar. The pickguard started to curl because it was so thin, so I added clamps all over it to keep it in place. After the glue was dry, The project was all complete. There was still some markings from where the former pickguard used to be, but I guess it gives it character. :)

Step 8: Video

Make sure you check out the video for this project to see all the steps I took in greater detail. It was definitely a challenging project but a fun one! If you liked this project, you might enjoy some of my other projects videos! Be sure to check them out and also follow me around the web.

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