I haven't posted an Instructable for a long time; I've been busy creating custom rat rod bicycles on ratrodbikes.com. Search for me, OddJob, on the Forum and you will get a taste of what I've been up to!
My other passion in life is music. I play guitar and violin / fiddle and sing in a couple of different groups.
A couple of years ago, I saw a custom Fender Telecaster on the internet with some cool upgrades, including a pick guard that gave it a real 'country' look. It was a western style engraved piece of leather, hand tooled, and it was gorgeous! Since I don't have those specific tools (yet) for leather work, I recently made a trip to my local fabric store in search of alternatives.
In the steps that follow, I outline my project to create a custom Telecaster model pick guard, as seen in the title photo on my 1980's made in Japan Fender Telecaster.
- 1/3 yd of faux leather western print fabric
- Plastic stencil blank
- 3M Super 77 Strength spray adhesive
- Sharp cutting tools: scissors, box cutter
- Raw Sienna 100% acrylic paint
- Telecaster pick guard template
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Step 1: Template Selection and Material Cutting
I had an extra Telecaster pick guard that was not being used on a guitar presently. So I used that one (the first photo, and whiter one in the second photo) as my template for cutting. I traced around the guard on to the back side of the faux leather material. It's a cotton backing and lighter in color so the black Sharpie shows up well.
As you can see in the second photo above, the template guard has the same shape and dimension of the original guard from my Tele, and the holes line up, which is very important to mounting the new custom guard. Not all of the Fender Telecasters have exactly the same shaped guard, so make sure you either use the original or have an exact copy for your template.
After tracing the shape onto the back of the material, I used a sharp sewing scissors and a box cutter razor blade tool to cut out the shape. The fit is very exact on the guitar around the control panel, bridge pick up and neck pick up. Make sure you cut so that there is NO Sharpie line remaining on the fabric. That will offer your best fit.
Step 2: Matching the Color to Your Guitar
Next, I took my guitar strap to the fabric / craft store to get a close match with the strap for the final color of my custom pick guard. The original fabric color is too dark for my mustard colored with maple necked Tele, so I found an acrylic paint in the Raw Sienna color that worked out well. In the first photo above, you can see how the original dark chocolate brown was transformed into more of a buckskin brown using the paint.
I applied the paint with a cotton linen scrap, so there are no pills or strands of cloth in the finish. Rub it in a circular pattern, to fill in all the crevices and lines of the leather pattern.
Then I took another clean part of the same rag, and wiped across the material to take off excess paint and bring out the relief in the western style tooling. I did this while the paint was still wet, without waiting in between the application and the dry rubbing.
Step 3: Cutting the Backing Material and Gluing
The fabric isn't thick enough or rigid enough to be used by itself as a pick guard. I found a plastic sheet that is sold as a blank for cutting your own stencils at the fabric store that was the dimension (thickness) that I wanted. It could be a little stiffer to provide more of a rigid finished product, but it sufficed for the first time around. I was basically looking for something that would end up being relatively the same thickness once glued together, as the original pick guard.
I used my template Tele guard to again trace the pattern on the plastic sheet, and then scissors and razor blade to cut it to the exact shape. Again, remove all the Sharpie line and you should be right on for fit.
Then I sprayed the plastic backing shape with 3M Super 77 (their highest strength) spray adhesive, and while it was still tacky, pressed my faux leather pick guard on to it. Be careful that you get the cut out for the neck pick up and the neck cut out exactly laid over the top, as well as the top curve of the control panel. These are the most crucial to proper fitting on the guitar.
I did trim the plastic backing where it was too wide in a couple of places, but the fit was pretty spot on.
Step 4: Affixing the Guard to the Guitar
To get the holes lined up exactly where they should be, I used the original pick guard to the Telecaster, not the extra template. I used a sharp 8d ( eight penny) nail to punch the holes in my custom guard. While laying the original guard over mine, I held it steady, and tapped the nail all the way through the faux leather and the plastic backing into my wood underneath. Then after all the holes were punched, I twisted the nail through each hole, from the top side down, to make it wide enough for the screws that came with the guitar.
My hole on the 'thumb' of the Telecaster was a little off, so I simply removed that screw with all the others still in place on the guitar, applied two strips of double faced 3M tape (very thin tape used for hanging their window insulation plastic) to the outside curve and neck curve of the thumb, and then pressed it into place. I was able to lift up the tip of the thumb of fabric and modify my punched hole by twisting the nail through at a slight angle to hit the hole right on.
Step 5: Final Thoughts
The guard turned out really well! It has a very leather like look, and gives it that 'country vibe' I was looking for in a custom pick guard.
The soft material does change the reflective sound of the strings over that portion of the body. It's not nearly as bright, or articulate as the hard plastic original guard was. With some adjusting of my pedal board and the tones on the guitar, I was able to achieve the sounds I was looking for in every setting on the guitar pick up selector.
Overall, I am very pleased with this first attempt, and will definitely be trying this again on other guitars.
Thanks for watching, and it's good to be back on Instructables again!