Make a DIY Custom Guitar Pickguard

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About: I'm Darin and I am a DIY guy because I looked at something that needed to be done and said, "I can make that." Not always perfect, but I learn each time and get better. I post my projects to both ...

A neighbor asked me if I could help him make a custom pickguard for his son's guitar. I said, "Sure, I can make that."

He provided me with a sheet of the material which is a plastic of some kind meant to be used for pickguards. He also gave me the original pickguard off of the guitar to use as a template.

Materials Needed:

  • Scrap of 3/4" wood (I used plywood) big enough to be a template for the pickguard
  • Pickguard Material (You can find this on Amazon - here is an affiliate link to a list )
  • Double-sided tape

Tools Needed:

  • Bandsaw (or jigsaw or handsaw that can cut curves)
  • Drill press (or drill)
  • Router with flush-trim bit and chamfer bit (chamfer is optional)
  • Sandpaper (I used sanding drums on the drill press as well as plain sandpaper by hand)

I grabbed a scrap piece of 3/4" plywood and traced the shape of the original pickguard onto the plywood and cut that out. I used a bandsaw but you could use a jigsaw as well, or whatever cutting method you feel comfortable with and have available to you.

Step 1: SAND TO SMOOTH AND REFINE SHAPE

I have a set of sanding drums that fit on my little drill press. I put on a mid-sized drum and used it to refine the shape and get it as smooth as possible. This may take more or less work depending on how carefully and successfully you cut out the shape in the first place. You will want it as smooth as you can get it because little ripples or dents will show in the end product if they exist in the wood.

Step 2: ATTACH TO PICKGUARD MATERIAL

When I was happy enough with the shape of the template being smooth enough, I added some double sided tape.

NOTE: You must be careful here to have the template facing the right direction. This particular pickguard material is white on the back and patterned on the front and the shape needed to be oriented a certain way to go onto the guitar with the pattern facing out. So which side the material is taped onto the template does matter.

It is also worth noting that I left the protective coating on the pickguard material to keep it from getting scratched up as I worked on it.

I taped the template onto the back of the material facing the direction I needed it to be.

Step 3: CUT THE SHAPE

The reason for the wooden template is so I could use a flush-trim bit on the router to cut the material. The flush-trim bit is a straight bit with a bearing (wheel) on the end. So the wheel will follow the shape of the wood, while the cutting part of the bit will cut the material in the shape that it is following around the template. (Watch the video linked below to see it in action)

After cutting it out, I put a chamfer bit in the router and cut a chamfer (bevel) into the edge of the material. The original guard had this so I put one on the new one, as well. The material is actually layered so the profile of the edge has different colored layers and the bevel makes that feature more visible.

Step 4: DRILL THE HOLES

I used the double-sided tape again and taped the original guard together with the newly cut one. This was so I could use it as a template to drill the screw holes where they needed to be. I just lined up the holes on the drill press and drilled through them into the new guard on the bottom of the stack.

Step 5: COUNTER SINK

The original guard had the screw holes widened slightly so the screws would be counter-sunk. So I used a slightly bigger bit and set the stop on the drill press so it would barely touch the guard so it would just widen the opening of the screw holes a tiny bit.

Step 6: CLEAN UP EDGES

I removed the protective sheets from the new guard and used some sandpaper to clean up an rough edges from the cutting and drilling.

Then it was done.

They were very happy with it.

Step 7: VIDEO

You can watch me build this project in this video.

Thanks for checking this out.

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    8 Discussions

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    lanceG28

    3 months ago on Introduction

    Every trade magazine for guitars list the material as “celluloid”. That’s the same material(obviously) as celluloid picks. I’ve been looking around for a source locally that has that, I was thinking a trophy shop but I can’t seem to find one of those either. I’m building custom designs, so I rarely am able to use prefab pick guards. Nice work. Though(I couldn’t tell from your video) the edge(s) that abuts the neck/fretboard isn’t chamfered.

    3 replies
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    dcameroneillanceG28

    Reply 3 months ago

    I believe he deliberately did not bevel the edge that goes by the guitar neck. This is standard on most pickguards. On pickguards that have openings for pickups, the pickup holes are typically left un-beveled as well.

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    DarinBearddcameroneil

    Reply 3 months ago

    I did bevel those holes (countersink) only because they were on the original that they gave me as the template. But I also beveled the edge behind/adjacent to the neck because I messed up. I realized it after the fact. But it didn't ruin it or make it any less effective. They were happy with it which was the end goal. Thanks.

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    DarinBeardlanceG28

    Reply 3 months ago

    You can buy the blank sheets on amazon last I looked. Yes, you are correct that the neck side should not have the chamfer, which I didn't realize until after I made this one. Good tip, though. Thanks.

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    ShannonW49

    3 months ago

    Nice job. I hadn't considered making my own pickguards, but now I may just try it out. I don't have access to the tools you have, so... Hey, Dremel, get your new hat, here we go! :)

    1 reply
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    DarinBeardShannonW49

    Reply 3 months ago

    It could be done many different ways. This was just the way I did it. Good luck. It was fun.