I recently bought a used white Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster. Great guitar, but I wanted to put a different pickguard on it. After doing some searches, I discovered that some people are turning their old vinyl records into pickguards! Cool idea - so I thought I would give it a try.
This Instructable shows you how to turn your old vinyl LP records into a standard shaped pickguard for a Tele style guitar. I'm guessing this will take most people about an hour to do - assuming you have the record picked out and all your tools ready to go.
- Vinyl LP record of your choice
- Your existing pickguard to be used as a template
- Painter's tape (optional)
- Wood awl or other scratching device
- Rotary tool including cut-off wheel, 1/2" and 1/4" sanding drum bits
- 100 grit sandpaper
- Drill and "step" drill
- Utility knife
The main issue is that you will be working with a rotary tool cutting through vinyl - expect pieces of the vinyl to be flying all over... and potentially into your eyes.
- Safety glasses are a must!
- Mechanic gloves to avoid injury from sharp plastic shards and the utility knife. Unless you like playing your guitar with bandages on your fingers.
- Hearing protection due to the high pitch scream of the rotary tool. If you want to blow your hearing, do it with your guitar, not a power tool.
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Step 1: Step 1 - Layout and Trace the Pickguard on the Record
How you position the label is a mater of personal choice. Keep in mind that the neck pickup will have to be accounted for (and might mess up how you want your label to look). Plus where the record hole ends up might be an issue for you as well.
1. Position the template: Get a general idea how you want to position and orient the label. Move your old pickguard ("template") around on the record to get an idea where you want the label to be. You only have so much record to work with, so make sure you don't have the template pickguard hanging over the edge. Unless that's what you want to do.
2. (Optional) If you want to make sure you label is square to the pickguard:
- Use painters tape as a reference line on the record. Put some paper or something under the tape that goes over the label. If you don't, you risk pulling off some of the label... as I found out the hard way.
- Using something square (like a piece of paper), you can align the bottom of the pickguard to be square with the label.
3. Trace the template - Once you have the old pickguard where you want it:
- Hold the pickguard in place and trace with some kind of scratching tool.
- If you used the painters tape you probably will not be able to scratch through it. After the initial tracing, remove the template and the tape, then put the the template back (use your previous scratches as a guide) and finish the trace where the tape was.
Note about tracing: I used a wood awl. This was probably not the best thing to use. The problem is that when you are tracing the outline, the awl is actually making a line slightly away from the template. When you do the final cutting/sanding., this causes your final shape to be slightly bigger that the template. If you want to use something like an Exact-O knife, that will probably work. But it might damage your old pickguard in the process.
Step 2: Step 2: Cut the Pattern Out of the Record - Rough Cut
Use the cut-off tool with the rotary tool to get the basic shape cut out.
Step 3: Step 3: Cut the Pattern Out of the Record - Sanding
1. Use the sanding bits with the rotary tool to do the next part. I used the 1/2" sanding bit/drum for the outside sanding and the 1/4" for the neck pickup opening.
- When you hold the tool, make sure you hold the sanding bit so the middle of the bit is hitting the edge of the record. If the bit is held too high, the record can slip under the drum and scratch the surface of the record.
- Use a utility knife to score the paper on the label. This will help make a clean cut when you sand away the vinyl.
- Use gentle, long strokes with the sanding drum. It was surprisingly easy to get the extra vinyl removed and get right up on those trace lines.
- If the vinyl starts to melt, then its too hot and you are not sanding - you're just making blobs of plastic that are harder to work with. Move to a different spot until the vinyl is cool enough to actually sand.
2. Use 100 grit sandpaper to do the finish sanding/shaping on the edges. This will remove the rough edges and smooth out the curves.
Note: As I mentioned before about the error in tracing due to using the wood awl, I had to compensate for that difference when I did the sanding. This leads to inaccuracies in the final product - as we see in the next step.
Step 4: Step 4 - Fitting and Adjusting
If the tracing process was perfect, then this part would not be as much of a pain. The neck pickup, neck pocket and lower "horn" where perfect! But due to errors in tracing and sanding, the bridge and control plate where slightly off. I had to go back with the sanding bits and open up the neck pickup area and widen the neck opening slightly to get things to fit properly. The neck and pickup were OK after the adjustment, but the lower horn was now slightly off. Not a huge deal - but it all has to do with how well you can do the initial tracing.
Step 5: Step 5 - Mark and Drill the Holes
Record vinyl is pretty thin and flimsy for the most part. This means that you will probably need to have the extra three screws that many of the after market pickguards have (like the one I used in the pictures for this Instructable). Since our new pickguard will not be positioned EXACTLY the same as the old one, we need to make sure the holes in the guitar and pickguard are going to line up properly.
1. Position the new pickguard on the guitar.
2. Place the old pickguard over the new one so it is in the position it would be in if it where the only pickguard on the guitar.
3. Holding the old pickguard in place, use the awl to mark where the holes should go.
4. Take both pickguards off the guitar.
5. Drill the holes in the record using a step drill bit. The step drill bit is critical for drilling holes in any kind of plastic. If you use a regular twist drill, you WILL cause the record to chip/break at the hole. I got a set from Harbor Freight and can't recommend them enough for drilling plastic... or thin metals. Seriously, best $8 I've ever spent.
Step 6: Step 6 - Clean the Record Properly
If you are a true audiophile from the 70's/80's then you will understand the importance of taking care of your vinyl properly. This is optional for younger guitarist, but required for us older guys.
Step 7: Step 7 - Finishing Up... and Closing Thoughts
As you can see from the previous steps, the existing holes in the guitar body lined up pretty good with our new template. Your last step is to figure out what kind of screws to use. Since the records are so thin, I'm not sure I would want to countersink the holes in the vinyl. I'm thinking of using a black pan head style screw when I decide on my final pickguard record.
I'm thinking of doing this with with a few more records just to see which one I like best before I pick a final one. I did my first try on a Jethro Tull record because it was the first one I grabbed... and I used Johnny Winter for this example (but he was more of a Gibson Firebird guy back in the day). So now I'm leaning toward a Keith Richards or Danny Gatton record next time - any suggestions?
Thanks for looking at this - please let me know if there any any corrections or if you have any questions!