gluing pickguards

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Sandy Winters
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gluing pickguards

Post by Sandy Winters »

Hi guys. I've been away for a while.

Has anyone here ever tried gluing real celluloid pickguards on a top the way Gibson used to do it?? They would glue the pickguard down to the top with acetone after several coats of lacquer (on top of a sunburst or clear) and then continue with several more coats of lacquer. Final wetsanding and buffing was completed with the pickguard already installed. That's how they would get that beautiful beveled, continuous edge on the pickquard. I'm not sure if Martin did the same thing or not. (maybe they both still do but I doubt it.)

I'm building an Advanced Jumbo clone and have a sheet of celluloid pickguard material that I got from Gibson Montana several decades ago. I'd like to give it a try...if anyone has any experience please let me know. Thanks
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Barry Daniels
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Barry Daniels »

Most manufactures have gotten away from acetone gluing because the pickguard can delaminate years down the road if the top wood dries out and shrinks. Double stick adhesive is sold specifically for this purpose by luthier suppliers and it provides a bit of stretch if the top moves differently from the guard. It is usually applied on top of the finished top instead of on bare wood. Even old Martins are being retrofitted with this type of pickguard attachment, if they need to be repaired after the top has cracked from a shrinking pickguard or top.
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Sandy Winters
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Sandy Winters »

Thanks for the reply.

Does anyone here on the forum have any experience with the acetone technique described above??
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Tom Owen
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Tom Owen »

I have plenty of experience with (repairing) this method. Simple answer, don't do it. Celluloid and lacquer shrink at different rates, leading the pickguard to the dreaded "potato chipping" There is a reason that Martin, Gibson, et all don't use this method anymore, it does not work. Just sets up a job for a repair guy in the future. Use the 3M double sided adhesive sheets on top of an already finished guitar.
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Bryan Bear
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Bryan Bear »

Is it the beveled edge look that is drawing you to this method? I think the consensus is, in the long run, that practice causes several problems. A beveled pickguard taped to a finished top can still look good if a bit different. Especially after years of shrinkage.
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Clay Schaeffer
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Sandy,
If you have some small scraps of the pickguard material and a scrap of top material you could "test on scrap" as is recommended for most finish work. That might show some of the pitfalls and help you find a good technique to have a good outcome.
On an early Martin made (S.S. Stewart branded) mandolin the pickguard was inlet into the top and glued on before any finish was applied. It had a unique shape. Thankfully, it was still with the instrument because fitting a replacement would be a PITA. I'm glad most makers have gotten away from doing this.
Allyson Brown
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Allyson Brown »

Thank you for the techniques you shared. They are worth checking out.
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Glenn Howland
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Glenn Howland »

Just as matter of interest, I have a '59 Gibson LG2 that had the original pickguard glued on to bare wood. The guitar was then finished. I'm thinking of how I'll be gluing a replacement on (the original shrunk and warped). At this point I'm considering smoothing the underside wood to a near-finish level and then hitting it with a few coats of shellac. When that's dry is should work well with adhesive tape. I hope.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Barry Daniels »

I like to build up the finish with lacquer because it is usually compatible with the surrounding finish, and it builds up better than shellac.
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Allyson Brown
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Allyson Brown »

Do you use press when gluing pickguard?
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Barry Daniels
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Re: gluing pickguards

Post by Barry Daniels »

No. I always use the adhesive film sold by Stewmac for this. I don't use this because it is easier (which it is), but because when the pickguard shrinks in the future, it will not crack the top of the instrument. Also, it will be less traumatic to remove when it needs replacement.
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