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Questions and Answers

Pick Guard

Q: I have a small Larrive'e (guitar) that I love to tote around when travelling and it sounds great for its size. It doesn't have much of a pick guard though. I'm pretty handy with wood and would like to make a a guard and put it place. Would a diy job potentially damage the accoustics? Are there certain woods I should avoid or use, certain glues to use or anything else I should know - assuming of course its a job a handy guy could do? It has mahogony back and sides with solid sitca spruce top. Please tell me if I shouldn't attempt it. I wouldn't want to botch it.
Thanks much
James Boles
Saltspring Island, B.C.

A: The only function of a pickguard is to stop you from wearing a hole in your guitar. The sound of the guitar comes from the top vibrating. Arguably, any pickguard hurts the tone, but thinner, smaller, lighter pickguards hurt it the least. Originally, pickguards were glued to the bare spruce and then the finish went on over them. This created a unique set of problems. The pickguard on your Larrivee is glued on top of the finish. With mineral spirits, and great care, you can just peel it off. There are a variety of wood veneers, pearl laminates, and plastics that would make a good pickguard. Many of them come preshaped with glue already on the back. Just peel and stick. For an original shape or material, there are sheets of stickum available. Check stewmac.com. You can also use contact cement. A buffing wheel is an invaluable tool for shining plastic.

Play the hell out of your guitar. See where the scratches are. Your new pickguard needs to be big enough to cover the scars. Two things to note: Your new pickguard will not add to the resale value of your guitar. The best job you could possibly do would not damage the resale value much. And, your guitar is finished with a modern, bullet proof urethane varnish. You can leave a mark with a pick, but it will take a many decades, of very hard use, to actually wear down to bare wood.

Many Larrivees have clear pickguards. Inevitably, there is a fine line of glue exposed where the pickguard meets the top. Dirt collects on the glue and eventually your beautiful clear pickguard is outlined in dirt. Any opaque pickguard material will solve this problem.

Steve Mason


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