"Self adhesive" pickguards installed on top of the finish
Removing Pickguards

© Frank Ford,7/12/98; Photos by FF, 7/12/98

Most modern guitar manufacturers install pickguards on top of the finish using an adhesive similar to 3M product #467. It comes on a roll like tape and is applied to the back of the plastic pickguard material. Later, when it's time to stick the pickguard down, the protective paper backing is removed exposing the adhesive, and the pickguard is simply pressed in place.

Either to replace a loose or damaged pickguard, or to change the cosmetic look of a guitar, it's often necessary to peel off the old pickguard. I don't believe it is ever possible to remove and reinstall the same one, because of the curling effect caused when the pickguard is taken off.

When the time comes to remove the pickguard, it's a relatively simple matter. I just get out my hairdryer and warm the plastic to make the glue underneath pliable enough to peel the pickguard off safely:

The heat is mighty important! I've seen people pull huge hunks of spruce loose by tugging on the pickguard and pulling faster than the glue can release itself.

The glue is really sticky stuff. Just look at the strings of it stretching as I pull this Martin D-28 pickguard off:

This one will leave a thick layer of sticky glue behind. That's typical of pickguards that have been on for a while.

This nearly new Taylor pickguard came off very neatly, and only a little glue remained in a few spots:

In either case I can remove the glue by repeated wiping with naphtha:

Naphtha won't affect either the Martin's delicate lacquer or Taylor's modern catalyzed finish.

Look at the Taylor:

This is a five month old guitar which is already getting a light suntan. The pale shadow under the pickguard will even out nicely as the guitar ages. Even the youngest guitar may show something of a "tan line" when you take its pickguard off.

Now look at the ten year old Martin:

Believe it or not, the color is so deep in the wood that it is impossible to remove it even by stripping the finish and sanding aggressively.

Moral: If you have a new guitar and think you may want to remove the pickguard and install a clear one, you'd better act fast!

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