As promised, I thought today I’d write down some of my thoughts on the creative process of aging our pickguard.
First things first, we tossed aside our Baja Tele’s single-ply black pickguard and went hunting for a nice retro-style mint green one to replace it. Unfortunately, finding a mint-green guard in a 5-hole configuration wasn’t as easy as I expected, but in the end we purchased a nice one from Callaham Vintage Guitars & Parts online.
The screw holes weren’t a “dead match,” but they were damned close, and certainly good enough for our purposes.
After some rough sanding to generally rough-up our pickguard, the next step was to bust out a nice straight razor (be careful, folks!!!) and whittle down some of the edges and whatnot.
Obviously, you’re going to have to get creative here, and do your best to emulate the wear & tear of a good many years of hard playing… how you do this will really just come down to personal taste.
After banging the pickguard up real good (including many dings and scratches from various tools in our workshop––screwdrivers, pliers, etc,) we sanded everything down a bit more to soften up the razor-sharp edges, and then got to adding some grime to the whole thing.
As we discovered while dirtying-up the body of the guitar, a nice can of brown oil-based wood stain is perfect for adding some nasty layers of crud to your Relic.
Pour some onto a cotton ball or rag and you can just rub it right in. It should seep into the cracks and dings that you created in the last step, making them look age-old and doused in sweaty goodness.
If you find that you’ve used too much you can always remove it with some light sanding or some strategically placed paint thinner––both work well.
In our case we were aiming for a final pickguard that was aged yellow with time and grime, so after getting all the nicks and scratches just the way we wanted, it was time to bust out the nitrocellulose paint.
Once again we turned to our trusty can of Guitar ReRanch Fender Neck Amber, and after a few practice runs managed to get a nice, light coat in just the right shade of yellow.
After painting the whole pickguard and letting it dry for a few hours, we went back in with some sandpaper and sanded a soft-edged “corridor” down the center of our pickguard (see photo at top.) IT came out really nice.
Then it was just a matter of putting a few clear top-coats over the yellow, and we were done. Of course, the top coats were way too glossy for our purposes, so we had to sand the pickguard yet again to take the sheen off.
That’s pretty much it, but don’t be fooled.. this process actually took quite some time. We made numerous mistakes in learning how to apply the wood stain and paint, and often had to use paint thinner to take everything back down to the original mint-green and start all over again.
It was arduous for sure, but also a lot of creative fun. Here’s a nice, fat high-res photo for those who want to see the pickguard close-up. It’s a bit grainy, but probably worth a look.