Pickguards on electric guitars serve a few purposes. As with pickguards on acoustic guitars, they keep the body from absorbing the scratches inflicted by aggressive strumming. However, for many electric guitars, they provide something to mount the electronics to as well. Leo Fender modeled this idea from Henry Ford: it makes the electronics easy to work on or replace by simply removing a handful of screws.
One of my guitars, an Ernie Ball/Music Man Silhouette Special, comes with an interesting feature that really should be standard on many electronics-on-the-pickguard electric guitars. The entire pickguard assembly attaches to the guitar with a Molex connector. These are snap-on connectors that allow the guitarist to wire up several pickguards with many variations in pickups and electronics, and connect to the output jack and ground with just a snap-on connector. So I could loosen the strings, remove screws and snap in a new pickguard in a few minutes, with no soldering required. I get my connectors from Mouser Electronics.
While storing these ‘loaded up’ pickguards, I noticed that one of them (surprisingly the stock one) started bowing itself into a bowl shape. When I wanted to use it, there was no way it was going to fit on the guitar. Yes, I could have forced it, but putting slight pressure on the edges caused the middle to bubble up, so more drastic methods were needed.
Now before I describe what worked for me, keep in mind that the risk you take is your own (like my risk was my own), and if what I tried doesn’t work for you (and makes things worse), it isn’t my fault. This is just what worked for me. DO NOT TRY this on anything made of celluloid, as it is flammable.
First thing I did was pose a question on the Seymour Duncan User Group Forum. Answers ranged from using an iron to putting it in the sunlight between two heavy panes of glass for a few hours. Since I don’t even know if I own an iron, and I certainly don’t have two panes of glass sitting around, I tried doing this in an oven. Yes, an oven. I figured if I accidently roasted it I would have to buy a new one anyway, so I might as well try.
I carefully removed the electronics, (DO NOT leave them on, silly) and preheated the oven to 220 degrees F. While it preheated, I put some aluminum foil on a cookie sheet, and placed the pickguard face-up in the center. When the oven was hot enough, I put the cookie sheet in for 10 minutes. I kept the oven light on, watching to make sure I didn’t see any discoloration, further warping, or flames.
When the ten minutes were up I removed the cookie sheet. The pickguard was certainly better, and there was no discoloration. It wasn’t perfect, though. I placed wax paper over the pickguard and placed the heaviest books on my shelf on top of the foil. I knew the plastic was still soft coming out of the oven, and if the pickguard wasn’t perfectly flat it would have cooled down with some warp left in it. The books assured that the pickguard would remain flat as it cooled, and press out any other warps.
The result? Well, it worked! Perfectly flat now, I replaced the electronics and snapped the pickguard back into the guitar. I used it for the shows I needed it for, and then replaced it with my favorite pickguard, loaded with a Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro & Custom Custom, and 5-way Super Switch.
From now on, I will make sure the pickguards are stored face down in a cool place so this doesn’t happen again. While I know now a warped pickguard isn’t hard to fix, I don’t want to have to take the extra time to do it, especially when I want to just snap in a pickguard and rock.
This was a fun project that was easy and turned out great. Best of all, it saved this musician some money for a new pickguard. Like many musicians, I hate spending money on fixing things – I’d rather have a new pedal or some new pickups!
Do you have any DIY fixes for common problems on your guitar or bass? Share them here or on the Seymour Duncan User Group Forum and help out the guitar and bass-playing community.