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Bound Archtop Pickguard Fabrication



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1. A Vintage Epiphone.  I recently completed some restoration work on this guitar including the installation of a new truss rod, but the job isn’t quite done.  I’m going to make a new bound-pickguard patterned after the missing original. 2. The Pattern.  This photo-copy of an early 1950’s Epiphone archtop pickguard will serve as my pattern.  I’ll glue the pattern to some .100″ thick celluloid with some light-weight spray adhesive from the hardware store.
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3. The Bandsaw makes quick work of the waste celluloid.  I’ll trace the rough-cut pick guard onto a piece of furniture-grade, finished plywood and use the bandsaw to rough-out a plywood template. 4. The Oscillating Spindle Sander simultaneously shapes the template and pickguard to the exact same profile.  The celluloid and plywood are temporarily held together with some thin double-sided carpet tape.
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5. A Marking Gauge is a very handy tool for layout.  I’m setting the marking gauge to scribe a line on my binding slightly thicker than the pickguard. 6. Scribing the Binding that will border the pickguard with the marking gauge marks my maximum depth of cut.
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7. A Binding Trimming Jig.  I ripped a small piece ⅛” thick plywood in two then hand-planed a taper into both pieces.  These boards are loosely held in place with my bench vise and bench dogs.  A small pencil line marks where the taper of the jig aligns with the scribed line on the binding. 8. Hand-Planing the Binding.  I’m using a block plane with a reasonably sharp blade with a cutting angle of 45 degrees to trim the binding to the maximum depth of cut line.  I hold the block plane with my right hand (the rear of the block plane is resting against a protruding bench-dog) as I pull the binding through the jig with my left hand.
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9. Bending the Binding.  I heat up a few inches of the celluloid binding at a time with a heat gun and bend them to the plywood template.  The binding holds its shape a little better if you over-bend the outside curves and temporarily tape the binding to the template as it cools.  Celluloid is highly flammable so I keep a fire extinguisher nearby! 10. Cooling Off.  It doesn’t take long for the binding to cool off and hold its curves without the assistance of tape.  Over the years I’ve benefited from my friend Troy Harris’s mandolin building experience.  He makes some fine mandos and has given me lots of great tips about binding and pickguard work.
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11. Gluing the Binding.  I’m using weld-on solvent cement (duco cement also works fine) to glue the binding.  Some moderate clamping pressure from my fingers for a minute or so aligns the binding long enough for the cement to take hold. 12. Clamping the Binding to the flat section of the pickguard is a snap with some light pressure from the template.
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13. Small Spring Clamps hold the binding extension in place as the cement dries.  I’ll set the project aside for a few days as the glue continues to cure and the cement’s solvents out-gas from the perimeter of the celluloid. 14. Hand-Planing the Binding Flush with the pickguard quickly gets rid of the waste.  A small, heavy, bronze block plane with a 50 degree cutting angle works well for this step.
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15. Sanding the Pickguard and Binding gets rid of the glue squeeze out, hand-plane marks and prepares the pickguard for buffing.  I’ll wet-sand with 600 grit, 1000, 2000 and 4000 grit sandpaper before buffing the celluloid with the red and white menzerna buffing compounds. 16. Hand-Polishing the pickguard with 3m imperial auto glaze makes the celluloid pretty shiny.
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17. Autumn Sunset is the name that Axiom Inc gives this hue of tortoise pickguard material. 18. Mounting.  I’ve fabricated an ebony mounting-block for the fretboard extension and super glued it to the back of the pickguard.  A counter-sunk brass screw will attach the bracket to the side of the fretboard extension.  An aftermarket bracket provided by the customer will attach the guard to the side of the guitar.
19. All Done.