Removing acoustic pick guards applied with solvent

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.

Removing acoustic pick guards applied with solvent

Postby Paul Breen » Mon May 22, 2017 1:04 pm

Vintage acoustics such as Martin and Gibson used Acetone to apply their celluloid pick guards to bare wood and then finished over them. Over time, the celluloid shrinks and it is not uncommon for the shrinking pick guard to cause top cracks adjacent to the pick guards edges. The therapy is to remove the pick guard, do the repairs to the top and then re-install the the existing or a new pick guard.

I have done several of these and they typically are removed fairly easily using thin palette knives or the like. Some have just peeled right off, others have taken some careful prodding but I have never had too much trouble with this. I just did a late 50's Gibson B-25-12 pick guard removal and it was really stuck down. I am careful to pay attention to grain run out direction and run my palette knifes against and not into end grain. This particular top had no discernible change in reflection or chatoyance to determine grain direction. It turned out to be mostly parallel to the tops surface with areas where the grain followed an "S" or up and down, undulating direction. In other words, I had run out going both ways. I had a very difficult time with this one and pulled up an unhappy amount of wood. I have always done removal these cold and don't see any benefit to using heat. I was tempted to wick Acetone under the pick guard to dissolve it off but chickened out. It is a celluloid faux Tortoise which has become very difficult to find anything close these days, I really did not want to trash it.

Anyone have any methods to get stubborn pick guards like this off cleanly?
Paul Breen
Posts: 61
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:39 am

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