I have ordered from a local supplier a 3 ply (plastic) tortoiseshell pick guard blank, in order to form a new pick guard/scratch plate  for a fender mustang bass.

I would greatly appreciate any help and advice on the best tools for the job  and cutting & drilling methods etc. in order to avoid splitting the plastic and other hazards.

The job consists mainly of just forming the shape from the blank rectangle; there is then only one humbucker pickup hole to be made and nine small holes around the perimiter of the pick guard where the screws locate to the body

Any help on cutting, forming, and drilling this material would be GREATLY appreciated


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Make a pattern form 1/2" stock. Trim blank to rough size with a band saw or coping saw. Stick that on your pattern. Use a pattern following routing bit to trim to final size. You'll need two bits if you want a chamfered edge and a straight pickup hole. Make sure you clamp while routing, drilling, and counter sinking the holes. It is a real PITA in my opinion. Okay for a custom guitar, but for an existing model; I just order those online. It's cheaper in the long run.

Cheers Thomas,

I would order online, but the Mustang bass is a new "pawn shop" model and there are no alternative scratch plates currently available, so I'm afraid it's "make my own"

Thanks for your help!!

Incidentlty what is "PITA" 

I have had custom configurations made by  I would ask if they can handle your request.

I would create a template for layout. A router would work, but so will a band saw and drill press:

Hi Brian.

I'm completely on the same page as Tom. It has more to do with cost effectiveness than the challenge of the task.

Making a pickguard for a Fender style guitar is an extremely labor and layout intensive chore as well as a major PITA (pain-in-the arse) process.  The angle on Fender's pickguard edges are especially difficult to shape and retain uniformity. When you figure in the material cost and time, it's almost always more cost effective to buy "custom" designs from the dedicated pickgaurd manufacturers.

Pickguardian, as suggested by Tom, is a premier & top quality provider of hard to find and custom guards.  If you send them the original guard, they'll reproduce it in the material of choice. I,too, recommend them highly.

Firstly, thanks for the help and info guys (I now know what PITA means ;-) !!

Seriously though I have contacted a local guitar technician who can make me a pickguard for 60 GBP.  

I have obtained a 3 ply tortoiseshell blank for 10 GBP., and while I'm no luthier, I am quite competent at minor repair work (fret dresses, cutting nuts & saddles, setups etc) and so I think the cost saving to be made is worth giving it a shot.

What I really wanted to know is, do I need to put masking tape over the plastic at the drilling points (similar to when drilling ceramic tiles) or is this not necessary, as my major concern is splitting the plastic.

As usual, great advice and any more help would be much appreciated


Hi Brian,

I'll try to give you some advice on drilling and cutting this stuff, I used to do quite a few one of knock off custom pickguards for damaged and broken Fender guards.

The advice you got from Thomas is good, but I sense you are making this for yourself and are not concerned with the amount of labour involved with the job.

If you are just making the one unit, I would stay away from routers etc. The problem with these is, you can destroy your material in an instant if the bit grabs, if you know what I mean.

Firstly, tape the old guard to the new material with double sided tape and transfer the layout using an awl or scribe. When drilling plastics it is best to use a dull drill bit if you are using a drill press, or if using a hand drill, run the drill in reverse. Basically, you don't want the bit to grab the material as it passes through. I would usually drill all the holes and the pickup hole through the new material when it was still taped to the old guard and clamped to a backer board, before I would cut the shape out. When drilling the corners of the pickup hole, use a smaller bit and enlarge the holes with a hand reamer, then use a coping saw or fret saw to cut the material between the corner holes, finish the cutout with fine rasp and files. Hopefully this explanation will be clear enough for you.

 Once all the holes have been drilled, countersunk, and the pickup hole finished, cut the shape out close ( 1mm or so) to the scribed line and finish using files, etc. I found that a fine rasp worked well to rough the shape down to the line, then a file to finish. I would chamfer the edge by hand with rasp, then file.

This all sounds labour intensive, but really, I could make a simple single pickup guard in well under an hour, using just hand tools and a drill.

Hopefully, this will be helpful to you.

Cheers, Cal


That's fantastic, exactly what I was looking for.

Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such in depth help and advice; quite a few tips I would not have thought of!

I now feel confident that I can tackle the job competently.

Thanks again..........Brian 

Your welcome Brian, I'm sure your project will work out fine, just take your time and don't rush. I remember the first couple took me some time to work through the problems, but after that, I found it to be a routine job.

One thing I forgot to mention, and I found this out just recently, They make special drill bits for drilling plastics. They can usually be found at shops that specialize in plastics, plexiglass, and lexan, etc.. You may want to check this out, if you live near a shop like this. Just thought I'd let you know.

Good luck,


One more thing, you will find that half round rasps and files will work well for this job.

So, here we are guys.............job done!!

Followed all Cal's advice, used double sided tape to stick and use the original as the template, and used all hand tools to avoid any mishaps.

Drilled all the holes and then used dowels to make sure there was absolutely no movement and then marked the shape and cut the pickup hole. After separating the two, I cut a close shape using a coping saw, finishing to size with a fine rasp.

As Paul mentioned in his reply, the angle of the pick guard's edge was the only dodgy part and after starting with a fine rasp, I then had a "moment of inspiration";  I tried drawing a craft knife along the edge to shape the angle and..............perfection!! I then realised the craft knife (used in the same way) was also superb for the flat edges and removing burrs

It took me a whole afternoon, but I'm pretty pleased with the result; see what you think!

Thanks for all the help and advice..........Brian


Nicely done.

That really looks nice.  I've done some bound fingerboards and some flat top/stick on but never one with all the cutouts. Nice job.


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