Tortoiseshell Scratchplate Materials 101: Getting to know the different types of ‘tort’ pickguard sheets we offer
We have well over 120 different sheet materials available and it can be intimidating to select one that’ll refresh your guitar or add that final touch of class.
Some Tortoiseshell pickguards go well with almost every colour of guitar- and with 8 different shades, we have a variety to choose from! (By the way, none are made from real shells of tortoises..!)
Each one is either slightly or completely different, but by virtue of being a classic look in varying shades of red/brown, one will look good with almost anything.
First introduced by Fender in 1959, and previous to that by jazzbox manufacturers, tort was always a premium material designed to be highly decorative and a massive visual upgrade from the regular black, white and gold guards on offer up to that point.
Originally made entirely from Nitrocelluloid material, these used to be extremely flammable, unstable, would give off nitric acid and break down, destroying other hardware in the process. However, from 1965 onward Fender started using celluloid as just the decorative layer(beneath a clear top layer and above a 3-ply white base) which stabilised the guards somewhat. However jazzbox manufacturers continued to use fully celluloid centres for their instruments until much more recently, meaning even modern examples of certain guitars have experienced ‘gassing off’ of their bound pickguards.
As a modern, cheaper alternative to celluloid decorative layers, printing technology has enabled manufacturers to literally print out the decorative layer of their scratchplates. However, not all of these are created equal… some manufacturers have been known to use some rather nasty sheet materials, where printing dots, repeating patterns, and in some cases de-lamination of layers are painfully visible.
Give your guitar the upgrade it deserves today by choosing from our selection of carefully curated materials!
The variety of scratchplate sheet materials we offer can be a little intimidating at first (SO MANY CHOICES!) but don’t worry- I’ll break them down for you now so you can see the difference between each one and find the perfect pickguard for your project!
4-ply Tortoise (Type Ⓐ)
It’s a classic! This is our standard, base level tort. It gets the job done, and although it’s a printed design, it’s of excellent quality with zero print dots or pattern joins visible to the naked eye. This goes well with most guitars!
4-ply Red Marble Tortoise (Type Ⓒ)
A lovely dark red intensity to it and a very high quality print layer.
4-ply Celluloid Dark Red Swirl Tort – Type ①
Real celluloid alert! This stuff’s the real deal and looks fantastic. It’s a bit of a non-traditional pattern… but then a lot of companies offering homemade ‘traditional’ tort are making stuff that looks nothing like the original Fender materials, so there’s no shame in being intentionally different! Great big swirls in red and light cream, beautiful. Looks especially nice on bigger guards- P-Basses for example.
4-ply Celluloid Red Tortoise – Type ②
The closest we offer to 1960’s USA and 1990’s MiJ Fender material! This is deep red with yellow spots and looks amazing- super high quality, non-repeating, unpredictable… no two sheets are the same. Stock can vary, so ask us for a photo if you’d like to see what we have in currently!
4-ply Celluloid Brown Tortoise – Type ③
Your one-stop shop for Fender CBS/1970’s style tort! This looks amazing on most guitars from the 70’s due to it’s darker colour to match the darker tone of the times. Might very well suit the 2020’s, now that we think of it…
Stock can vary, so ask us for a photo if you’d like to see what we have in currently!
Vintage Translucent Tortoisheshell – Type ④
The CLASSIC for bound pickguards, but also looks beautiful when used as a regular pickguard material- the tone of your guitar’s finish will dictate how brown it looks.
Vintage Translucent Red Tortoisheshell – Type ⑤
It’s like the one above, but redder! Again, looks lovely on bound guards (particularly on natural-bodied jazzboxes), but can be amazing on regular guitars too- once again, it’ll look more or less red depending how light or dark your guitar’s body is.
So there’s a dazzling array of materials on offer here at Tiny Tone- and those are just the tortoiseshell ones!
The only thing left to do is pick out the perfect scratchplate material for you! But of course there’s no ‘correct’ answer, or ‘ideal’ scratchplate for any guitar- you need to go with your gut and choose the one that you think best works for YOU- just because Leo Fender chose bakelite in 1949, doesn’t mean you need to in 2023 and beyond!
We have sample images of all the materials mentioned above in our gallery HERE so you can see for yourself which one will work best for you- have a look and imagine how they’ll all look on your guitar collection!