Here at Tiny Tone, we specialise in handcrafting upgrade custom guitar and bass pickguards (or scratchplates depending what you call them). We’ve started this blog to share a bit of what we get up to, how we work, and to give you an insight into the processes of our workshop here in Manchester, UK.
Starting off with the basics, the first question that comes to mind is, ‘why should I upgrade my scratchplate?’
There are a few reasons why you may wish to upgrade. The most common reasons our customers have for commissioning a ‘guard usually include one or more of the following:
1: Most commonly- fancied a different colour!
Sometimes a new guard can completely refresh and revitalise a guitar, changing both the way it looks, and the way you look at it.
Many guitars (particularly Fender-shaped ones) just come from the factory with a plain black or white scratchplate, which is hardly the most interesting choice out there- usually chosen by a marketing executive for the same reason that so many hallways and living rooms around the world are decorated with magnolia paint: it goes with almost everything and is an inoffensive, one-size-fits-all solution designed to appeal to the broadest range of people possible.
However, here at Tiny Tone we believe every guitar should reflect its owner’s taste and personality! Why settle for the guard some guy in marketing chose for your guitar, when we can offer well over seventy different materials! Choose a point on the spectrum; a simple upgrade, such as to vintage white… or an authentic 60’s style tortoiseshell, or a solid metal, or something really whacky like wildcat yellow… Pick a material that suits you best and will look coolest on YOUR guitar! (unless magnolia’s your thing, of course- we ain’t judging)
Many guitars come with a tortoiseshell pickguard, and many of these look amazing right out of the box. However, there are many different shades of tortoiseshell too, and some look MUCH nicer than others. Also, unless you’ve shelled out big beans on a particularly fancy guitar with a celluloid pickguard, the tortoiseshell pattern will be printed on. If you look really close, on some guitars you can even see the individual pixels of the printed pattern (Harley Benton, we’re looking at you…).
Fear not however.
We offer several different varieties of high quality printed tortoiseshell material, and several top quality authentic celluloid material options too. If your current tortoiseshell guard doesn’t quite spark joy, we can help.
3: Changing pickups or control layout!
Why have all three pickups and a selector switch in your Strat, if you only ever use the bridge? We can make you a new pickguard with just the holes for your bridge pickup, volume and tone controls.
Sounds good, but you want a humbucker instead of a single coil in the bridge position? Why not?! We can make that happen too.
One of our most common modifications at the moment is changing pickup types, or adding or removing control holes.
Never use the rhythm circuit on your Jaguar? Simply get rid of it and have a guard made in a colour of your choice to cover up the holes!
Reckon your Strat would sound better with six pickups rather than three? Or how about with a Trisonic, a Goldfoil, a Charlie Christian and a Jazzmaster pickup for ultimate variety of sounds? We can help!
Check out this amazingly barmy list of oddball pickups – as long as you can send it in we can make your guard accommodate it!
4: The existing pickguard is warped or broken!
The disadvantage of celluloid material is that over time (don’t worry- we’re talking 40+ years here) certain varieties shrink, warp, and weaken over time as the material reacts with UV light and air which can cause older pickguards to give off gases and then crack. All pickguard materials(especially lighter ones) will discolour over time too- though perhaps not as rapidly now that smoking in pubs and venues has been outlawed. Once a guard gets to a certain point though, it’s time for a replacement! Like all other guitar components, it’s ultimately a perishable and replaceable part- just like your frets or jack socket.
A well-fitted scratchplate will withstand many more years of playing than a set of frets though, and most guitars will need a refret long before the pickguard wears out.
5: Finally: sometimes there is no existing pickguard!
Sometimes pickguards get lost- particularly on guitars with floating pickguards such as the Gibson Les Paul, or in the case of Fender Stratocaster backplates, many musicians remove the ‘plate and never use it again. Years pass, the pickguard/backplate is lost, and several owners later the guitar may need one again.
Sometimes however the guitar never came with one in the first place- don’t worry though, we can help! The process is a little more complicated, but with the right data we can create a pickguard to fit your guitar, even if the people that designed it never designed it that way.
So hopefully that covers it! Don’t get me wrong- plain white pickguards can look amazing.
But if your pulse doesn’t speed up a fraction every time you look at your guitar, just have a quick scroll through our choice of materials…
Our pickguards won’t make you play differently…
…But they might just make you want to play more