Replacing a Martin Pickguard

The pickguard fell off this 1970s Martin D-35. That’s not uncommon on this model. Here’s how to create and attach a replacement guard that looks as good as the original.

Martin pickguard replacement

It’s not uncommon for Martins to need pickguard repairs. From their early years until sometime in the 1980s, Martin pickguards were glued to the top before the guitar’s finish was applied. Over time, these pickguards start to shrink, causing the glue to give out. Once that glue lets go, the shrinking process accelerates and the pickguard is on its way to coming off. If not attended to, the pickguard may shrink to 15 or 20 percent of its original size, revealing an unfinished area that used to be covered. If thia is caught early enough, the edge of the pickguard can be reglued, stopping the process before it gets out of control.

Martin Pickguard Replacement

In the case of this D-35, the pickguard is already gone. The owner noticed the loosening guard, took it off, and threw it away.

If this were my guitar, I’d have kept the guard and reinstalled it even if the shrinkage was evident. I always prefer to see the stock items on the guitar, even if it’s compromised a little. But in this case the decision was made for me, and I’m making a new guard.

I place a section of Mylar on the guitar and tape it in place.

Martin Pickguard Replacement

I carefully trace the outline of the guard and then cut it out of the Mylar.

Martin Pickguard Replacement
Martin Pickguard Replacement

I transfer this to a section of pickguard material. In this case, I used an oversized pickguard I bought from Martin. I used shears to cut it out, and sanded the perimeter to shape.

Martin Pickguard Replacement
Martin Pickguard Replacement
Martin Pickguard Replacement

On the front surface of the guard, I taper the edge to about a 30° angle. This mimics the look of original guard.

Martin Pickguard Replacement

I keep lightly scraping and sanding until the fit is correct. The new guard has to completely cover the unfinished area, but it can’t overlap onto the raised edge of the finish. This would create a pucker that would be disturbing to the eye.

Martin Pickguard Replacement
Martin Pickguard Replacement

With the size finalized and the pickguard in position, I create a hinge with masking tape. Lifting the guard, I remove the protective covering on the adhesive and press the gaurd into place.

Martin Pickguard Replacement
Martin Pickguard Replacement
Martin Pickguard Replacement

Then I remove the clear protective cover to finish the job.

Martin Pickguard Replacement

Even though it’s a new pickguard, it lays flat in the pocket left by the original guard.

Martin Pickguard Replacement

Martin Pickguard Replacement

The edge has a pleasing vintage look – it looks like it belongs there!

-Bryan