Restyling an Ugly Epiphone Les Paul Junior / Special, Part 2: Making a New Pickguard

The title of this post is kind of a misnomer, since this particular Epiphone Les Paul Special II never did have a pickguard. But a newly made pickguard is indeed "new", so okay, we'll leave that word in. Time to stop messing around with semantics, and pick up some cave man tools and see if we can get into some trouble.

In Part 1, we removed a couple layers of added artificial "aging" paint, one red coat and another of black over everything, and smoothed what was left of the original finish as well as possible:

For the moment, please ignore the pickguard mounting screws in the above picture; those were drilled after the pickguard was completed. As mentioned in Part 1, a WD single-layer cream Tele pickguard was placed over the Epi Les Paul Special body, with a surprising discovery:

Amazingly (hey, almost everything is amazing after a couple micro-brews at 11:30 PM), the cutout on the bottom edge of the Tele pickguard, to fit around a Telecaster bridge plate, nearly exactly fits against a Gibson P90 pickup cover. Also, the cutout for the heel of the neck is within  1/8" of fitting - cool! So now, we'll focus on creating a hybrid Telecaster + Les Paul pickguard, and eventually have a guitar with a P90 pickup at the bridge position, and a Telecaster neck pickup, as well as a very unique look.

The next step was to place the Epiphone Special body face down on the back of the Tele pickguard, align the neck pocket and pickup cutouts, and trace the outline of the body with a soft pencil. Here's a scan of the pickguard after that, and a rough outline of a possible pickguard shape were roughed in:

Then, a sheet of 8x10 printer paper was laid atop the back of the pickguard, and a tracing was done, and cut out:

That laid on the Epi body for a day, while I looked at it every so often, and tried to get used to the shape. I never did - it always felt like something was slightly "off" about the shape. The next day I took the pickguard off my beat up old '77 Gibson TV Special, and did this:

Getting closer. Using the TV Special pickguard as a guide, the paper template was modified:

Good enough. The cream pickguard was only going to be a temporary one anyway, until all the design kinks got worked out, and then a final pickguard would be made, done in whatever color seemed correct. The paper template was placed over the back of the WD pickguard, a line traced around it, and checked with the TV Special scratch-plate:

Okay, now it's time to cut the pickguard down to fit. Went to the local hardware store (we're really lucky to even have a local hardware store anymore, considering), and got new blades for the coping saw. And then, hate to say, but after all these years of fearlessly attacking any and every project, I suddenly got "performance anxiety". You might say I was, having never cut up a pickguard before, having difficulty coping with picking up the coping saw, and tearing into the 'guard.

This lasted a couple days, during which time I binge watched old episodes of Duck Tales in a darkened room, stuffing my face with Cheetos. Just kidding! The starter went out in the Isuzu Oasis, and that took a while to learn how to replace, and then actually doing it. But the truth is, I was nervous, so I didn't take any pictures of the pickguard slicing process, since I knew for sure that I would mess it up. But it turned out okay after all, and here instead are a couple shots taken while making the second and final pickguard, when it got easier:

As you can see, those cuts are rough, and final shaping had to be done with a sharp new blade in an old Stanley knife.

To create the bevels on the edge of the 'guard, hold the pickguard firmly with one hand, and grab the knife with the other hand, and slide the blade along the edge at an angle and gradually trim off the plastic. The trick is to not cut into the pickguard material, but place the blade perpendicular to the plastic, and "shave" it off a little at a time. This is easy to get the hang of - even if you've never done it before, it turns out well:

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This blog post is getting kinda lengthy. It's time for a late lunch, and the garden weed patch needs watering as well. In the meantime, here's a cute picture:

Okay, let's continue, and attach the newly reshaped Telecaster pickguard to this Epiphone Special body. Luckily, the Tele 'guard already had counter-sunk mounting holes. I had a Snappy brand self centering hinge drill bit on hand from my last Tele-Parts-O-Caster project. First, tape the pickguard down exactly where it needs to be. It's great to take your time doing this, since it's kind of an irrevocable act, no go-backs or do-overs, without a lot of hassle:

Look like it's in the right place? Okay, then chuck the Snappy bit (still made in the good ol' USA!) into the drill/driver:

The Snappy self-centering bit has, well, guess what? A self-centering bit! And it works, too. Just stick the bit guard down into the mounting hole in the pickguard, get the drill as plumb (straight up and down) as possible, and then, while squeezing the trigger on the drill (make sure it's cutting forward, not reverse), and gently push downwards on the drill. The actual drill is spring loaded, and not only does it start protruding from its outer tube as you push down, but it also automatically bottoms out, and not too deep for a guitar body, so no risk of drilling out the other side. Actually, it's easier to use than to explain the process:

And really, that's it. After drilling all the holes in the body, take the pickguard and tape off, clean out any sawdust there may be on the body, and then put the scratch-plate back on with some appropriate sized screws. I used some old screws I had in a parts bin, and this is what it looked like:

Now you can see a bit of my secret shame: I have a really messy workbench, full of junk and old crap and memorabilia and sentimental stuff too. In that picture is a 1950s wall clock, an ancient mechanical movement VOM, a painted plaster image of the patron angel of Maastricht, Netherlands (the mayor gave everyone in the band their own angel when we did a concert there),  a drawing my kid made of Finn from Adventure Time, a really great sounding old CTS 12" speaker that came out of a '60s Conn organ and is now in my custom made compact Leslie cab, a bunch of bicycle cable housing pieces, old books, paper covered output transformers, and a ton of other stuff too.

The next day I went back to the hardware store and got some really cool looking, real brass #6 x 1/2" screws. Put an actual pickup in, wired up some pots, stuck the original wrap-around bridge back on, and a couple strap buttons too:

Here's a couple more shots of the beveled pickguard edges:

And that's about the end of this installment. Next time in Part 3, we'll get around to more or less finish putting the Epi Special together, at least enough to take it to a jam and work the bugs and kinks out. In the meantime, here's a photo of how it looks so far:

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As always, tap or click on any image to see a larger, higher def version. All photos (except the cute one) were taken with one of our four cute and handy Lumix and Canon pocket travel cameras.

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