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Pickguard 101

Long, long, short. All wide bevel. Yes, the one on the right has a partial refinish.

Funny, I thought I had covered this but a reader says no. And I think he’s right-I did a kind of general “plastics” post but never really got down to the nitty and the gritty (If you’ve spent any time under a vintage pickguard, you are well aware of the gritty part). ¬†You wouldn’t think it would be that big a deal but pickguards are another good example of just how nutty collectors are. I can go out and buy an original 68 guard for $75. But a 66 (which is the same as a 61) will cost me more like $450. And if that isn’t nutty enough, a 58-60 will cost me in excess of a grand. Want a long guard for a 355? Good luck. Every time Gibson changed a part, it seems the motivation was economics. From 58-60 the pickguard on all 335s, 345s and 355s extended below the bridge-hence the term “long guard”. I think they look great and they have always been my preference for no other reason than appearance. Gibson, with the idea of using less plastic and thus saving a few pennies per instrument, shortened the guard in late 60 so that it extended only to the bottom of the bridge pickup ring. The transition extended into 1961 and 61 long guards are not common but they aren’t rare either. It seems to me (from observation) that the 345s got the short guard first and then the 335s. The 355s follow their own schedule because the guard is totally different. It is tortoise shell instead of black and has a separate binding rather than a bevel edge. They also tend to disintegrate over time, often due to “gassing off”. Google it-it’s science (and science is fun and good for your head). The 355s followed approximately the same schedule. I’ve seen a few short guard 60’s but I don’t recall seeing any long guard 61’s. All the 3×5 guards were held to the guitar the same way-a small screw up by the neck pickup and a bracket that inserted into a plastic block glued to the back of the guard. The bracket is a four part thing consisting of a threaded rod, an open nut, a closed nut and the bracket that screws into the binding at the waist. If you aren’t sure if your guitar was an original long guard or short guard, the position of the bracket will give it away. It’ll be lower on a long guard. Look to see if there’s more than one screw hole in the binding. Look to see if the plastic block on the underside was moved, look to see if the threaded rod has been bent. Any of those things will reveal that a short guard was substituted for a long one or (less likely) vice versa). The ES-335/345 guard is five ply b-w-b-w-b. The bevel is wide and the bottom white layer is wider than the top white layer. By late 66/early 67, the guard changed again. the shape is more or less the same but the bevel is much narrower. Probably another money saving change-it probably was cheaper to source the guard with the narrow bevel or it took less time to make them. You have to look closely because it can be very hard to tell a wide bevel from a narrow bevel in a photo. The angle is critical. The wide bevel is really wide. One other thing to look at-Look at the space between the top of the guard and the cutaway. It’s totally inconsistent. I had a 345 that extended a good 1/4″ past the cutaway. I’ve had others that end at least a 1/4″ below it. That’s what handmade means.

Narrow bevel guard on a 68. Also, look at how much daylight there is above the guard compared to the 66 345 below it

Wide bevel on a rare Mickey Mouse ear 66. Look at how far into the cutaway the guard extends.

12 Responses to “Pickguard 101”

  1. setneck says:

    The difference in clearance between the pickguard and the body (two last photographs) imho lies not so much in different dimensions of the pickguard but in how deep the neck is set into the body. If you connect the bottoms of the cutaways with a straight line you’ll be at the last fret of this ’66 but just under the 21th of the ’68.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Yes. That is absolutely true. The pickguards were mass produced and are very consistent. I don’t think I made that totally clear.

  3. setneck says:

    But why does this vary so much I cannot understand…

  4. OK Guitars says:

    There was still a fair amount of handwork done back then. That’s reason for much of the inconsistency we see in construction and specs. Body depth varies widely from 58-60 and even later. neck angles are all over the place.

  5. s223n335 says:

    +1 on what setneck observed about the relationship between how deeply the neck (and fretboard) extends into the body. This is crucial to the whole layout of the pickups, bridge, tailpiece, pickguard, because if the neck is recessed further into the body, all of the corresponding measurements of locating the other components will have to follow, going “deeper” towards the bottom of the guitar body, as you look at the guitar’s face. This has to happen to keep the scale length consistent from the string nut to the bridge saddles to allow the guitar to play in tune over it’s entire fretboard. This also changes the relationship of where the components lie in proportion to the “f” holes in the body. For a great example, look at the picture of the next post above this one, regarding the historic re-issue vs. the original blonde dot neck. Look carefully at the difference distance between the bottom of the cutaways at the neck, then down the body to where the bridge is located versus the “f” hole. I think the bodies are close to identical, but the seating depth of the neck/fretboard is very different. Just my 2 cents.

  6. OK Guitars says:

    This is true. If you look at the neck set, the distance between the end of the tenon and the end of its rout is pretty variable-probably by 1/8″ or more. That doesn’t even take into consideration any variation in the length of the tenon itself. Even 1/16″ of difference is noticeable once you’ve looked at enough of these.

  7. setneck says:

    I agree that there has always been some variation in neck positioning. However, there are some trends – speaking in terms of the line connecting the cutaway bottoms again – by the end of 70s this line was usually above 21st fret whereas many reissues since 1981 have it right above the 22nd and the recent Custom Shop example you have here pictured even below it.

    Aesthetically speaking, all is fine to my eye as long the line remains between 21st and 22nd fret and the body shape itself is not distorted (e.g. the ones with the coil-split switch from the end of seventies).

    FWIW most Chinese fakes and copies (including Epiphone) have the line above 21st fret, sometimes even 20th. This can be spotted from afar, even if it is just a matter of few millimeters,

  8. Bob/335 says:

    I am the original owner of a 67-68 335 that has “Gibson” printed on the pick guard. Do you know about this?

    I am hunting down the cap nut for the pick guard bracket. Any help?

  9. cgelber says:

    Yes, Gibson put their dopey looking “boob” logo on some 68’s.

  10. Joseph Capra says:

    Hace you ever measured the actual angle of the bevel of these “wide bevel” guards”

    It looks like about 30 degress, but I’ve read measurements of 25.5 on posts in the internet. It’s reall shallow i know, and I’m trying to ger an accurate representative measurement to make a repro guard. The required bit will be unusual and expensive.

  11. cgelber says:

    The bevel is supposed to be 60 degrees. That makes the angle of the guard edge 30 degrees (90 minus 60 is 30).
    I’ve never actually measured it.

  12. ken says:

    Hi. I am sorry but i am new to this .Could anyone on this page please tell me where i can buy the hex nut that fits on the end of my Gibson 335 pickguard bracket ( I am in England) ,i have hunted the web so far to no avail .Thanks Gents

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