1966 Fender Mustang Restoration: Restoring the Pickguard

As I detailed last time, I discovered the pickguard had at least two layers of paint. The thick green layer on top and what appeared to be red spraypaint underneath. I hoped that under all of that was the original white tortoiseshell pickguard, but I wasn’t sure what state it was in. I feared that whoever decided it was a good idea to paint it had also decided to rough it up to help make the paint stick.

After a few hours researching online, I had no clear winner on the best way to proceed. The most common suggestion was to lightly sand my way down through the layers and then buff out any scratches afterward. This made me very nervous, so wanted to explore some other avenues first.

I went wandering around the aisles of Bunnings, looking for options. All the chemical paint removal options scared me. This pickguard should be nitro cellulose, but I have no idea what sort of chemical punishment that will withstand. What I did find though was super-fine steel wool. This gave me an idea.

After doing some tests on the back of the pickguard, I decided to soak it in a tray of turps for awhile to try and soften the paint. At first I was checking it every few minutes, but gradually I relaxed and let it go longer. After about 12 hours of soaking, the green layer of paint had softened up, and started to come away in places, to the point I could remove some of it down to the red layer with just my finger nail.

My finger nail wasn’t going to cut it for the whole pickguard though, so this is where the steel wool came in. This is way more fine than the steel wool you might have in your kitchen. Again, testing it on the back of the pickguard I couldn’t discern any damage, so I tentatively started on the front. After about 10 minutes I’d removed enough of the green paint to make me continue, so back it went into the tray for another 12 hours of soaking.

After two or three rounds of this, more of the red also started to come off, and the white tortoiseshell shone through. Once through the green though, I went through a lot more steel wool. The red layer was thinner but much harder, and the steel wool was so fine that even a little pressure causes it to crumble away. Still, better that than my pickguard.

I would guess I ended up doing about 2 or 3 hours of rubbing with the steel wool, interspersed over a few days of soaking, before all the green and red was removed.

At this stage the revealed pickguard seemed in remarkably good condition, with only a slight cloudiness to it. This might have been down to the steel wool, but another 10 minutes with some car cut-and-polish removed that nicely.

Frankly, I’m astonished at how well this turned out, and all for the cost of a monotonous few hours of rubbing and 4 bucks for steel wool. This was the part I was thinking might present some difficulties, so very pleased with the result.

It’s a 3 layer pickguard, rather than the later 5 layer ones, and based on the colour combos mentioned earlier, so far I’m thinking it might be original.

Leave a Reply