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Thread: No pickguard finish scratches

  1. #1

    Default No pickguard finish scratches

    Has anyone found a varnish finish which will harden enough that a non-pickguard player will create less scratching to the finish? I realize nothing is as hard as lacquer or poly, but perhaps a poly or lacquer top coat just in that pick guard area could be an option?

  2. #2
    Registered User Greg Mirken's Avatar
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Lacquer still scratches pretty easily. Are you offended by a clear guard? I do quite a few of those, and it's not hard. I use heavyweight adhesive laminating sheets from the stationery store.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Yes, I have thought of that and that's what I'll do as last option. Right now I am putting on a coat of Renaissance wax before a lot of picking and it seems to be at least preventing further scratches, but I wish there was something more permanent.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    In short, the answer about varnish is no.
    There are some epoxy based industrial finishes that are very durable, but I wouldn't want to use them on a musical instrument.
    Nitro and poly lacquers will also scratch.
    Your practical alternatives are to protect the top with some kind of guard, or live with the inevitable finish wear.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Plus you can't spray lacquer over varnish. Shellac, yes. Most regular varnishes, no. It'll either attack it or it won't adhere well.

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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    If it is just a temporary situation like a potential buyer or friend wanting to play your instrument I have had some luck with Post-it notes. They look weird but save the finish.
    -Newtonamic

  7. #7

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Post catalyzed conversion varnishes can be very hard. The trade off is that the tone becomes more crystalline bright and the volume increases. Kind of the opposite of a softer varnish finish.

    When I discovered pinky planting was wearing the finish on my personal mandolins, I experimented with pick guards. I found a narrow finger rest that intersects the side of the fretboard 1/8" below the top of the board and angle down 15 degrees solved that problem. Interestingly, the polished ebony finger rests on my mandolins don't show any evidence of pick scratches ?!?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    Interestingly, the polished ebony finger rests on my mandolins don't show any evidence of pick scratches ?!?
    The ebony guard on my mandolin is worn a lot and would be really bad on the top. 10+ years of gigging and a lot of playing/jamming when not gigging.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  9. #9
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Not that it's the solution that the OP is looking for, but after 8 years of heavy use the ebony full-sized pickguard on my mandolin shows only some very light scratches in just the right light, but other than that it really looks like new.

    I often look at it and wonder at this rate, how long it is going to last, as it shows no wear and I use it constantly. I also have wondered if it has some sort of hard finish on it since it's continued looking so solid, but I'm pretty sure it's just polished raw ebony.

    If it had been just the finished top on my F-9, I'm sure it would have a very noticeable hole worn in it by now. That is a very soft finish and with 18 years on it, it shows quite a few honest marks.
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    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
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    2002 Gibson F-9
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  10. #10

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    So my sister returns from her one big foreign trip - Japan, with a horticultural tour group. Other than lots of Kodachromes, she had purchased one of those expensive black lacquered bowls that are emblematic of the local high-level craft. You know, tens of coats of poisonous goo, rubbed and polished to perfection.
    So my friend and I were playing with the silly Klipshorn speaker I had forced on my sister, and turned it up.
    Next thing, two halves of a bowl have launched off the shelf, flying through the air.
    Two pieces of plastic. One multiiply annoyed sister.
    Theres one thing about Bakelite: it’s really hard, and stays really shiny. Looks like, possibly some tropical wood with many coats of lacquer.
    Formica’s not bad either.

  11. #11

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    At the risk of veering off track on this thread, here is one the finger rests I put on mando #4. I'm guessing it's the combination of being set lower and angling down, but the closeups reveal no scratching. I use a CT-55 and hit medium hard sometimes. For me, the biggest advantage is registering height, my fingertips just barely brush the surface of the ebony most of the time.
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  13. #12
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    At the risk of veering off track on this thread, here is one the finger rests I put on mando #4. I'm guessing it's the combination of being set lower and angling down, but the closeups reveal no scratching. I use a CT-55 and hit medium hard sometimes. For me, the biggest advantage is registering height, my fingertips just barely brush the surface of the ebony most of the time.
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    What a great pickguard! Would you mind sharing how you attached it to the fretboard/neck? It is a very sleek install that I'd like to consider for my build.

  14. #13
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Some folks are gonna hate this, but I feel compelled to point out the obvious. The very best way to prevent scratches on the finish of the top is to use a pickguard on your mandolin. That's its function!

    If you play freehand, or with your palm lightly brushing the top of the bridge, you will scarcely even notice the pickguard, unless you happen to inadvertently hit the strings too hard, or at a bad angle -- this is precisely the kind of thing that leads to scratches and dings in the finish. A pickguard will save your mandolin in such cases. Make the switch to a pickguard, I advise.

    If you plant your pinky, or even of you use it as a "depth gauge" and touch the top with fingers from time to time, then you are more-or-less guaranteed to eventually scratch the finish. No two ways about it. Given enough time, you'll not just scratch it all up -- you will slowly start drilling down through the finish and reach the top wood. After that, if you don't do something, you will even start wearing a hole through the top itself. I've seem some mandolin tops completed worn through by pinky planting! YES, it can take some serious re-adjustment in your technique to learn to place your pinky on a pickguard, instead, or use it as a different kind of "depth gauge" at a new height. But's it's sure worth the pain of going through this re-adjustment, in my opinion, if you want to save the finish on your mandolin. But you might not even care about that. Moreover, some die-hards don't even want to consider re-adjusting their hand position for a pickguard. We get set in our ways, even if these ways are not so great.

    But my advice would be to put a pickguard on the mandolin, then forget about ever scratching the top finish again. (Allen Hopkins might consider this to be "ham sandwich" advice -- sorry!)

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  16. #14

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Quote Originally Posted by Schneidly View Post
    What a great pickguard! Would you mind sharing how you attached it to the fretboard/neck? It is a very sleek install that I'd like to consider for my build.
    Thanks for the compliment. I doubled up the thickness along the straight edge with another strip of ebony about 3/8" wide for the area where it meets the fingerboard before cutting the 15 degree bevel. It's attached with two pins, only about 1.5" apart. For pins I was going to use finishing nails but couldn't find any that matched a drill size. I actually ended using 12 gauge electric wire because it was a perfect match to a drill size (within a couple of thousandths). I made a template with a scrap of lexan and a fence to get the hole placement spot on. It's just press fit. Not super strong, but I never put any pressure on it really. As I said, my fingers just brush the surface lightly, I don't actually plant a finger on it. The arm rest also helps immensely with getting my hand hovering right over the sweet spot at the end of the fretboard. In archtops, floating pickguards are usually attached with one pin and a small screw on the underside, but they need to support a pickup attachment and a volume pot. For my light application, two pins worked out fine. It's snug but easily removable.

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  18. #15

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    Obviously, Sblock and I agree. It was pinky planting starting to wear the finish on a mandolin I had built not long before that drove me to look into finger rests. I also caught myself hooking my pinky under the E string while picking melody on the other 3 strings, something needed to change.

    I play music with and do luthier work for bluegrassing friends. They all universally hate the pickguard (it gets in my way) or (if Mike, Chris, ____) doesn't need one, why should I?). I think the biggest problem with the traditional Gibson style pickguard is positioning. They come in right at the level of the top of the pickguard and continue in the same plane (and they are very wide). It's going to get in the way of your hand, especially when playing lead on the E string. Also, I think that arm mechanics tend to have us not swinging straight across the tops of the strings but angled down and in towards the top of the instrument a bit. Another time when the traditional PG gets in the way. Anyway, I found the slender finger rest best serves my needs. I just means I have to hand relic/distress the finish before putting one on so my mando resembles those of my heroes.

  19. #16

    Default Re: No pickguard finish scratches

    sblock has it right, above.

    If you want to protect the finish, use a pickguard/finger rest.

    They can be mounted in such a way (set below the string level) so that they won't interfere with your right hand.

    Unless, of course, you really bash down on it...

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