Clear protective film is easily peeled off a Stratocaster pickguard (above). A reliable indication of unpeeled pickguard film is the presence of graphics, such as the design seen on the the American Standard Precision Bass below, that “clearly” aren’t intended to be a permanent feature of the instrument.
First-time instrument buyers are sometimes a little dismayed to notice that the pickguard on their new guitar or bass looks weird—kind of dull, and maybe already scratched up quite a bit. Tech Talk is in fact aware of at least one recent instance in which a brand-new instrument was returned almost immediately because the pickguard looked worn and faded.
There was nothing wrong with it, however, and should you notice a similar phenomenon there’s no need to be alarmed. Why? Because most new guitars and basses come with a protective film of clear plastic covering the pickguard. This film protects the pickguard during shipping and retail display. It is this thin film that looks worn and faded, not the pickguard itself.
And this clear plastic film is meant to be removed.
You just peel it off, and you’re in business. In fact, we submit that one of the great ceremonial rituals and most gratifying simple pleasures of acquiring a new instrument is the removal of this film; the Rite of the Great Peeling Off of the Clear Plastic on the Pickguard, if you will.
It’s perfectly understandable. Many players—especially newcomers—don’t even notice this protective film; it doesn’t occur to them to remove it because they don’t realize it’s there in the first place. Or they do notice it, but they don’t know it’s supposed to be removed. Either way, there seems to be an inordinate number of players eagerly honing their craft on instruments that still have clear plastic film stuck to their pickguards.
With all speed, peel that film off. Even though it’s clear, you can tell if it’s still there because it imparts a dull sheen to the pickguard and might even have started to peel, wrinkle or “bubble” on its own. Although it peels off easily, it might get a little tricky around pickguard screws or control knobs.
If that happens, just loosen the pickguard screws slightly, remove the plastic stuck around them, and re-tighten them. You shouldn’t need to remove the control knobs to get all the plastic off, but if you try to remove them anyway and they’re not budging, do not try to pry them off with a screwdriver, knife or other suitably flat implement, because you could damage the finish, the pickguard or the knobs themselves. Instead, try wrapping a cloth like a hand towel around the knobs to increase your leverage in working them loose.
Once the plastic film has been removed, your pickguard will look like it’s supposed to—nice and shiny and flat and new.
Sometimes it’s more obvious that a plastic pickguard film is present because it’ll have printing and graphics on it clearly not intended be a permanent feature of the pickguard itself. Further, other parts of your guitar may also be covered with removable plastic film, such as the screw-on covers of rear instruments routs and compartments.
If, on the other hand, your pickguard really does need to be replaced, view our assortment of pickguards here.