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Years ago I had a luthier make me a custom pickguard for my acoustic guitar. The glue has aged and the pickguard is separating from the face of the guitar.

What kind of glue should I use to reattach the pickguard. I want to use something that allows me to remove the pickguard again if possible.

  • Shoe Goo (TM) bonds pretty much everything. I dunno how easily it'll be removable from a finished wood surface. – Carl Witthoft Oct 17 '17 at 12:36
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Some of your choices will depend on what type of finish the guitar has. A UV cured or epoxy finish will hold up better to different glue types than a lacquer finish.

For safe removal you shouldn't use solvent type glues or catalyst glues. Examples of solvent and catalyst glues would include rubber cement and epoxy. If the glue has vapor warnings, don't use it.

Some options, with various plus and minuses:

3M makes an adhesive sheet that can be used for pickguards. They also make an adhesive remover that may be safe on modern guitar finishes. I have used mineral spirits (Ronsonol lighter fluid) to remove pickguard adhesive successfully. Since it isn't made specifically to be removable, this product may make a difficult job.

Hide Glue - Industry standard for assembling fine instruments for various reasons, one being for remove-ability. It is a type of gelatin and is available as melt-able granules or in liquid form. When hardened, it is brittle and may not hold up to stress on the pick guard. It is removable with heat and water. The hot melt version may discolor your finish and removing it with heat could be problematic.

Hot melt glue - there are various versions available in granule form with different temperatures and thickness. A thin low temp version would probably work, but the hot melt glues tend to adhere poorly to glossy and plastic surfaces, so you might not have very much longevity with the glue job.

White Glue (PVA) - Comes in a washable version. Fairly flexible and removable with water. Depending on your finish water removal may be an issue. There are many versions of this product, so look for a non solvent version. I would try the washable versions such as Elmer's Tacky or School glue

  • Previously the pickguard adhesive was rubber cement which was easy to remove. Problem was, after a decade it dried out and lost its adhering power. – pro Oct 16 '17 at 20:02
  • many glue types have a limited life span. If it already had rubber cement, you could use it again. I'd use a photo safe version (low acid) elmers.com/product/detail/e904 but if you want to remove it you'd probably have to wait another 10 years, or end up using a solvent that isn't good for your finish. – Alphonso Balvenie Oct 16 '17 at 20:18
  • I've never seen a really old instrument with a pickguard- whether of plastic or tortoiseshell- where the pickguard had stayed on since the beginning. No glue will withstand the contant stress of differences in thermal expansion forever. I would use hide glue when possible, because it's always removable with warm water. But hide glue doesn't adhere well to many plastics. It's simply a problem. – Scott Wallace Oct 17 '17 at 12:28
  • @pro "...after a decade..." I'd say that's a darn good lifespan for an adhesive. So, clean both surfaces and use it again. – Carl Witthoft Oct 17 '17 at 12:35
  • @CarlWitthoft I tried but I didn't have the same success as the luthier, who sadly has passed on. – pro Oct 17 '17 at 15:21
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The final answer was to use good old Elmer's Rubber Cement. The trick is that with rubber cement the solvent needs to evaporate in order to form a bond and the pickguard and guitar varnish are impermeable.

So to get the rubber cement to bond, apply it to the guitar surface and to the pickguard and then allow both to dry until they're slightly tacky. Then press the pickguard into place and place a few books on top of it for a couple of days. Finally use a Crepe Rubber Cement Pickup or your fingers to rub off the excess rubber cement.

Done. Should be good for another decade.

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