Scratch plates are used to protect guitars from damage from strumming. They can be made from various materials and are often decorative and brightly coloured or individually styled. Scratch plates can be found to purchase quickly and easily and they make a useful addition to any guitar.
About Scratch Plates
Scratch plates, also known as pickguards, are thin blocks of material placed under guitar strings. They are used to protect the guitar against damage such as that sustained from strumming with a pick, and also conceal electric guitars’ pickups and wiring. Most guitars have a single scratch plate. Flamenco guitars typically have two to protect the guitar from the heavy and frequent tapping and strumming that is a part of flamenco guitar playing.
Scratch plates may be made of various materials, typically acrylic, PVC or other plastics, wood, plywood, or glass, though highe-end guitars may have pickguards made of more exotic and expensive materials. Scratch plates should be durable and resistant to damage to provide long lasting use.
Scratch plates are, however, typically chosen for style as much as function. Often seen as an expression of personality and individuality, they are sometimes customised and may be autographed or otherwise embellished.
Choosing Scratch Plates
Considerations when choosing a scratch plate include instrument compatibility, design, construction material, and style.
Compatibility and Design
Both acoustic and electric guitars use scratch plates and, when choosing a scratch plate for a guitar, the primary consideration is whether it will fit the instrument. Scratch plates come in different shapes and sizes to fit different guitars or guitar brands, so always check the product description to make sure it is suitable.
When it comes to electric guitars, scratch plates have another function besides protecting it from scratching and other damage. They also conceal the guitar’s pickups and wiring. Fully loaded scratch plates are pre-assembled with pickups and control knobs to make fitting them easy. This does mean that they are suitable for a smaller range of guitars, however.
Other scratch plates come with holes for the pickups, and standard scratch plates will fit a larger range of guitars than loaded plates. Sellers may be able to send paper templates which can be tried with the guitar before a scratch plate is purchased. It is also possible to buy blank scratch plate sheets which can then be cut to size and fitted as required.
The two basic designs of scratch plates for electric guitars are Fender type and Gibson type. Fender is the more common design and scratch plates may fit guitars such as the Telecaster and Stratocaster, as well as all derivatives of these designs. Pickups and other components and wiring are typically attached to the scratch plate. Gibson type scratch plates may be used on carved top guitars. They are usually mounted on metal brackets which can be adjusted, allowing the scratch plate to be positioned in the most comfortable position. Pickups and wiring are not usually attached to Gibson scratch plates.
Construction Material, Style, and Colour
Scratch plates are available in a wide range of materials, though acrylic, PVC, or other plastics are most frequently used. Acrylic and PVC are tough, durable and resistant to scratching. They are also lightweight and relatively cheap, as well as being easy to cut, fix, and otherwise work with. All these qualities make them ideal materials to use for guitar scratch plates. Plastic scratch plates are available in different thicknesses. It may be that a seller does not specify a material. In this case the scratch plate is probably a plastic of some kind.
Scratch plates are, however, also available in other materials. Wood or plywood is sometimes used, and these scratch plates, especially those of solid wood, also have good strength and durability. Glass is sometimes used and this has a good resistance to scratching, but is typically more expensive. Other materials include various metals and mother of pearl. More expensive scratch plates could be made of semi-precious metals and gems, rarer exotic woods, and even furs or skins.
Plastic and other scratch plates are available in a variety of colours and in both solid and multi-coloured designs. Popular colours and finishes include gloss black and white, pearlescent black, white, ivory, red, blue and green, and patterns such as marble and tortoiseshell. Clear plastic scratch plates are also available for those who prefer the minimalist look and want an inconspicuous scratch plate. When choosing a finish, consider the colour and design along with the guitar’s colour.
Scratch plates may be fitted to the guitar body in various ways. Some are screwed to the guitar, while others are fixed to metal brackets. Scratch plates may or may not come with mounting screws or other fittings, so check the product description. Fully loaded scratch plates will typically come with the necessary mounting screws and are a good option for those who want to be able to fit their scratch plate easily. Lightweight PVC scratch plates are even easier to fix, as they can typically be simply glued with an adhesive.
Making Scratch Plates
Making individualised scratch plates is a popular option amongst guitarists. Consider carefully the type of material, design, and appearance of the scratch plate before purchasing materials. The scratch plate could have a contrasting or complementary colour, depending on the desired effect. When it comes to choice of material, thin plastic is one of the easiest materials to work with. It can be simply cut with a utility or craft knife to shape. Metal and glass require more specialist tools.
Find Scratch Plates on eBay
To find scratch plates and blank sheets on eBay, scroll over the All Categories tab to the left of the home page and select Musical Instruments. Scroll down to Guitars and select Accessories. Under Item Type, select Parts. Listings include scratch plates as well as other guitar parts and accessories. Scroll further down and under Parts Type select Scratch Plates. The tabs to the left can then be used to make listings more relevant if required. Under To Fit Guitar, select Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar or other options as appropriate. A variety of brands can be specified under the heading Brand. New or used items can also be specified. Above the listings are options to arrange them by criteria such as price, postage costs and items ending soonest or most recently listed.
Alternatively, to search quickly and directly for scratch plates, go to the top of the eBay home page and use the search bar. Use search terms such as “scratch plates”, “Fender scratch plates”, or “clear scratch plates” into the search bar and press Search. The listings that appear can then be refined by guitar type and/or other criteria as above.
Scratch plates are an excellent opportunity for guitarists to show their creative flair and personality as well as fulfilling an important protective function. Thin blocks of natural or synthetic material, they protect against scratching or denting from a pick, fingers or fingernails. Most guitars have a single scratch plate but flamenco guitars usually have two due to their heavier wear. They are available as fully loaded models, standard models and blank sheets which need to be cut to size. Always check to make sure a scratch plate is compatible with the guitar, as shapes and sizes vary, and ask the seller for further details if unsure. Whichever type of scratch plate is chosen, always check seller feedback and compare prices with other listings to find the best deals. The right scratch plate is an essential addition to any guitar, providing protection as well as being a stylish accessory in its own right.