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  • Bakelite

    I’m going to be working with a Bakelite pick guard on my grandson’s guitar. We’re installing a new pickup and it requires some new screw holes and a larger cavity opening for the install. I’m a little concerned about cracking or breaking the guard and would like to hear of other experiences for machining and drilling this material if you have any.

    Thank you in advance

  • #2
    Are you sure it IS Bakelite? It may be a similar material, or use a different filler, or no filler. Traditional Bakelite uses ground wood fiber as a filler (or asbestos, for older products).

    It may be similar to the material picks are made of, the name of which escapes me at the moment. That would machine differently from actual Bakelite. And then there are other materials used, some similar to the material that is used for door numbers and desk nametags, the stuff that is white inside and black on the surface, whatever that is (possibly another form of phenolic).

    Assuming it is Bakelite or some form of phenolic:

    Bakelite is not exactly "fragile", but it will break if drilled too close to an edge, etc. A drill can easily "take charge", or "self-feed" as it can in brass, and try to "screw itself through" the material. It will also often chip out on the backside where the drill comes through.

    You may want to put flats on the drill as you might with brass, to prevent self-feeding. Let the drill cut away the material and do not force it. Stay away from edges at least 1 1/2 or 2 x the thickness if the piece is thin. Drill through with a fairly solid material backing up the Bakelite to prevent chip-out.

    All that said, it machines fairly nicely.

    That's my experience with it.
    Last edited by J Tiers; 05-03-2021, 05:32 PM.
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    • #3
      If you have a mill where the Z axis is under control you will not have any problem with self drilling or chipping on exit.


      • #4
        I also question the actual material makeup as this is an aftermarket product offered by Fender and called out as Bakelite in the sales information.
        I had intended to drill the holes and machine the opening with a small 2 flute end mill. After reading your replies I think I’ll be just fine.
        Thanks again


        • #5
          Embed it in polymorph plastic, then drill it.


          • #6
            I didn't know anyone was still making Bakelite... Antique hunters use the "sniff test". Apparently if you run some hot water over it or even just rub it vigorously between your fingers, it will smell like formaldehyde once warm.

            Regardless, I think you have your answer re: machining it.


            • #7
              There are several modern equavalents for bakelite which are similar, but not quite so brittle. If you can solve the problem of holding the piece, then drilling and milling a cavity will not be difficult.