Ibanez® is a registered trademarks of Hoshino Gakki, Ltd and Axesrus® has no affiliation with FMIC or Hoshino Gakki, Ltd.
This is the pickguard for the Ibanez® Gio GRX40 electric guitar - released in 2000, and having seen very few changes over the years, this HSS/"Fat Strat®" styled guitar was a bit of a departure from the usual "entry level RG" that Ibanez® have been toying with other the years - coming loaded with a bridge humbucker and 2 single coils in neck and middle position, and having a "vintage" tremolo (Ibanez being better known for Hardtails and Locking Trems)
The pickguard is actually one of the better designed offers too - where guitars like the GRG140 and GRG113 are similar, their pickguards are clearly routed for locking trems (much bigger cutout) even though they're fitted with traditional trems and hardtails respectively - and, frankly, it looks a bit weird - the GRX40 has a much closer route around the trem, and it looks that little better.
Its worth remembering too, that the GRX is actually a "re-release" of a 90s guitar too - the RX series - as near as i can tell, the RX60, the RX40 and the RX240 are all near enough the same as the GRX240 (I'm sure there are other differences, but the pickguards all look to be the same spec.
Beyond that though, its as you'd expect - 2 pole holes, traditional level switch slow - pickup mounting to the pickguard - nice and simple!
Tortoise Shell Explained
You’ve probably noticed with the pickguards, we do A LOT of different variations in tortoise shells – and even then, we barely scratch the surface when it comes to completing the line-up.
Basically, Tortoise shell, originally, way back when, when it first started (long before the electric guitar was a thing) was just that – pieces of a tortoises shell, fixed together into a shape, and polished until semi-transparent (some of the early acoustic pickguards were actually made this way)
Now, obviously, none of us want to see a return to those practises, but seemingly, everyone liked “the look” – so with the advent of plastic in the early part of the 20th century, science found a cheaper way (it wasn’t until the seventies when trade in hawksbill turtle (the main source of Tortoise shell) shells became illegal!)
The first “plastic” Tortoise Shells were made from Nitrate plastics, usually Celluloid – and, frankly, it’s pretty gorgeous! Its semi-transparent, it’s got a sort of leopard skin look to it, and it soon worked its way onto guitars (again, most acoustics)
The problem is – Celluloid plastics are astonishingly flammable – they have a low point of combustion, and once they’re burning, they don’t go out until the fuels gone, or they flame is deprived of oxygen. As you can imagine, no one really liked working with Celluloid. It was risky to use (cutting = friction = heat) it was dangerous to store, and it wasn’t really suitable for the job at hand ( it changed colour when exposed to sunlight, it warped, it shrank, it was generally, pretty badly behaved!)
Never the less, it did eventually find its way onto electric guitars by the late 50s and early 60s, but was soon replaced for something more suitable and much safer.
Nowadays, you see Tortoise shells in either Polyoxymethylene (more stable as a material, but still very flammable) or PVC (which is fairly bomb proof, but does give off toxic fumes if burnt)
Now, getting to the modern day – Tortoise shell comes in 5 “variants” for us (ignoring the Celluloid offerings, they’re still out there, and great for historical accuracy, but just be VERY careful with them – not only in buying them/storing your guitar once its fitted, but also in actually sourcing the stuff, we’ve yet to find a factory who will even consider making a plate with it (too big a fire risk) and even when we do, its very cost prohibitive (more expensive to buy the things then we could ever dream of selling them for!) – there are guys out there making them though – but as a rough guide, expect to pay upwards of £150+)
Now this is a funny one. For the longest time, it was the only Tortoise shell we had access to, and honestly – its OK – turns up pretty often on mid-priced guitars, such as the Squier® Classic vibe and vintage modified lines – personally, I think of it was a cheats Tortoise shell, because it seems to be a screen print sandwiched between the layers of PVC, and as such, it looks a little flat. It is, however pretty uniform, so if you want all your tortoise shells to look the same, classics the way to go.
3 Ply Brown
Now we’re talking – rather then a “flat layer” brown tortoise is the real deal – layers of semi-transparent PVC (one yellow, one brown) over laid to give that characteristic look. For whatever reason, the 3 ply version shows a little more yellow in the mix then the 4 ply. It shows a great depth of colour as a result, and if pressed, I’d say it was my favourite of the shells.
4 Ply Brown
Slightly darker then the 3 ply version, less yellow bleed through in the mix (presumably because the yellow “layer” is thinner)
3 Ply Red
Similar to the brown version really – yellow and red, one on top of the other, but it’s the same principle, same results, just a little more vibrant then the brown.
4 Ply Red
Where the brown 4 ply shows a little less yellow, the red version pretty much cuts it out completely. Its almost bordering on a red pearl for us, and certainly not without its charms. Ideal if you really hate the idea of the yellow peeking through.
For completeness sake, heres a photo of a celluloid plate too - i think we can all agree, it looks absolutely glorious, and theres a real depth to the "shell" effect - but if you look closely at the photo, you can probably see that the plate (in this case a Jazzaster) has badly warped, its been kept in the same conditions as the PVC plates above, for the same amount of time, but its way past being usable now.
Pearloid plates are similar to the tortoise shells, but theres a little less subtly between them, and they dont really have anything overly interesting in their history - as far as i can tell, they're always been PVC, and the variations in colour and pattern are pretty easy to follow.
So lets take a closer look.
The most common pearloid you're going to see - "white pearl" - i think its safe to say we all know the look. Interesingly, Pearl pickguards are actually made from a material intially intended to be a faux "mother of pearl" (which is the inside of an oyster shell)
More common then you'd think strangely - fairly safe to think of it as the Parchment version of white pearl. For whatever reason, the pearling is a little tighter, with fewer blank spots between the reflective sections.
If Aged Pearl is the Parchment, then Ivory Pearl is most definately the Ivroy to the white - much more creamy in colour. Usually, you only see if in a 3 ply triple Ivory - not very common nowadays, but does occasionally turn up.
This is a fairly new pattern as far as we can well - actually a much closer representation of that "mother of pearl" look that the original pearloids were going for. Rather then being broken up into reflective "squares", its more bothches and swirls, gives it a nice crisp finish.
If Avalon is getting closer to mother of pearl, then its probably only right that we've got one thats getting close to its opposite number, abalone (which is the inside of the shell of a few species of marine snail) - its certainly a very "unique" pattern, and again, is more swirls then squares.
Black pearl is always a bone of contention for us - its not "really" black - its more a dark grey colour - there is a blacker version out there (not that we can find it!) called "Moto Pearl" - but yeah, they've both got their place.
Hardly an all time classic, but not without its charms. Nice tight pearling, very few gaps between the squares, so nice and uniform - a love it or loathe it colour i suppose. Pair it with a black body and black plastics, and its a nice little statement piece though.
Colour aside, its a fairly traditional pearloid - reflective squares, blue tint - looks a bit crackers on its own, but with the right body, it can work really well.
Again, a bit of a novelty colour for me - not exactly what you'd call a classic, but if thats your thing - more power to ya.
"Whites & Creams" Explained
Ok, even i'll conceed that this isn't the most thrilling of toics at this point, but there is actually plenty of confusion when it comes to the "off white" pickguard colours, so seeing as we're ticking off pearls and tortoise shell varients, we might as well address the parchments, mints and creams too.
So lets get stuck in
We carry all our white plates in the above "shade" - its a completely opaque pigment, and is what you expect really, a very clean, crisp, pristine white.
Occasionally called "aged white" in the trade - parchment is the next shade in from white, slightly darker with a very slight creamy/yellow tint - think of it like old news paper.
Ivory 3 ply
As called aged white (and a source of much confusion!) - Ivory is the only plastic that differs in colour in its 3 and 1 ply forms. The 3 ply above is quite a yellow, almost buttery cream, almos shades of nicotine staining.
Ivory 1 Ply
And, for completeness sake - Ivory 1 ply. Strangely, never called Aged white - differs from the 3 ply version quite drastically, its much more a cream colour.A little softer, much less nicotine yellow.
Now, Mint is where things get really fun.
Mint was originally designed to mimic the "greening" of white celluloid plates as they age, but as they've become more popular, tastes have changed a little, so you see some variations within mint, so we differentiate between these variations.
At the bottom, you've got Mint "B" - the original Mint - its quite dark, and quite green. Any guitar you see online with a mint plate, is likely to have a mint B - its the most common of the mints.
Slap bang in the middle, you've got Mint "A" 3 ply- this is a slightly ligher then B, and is a half way house between parchement and Mint B for me - a little more subtle, a little less green.
And right at the tip, we've got 1 ply Mint "A" - slightly different to the 3 ply version, a little less green again.