Fender Pickguard Variations
Fender has three series of Strat pickguards: '57 Reissue; '62 Reissue; and American Series (sometimes called American Standard). However, we refer to Fender's pickguards differently:
Vintage 8-Hole ('57 Reissue - fits 1954 through mid-1959)
Vintage 11-Hole ('62 Reissue - fits mid-1959 through 1963)
Modern 11-Hole (American Series - fits 1964 to present)
The 8-hole and 11-hole designations refer to the number of perimeter screws. The two 11-hole patterns are almost identical: 10 of the holes are in the same location - only the hole above the middle pickup is located differently.
Also, while the modern 11-hole pickguards will fit mid-'60s and later guitars, all Fender Strat pickguards produced through at least the middle 1970s used oval-head screws for the pickups and switch, which require countersunk screw holes. Fender's Reissue pickguards have countersunk pickup/switch holes, while American Series pickguards don't.
Fender Shielding Variations
In the 1950s and 1960s, Fender used a separate aluminum shielding plate that was held in place merely by being sandwiched between the pickguard and the electronic components, it wasn't actually adhered to the back of the pickguard. The shield plate that was used from 1954 through mid 1959 was small, it only covered the area behind the controls, while the later shields used through the late '60s covered the entire back of the pickguard. Finally, Fender moved to foil shields, which are still used on the American Series pickguards.
Small Aluminum (used 1954 through mid-1959)
Large Aluminum (used mid-1959 through at least 1968)
Foil (used late 1960s to present)
As you can see, there is an overlap from 1964 to the end of the 1960s, guitars from this era would have had the American Series screw pattern, but with the large aluminum shield plate.
Shielding serves a couple of purposes:
- The aluminum shields the electronic circuit from ElectroMagnetic and Radio-Frequency Interference (EMI/RFI). This is a good thing, as comprehensive shielding intercepts interference from the many noise sources that exist in our modern electronic world, and sends it to ground. This prevents the interference (manifested as hum) from getting into your signal and coming through your amplifier (this isn't the same as single-coil hum; single-coils hum whether or not they are in a shielded environment).
- It provides a ground plane, which the electronic components are in physical contact with, grounding them in turn. The ground path looks like this: building ground > amplifier > guitar cord > guitar jack > guitar volume control > pickguard shield > other components (pots/switch).
Fender still makes both of the aluminum shield plates for use in reissue guitars. Their full-size plate, however, will only accommodate the vintage 11-hole perimeter screw pattern that was used through 1963. You cannot use it on pickguards with other screw-hole patterns.