Make Wood Guitar Picks
For some time now I have wanted to make a wood guitar pick. Not for any particular reason other than wanting to see if I could and if it would work. The answer to the first question is, yes I can, and the answer to the second question is yet to be confirmed – sort of.
I have actually been using the first wood guitar pick I made for about a month and so far it has held up and doesn’t play a whole lot differently than a regular pick, though the sound is a bit warmer. In the video I actually call for some people to test these out, though that has concluded now.
Names were drawn from the comments on December 16, 2016 at 5:51 AM EST
Now, on to how we did it.
First thing first. You’re gonna need a pattern – Free Pick Pattern Download – Make sure you print it at 8.5″ x 11″
Now, watch the video or skip down to the step-by-step instructions below the video.
What You’ll Need
- Wood of your choosing, hardwood is best
- Wood Glue if making a multi-wood blank
- Pattern (free above) or you could freehand a shape
- Spray adhesive or glue stick (for applying the pattern)
- Painter’s tape (if using spray adhesive)
- Table saw
- Band saw or scroll saw
Making the Wood Blank
The wood blank is exactly as it sounds – a blank of wood. This can either be one solid chunk or a sandwich of glued up boards. For the picks that I made, I made a delicious oak and walnut sandwich. These boards just get glued and clamped.
Refining The Blank
If you haphazardly glued together different sizes of wood, like I did, you will need to refine it a bit. I did this by ripping down both long sides on the table saw and then making a crosscut on each end. This left me with a really manageable wood blank.
Setting The Table Saw and Cutting Slices
I scratched my head at this for a bit before deciding to approach it like I did. I measured over 5 mm from the kerf of the blade and marked a pencil line on my rickety old table saw insert. This helped me make each woody slice I would cut off the blank as close to similar as I could get it. Each slice may have been different, but it doesn’t matter much. It’s a guitar pick.
Then I just slid the fence over until the blank was at that line. The fence was moved for each cut.
5 mm may seem a bit thick for a guitar pick and well… it is. There were a couple of reasons I made it this thick. First of all, these wood guitar picks get sanded on all edges and faces and I knew that I would be using a strip sander to do this. This brought me down to roughly 3-4 mm on each pick. Even at 3 mm this is still pretty thick, which brings me to reason number two.
It’s wood. I figured that anything less than 2 mm would probably break. This theory was proven correct a few days after making the first set of picks. I made one thin set that after sanding was just a hair under 2 mm. I was able to snap it with minimal force. No good. So, 3-4 mm it is.
Also, note that the tip of the pick is quite a bit thinner than the whole of the pick. I was able to get it down around 2 mm or under on most of them. Moving on…
Applying The Pattern
The pattern is necessary, or at least it was for me. To apply it, I added a layer of painter’s tape on each strip, sprayed on some adhesive and then attached each pattern strip that I had cut from the page I had printed. Super easy.
Cutting Out Individual Picks
This could be done on either a scroll saw or band saw. I opted for the band saw since it was a bit quicker. No need to cut right on the line. In fact, it is probably best to not do this, but rather, sand up to the line later.
Time To Hone Your Sanding Skills
These require an amazing amount of sanding. Like a stupid amount and it kind of happens in phases, or at least that’s what we’re gonna call them because it sounds hip.
Phase 1 – Shaping
First you’ll want to get the pick sanded up to the template line. This can be done on a strip belt sander or a disc sander. Don’t forget to remove the template afterward.
Phase 2 – Tapering
This is the part of sanding where you want to add a slope or taper to the pick. There really isn’t an exact way to do this or an exact way to replicate it. The idea is to add a taper to it that you think would work or that would be comfortable. Don’t make it too thin, though.
Phase 3 – Rounding (optional)
If you want the wood guitar pick to be a bit less rough around the edges, spend some time rounding over all the sharp edges. We did both and the rounded over version seems much more comfy in my fingers.
Phase 4 – Hand Sanding
With a little 220-grit sandpaper you can really hone in the shape of the pick. It also helps to smooth the surface a bit.
You can leave these unfinished if you like. I’m not really sure if it would really make any difference. We soaked some of the wood guitar picks in Tung oil and left some unfinished and both hold up the same. The ones that have tung oil are just a bit nicer looking. Perhaps poly or some other finish would add some more protection, but I think no matter what, the business end of the pick is gonna get destroyed.
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