Introduction: Handmade Wooden Guitar Picks
These picks are made out of reclaimed wood, so they cost me exactly 0$ to make. The colour, the size and the thickness of the pics is also customisable.
Because the plywood used to make these pics is made basically by overlapping very thin layers of wood, these pics are also very resistant. I used one of these for one month, and it's still usable. There are small millimetre-deep grooves on the sides of the pic, but that happens for me even with the classic plastic pics when you slide the mon the strings sideways.
So let me show you how I made them. Let's get started!
Thin plywood (a piece that is at least 1.1' by 1.26' large)
Sandpaper (with grits that go up to 240)
Step 1: Printing the Template
First, I searched for a guitar pick template online. I know, it's not very creative, but it's the best solution if you want to experiment with different sizes and models. Tracing every pick one by one in Photoshop wouldn't be very time efficient.
I searched for a template with a thin outline because it'll make cutting easier later on.
If you want, you can also use a photocopier to copy a real pick. Or, place a pick on the plywood and trace its outline...
Step 2: Marking the Wood
I cut out the paper templates, and put them on the plywood to trace their outlines. I used a spray can to quickly mark the material that needs to be cut off, but of course any marker or dark pencil will do the job. You need just to pay attention that the template doesn't move while you are tracing its outline.I also suggest you to place the templates ergonomically, so that the pics are easy to cut out and a minimal amount of material is wasted. Still, you need to leave a gap between all templates, to be able to sand down mistakes on the borders.
PS: because the glue that I used was terrible, the paint infiltrated also under the paper. That's why I also needed to draw the outlines. If you use a good quality glue and paint that's not too liquid, you won't have that problem.
Step 3: Cutting the Picks Out
I then cut out the picks following ruffly the contours that I drew earlier. I made four cuts with the hacksaw for each pick in total. Two in the upper part, and two in the 'picking part'. The number of the cuts depends of course, of the model of the pick you are making. The triangle pick for exemple, needed 6 cuts. Also, if you are working with tougher materials (like oak plywood), I suggest you to cut off also the corners, because that will save you time in the sanding process.
If you have a scroll saw, of course, use it instead of the hacksaw.
Because I didn't have any powertools , I had to use my handy hacksaw. If you really don't have any tools, it's also possible to cut the picks out with an Exacto knife. Even a normal knife will do the job, because the plywood isn't very thick and the edges will be sanded later.
Note: In this step you really need to pay attention that you don't cut too much material off and that you leave a millimeter large contour on the edge of the pick for the sanding process.
Step 4: Filing and Sanding the Picks
To give the pick it's classical picky shape, I used a file in combination with sandpaper. The file was used to remove all the corners and to make a little bevelling on all the sides of the pick. I also removed a bit of material with the file on the two sides of the 'pick' part of the pick. It's very easy to oversand this part, so please be careful or the pick might break really easily!
I also sanded down the edges of the pick, so that it feels more comfortable in the hand. I started with a grit of 150, and went up to 240. That's more than enough, because I'll polish the pick with my fingers when I'm playing.
Step 5: Staining the Wood
Because the plywood I used had a light color, I applied some DIY stains on two of the pics, and to experiment a little bit, I customised the third with ink.
Here are the two DIY wood stains I made:
Watercolours + Vinegar
I wanted to try this for a while. Because these blanks are so easy to make, and doesn't cost me anything, I gave this idea finally a go.
I applied some brown watercolours with vinegar on the picks. After five minutes, I added another coat of black watercolour, and let it soak for an hour. After an hour, the pick looked completely black, but the majority of the paint came off with water. This gave me a nice brown pick, that has darker lines in the direction of the grain. It really helps to pop out the grain of the wood, and make it look, like it was actually made of a single piece of wood.
Coffee + vinegar.
According to some websites, mixing coffee and vinegar will give you a dark wood stain, that will make the wood darker, like boiled linseed oil (but for cheaper). I made the mixture like instructed, and let the pick in it for 10 minutes. And the results were not satisfying at all. The pick wasn't darker at all. It had a yellow coloration. I am not especially a fan of this style, but for Steampunk and vintage lovers, this might be a considerable solution. The coffee doesn't amplify the grain of the wood as much as the watercolors, but it still helps to trace a line between the different shapes in the wooden pattern. But not like shown on photos in Google Images...
If you have a industrial wood stain, of course, use it. It really helps to pop out the grain of the wood. After applying several coats of it on the pics, their colour will become much darker and made them look like they were made out off some exotic wood. I wish I had some left to show you..
Step 6: Making and Applying the Beeswax Varnish
Now comes the tricky part. Because the pick will be rubbed against metal strings quite often (depending of how much you practice;), we want to make sure that the tip doesn't become dirty after the first 5 minutes of playing.
To solve this problem we'll cover the picks with beeswax.
I used some beeswax that I bought on a market. You can also find blocks like this on Amazon and eBay. Or you can also take a piece of a beeswax candle and use it instead.
First, I melted 3 grams of beeswax in a metal tea candle base. As a heat source, I used my blowtorch. I then added two drops of linseed oil and stirred the mixture until it began vaporising. After 15 minutes, I got a microscopic amount of beeswax varnish - there was enough to cover three guitar picks with three coats each.
I then let the picks dry for 24 hours and wiped off all the wax that wasn't absorbed by the wood.
I really love the result: the wood is dark and has a matt shine on it. Looks very professional.
Step 7: Conclusion
Even if this is an amateur woodworking project, the outcome is still quite impressive and useful. Having a signature pick is almost as cool as having a signature guitar, but it's a lot easier to take with you and you can always make a new one if you lose or break it.
It's a perfect project to do at weekend. I made my picks in one afternoon and that includes making the vax mixture (but of course not the 24 hours needed to let the wax soak in the picks.
I hope you liked this project and you learned something useful.
Have a great day!
Participated in the
Hand Tools Only Challenge