Making Guitar Picks

One of my other hobbies is playing guitar. I’ve actually done a few restorations over the years and quite enjoyed it.

I’ve been experimenting with my tone and decided to try making a some picks out of different materials to see how they turned out. I had a bunch of different bits of hardwood around that I thought would make good picks so cut different width slices off a few to try out.

The top left piece I think is Karri, the bits on the right are some form of maple and the bottom left piece is some sort of Aussie hardwood that I know is as hard as a rock. You’ll notice everything is cut off engrain, it was the only way I could easily get the slices the size I wanted. I also thought that the endgrain edge hitting the strings might be stronger and hold up better and so far it’s proving to be the case.



I decided to try the unknown hardwood first as it’s the nicer wood and it’s also heavy as anything.



I used an existing pick to mark up the shape I wanted, using a white pencil. It’s a very handy thing to have around the workshop for marking dark wood.


I put it into a vice and clamped it lightly, then started using a coping saw to cut out the shape. It turns out that the wood was incredibly brittle and basically shattered. I thought maybe it was just too thin so I cut a thicker piece and tried again with the same result.



I gave up on this wood and tried a bit of the maple. I decided to cut it differently, using a tenon saw to cut the basic shape instead of using the coping saw and risking breaking these too




I used a combination of rasps and sandpaper to get it to the right basic shape.



I then shaped the curves until I was happy with the result and it felt right in my hands.


Once it was done I was really happy with the result so made a couple more, one more in maple in a different shape and one out of the redgum. I also branches out a bit into metalwork and made one out of copper and one out of aluminium.


In use, the middle one of maple feels great and brings out a really big, beefy tone. You can get really good attack on the note. The thickness tapers down to a fairly thin point though so you can also do fine work.

The far right one out of maple is a little too thick, it works fine but it’s also a little short to grip well. It does however work well on Bass guitar strings.

The one second from left is decent, but it doesn’t flex enough and so doesn’t have quite the attack or feel of the middle one.

The aluminium one is odd. It feels fine, but it basically deadens the strings. You get a very flat attack and no resonance, which is very odd. It does work well with certain effects though. The biggest problem is that it is very soft and leaves a residue on the strings.

The copper one on the left was the real surprise. It was hammered out of a smaller piece of copper and so is thicker at the grip end than the tip, and the hammer marks add terrific grip. The tone it brings out is bright and clean, but because of the thickness tape it’s also possible to really dig into the strings



2 thoughts on “Making Guitar Picks

    1. Hi Matt

      Thanks for the comment! The faces are both actually endgrain, and the grain goes across the top from face to face. It was easier to cut this way and the pores in the end grain give it really good grip, where I’m not sure that the polished grain face would.


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