THE STRAPGRAPHICS BLOG

December 27th, 2016

Cool Guitar Picks You Can Make Yourself

Whether opening for a huge band, performing at the local bar or tinkering in the living room (or possibly the basement at the request of an irritated roommate/partner), guitar players set out to establish their own unique style.

If you play guitar, you get it. And yeah, you establish your style through your playing. But the kind of guitar and sort of strap you choose lend just as much to your style.

So then what about your guitar pick?

Maybe you’ve never considered your pick as anything but a utilitarian afterthought. Are cool custom guitar picks even a thing?

The answer is yes.

There are many methods for making cool guitar picks that speak to your style.

Or maybe you’re looking for the ideal customized gift for the guitar player in your life (or basement). Either way, consider any of these three ways to land yourself a guitar pick that says something.

Method #1 – The Recycling Method

The cool thing about making your own pick is that it can be done from any number of things you already have lying around the house or apartment.

The first step is picking out the material.

Here are a few ideas and considerations:

Metal – If you have any kind of sheet metal lying around, you can use this. Keep in mind that metal picks can give a sharp, bright tone on electric guitars, but they aren’t ideal for acoustic guitars.

Leather – Do you have an old belt you no longer use? Leather picks are great for times when you don’t have a bass guitar. With a leather pick, you can pick those low strings of your acoustic guitar to get some solid bass sound with a muted, thick tone. Plus, a leather pick could go hand-in-hand with a customized leather guitar strap.

Plastic – Grab an old CD you never listen to, an unneeded credit card, or even a plastic lid from a jar. You’ll want to experiment a bit, because the thickness and cut may change the sound.

With all three of these materials, you’ll trace a pick on the material and then use the appropriate cutting tool (exacto knife, heavy-duty scissors) to extract the shape. If you’re using plastic or metal, you’ll want to sand down and smooth the edges with a rough scrap of sandpaper or a file.

And if you don’t have a pick, print a picture of one from the internet. It’ll still work as long as you scale it. and it’s no big deal if it ends up being asymmetrical.

If you choose, you can either paint the pick with spray paint, or grab some tape and put it on the back of the pick. Don’t fold it over to the other side. Instead, cut off any excess tape and repeat on other side.

You can use masking tape or “duck” tape, which now comes in all kinds of custom colors and patterns.

If you’re up for a real adventure and you have a hand saw or hacksaw and TIME, you can use a retired desoldered circuit board.

In this case, you’ll need to plan out where exactly you want to cut it out at and then sand and file the picking side down to a rounded edge. These cool guitar picks turn out nicely when done correctly. Just note though that most circuit boards are around 1.5mm – 2.5mm thick and have nearly no flexibility.

In other words, the desoldered circuit board is not for the faint of heart.

Method #2 – When You Can Be Trusted With An Oven

This method is completely custom because you’ll be making these cool guitar picks from scratch. They’re totally homemade.

Here’s what you need:

  • Permanent markers
  • Foil
  • A guitar pick
  • A copy machine
  • #6 plastic, such as you might find on clear takeout containers or disposable cake pan lids from any dollar store
  • Nail file or sandpaper

As an important side note, the fumes from melting #6 plastic fumes can be dangerous, so stick to a single small batch and ventilate your kitchen.

1. Trace the pick and enlarge about 250% to make a template

2. Cut the plastic into a flat sheet and trace your guitar pick template on it. Consider lightly sanding the side that you are going to draw on as it makes the marker adhere better.

3. Use the markers to color/design/write/draw crazy pictures to transform them into customized cool picks that may even compliment a guitar strap you designed yourself.

4. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Make a cookie sheet from the foil.

5. Cut out your picks and place them on the foil tray. Slide them in the oven. After about a minute they will start to bubble, shrink and curl up. This is normal and they’ll flatten as they cool. (Remember Shrinky-Dinks?)

6. Carefully remove them from the oven. If they still aren’t flat enough to make you feel secure, then place something flat and heavy on them while they cool, but not for too long. They’ll cool quickly.

7. Have at ‘em.

Method #3 – Spare Change

If you’ve got some spare change, you can make cool guitar picks using coins. And if you have a lucky coin or one that has sentimental value, it can make for a really special pick.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • A coin
  • A marker
  • A Dremel tool or a belt grinder
  • Dremel cut-off wheels & sanding disks
  • Pliers
  • Safety Glasses

Place a regular guitar pick over your chosen coin and color around the edges so you know what to cut off.

Then unless you want sharp metal flecks grazing your cornea, you’ll want to put on safety glasses.

Use the Dremel to cut out the pick.

Clean up the edges with the flat edge of the cutting disk.

Then use the sanding disk to clear off all the sharp edges.

There are a few things to think about if you decide to make a guitar pick from a coin.

Picks made from metal can damage your strings. Practice a soft picking style to minimize the damage to the strings, pickguards and your guitar’s body and finish.

If you’re using a quarter, use a pre-1964 one. Modern quarters are copper and nickel, but those produced before 1964 are 90% silver so they’ll look nicer and be easier on your strings.

And finally, you may encounter folks who want to tell you it is illegal to alter coins. The law states that it is illegal to fraudulently alter money. And since this is not the case here, it is completely legal.

Making your own cool guitar picks is an easy way to demonstrate your unique style.

And they make great gifts too – either as a stand-alone or as part of a package deal with a customized guitar strap. Perfect for the guitar player who has everything.