Samples of completed bone and buffalo guitar pick blanks

The process shaping a guitar pick from bone(or buffalo horn) is very similar to making a nut or saddle from a bone blank so you can refer to our previous blog post for some additional information especially when it comes to the tools we used.

Guitar picks made of bone do look very cool but they really aren’t the best guitar picks if you are an aggressive player. Bone is very brittle so they will chip easily. Using these will give your guitar a different tone especially when playing an acoustic guitar. Completed picks are also great gifts when used in brackets or necklaces.

First, you will need to source some suitable material to use. Fortunately, Philadelphia Luthier Tools & Supplies carries bone and buffalo horn guitar pick blanks in assortment packs. These are the correct size for a standard guitar pick. Here is a link to purchase your set > LINK

Trace outline of pick on bone blank
Here we are tracing the shape of the guitar pick on the blank. I’m using a FastCap FatBoy marking pencil since it comes with different color lead. The white color works perfectly for this dyed pick blank.
Cutting out the outline on a tabletop bandsaw
Next, we carefully cut along the outside of the drawn line. I’m using a small tabletop bandsaw to cut out the shape. A pattern cutting scroll saw would also work.
Completed cutting out the guitar pick shape
Don’t worry too much if the shape isn’t perfect. We will fix it on the belt sander.
Refining the shape on the belt sander
It is important to only use light pressure and keep the pick moving to get the smoothest edge. Stop frequently and use your finger to feel the edge of the pick to determine how well you are doing.
Getting ready to attach the pick to a block of wood to help hold on to the pick
Here, you will need a small piece of scrap wood to attach the pick blank too. This will help you hold on to the pick during the next few steps. It is best to use our double side template tape.
The piece of wood should only be slightly larger than the pick
The wood should only be slightly larger than the pick you will be shaping.
Shaping guitar pick on the belt sander
The purpose of attaching the blank to the piece of wood is to save your fingertips. Hold the piece parallel to the sanding belt to make the pick thinner. I personally like my picks to be thick to make them easier to hold.
First side sanded to desire shape
Holding onto the wood, you can start tilting and angling the block so you can taper the edge. It will take some practice to get the right motion. Stop frequently to check your progress. Use a shallower angle to make the end that plucks the string thinner than the part you grasp.
Finishing up the second side the belt sander
After you finish the first side, flip the pick over and do the same thing to the second side trying mirror the look of the first side. You might want to use a new piece of double-sided tape since the tape will have less to hold on to since the pick is no longer flat.
Preparing 4 girts of sandpaper
Setup 4 different grits of foam-backed sandpaper on a table. I’ve found the foam sandpaper works great to get the nice rounded pick shape.
Trying and do most of the sanding on the coarsest sandpaper
You will want to concentrate most of the shaping on the coarsest grit. Once you are happy with the shape, proceed to the remainder to help remove most of the deep scratches.
Hold the pick at an angle to help see any imperfections in your work. Start back at the coarsest grit to fix any problem areas and then finish with the finer grits of sandpaper.
Placing the sandpaper near the edge of your workbench will allow easier access to the edge of the pick.
Finding imperfections now is better than finding them after polishing so stop frequently and check your progress!
This is what the pick will look like after final sanding.
Time to get out the benchtop buffer! These are used a lot by pen makers to polish pen blanks. They work great for polish nut, saddles, and picks! Here I’m loading up the left wheel will Menzerna GW16 finishing compound.
Make sure your only work in the bottom front quadrant of the buffing wheel to prevent the pick from being thrown at you or through the shop.
I always use a clean buffing wheel (no compound) for the final polish.
Make sure to get all sides and edges!
The completed guitar pick! Check out that shine! From here, you can go ahead and start plucking away on your favorite guitar or you could drill a hole in it so you can attach it to a necklace or bracelet for your favorite girl!