Introduction: DIY Plastic Finger Picks

I did this project because I broke my nail one time too many. I play clawhammer banjo, and to get the tone I like I need my nail out past my finger tip.

Most commercial finger picks are made of brass, steel, or hard plastic. Unlike natural fingernail, these materials don't have give when they hit a string, and are harder so the don't absorb the shock by letting the string dig in. The result of this is that when playing with these picks they make an annoying scratching and pinging sound.

By using soft flexible plastic I corrected both these problems creating a pick that produces superior tone and is fit perfectly to my finger. These picks are also a great recycling project and are very low cost. 

Step 1: Tools and Materials

For this project you'll want yo get:
-Tin snips or other strong scissor
-Nail clipper
-File
-Pen
-Medical tape
-Soft flexible plastic (I'm using plastic dog food containers)

Step 2: Cut Out Rough Shape

First make sure whatever plastic you're using is clean and dry. Next use the tin snips to cut out a large flat section plastic. Cut out a rectangle approximately 1 inch by 2 inches in size. Cut two 7/8" deep slits in the long side, one 3/4" from the end the other 1 1/4" from the end. Next cut in from the ends to the end of the slits at a 70 degree angle to the slits. Make parallel cuts to these on the back of the pick creating the shape  in the last picture.

Step 3: Wrap the Sides With Tape

Take a piece of medical tape and wrap it around the sides of the pick. As the pick is curved you'll have to fold it in the center.

Step 4: Curve the Blade

Use the body of the pen and bend the blade of the pick around it creating a crease in the plastic. you can see the result in the last picture. 

Step 5: Fit Pick

Wrap the pick around the tip of you desired finger. Line up the edges so they are straight where they meet. as shown in picture 2. Wrap one side over the other and mark where they overlap. Using a thin strip of medical tape, tape the sides together in this position.

Step 6: Clip the Blade Into Shape

Use the nail clipper to shape the blade to its final edge. You can use the file to smooth things out if you like. My preferred shape is the one pictured below, but you might want to make a few of these and try different shapes to see which feels and sounds best to you.  

Step 7: Done!

The pick is now ready to use. It may need some tweaking for it to feel just right. Try different blade shapes or positions. For the first few uses your fiber will be slightly sticky firm the excess glue on the medical tape, but this should stop after a while.

The picks have been a great help to my playing giving me clarity and tone along with freedom from worry about a split or chipped nail. I plan of experimenting with different plastics like ping pong balls and milk jugs to see which is closest to the all natural fingernail tone, but for now this is an invaluable tool. 

Comments

author
DisneyWizard (author)2017-07-12

Magnetic-stripe cards work well for me - expired credit cards, hotel keys, casino club cards, et cetera. Once cut to shape, drop the blank in a coffee cup of piping hot water until soft and flexible. I use a wooden dowel whitled to finger size and shape as a mandrel to mold the blank onto while it is hot. When cooled, it holds its shape well. A finished pick sprung over it can hold the cooling one in place well for the few moments to harden. I started with thumb picks from copper pipe using credit cards as a template then found the plastic picks had a better tone and were easier to craft.

author
darrenhall (author)2016-03-11

Great build - I am a big believer in custom making items and recycling so this INST really appealed.
Good job.

author
mpowend made it! (author)2015-05-17

great idea. made them with thinner transparent plastic. very good.

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author
OneHarp (author)2013-06-27

Great idea! I typically use the "meat" of my fingers for fingerpicking (I'm a blues guy), but this might be a cool alternative sound for me to try out!

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