Introduction: Home Made Aluminum Thick Pick With Engraving.

In this Instructable I'll be teaching you how to create a cool aluminum pick just with simple materials and tools, the engraving part it's optional but it's quite easy and doesn't requires special abilities or machinery.

I don't play any string instruments, I did this pick for a friend who plays the bass, I guess this kind of picks should be used with instruments that require high pressure on the cords in order to play, I can't give additional information about the ideal pick for each person, I just can say it's easier to work with a 3mm aluminum pick and it's easier round shape with it.

You will need:

-Aluminum sheet (3mm works best).
-Jeweler's saw.
-Metal file.
-Sand paper (150->200->300 or more)
-Polisher
-A rag.

Engraving part (optional):
-HCl
-Tape
-Paint (I chose black)

Step 1:

First, cut the basic shape of the pic, you might want to use a template from the internet, I used a Gibson bass pick as my reference.

P.D: Sorry for the mess.

Step 2:

When you're done cutting it out, round the imperfections with the file so you end with an smooth and even curve.

When finished draw a cross like the one in the picture, then draw a circle, that will give you a basic idea of where do you have to remove material.

P.D: New files can be more difficult to use than old files, I recommend using an old file for this job because it won't get stuck as often as a new one, if you're using a dremel a belt sander or similar then good for you, but take care and check the process periodically because you'll possibly remove too many material and make the pick look uneven.

Step 3:

You can start filing it down, don't work on a part too many time, always try to make all the parts at the same time.

Trick: Draw the shape of the pick in a block of wood, carve it and make a small hollow space, if you place it there it won't move while you are filing it, I filed it pressing the pick against the table with my fingers, clamps are another option but it's difficult to work with them and usually leave nasty marks on the pick.

Don't give too many inclination to the file, if it doesn't goes down be patient and keep going, filing with a prominent angle isn't as precise as doing it with a slight inclination.

Step 4:

Once the pick looks like that and you have a width on the edges about 1 mm or less you can start using the sandpaper, start with ~100-150 grit, sand the top and start making a rounded form on top without starting with the edges yet, keep doing this with all the grits and start making the shape of the borders of the edge but not the edge itself, when the pick is roundy, even, and the borders of the edges are progressively rounded go down to 250 or 300 grit, firts make sand the top, then the borders and finally the edges.

Tip: Get a thin and straight piece of wood and wrap some sandpaper around it, it makes things a lot easier.

Making the edges is a very important and delicate part, to make them place the sandpaper on your hand and start sanding alll the perimeter like you spread butter with it, start pushing with the side, then go progressively tilting the pick and applying less force, do this from one side to another and vice versa to ensure an even edge, you don't want to push it too hard or do it during too much time or you'll end with a round edge, that it's not equal to a progressively rounded edge.

When you've got the edges it's recommendable to sand all the pick again with a fine grit to give it an uniform surface before polishing.

Use the pictures as a reference.

Yes, the red dot on my finger is from too much sanding.

Step 5:

Time to polish, or at least it would be if I decided not to engrave it.

I printed the letters to transfer the design to a piece of tape.

Then, making pressure with a pen I transferred the design to the tape, which I cut with an exact o knife.

Step 6:

Now the etching, I used HCl (used for cleaning pools) but you can use any acid you want as long as it eats the aluminum away.

I just stick the tape to the pick and dropped some drops of HCl,take into account it's corrosive so if it falls on your hands you'll feel it starts to burn so go and wash them as fast as you can.

Thanks to Kiteman for pointing out aluminum with HCl gives Hydrogen and AlCl, so don't worry about chlorine gas.

I waited like 5 minutes, but 3 are more than enough, you can tell by the deepness of the etch, you can etch a lot of designs that can also improve the grip.

Step 7:

For the final steps put some paint inside the etching, remove the excess and let it dry, If you're using oil base paint use some diluent or apply a thin layer to avoid wrinkles on the surface of the painted area.

I applied too much oil base paint and after wrinkles appeared I had to remove the paint and start all over again.

Step 8:

Once the paint it's dry sand the paint excess with a fine sandpaper, this will also give more definition to the etch.

TIP:Put soap inside the etch over the paint so the metal filings get stick to the soap and not to the paint, when you are done just wash it with water.

You can now polish the pick, this is optional but highly recommended since a non polished pick can damage the strings.
If you have a polishing machine or a dremel with polishing wax you can do this in seconds, If you don't, well, grab the polisher and the rag and start rubbing, put more emphasis on the edges and the upper parts.

When you find it shiny enough you are done with your pick, enjoy it.

Comments

author
Gamge (author)2016-05-20

Hi, I am trying this with Hydrocloric Acid I bought off Amazon but not getting the same results. When I put the acid on the metal it ends up eating under the tape and also leaves a nasty, pitted look to the etch, not the clean grooves you managed in this Instructable. What am I doing wrong? Can anyone help?

author
Victor805 (author)Gamge2016-05-22

Try to clean the surface of the aluminum plate with alcohol so there are
no residues, this helps the tape to adhere better. If this doesn't
helps consider changing the tape type, some tapes stick better than
others, aluminium teds to get kinda hot when it gets etched by HCl, this
can also cause the tape to come loose, try mixing the acid with some
water to slow down the etching process so less heat is generated.

author
alames (author)2014-12-13

Regarding new files, try buying finer toothed files, and try oil or wd40 on them. I keep 6 different grades of file on hand, and a bit of oil makes them work wonders. Guy Lautard makes a stand he stores files in with them immersed in oil.

author
ck0050 (author)2014-09-16

You can try using that fingernail polishing blocks. The ones that have 4 different grains. Use that to make the final polishing procedure and you will be amazed of the results.

author
mauro12mdp (author)2014-02-27

How do you polish the aluminum? I mean, With which material does the polisher polish aluminum? any polisher will do? (I don't have a polisher that's why I'm asking hehe)
I've tried to even the surface of an aluminum project of mine with the finest sandpaper available but it always made the surface look scratchy. By the way, I've noticed that the pick you've built HAS some scratches, is there anyway to avoid this? polishing harder?

author
Victor805 (author)mauro12mdp2014-03-06

There are many polishers available on the market, I didn't wanted to be specific because of that fact.

I used a silicone base polisher (titan was the brand), but if you have a polishing wheel or a dremel you can use a polishing wax brick, fine sandpaper over metals will leave some scratches, no matter how hard you try, you can give it a shiny look but it's not polished.

Yeah, my pick has scratches, and that's because I jumped from 80 grit to 150 and then 250, the 80 grit scratches are still visible in some places even after all the sanding made, and that's because I wanted to go too fast and used a very large grit and I couldn't correct it without changing the original shape too much, so I left it that way.

author
mauro12mdp (author)Victor8052014-03-13

Thanks very much for your answer! I'll follow your advice =)

author
Kiteman (author)2014-02-18

Picky point on the science; HCl releases hydrogen gas when it reacts with aluminium. Perfectly safe in the quantities released here.

Otherwise, that's a really nice piece, I didn't know picks could be metallic!

author
Victor805 (author)Kiteman2014-02-18

Oh, thanks, I always thought it was dangerous, nice to know it, I'm going to edit that part.

I've seen thin metallic picks for guitars, the thick ones are usually used to play the bass, my friends say there's a whole world about the picks and It mostly depends on the person who plays the instrument, I've even seen meteorite made picks.

P.D: Sorry for the rotated pictures, for some reason something rotates them, I used the same camera in my other projects but this happens since I started using firefox.

I wish I could rotate the pics in the image editor.

author
Kiteman (author)Victor8052014-02-19

If you use the new editor to tweak your project, it has Pixlr "built in", which can rotate images.

author
Victor805 (author)Kiteman2014-02-19

I had not realized I could until now, thanks again Kiteman.

author
Mrballeng (author)2014-02-18

This is great. Very cool.

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Bio: I'm an electronic engineering student. I don't usually have much spare time but I like to work on random projects to keep myself ... More »
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