Make guitar picks from any flat plastic


When my children were little I cut guitar and ukelele picks for them out of old credit cards.

When they got old enough to understand that the other kids had store bought picks they became incensed that I was making “ghetto picks” for them and insisted on spending money on guitar store picks. I refused to buy them so they spent their own money, complaining bitterly.

If I had this gadget I could have hidden the truth!


I sure hope those two picks are from the same credit card. We have two blocks of numbers, the date, and the first block is known – it looks like we’re just missing the second block now – only 10000 possibilities. I’ll take 0000 through 1000.


… And if you’ve used one you realize the picks they make are unsuitable for guitar playing. At best they’re worse than any commercial pick, at worst you spent enough to pay for years of real picks on something near useless.

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When I saw Heywood Banks live he made guitar picks out of his hotel card keys. He said he drove the desk staff nuts. Then someone pointed out to him that he was in Nashville, Tennessee, and that the odds were good that half the audience had guitar picks they could give him.

That’s not an exaggeration either. I don’t even own a guitar and I have at least three guitar picks in different coat pockets.


I have an even more economical solution that’s served me well for 45 years. They’re called fingers. Don’t leave home without 'em…


That depends on the material your punching them from, and the circumstances your playing under. Apparently you can order sheets of pick specific material to use, and I’ve seen people use this with materials noone makes picks from for one reason or another. But I did get one of these for my brother. He’s mostly interested in sitting around the beach, his apartment, or various other low key areas and dicking around with his guitar. Never been in a band, and not overly concerned with technical or performance issues. He uses it to punch picks out of whatever’s handy when he’s out of the ones he normal buys, or the fancy ones musician friends give him. So its not a replacement for quality, or special purpose picks. Its a convenient some time replacement for cheap ass picks you keep on hand for casual purposes. A coin would work too, but apparently my brother doesn’t like how non-flexible they are. Its also an an opportunity to experiment with roundly inappropriate materials, which is fun.

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The two tan fragments are from a AAA card, as is the white fragment. Not sure what the red card is, and the rest appear to be from a Hampton Inn room key.

When they come out with a model that makes left-handed thumb picks, I’ll be all over it - those little bastards are really hard to find.


One guitar players perfect pick is another’s piece of trash.

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Seriously, if I could get one of these that also scores the sides of the pick so I they don’t slide around on my almost smooth fingertips, (Seriously, fingerprint scanners hate me!)
I’d get one of these in a heartbeat.

I solved that problem years ago by only playing in front of a mirror.


A real maker would use a pair of tin snips and a piece of sandpaper. Expensive punches - hmph!


Isn’t it what the embossings on the “donor” cards are for?

…also, if a lock pick is for opening locks, can a guitar pick open a guitar?

Cost of pick punch: $23

Cost of a typical, professionally made guitar pick (in your choice of cellulose, Tortex, nylon…): about 34 cents


I’ve got to say that using a specialised tool for this seems insane. I used to just clip a chunk off an expired credit card (or similar) and get on with it. I had a friend who always played with plastic bread tags.

I’ve had one for awhile and use it to make picks for all the guitarists that never remember picks when they come to my studio space (beggars can’t be choosers). Being a finger picker I almost never use picks except with my electric mandola and 12 string Dan-Electro but these work well if you like thin picks. John McLaughlin used to make all his pucks out of hard plastic boxes made to hold a slice of pie, apparently only available in Britain, I’ve never found any in the USA. He and his wife used a hot knife to make the picks at his kitchen table. It’s what he used on “Birds of Fire” back in the Mahavishnu Orchestra which is a very energetic piece to say the least.


Damn. I tried to use the credit card and ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous… Association.

One of the favorite things to use this punch on in our household is plastic lids that come on the coffee cans and Pringles lids.

It doesn’t make super fancy pics, (and it takes a little practice to figure out how to get them so that the edges come out perfect) but they’re terrific for everyday messing around and situations where you want a pick you don’t want to care about getting it back. Like we keep bunches of them in a repurposed ashtray for when my husband’s bandmates or other folks come over and don’t have a pick handy.

When I played bass in a punk metal band, I played with a pic and I was kind of heavy handed so I went through picks pretty fast. While I had a favorite brand and style of store-bought picks that I really loved, when I was just thrashing my way through practices, the punched ones worked great and made it so I didn’t feel bad about wasting so many of them. When they broke or wore down, oh well, they’d already given what would otherwise have just been garbage a second life.

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I actually use an old scrollsaw I’ve mostly rebuilt. Do I get extra makey credit for that?

Related story: Remember that game with the boats you punched out of credit card plastic? This one? I had a couple of buddies who really liked making the little boats. I noticed that the boats were size-limited because the hull pieces were always set parallel to the long edge of the credit card, and I built them some ships (the Schärnhorst and the Bilge Barge) which used hull pieces set on the diagonal. I must have sawed up 150 credit cards before I got all the pieces right, but it was kind of fun. I made them the biggest, most complicated ships ever! They would rule the plastic seas!

When I presented these guys with their hand-crafted superships, they blinked a couple times and informed me that the vendor had just come out with ships punched out of double-size cards that were half again as big.

Well, at least I got a (mostly) rebuilt 1960s scroll saw out of the project…