Hardening Wood Guitar Picks

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Forum topic by TheSkreepyTinker posted 08-04-2016 09:18 PM 1456 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TheSkreepyTinker's profile


2 posts in 1271 days

08-04-2016 09:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing hardening polyurethane resin cactus juice vacuum polishing question

Hello! I make wooden guitar picks out of all kinds of exotics and domestics. Some of them have performed beautifully without any finishing besides micro-mesh polishing. I’ve had a wenge pick, while sounding great, it broke fairly easy. I think part of the problem was the grain was horizontal to the pick tip versus vertically. Ebony plays, feels, and sounds FANTASTIC, but being in the back pocket, it got infused with sweat, bent, then broke.

I’m curious what ways you guys would suggest I harden these picks from both breaking and letting moisture seep in. I’ve contemplated making a vacuum chamber using the Cactus Juice to stabilize the picks after rough shaping, then finishing like normal. I’ve also thought about doing multiple coats of CA glue like I do with bent wood rings. I picked up a can of 3-in-1 polyurethane, but have yet to use it.

I’ve got a lot of picks that are going to be field tested by some fairly well-known bands, but I’d like to ensure they won’t break the first night they play with them.

Any suggestions would be amazingly helpful. Thank you!

6 replies so far

View bobasaurus's profile


3599 posts in 3569 days

#1 posted 08-04-2016 10:07 PM

I’ve made picks by gluing up two pieces of wood for extra strength. If you alternate the grain directions, you can get really strong thin pieces. And even two-tone if you like. Kind of like making your own tiny plywood with nice wood species.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View lennyk's profile


34 posts in 1216 days

#2 posted 08-08-2016 10:38 AM

i doubt poly would work well, seen it peel of in so many applications so it doesn’t appear to soak in deep.

The CA glue is a good option to try, it is used extensively in building model airplanes.
the thin variety will definitely soak in deep,
however it cures very fast and may cure rough as it is a chemical reaction,
make sure there is no dust on the surface.

If you get a bottle which is going bad, it will take longer to cure and have more time to soak in.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11564 posts in 3813 days

#3 posted 08-08-2016 12:46 PM

Contact Stew-Mac. I’d bet they’d have some suggestions.
Allen’s idea is a good one, too. Maybe plys AND CA glue.
I’d like to see what you settle on. Please let us know.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View TheSkreepyTinker's profile


2 posts in 1271 days

#4 posted 08-09-2016 09:15 PM

Thanks for the replies! I picked up some Titebond Thin yesterday from Woodcraft. I applied 3 coats to an ebony pick, and it turned out beautifully! The pick was already super strong, but now it’s waterproof and really shines after the 12,000 micro-mesh. I had an issue with zebrawood breaking easily with a little pressure, but I can’t even bend it after 4 coats of CA glue.

I’ll attach some pictures when I get some good ones.

@bobasaurus, I drew up some laminated designs a couple weeks ago that would make really cool patterns with different woods. I’ll post some pictures when they’re finished.

View devann's profile


2250 posts in 3077 days

#5 posted 08-09-2016 09:29 PM

If you continually rub in some boiled linseed oil you’ll replace the moisture with oil keeping out future moisture while making the wood harder. Or after drying the picks I would probably just soak ‘em till the were full of oil. The wood has to be pretty dry first, remember oil & water don’t mix.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View Woodknack's profile


12796 posts in 2765 days

#6 posted 08-10-2016 05:10 AM

You might experiment with thinned white glue (glue size). It’s sometimes used to make veneer stronger and more pliable.

-- Rick M,

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