Making Your Picks Comfy

Picks are necessary for bluegrass, but picks can be uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. And painful too. I used to wear holes in my cuticles, and the picks–particularly the one on my index finger–limited the amount of time I could play. But I fixed that.

What I did was make my picks comfy by making a liner for them. Here’s how I did it.

First, this is the material I used: it’s craft foam, the kind that can be purchased at a craft store. I tried leather, but I didn’t like the way it compressed–this foam is super cheap, easily to cut and glue, and doesn’t hold a compression the way leather does.  It compresses, then it goes back the way it was an hour or so after you take it off.

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Here’s a closeup of the tag so you can see what to get. This stuff comes in every color you can imagine, and one 12″ by 18″ sheet is enough for dozens of picks.

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The first order of business is to adjust the wings of the picks to the right size, because once you insert and glue the liner, it won’t be possible to adjust them. It’s kind of hard to see, but you can see I’ve expanded the wings so that there’s some space between the wings and the top of my index finger, where the nail is.

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The pick will need a piece shaped something like this. It doesn’t have to be perfect, we’ll trim it after it’s glued in there.

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So what I do is put some superglue on the top of the hat-shaped piece of foam and use my finger under it to guide it into position as you see here. I hold my finger in there until the glue bond between the top of the foam and the wings of the pick has formed, then while the glue is still sticky, I fold down the front, as you can see in the next photo.

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I like to fold the front of the foam back up and over the top of the pick. The superglue then bonds not only between the foam and the wings, but the two layers of foam, with the wings between them.

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The foam should extend well past the first circle on the wings and into the second. For me, this is about the right amount. It’s the same on the other side. Note that I haven’t bent the tip of the pick yet–I wait on that until I have the wings and the foam just right.

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This is what the finished pick looks like. Once the superglue is dry and hard, I coat the foam on the inside of the pick with a little bit of mustache wax, and it works great.

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Banjo player bringing the banjo to your town, hamlet, burg, village, and whistle-stop!

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