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I know this question may sound off-topic, but from what bones are bone picks made and how different are they from plastic, metal, wooden or rubber picks?

How difficult is it to make a bone pick and is there a minimal size beyond which the bone pick will break or be inefficient?

I would like to make a bone pick for myself, yet not know where to start.

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Generally, the majority of bone products are made from Cow bone, which is processed for use in musical instruments, jewelry carving and other crafting uses. Bone "blanks" can be purchased in a variety of sizes. It is also possible to clean and dry bones yourself for project work.

It is fairly easy to work with bone. Bone can be cut with a fine toothed saw such as a hacksaw. It can be sanded and filed, and some artists use grinding stones and wheels on it. You have to be careful not to let the work get too hot as you can burn it. Finishing can be done with fine sanding and abrasive polish.

Although strong, bone can be brittle, so you wouldn't want to make the pick leading edge too thin. A steeper taper more like a "jazz" pick would likely be more resistant to chipping.

Ivory and Tortoise shell were common materials for plectrums (picks) before plastics.

You will get some tone differences from the different materials, and flexibility and wear rates differ. Bone is hard and picks made from it don't have flexibility so are more like stone or glass picks.

To get started all you need is a saw, a rough file and some sandpaper, and a bone blank big enough for the size pick you want.

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    Last time I worked on a bone nut, I didn't feel too good after. Maybe wear a mask.
    – Tim
    Jun 8 '18 at 10:49
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    @Tim good point. In fact, always wear a mask when sawing or sanding or grinding pretty much any material. Jun 8 '18 at 12:07
  • Slightly off topic: Bear in mind old ivory and tortoise shell (even 200 year-old antiques) are now basically illegal to even transfer ownership of in many (most) US States. Old instruments can get by this rule because there is a "percentage rule." (200 grams, with caveats)
    – Yorik
    Jun 8 '18 at 13:26
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Different bones (from a given animal) have different strengths. For example, the human shoulder blade is extremely strong and difficult to break, whereas less dense bones such as those in the lower arm will fracture more easily. OTOH, aside from the shock value, making your picks out of human vs. cow vs. kodiak bear bones won't matter much (tho' picks made from the jawbone of your mortal enemy would be excellent). Bird skeletons are a poor choice, as their bones are not dense at all and will break very easily.

As Alphonso pointed out, very few bones have much in the way of flexibility.

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  • What am I supposed to do, kill some human being and take their shoulder blade? I'm not in the mood to kill, just yet. Jun 8 '18 at 14:21
  • @SovereignSun you could always raid some tomb or sarcophagus. Just don't wake a mummy. Jun 8 '18 at 14:37

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