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Thread: making my own pick...

  1. #1

    Default making my own pick...

    I've recently discovered the Dunlop Jazztone 207 which I absolutely love playing with. The only issue I have is that it is a little small and then tend to slip when I am playing backup but I love the tone, control and warmth I get with it.

    I have a fair amount of grinders, sanders, hand tools etc. and thought it would be fun to try and create my own Jazztone 209. I'd like to recreate the same shape of the 207 but make it 10% bigger.

    Does anyone know where I can buy some pick making material that could approximate the plastic used in the 207s? I know there are quite a few different named plastics; medlin, ultex, ultem, galalith, tortex, lexar, delrex etc. Does anyone know which one of these plastics is the warmest in tone?

    All thoughts are appreciated and welcome.

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    A few years ago I wanted to make some really odd-shaped picks — long pointy Roman classical picks and I figured ultem was the best plastic for that purpose. See this thread.

    The one place I found now sells through Amazon and this is the Ultem sheet plastic page. I ordered thickness .03" which is 1/32" and .06" which is about 1/16". I got quite a few picks from it and they sounded pretty good.

    Ultem is reasonably priced. BW I believe that ultex is the same as ultem. I also think it is easily workable with the tools you have (I used an old Dremel I have). Plus it has a nice ring when you drop it on a hard surface, just like the verboten organic stuff. I think Tortex is also a pick brand name and not a plastic name.

    Check out the prices for Meldin, though. That is the plastic that Blue Chip picks are made of. The price for a 12" X 12" sheet is about $1300.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    You need to be a tad careful - some of those plastics are VERY expensive indeed. Most of them were made for far more serious purposes than picks. A 4ft x 6ft sheet of 3 mm Lexan Polycarb,sheet cost around 600 going back 20 years. Also be aware that with most 'Plastics',there can be many different specifications of the same material with very different properties.

    Jim above quotes 'Ultem' - well the Ultem that i used to engineer aircraft interior decor panels from (spec. BAER 3170), was very soft. I made a few guitar picks from it & they simply shredded within minutes. Different plastic 'specs. of the same material will be of different prices.

    Rather than buying whole sheets,see if you can find any workplace that uses 'plastics', & see if you can buy their off-cuts - just an idea,
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    This seems tobe a good list of materials, don't know how accurate: http://pickcollecting.presspublisher...onduit-of-tone
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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Why not just melt down some 207's.

  7. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    The Ultem sheets I bought were pretty close to commercial picks. The 207s might be made from a particular formula plastic.
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  8. #7

    Default Re: making my own pick...

    My friend makes picks from plastic milk bottles and other recyclable household plastics. Just an idea. Might be difficult to find thick enough material, though.

    I'm thinking if we can find an empty detergent bottle that uses the same "blue chip" plastic, we can crack the $35 per pick price point!

    OR......................maybe something even better exists!!!???!?!?!!!

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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Where I used to work I came upon a small sheet of what was labeled as "Nylon" and I made several picks from that and I love them. some Dunlop picks are made from nylon...I have no idea what the thickness is but I would guess a little thinner than my Prime Tone pick which is 1.5...I like nylon because it doesn`t have any "pick clack"

    Willie

  10. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    This is the Ultem Ranieri/Roman pick I made for my own use. I made another one just like it for a friend.

    The Ultem sheet .03" was pretty easy to trim down to basic shape using tin snips. Then I smoothed the edges using a Dremel tool. Then used a nail shaping kit I found at CVS for the final smoothing. I found the thicker Ultem sheet was a lot harder to work but I would guess that a belt sander could work it down easily enough.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Jim Garber; Feb-24-2018 at 12:21pm.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Willie - 'Nylon' is a material that's in everyday useage,but again,it's one of those 'Plastics' (''generic'' term), that has dozens of different specifications. Some of it is very soft & other specs. extremely hard. You could spend a long time exploring Nylon on it's own as a pick material. I've not found any yet,but i'd like to make a pick out of 'Bakelite',the plastic that was used back in the 1940's for all sorts of products. It's pretty brittle stuff,but would be very stiff & might be hard wearing enough for a pick,
    Ivan
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    I used to make my own tortoise shell picks from antique stock-so no harm to turtles recently ya critter lovers and I do love turtles!, but it was fun but I found that it of course it is brittle and if ya go too thin they will chip/wear. I used to make completely round circle picks about the size of a nickel out of old worn guitar plastic picks but them also wear too much. So now stick with the blue chip-just no wear and I've been using that pick for going on 5 years! Still play with a thicker old tortoise and in a pinch the V-pick tremolo style. But with the size/shape of my BChip I'm pretty happy. I've tried to make use of the old Gibson pickguards from the 30's that deteriorated but that stuff I've found is junk. Whatever material that was used in the 30's is very different than what was used in the teens and 20's-You rarely see those years of guards deteriorate/the gas off?

  14. #12
    Registered User Mike Conner's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    I purchase Ultex 1.2mm larger 3 corner picks and use that as raw material. The ideal size for me is maybe 80% the size of the starting pick material. I like the "snap" of a 0.73mm pick but the stiffer edge of the 1.2 mm pick with a beveled edge makes for a nice clean sound with less pick noise. So, I file down the perimeter to the size I like, scrape down the center portion near to the 0.73mm thickness but leave the edges the original thickess, then scrape and polish the edge bevel. I use the same pick for acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin and octave mandolin.

    Probably this was too much information . I guess the point is you can start with a larger and thicker standard pick as raw material and then adjust too your taste. And, you can get a variety of materials and thicknesses to play around with fairly cheaply rather than sourcing and committing to a larger sheet.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    In the case of the Ranieri pick (see above), there was no way to get that elongated shape from an existing pick but Ultem sheets are relatively affordable so it was possible. Plus I knew I liked the sound of that plastic.
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    I use expired credit cards, library cards, etc. Some sound okay, some not so much but free material......

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Making picks is fun and all you need is few files, some sandpaper on blocks and polishing paste. Perhaps strong nail clippers for larger shape changes...
    I've been playing picks that I made for many years and my experience is that the shape is more important than material. I've reshaped dozens if not hundreds of commercial picks and pieces of any plastics that crossed my way. After the shape the second factor is longevity, some materials just wear too fast and lose the initial tone.
    My most succesful picks were based upon picks that I played for long time and bevel evolved by playing and some polishing. Thickness, shape of the tip and bevel is most important. The 60 degree or so bevel of modern picks doesn't work for everyone, I would hit the string exactly with the sharp edge of the bevel and it would wear in few songs (did it). I like the bevel start smooth from surface and not end too steep. this assures you hit string with larger area that will be less likely to wear fast. From common materials I liked celluloid the best. My best picks were laminated from two or three large triangle picks - Stagg or similar brand - I've used acetone, CA and calluloid glue to laminate the layers and prefer the CA glue -water thin variety. I made a form with three pieces of wood holding the picks aligned, (scuffed surfaces with 120 grit paper) I put one pick into form over piece of waxpaper, flooded with enough CA pressed another one, flooded with CA and third one on top bent the sheet of waxpaper over the picks covered with another flat piece of wood and pressed the heck out of it with clamp or vise. After few minutes I would pull the pick out and shape the edges to my liking. I don't know why but many of my picking friends liked them more than straight thick celluloid (you couldn't distinguish them by simple looking, the tortoise color doesn't make it easy to see the layers). Later I found the new Primetones (brown flat ones) and really like the material. I reshaped several of the large triangles and like the result, very similar to celluloid but wears slower.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    I have made picks from most easy to get materials, and some from bone, fossilized ivory, tagua nuts, and various types of wood. While some were gorgeous, and didn't sound bad, none were as nice and pleasant to play as a BC or Wegen. these days I have left the BC picks behind and the Wegens are the go to pick M100 and TF100. Mostly the round M100.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    I am in the same realm as pops1 but switch back and forth from BC to Wegen and back again. I leave my main BC in my main mandolin so that is the one that gets played most but from time to time I go to my mini Altoid pickbox and rotate through some of my other treasures. I find that certain picks affect not only my tone but my ability to play certain passages in certain genres. And some instruments "prefer" some picks over others. And, yes, I am nuts.
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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    ..And, yes, I am nuts.
    But only in the nicest way, Jim!
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Feb-25-2018 at 8:39pm. Reason: Fixed quote syntax
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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Great discussion! (Even though I'm the type that'll use the same 65c pick over a period of years.)

    I'm reminded of a friend's experience as a student of Warren Nunes about 50 years ago. Warren took the pick itself very seriously, and started you off by teaching you to make picks that would suit your own hand. If I remember right, you were to take two commercial picks (probably tortoise shell in those days), laminate them together somehow, shape them with a file, and then bend them over an alcohol lamp to get the right curve. You ended up with a very thick strong pick with a personalised shape and curve.

    Seems a little like the process oboe players go through in making the reeds they use. Not sure if Warren continued to make his own picks. I'm sorry I never met him or heard him play in my Bay Area days.

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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Ive had success with peanut butter jar lids,



    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    I use expired credit cards, library cards, etc. Some sound okay, some not so much but free material......

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    I've never had a credit card that was stiff enough or durable enough to make a pick out of but they do sell these if that's something you want to do.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...rds=pick+punch
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  30. #22
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Used to play with a guy who made his picks from plastic milk jugs; no lie. They were plain goofy but he loved them.

  31. #23
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    There are many, many formulations of plastic, so you have lots and lots of options, all with differing stiffness, friction, and impact resistance. Moreover, each type of plastic can usually be 'tuned' a bit by varying the levels of crosslinking or polymer length, or using dopants, so each plastic name is really a "family" of materials with similar, but slightly differing, properties.

    Blue Chip picks are made from a type of polyimide (brand names include Meldin, Vespel and Kapton). This is an amazing thermoplastic with all the right properties, but it is incredibly expensive stuff (i.e., Meldin is thousands of dollars for a decent sized sheet), which is the reason why Blue Chip picks are so expensive. It usually does not pay to make these for yourself, because you will have to buy a small amount of material, which gets even more expensive. It will likely wind up costing you more than $35 per pick.

    Nearly -- but not quite -- as good for picks is polyetherimide (brand names Ultex, Ultem, etc.) It is easily available and far cheaper than polyimide, even though the names of the chemicals sound similar! Many brands of successful mandolin picks are made from this stuff, including quite a few from Dunlap, D'Addario, etc.

    Yes, good old nylon (a polyamide) can be used for picks, and it has low friction, so it leaves the strings nicely. However, in my opinion, it's WAY too soft and flexible for mandolin picks. But electric guitarists like it. Teflon (PTFE, poly-triflouroethylene) is even more slippery, but too soft.

    You might consider trying these plastics:

    Polyoxymethylene, (acetal resin, Delrin is a brand name). Softer than polyetherimide, but stiffer than nylon.

    Polyether ketone (PEEK, Victrex is a brand name)

    Polysulfone (PSF, Udel and Ultrason are brand names)

    Polycarbonate (PC, Lexan and Makrolon are brand names). Clear, used for impact shields, and so on. Could be good!

    Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA, an Acrylic plastic resin). Acrylic can make a decent pick, but it's brittle and may shatter. Also, might give more pick noise.


    I would start by looking all these plastics up in Wikipedia and picking a particular formulation of a plastic material with a Young's Modulus (response to strain) similar to Ultem or Meldin. That will get the pick stiffness about right. Then, look for low friction, and also for high impact resistance.

    I would tend to rule out these plastics from the start, which are all too soft (IMHO):

    polyvinyl, polyvinyl acetate, polyurethane, polyethylene
    Last edited by sblock; Feb-26-2018 at 12:28pm.

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  33. #24
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Great overview, sblock. According to some guitar forums I checked, the Dunlop Jazztones are made with some formulation of polycarbonate.
    Jim

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  34. #25

    Default Re: making my own pick...

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I have made picks from most easy to get materials, and some from bone, fossilized ivory, tagua nuts, and various types of wood. While some were gorgeous, and didn't sound bad, none were as nice and pleasant to play as a BC or Wegen. these days I have left the BC picks behind and the Wegens are the go to pick M100 and TF100. Mostly the round M100.
    I can't justify $35 a pick as I tend to lose them. I've tried the Wegens. I find the M100 to be too small and too bright. I've had him make me a 10% larger T100 in various thicknesses (T150, T200, T250) and I still prefer my lowly 207s. I do love the playability of the Wegens.

    For those of you who have made a pick or two, how would describe the impact thickness has on brightness? Same question for bevel and same question for shape.
    Last edited by dadsaster; Feb-26-2018 at 9:16pm.

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