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Thread: Polyetherimide plectra

  1. #1

    Default Polyetherimide plectra

    I really doubt it, but does anybody know of any pick makers fashioning Neapolitan-type pletcra of polyetherimide (which goes by the trade name Ultem or, in the case of Dunlop's brand, Ultex)? I really like the material as mandolin plectra for its rigidity and relative longevity (at least among plastic picks). Historically, I've bought Clayton's large triangle Ultem Gold picks, individually cut them to profile with shears, and buffed the edges to arrive at a slightly short Neapolitan-type plectrum, but having some company simply make them, full length and ready to go, would save much time and material.

    I recognize that the material's hardness is a potential issue. In interview, Jim Dunlop discussed that polyetherimide quickly wore out his on-hand machinery when his shop began working the stuff.

    For those of you to have tried both Clayton's Ultem Gold and Dunlop's Ultex lines, Dunlop's looks to me to have a more glass-like (and frankly, more turtle-like) polish to the finish, but I've not used it. Can anybody comment on a comparison of those brands?

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post

    For those of you to have tried both Clayton's Ultem Gold and Dunlop's Ultex lines, Dunlop's looks to me to have a more glass-like (and frankly, more turtle-like) polish to the finish, but I've not used it. Can anybody comment on a comparison of those brands?
    I've used both Clayton Ultem and Dunlop Ultex as a go-to pick for some time now. I prefer the standard size "sharp" shaped picks:



    These work very well as a Neapolitan pick, even if they are slightly wider than the classic versions.

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    Eugene 

  4. #3

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    These work very well as a Neapolitan pick, even if they are slightly wider than the classic versions.
    Wider and shorter. I like this profile for guitars (although it's been a very long time since I've applied plectra to guitars). Perhaps oddly, I've never really liked this classic guitar shape on mandolin.

    Do you notice any difference between Dunlop Ultex and Clayton Ultem, David?

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  6. #4
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    Wider and shorter. I like this profile for guitars (although it's been a very long time since I've applied plectra to guitars). Perhaps oddly, I've never really liked this classic guitar shape on mandolin.

    Do you notice any difference between Dunlop Ultex and Clayton Ultem, David?
    Very slight - the Dunlop picks are just a tiny bit better finished, but I can use either brand happily.

    I use this pick on most guitars (not for gypsy jazz, I use a thicker pointed pick for that style) and mandolins and it works very well for me.

    Actually, some of the smaller Neapolitan picks are about the same length, too. Of course some are a bit longer, but not as long as Roman style picks.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Eugene: you remember the old days here when we had a very active classical section. I bought a sheet of Ultem plastic and made a few Roman style picks out of it. I agree that it is the best sounding plastic but for my old time rhythm playing on guitar it would wear down very quickly as opposed to the Meldin ones (Blue Chip) which are still going strong.
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  10. #6

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Actually, some of the smaller Neapolitan picks are about the same length, too. Of course some are a bit longer, but not as long as Roman style picks.
    Yes, of course, but many of the old ones and my personal preference favor longish, perhaps just shy of 40 mm.

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Eugene: you remember the old days here when we had a very active classical section. I bought a sheet of Ultem plastic and made a few Roman style picks out of it. I agree that it is the best sounding plastic but for my old time rhythm playing on guitar it would wear down very quickly as opposed to the Meldin ones (Blue Chip) which are still going strong.
    Yes, I recall. Thanks for the thoughts.

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  14. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    I really doubt it, but does anybody know of any pick makers fashioning Neapolitan-type pletcra of polyetherimide (which goes by the trade name Ultem or, in the case of Dunlop's brand, Ultex)? I really like the material as mandolin plectra for its rigidity and relative longevity (at least among plastic picks). Historically, I've bought Clayton's large triangle Ultem Gold picks, individually cut them to profile with shears, and buffed the edges to arrive at a slightly short Neapolitan-type plectrum, but having some company simply make them, full length and ready to go, would save much time and material.
    To continue... have you contacted Clayton or Dunlop or anyone else to see what they would charge for making some picks to your specifications? I assume what you find lacking in reworking the existing picks is the length.

    It seems rare that you can buy small sheets of ultem in less than .25". This company seems to have some in .063" and .04". I cut my Roman pics to the dimensions of Ralf Leenen's template then worked them with Dremel tool and nail finishing supplies from my local CVS. Then thicker ones are more difficult to work and ideally the proper Roman pick needs to be pretty thick in the center but relatively thin on the outer edges. I was not very successful with the thicker stuff but I liked what I was able to get from the thinner material and made one also for Victor K.
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  16. #9

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    I've looked at the online custom-order forms, but they amount only to getting something printed in bulk on their standard lines of picks. I've tried a few times with the smaller-than-Clayton-or-Dunlop guys (Red Bear and Pickboy) to make more traditional Neapolitan plectra. Pickboy is happy importing their tiny heart-shaped, Neapolitan-type plectra from Japan. I started writing Red Bear years ago, shortly after their creation. Now, they seem pretty committed to Carlo Aonzo's design with a really narrow and pointy profile, which I just don't like (at least not in their proprietary casein; it sounds too bright and brittle and feels too snaggy). I'm thinking of dropping a line to both Dunlop and Clayton to see if I can get either to add the Neapolitan profile to their polyetherimide lines and to Galli to see if I could get them to apply their existing profile to the material.

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  18. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    You also might talk to Nik Monnin of Apollo. He works with PEEK and casein and might be interested. Of course the market is a bit small, to say the least.
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  20. #11

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Of course the market is a bit small, to say the least.
    Yeah . . .

    That's why I have Galli on my short list.

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  22. #12
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Good luck, Eugene!

    Actually, since I never used that style pick, can you post the dimensions and thickness of the ones you prefer?

    Are they sort of close to the ones that this seller of used picks on eBay sells? That person seems to have other similarly shaped older picks, but many seem to to be very thin.
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  24. #13
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Are they sort of close to the ones that this seller of used picks on eBay sells? That person seems to have other similarly shaped older picks, but many seem to to be very thin.
    Yes, those picks are a bit thin for my taste too. Not just thin, but not stiff enough too.

  25. #14
    Michael Reichenbach
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    I had sent the following reqest to Dunlop last year:

    How can we help?
    Is there a chance that you produce other pick shapes? I would be interested in a typical mandolin pick (smaller, more pointy) and a Roman mandolin pick (double point) made in your great Primetone Series.

    I got the following reply:


    Hello Michael,

    We always appreciate feedback and do take suggestions into consideration when looking at new products so Iím happy to pass this suggestion on to our marketing department so they know people are asking about it.



    If you follow us on social media you can stay up to date with any new products we release.

    Thank you,

    Customer Service

    Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc.


    So please send more requests to Dunlop! They might add "mandolin picks" to their production line!

    I prefer the "Primetone" picks - because those picks are polished and bevelled. The "Flow" line is also interesting.
    Homepage: www.mandoisland.de / Blog: www.mandoisland.com / Freiburg / Germany

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  27. #15

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Actually, since I never used that style pick, can you post the dimensions and thickness of the ones you prefer?
    Voila. Left to right, these are antique tortoiseshell (approx. 0.8 mm thick, but super rigid), antique celluloid (as discussed below), and Galli celluloid (1.00 mm thick). The Galli is about 38 x 22 mm, and I like those dimensions or similar. My biggest disappointment in the Galli is that I wear them out so quickly.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Are they sort of close to the ones that this seller of used picks on eBay sells? That person seems to have other similarly shaped older picks, but many seem to to be very thin.
    I bought a 1-gross box (one of which is pictured above). Like David, I found them too thin and flimsy to be of much use. Fortunately, they were pretty cheap, and the antique box does make for excellent eclectic decor on my reclaimed-wood bookshelf.

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  29. #16

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by mandoisland View Post
    So please send more requests to Dunlop! They might add "mandolin picks" to their production line!
    Excellent point, Michael. The Primetone line is interesting. I have played around with the typical jazz-guitar and large-triangle profiles from that series, and like the strong tone that they produce. I would still like to find the Neapolitan profile in polyetherimide without me having to cut, shape, and buff it myself.

  30. #17
    Michael Reichenbach
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Dunlop has so many different shapes and thicknesses - it should not be a problem to add some typical mandolin-specific shapes if we ask for it. Maybe the shape of the German Wolle pick (in the center of the following picture) would also be a good choice.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I am happy with the standard guitar picks.
    Homepage: www.mandoisland.de / Blog: www.mandoisland.com / Freiburg / Germany

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  32. #18

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Just my 5 cents: I'd really love to have a Pickboy style heart-shaped pick of the same thickness as the original, but made of Meldin instead of celluloid and wrote a couple of times to BlueChip guys hoping they could make one for me, but they didn't even bother to reply...

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  34. #19
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by vic-victor View Post
    Just my 5 cents: I'd really love to have a Pickboy style heart-shaped pick of the same thickness as the original, but made of Meldin instead of celluloid and wrote a couple of times to BlueChip guys hoping they could make one for me, but they didn't even bother to reply...
    isn’t this BC pick pretty close in shape to the Pickboy?
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  35. #20

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    The Pickboy import is the right-most plectrum in this image. As you can see, it's small, about the size of Dogal's small Neapolitan-style plectra: L to R, antique tortoiseshell, Galli celluloid, Red Bear casein, Dogal mystery plastic, Pickboy imported celluloid.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  36. #21
    Registered User Brian560's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    I have been using the Red Bear Neapolitan which I like, but the point is quite sharp. I had hoped that with use it would become more rounded but that hasn’t happened yet. I think I will buy another. Neapolitan and classical picks like the German ones aren’t easy to purchase in the USA.

  37. #22

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    I find the sharpness of the Red Bear profile to be noticeably "snaggy" and to result in a very bright tone that I describe as "brittle." I occasionally use them and like their extreme resistance to abrasion. However, I grind the tip down with a diamond hook hone and then buff the newly resultant, slightly blunted tip to smooth before use. I like the feel and sound much better that way.

    I wish Red Bear was more open to putting a more traditional Neapolitan profile into regular production. They developed their narrow Neapolitan profile (which does have historic precedence as well, just less common) in consultation with Carlo Aonzo (who has way more street cred than any of us, of course). Ah well . . .

  38. #23

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    isn’t this BC pick pretty close in shape to the Pickboy?
    Hi Jim. That BC is too thick being 1.4 mm. Pickboy is only 0.7-0.8, I think.

  39. #24
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by vic-victor View Post
    Hi Jim. That BC is too thick being 1.4 mm. Pickboy is only 0.7-0.8, I think.
    I was talking about the shape not the thickness. BC makes their 35 pick thickness which is 0.89mm. Perhaps you could see if they make that shape with the thickness of their 35 pick.
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  40. #25

    Default Re: Polyetherimide plectra

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I was talking about the shape not the thickness. BC makes their 35 pick thickness which is 0.89mm. Perhaps you could see if they make that shape with the thickness of their 35 pick.
    That would be nice. I actually have 35 pick and it is still a bit too stiff to my liking, but possible it is just because of it's shape and small size. Should it be more elongated it would make it more flexible I think. I guess Roman pick made of Meldin would be terrific, too.

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