Steve Clayton Blog

Guitar Pick News – Illegal Guitar Pick Case

Woman Pleads Guilty for Selling Illegal Sea Turtle Guitar Picks

Associated Press
May 8, 2009

“A 54-year-old Sonoma County woman has pleaded guilty to charges of illegally importing guitar picks made from endangered sea turtle shells.The U.S. atlantichawksbillseaturtle2attorney’s office says Qing Song pleaded guilty to one felony Wednesday. She was sentenced to 10 months of home confinement and a $2,000 fine. Song admitted to importing picks or raw shells of the hawksbill sea turtle from China and selling them in the United States. Some musicians covet the turtle shells instead of ordinary plastic picks because they believe they produce a superior tone. It is illegal to trade endangered wildlife without a valid permit for scientific research or other approved, noncommercial use.”

Hmmm…. I guess she has never heard of Clayton Ultems. 🙂

To read more about Ultem vs. Tortoishell, Click Here.

Rockin’ Wedding Pick!

This wedding pick is by far a staff favorite! michelleWe really liked how it is kind of like a comic type drawing. These colors turned out great on the white delrin because the bright white background allowed the colors to really pop. It was originally tested on Acetal which gave it a softer look, however, with these colors and the sharp detail in the lines it was better suited to white delrin. If we haven’t mentioned it before Delrin is great for fine lines, and intriciate detailing. The soft, smooth surface allows for sharp imprinting, as you can see in the text on the backside.

Custom Picks – Nikon Live

nikon1Today we finished a HUGE order for Nikon Live. This is the 2nd year we have made picks for their Nikon Live events. Each year we have done a custom blend of pick color that matches the Nikon logo. For very large orders we are able to provide custom blends of color with any of our materials, and we can have them made into any gauge. Nikon live features all kinds of really talented bands, if you have a chance to go to one of the concerts you will not regret going. You can check out the Nikon Live website for information on locations and times of their music events. Their website is very nice, and of course has some excellent photography on it! We hope to make more picks for this wonderful organization again in the future.

Ultem vs. Tortoiseshell

A loyal customer e-mailed us today asking about the difference between our Ultem pick and authentic Tortoiseshell picks. What a great question for today’s post. Most of you have probably never played with real tortoiseshell before. This is because it became illegal to produce/import tortoiseshell into the United States in 1947, which was before even I was born! A lot of guitar picks are made to have the appearance of tortoiseshell such as our cork-grip picks. However these are actually made of celluloid. Some people bring me some pretty convincing celluloid and tell me they have a true tortoiseshell pick, when almost always they don’t. Not sure if you have a real one or fake? Quickly rub the pick in-between cloth several times to create mild heat, if the picks starts to smell like camphor or vicks vabor rub, that is a celluloid plastic pick. They smell strong! Cow horn is also often passed off as tortoiseshell. If the pick is made out of cow horn then it will have a milky white appearance in parts of the pick.tort

People allude to the authentic tortoiseshell as the holy grail of picks… and are sought after. Well I have played many in my life-time and here are my thoughts on them. They sound nice, with a nice tone, but they break and sometimes even explode in your hand which is useless during a performance. Also the edges get rough. In my personal opinion, Ultem creates a much brighter, cleaner sound with better overtones, plus is much more durable. In the end when it comes to authentic tortoiseshell, I recommend saving your money and the turtles.

Ultem – Amber Fields of Gold

A lot of people love my Utlem Gold pick, and I get asked often how I came across this material. So, I will tell this story as my first official blog post.

After the success of my Acetal pick, I decided to research additional plastics that would serve well for a new line of guitar picks. My goal was to locate the stiffest plastic I could find. So obtained several plastic samples.  I cut each sample into a guitar pick. When I played the Ultem pick it really stood out amongst the others. It had an amazing clean, clear tone, didn’t wear, and was almost impossible to fracture.

Having a pick that produces clear overtones is essential to your music, it is what embellishes your playing. Plus, with such clean tones you get more longevity out of your strings. Which istortoiscase011 an added bonus, that saves you some cash.

I called this pick “Ultem” which is the actual name of the true plastic. I don’t dress it up or pretend it is anything else but what the plastic truly is. Also, I use it in its pure form. I don’t put deadening additives to cheapen it and destroy sound quality so I can get it out on the market for a “seemingly better price”.

It has been many many years since I introduced Ultem onto the guitar pick market, but since then my competition has come out with various versions of it. People swear up and down ours still sounds better. Unlike many of our competitors we don’t injection mold our picks (with the exception of Frost-Byte and S-Stone). Others use injection molding because it is cheaper to produce. You melt down the plastic and then mold it into the pick shape, which creates no wasted scrape material. My picks however are extruded. With extrusion the plastic is extruded out as a sheet with its grain intact. We then stamp the picks out with the grain going vertical down the pick. This grain helps to resonate ultemstandard3122the sound down the surface mass of the pick. Similar to why the wood grain goes vertical down your guitar neck. This method creates a lot of excess plastic waste, but the maintenance of sound quality is essential for the player (the waste however is sold and recycled into other products). Keeping intact grain also make the pick more lively and snappy against the strings. Injection molding is very destructive to the plastic! It removes the grain and creates a random matrix pattern, thus preventing the telescoping of the sound.

Do you want to know a easy way to tell if your pick resonates sound well? Take an Ultem pick and different material such as Nylon. Drop each of them onto a glass surface. You will immideatly hear the difference. Ultem will have a bright loud ping, while nylon has a quiet thud sound. This simple experiment tells you that the sound isn’t resignating from the Nylon pick. I always encourage a guitarist to do this on the glass store counter-top to hear if the plastic is dead or alive. Try it, you will hear the difference, and so will the listeners of your music.