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Thread: Tortoise shell pick alternative

  1. #1

    Default Tortoise shell pick alternative

    For over 50 years I've been using a stash of heavy gauge triangle tortoise shell picks that I got before they were banned. They DO make a significant difference in tone production and they can be filed to clean up the edges. Well, I'm finally at the place where I need some replacements. My post here is to ask those of you who have used them in the past if you've ever found anything that comes even close to them and if so, what they are? Your feedback is appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I think Bluechip are a really strong stand

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  4. #3
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Ultex and ultem are my go-to replacements for traditional materials.

  5. #4
    Registered User dylanferris's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I second ChrisMelodee, they aren't cheap but BlueChip does it for me. I've used only one pick for the last 7 years and that's a BC.

  6. #5
    Registered User Scott Rucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I gave up TS when I went BlueChip

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Blue Chips are great in their own right, but they are not direct TS substitutes.

    For a synthetic material, Ultex is your best bet. I like the Dunlop Primetones.
    Just try a slightly thinner pick than what you would normally use in TS if your preference leans toward the heavy side.

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  9. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I agree with DavidKOS and Barry. For awhile I was using the rather odd-shaped Roman-style picks and bought a sheet of Ultem plastic and made my own. You can tell a bunch by dropping a pick on a hard surface. Ultem has a nice ring.

    For general use these days, I do use BlueChip picks but I found Ultem closer to the feel and tone of TS. One reason I switched to ultem for guitar was that I wore out the edges of my ultem ones very quickly while the BC never seems to wear no matter how hard I play.
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  11. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by wizzr View Post
    For over 50 years I've been using a stash of heavy gauge triangle tortoise shell picks that I got before they were banned. They DO make a significant difference in tone production and they can be filed to clean up the edges. Well, I'm finally at the place where I need some replacements. My post here is to ask those of you who have used them in the past if you've ever found anything that comes even close to them and if so, what they are? Your feedback is appreciated. Thanks.
    Not sure that these triangles would work for you.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Jim

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  13. #9
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I've used the forbidden for years as I use very old pre CITIES material, its by far the best tone material. One can look on evilbay and find old antique pieces from busted old mirrors, tables, photo frames etc...as back then they used that stuff for loads of things!

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  15. #10

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    No one has mentioned casein, so I'll chime in with that recommendation as a good TS sub. I have been using a casein triangle from EML picks, but it seems he is no longer making picks. Nik Monnin has just launched Apollo Picks using vintage casein material to craft picks and also a modern thermoplastic material (similar to BC). I have one of his vintage casein triangles and a second one on the way. To my ear, casein has a balanced tone without the spiky click of a thermoplastic like BC. I do have 3 BC picks, and have used the CT55 on mandolin quite a bit. But my preferred pick is now casein. I got the EML a few years ago, just before learning Chris Thile had switched to casein as well. Not surprising to see the launch of the D'Addario casein Chris Thile pick recently, which is a bit cheaper than one from EML or Apollo, but I'd rather support a small business these days.

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  17. #11
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    After Blue Chip, my next-favorite are casein picks made by Red Bear. They behave quite a bit like tortoise shell (I have one old tortoise shell pick stashed. Don't tell anybody).

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  19. #12
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Is Casein the stuff they used for some of the old buttons on tuning machines by chance? I used to love V-pick tremolo "just don't drop that at a night gig!" they sound pretty great, I liked the BChip maybe # 40? But once I started using the old pre-ban goodies there is no turning back as far as superior tone!

  20. #13

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    Is Casein the stuff they used for some of the old buttons on tuning machines by chance?
    It's an early plastic material that is derived from milk casein rather than petroleum. Galalith was a common name for it in the past, and it was often used for buttons and other similar objects (combs, jewelry, etc.). So, it would not surprise me if it was used for tuning machine buttons as well.

  21. #14
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Pretty sure that the discussion of tortoise shell i.e. "unobtainium" is in violation of the guidelines. It might get a lock in the near future.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  22. #15

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Pretty sure that the discussion of tortoise shell i.e. "unobtainium" is in violation of the guidelines. It might get a lock in the near future.
    Gee, I hope not. If I am in violation for the post, I apologize. I am only interested in products that have similar qualities, not the actual item.

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  24. #16

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Comments like
    They DO make a significant difference in tone production
    increase demand, whether intentional or not.

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  26. #17
    Registered User withfoam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I will also add a vote for Apollo Picks. I have been an avid BlueChip user and one touch of the thermoplastic pick from Nik at Apollo and I was hooked. He's had great communication. The thermoplastic pick he makes added a brighter sound to my Kentucky KM-1050, much like a boost with a compressor. Everything sounds just a touch better. My wife even noticed it.
    Kentucky KM-1050

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  28. #18
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Easiest way to stay within the guidelines is to refrain from discussing the material. Best practice for anyone being a forum member is to read and understand the guidelines; there is a link in the header, and I highly recommend keeping abreast of them.

    The actual guideline referenced above is this one:

    Posts dealing in the sale or transfer of tortoise-shell products protected by the 1973 Endangered Species act are not allowed and will be removed. This includes picks made from "antique" shells. The purpose of this forum is the discussion of music, not the correctness or incorrectness of this issue. Discussions that start or end up on this topic are subject to being closed at the moderator's discretion.
    Just quoting that for convenience, not making a judgment on this topic ... probably best not to discuss the guidelines here, either, just read them.
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  30. #19
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Reading the Posting Guidelines is always a good idea.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  32. #20

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    huh, I had no idea that tortoise shell pics were a thing until this thread

  33. #21

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Looks like I should be OK based on Mark Gunter's post (thanks). I am not wanting to buy, sell or transfer any. I was simply using them as a reference point for for what I am looking for.

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  35. #22
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    When I decided to give up natural shell I checked out Wegan , Red Bear and Ultex. I settled on Blue Chip. They are very tough and easy to hang on to. That's a win win for me. I did like the tone from Red Bear, casein picks, but they did not last long the way I play. I didn't like the feel of Ultex and Wegan though both produced a good tone and felt like they would last well though I didn't give them more than a few weeks use each. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  36. #23

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I've liked the Casin picks D'Addario
    Markets as the Chris Thile picks.
    For longevity Blue Chips wear longer

  37. #24
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I've been Ok with the fake look common stuff folks like Fender use, that nitrocellulose? #346 Wankel triangle ..

    X Heavy you buy by the half gross, (=1 blue chip) heavy by the dozen ..
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  38. #25
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I have very little experience with "the pick that should not be spoken of"... only tried one once from a good friend. It did sound good but was too worn out to give me a good feel.

    I like Wegen Tf120 and those inexpensive Dawg pics. I have a BC CT55 too.

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