Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where have all the picks gone?

Hey All,
Wanna see something cool?

A while back I promised folks that I'd put together a map of where all the EpicGrips went from the Kickstarter campaign, and today is the day we find out!

Below is a the real and in the flesh aforementioned map! Each dot represents a city where an EpicGrip now lives!
click to zoom

But that's not all!!! Wanna zoom in and see how many purple picks went to Sweden?
Check out the brand new interactive EpicGrip World Map!

Cheers to TROMSØ Norway
for being the Northernmost EpicGrip so far,
and to Oxford New Zealand for being the farthest South!

Thanks everybody, enjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kickstarter Shipping Complete!

Small but important update:
The last of the Kickstarter picks has been packed this evening and will ship tomorrow.

I'll be knocking out the shop orders this week, and should flip over to "live" orders next weekend.


::EDIT:: Oh, and... Lots of folks writing in and saying how much they love the picks!

Some are even posting pictures! Check it out!

The Copernicus posted a shot on Twitter. The EpicGrip looks right at home on this custom Zelda themed guitar that he built.

David McCreath instagrammed his Raw and Gold picks along with some favorable comments!
Silver and Gold!

Dom posted a very nice shot of a Raw Ti in package on
Tasteful and elegant!

In the Kickstarter comments, supporter Nate posted a pic of his epic beard, along with a simple but brilliant necklace solution using para-cord.
Why didn't I think of that??

Awesome to see these in the wild! Great shots, thanks Everyone!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ready to ship

Hi Everybody!
How was YOUR week? Mine was busy busy busy... Sorry I haven't done any minor updates this week, I've been banging away at 110% right up until 9:00PM this evening.

This is the update that I've been looking forward to for the entire campaign. This is the part where I can show you some fun pictures of the process, and the results of a crap-ton of hard work.

First a huge thanks to the supporters who suggested soaking the blue plastic sheets in acetone. This trick worked great, and allowed me to peel the sheets apart, freeing all the EpicGrips!

There was still an issues with sticky glue on the picks. I thought the acetone would easily dissolve it, but nope...  We tried to boil off the glue, but again, no avail...
Even tried double boiling...
Brad (of TiPen fame) suggested ultra-sonic cleaners or naptha, which I was about to try, when my wife brought out a jar of her jewelry cleaner. It was mostly ammonia, so it smelled like a wet hamster cage, but after a 30 second soak, the gunk slid right off. We quickly bought a gallon of ammonia, and after a quick wash, the cleaning process went from over a minute per pick, down to more like 10 seconds...

Mmmm, horrible...

But look at that shine! 
 Every night after work, I would come home, eat, and then bang out about 60 picks.

The purple army...

I wanted to have nice pick counts on each packing slip, so I spent an hour wrestling with Excel to shuffle the survey color responses into a cleaner format. Google to the rescue!

Seriously crazy Excel cell macro...
Mailing list fun:
We also learned that Excel loves to eat the leading zeros on zip-code columns, so this weekend we ended up having to rebuild the mailing lists, re-adding all of the color and address changes since the campaign closed. Good thing I kept immaculate notes...

Printer fun:
So we have this little wireless printer. This thing has printed solid for 3 years, but as soon as we set it up in the living-room, it started to complain about no paper, and then no toner, and then it would just flash the "error" light... We swapped the toner cartridge, and took the printer half apart trying to figure out why it was being persnickety. Ultimately we got it working again by running a network cable out from the bedroom. I guess we get really bad wireless reception in that corner... All better now!

 Friday night some family dropped by and we banged out over 400 picks. Here are some of them:

The golden army, first battalion...

Pile o' gradients
Fire Anodized army...

Nice "Fire" Close-up

This entire weekend, several family members and friends dropped by to help pack. DO NOT start a Kickstarter without a support team. If I were doing all this stuff by myself, I'd still be stuffing bags in mid February... Below, a shot of the polishing/anodizing and bagging crews in action...

The pick packing crew.
The mailing station spinning up...  We rotate positions to keep people from getting burned out.

So it's now Sunday night... Where are we with the project? Glad you asked, here are a few happy data points...

  • ALL 1502 of the electric anodized picks were bagged as of 7:45PM on 11/9
  • ALL 807 fire anodized picks were bagged as of 8:24PM on 11/9
  • The first mailing envelope was sealed 11/10 @ 4:30PM 
  • And, the final KickStarter EpicGrip bag was stapled shut today @ 9:00PM  11/10

Keeping track of the pick counts... All done! Whew!

 Here is a shot of one of the first assembled mailing packages...
Note: I totally blurred out the address in the photo. Your privacy is important to us... :)

Sticker, an EpicGrip, and packing sheet...

So drum-roll please...

The updated shipping schedule is now:
  • $1 Good Karma - Shipping 11/12
  • $1 EpicGrip Guerilla Marketing team  - Shipping 11/12
  • $8 - 1 EpicGrip  - Shipping 11/12
  • $18 - 2 EpicGrips  - Shipping 11/12
  • $27 - 3 EpicGrips  - Shipping 11/12
  • $36 - 4 EpicGrips
  • $9 - 1 EpicGrip  - Shipping 11/12
  • $20 - 2 EpicGrips
  • $30 - 3 EpicGrips
  • $40 - 4 EpicGrips
  • $100 - 10 EpicGrips
(Note: Edited date to Tuesday since Monday is Veterans Day in the US...)

There was an issue with the envelopes we planned to use for the 4 quantities, but we should have the replacement envelopes by Tuesday.  All the picks are bagged, and I have more family staying Monday and Tuesday to power punch these suckers into the mail as fast as they can go.  I expect we will be ALL done before Thanksgiving.  I'll update again next weekend at the latest...

(For the really patient people who ordered additional picks on the shop, your shop orders will start going out as soon as the last Kickstarter pick is in the mail.)


Sunday, November 3, 2013

First weekend with the picks...

Short version: not quite as planned, but that's OK. We're still going strong and have put a pretty big dent in the work that needs to be done.

Nothing has been shipped yet. I've spent the weekend...the entire weekend, anodizing and packaging the first 900 EpicGrip picks. This means that the early picks may go out a few days later than expected, but having more picks packed means that I will be shipping more picks faster, so everyone should get their picks closer to the same time.  I will update the shipping/shipped list as tiers go out to keep you up to date on how fast things are moving.

I understand many enjoy the story of the process, so I snapped a few pictures, and have thrown together a quick review of the process so far.

My nephews came by Saturday and we set up an impromptu assembly line where the eldest nephew, extricated the picks from their blue sheets, removed the left over polishing gunk from the holes, and then did a preliminary acetone wash to remove any residues that would mess up the anodization.

Step 1, remove picks from the blue sheets...

Some proved to be more difficult to extract than others...
As I'd feared, this blue plastic is from the devil... Each pick needed to be removed individually, and wherever there was a double wrap or seam, the pick just pulled off with the blue plastic still on it. We've tried freezing the plastic and also steaming, to make extraction easier, but have only ended up with cold fingers or extra sticky goop that needed to be cleaned off the picks. (If anyone has ideas for a faster way to get the picks out of their plastic tombs, please let me know, cause this step is still painfully slow...)

Gunk in the holes...
Once the picks were extracted and the gunk was removed, I dipped the picks in the anodizing bath, re-dipped them in purified water, dried them, and then inspected the (solid color) finish for color dropouts, and if any were found, the picks were re-cleaned and then re-anodized. As we learned where the residual hot-spots were, we were able to improve the cleaning process, eliminating re-dos, which sped things up quite a bit...

The Anodization Station
The titanium tweezers worked awesome! Even after 900 picks, anodization is still like magic to me.  Watching the color change from silver to gold to purple to blue... :)  It's like making heavy metal Easter eggs...

Ooooo, colors!
I spent Sunday on the first batch of Raw Ti and flame anodized picks.   Although a totally different process, flame anodizing is super fun. I've found that I can reliably anodize two at a time, (which is nice cause y'all want 800 of them...) A really nice spread of color can be achieved if you heat the edges just to the point that they starts to glow red. I quickly dunk them in a water bowl to cool them off before setting them on the counter for drying...
over the stove...
As expected, there is a huge variance in how the fire anodized picks turn out, but I inspect them all for (my totally arbitrary) aesthetic appeal, and if I'm not happy, I re-fire until I get something that looks cool. Each fire anodized pick has at least 3 colors, and varies in complexity from smooth fades to speckles that look like stars. I have no idea why the speckles happen, but if they pass the "coolness" test, I keep them, if not, they go into a pile of "specials" that I'll figure out what to do with later...  It feels a bit like Raku pottery, where you throw the pot in the fire, and let nature work it's magic.

Once the EpicGrips are anodized, and have passed my quality inspection, the pics are dried, re-polished one last time with sack cloth (to remove fingerprints) inspected for quality, and then dropped into their baggies. The cardboard fold-over is added and the bag is stapled closed.

and into the bags they go...
We started stapling with the industrial stapler I got on Ebay, but it was so loud and jumpy that after a few rounds, we decided it would be faster, and better for everyone's nerves, if we just reverted to using the manual stapler...
Message me if you know anyone who needs an electric stapler from the 1950s... :)

So in review, with 5 people this weekend, I've managed to anodize and bag 180 picks of each finish, for a total of 900 EpicGrips (minus a few strays) ready to go.  This is almost a third of the total number that need anodization, so we've put a huge dent in the total number of picks that need to be packaged.

and organized by finish into boxes...
I will continue to work evenings every night this week to pack, and hopefully start shipping. I have family coming in next weekend for the official "packing/shipping party".

Whether you just enjoy the story, or are taking notes on how such projects go before launching a Kickstarter project of your own, I hope you derive something valuable from these posts. This entire process is an education for me, and although my fingers are worn, my back is sore, and my weekends are likely booked for the next month, I am very much enjoying finally getting my hands on the picks and making progress. Each time I look at the pick in my hand, I realize this little thing is going out to someone awesome, somewhere in the world, who is going to enjoy it, and maybe play some cool music, or give it to their friend/partner, who is just learning, or is a seasoned rock star, or...something somewhere in between. Each EpicGrip I pick up is the seed of a story about to be told, and this is the inspiration that drives me tirelessly forward.

Thank you for the consistently positive feedback throughout.

You all Rock!

Bonus mini product review:  Right before the picks arrived, I got, (and played about 5 hours with) the new Rocksmith 2014. I give it a huge EpicGrip thumbs up. It's a legitimate improvement over the first Rocksmith (which I also enjoyed)  As soon as I'm done shipping out EpicGrips, I'm going back to spend some quality time, free jamming in the new "sessions" mode, which let's you choose backup instruments and level of complexity, and jam in whatever key you want.
Definitely check it out if you want to game-ify the process of learning (or just practicing) guitar.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Picks Arrived!

The box of picks arrived (slightly beaten, but undamaged) on my doorstep on Wednesday night. 

 For those who want to know what 5000 picks looks like... It's hard to tell from the angle of the shot, but the stack is a good 7 inches high.

5000 EpicGrips weigh in at exactly 20lbs. 

The EpicGrip in it's final form!

The EpicGrips look & feel awesome! The thickness is perfect, and the new Titanium sheet is nice and thick, and a lot more consistent than the samples were! You may notice there is some polishing gunk in the necklace hole, so I will have to clean these up a bit, but aside from a little wiping and anodization, these beauties are ready to ship!  My nephews are coming over this weekend to help anodize, and I have family flying in next weekend to ramp up shipping, but I'm planning to put the first batch of picks in the mail before end of day tomorrow.

My current shipping plan is to push out 500 picks a week until finished, which should run pretty much through the month of November. I can't promise a Christmas delivery for everybody, but I'm going to break my butt shooting for it.

I will ship in batches based on the Kickstarter tiers. I will update the blog each time I finish a tier so you will know when to start checking your mailboxes... :)
The shipping order will be as follows: (I'll come back and edit this post as tiers are completed)
  • $1 Good Karma
  • $1 EpicGrip Guerilla Marketing team
  • $8 - 1 EpicGrip
  • $18 - 2 EpicGrips
  • $27 - 3 EpicGrips
  • $36 - 4 EpicGrips
  • $9 - 1 EpicGrip
  • $20 - 2 EpicGrips
  • $30 - 3 EpicGrips
  • $40 - 4 EpicGrips
  • $100 - 10 EpicGrips

I plan to do some more updates with picks from the anodizing process, but I'm going to call this post done so I can get back to it.  I still want to post a world map with all of the EpicGrips, but it took a couple hours last week to convert the data to GPS coordinates for the map placement.  I still plan to post it on the blog but I'm going to defer that project until after I'm done shipping everything. It's a neat idea, but right now I'm focused on getting your picks shipped out ASAP! (and documenting as much as possible along the way)

I'll end, as I often do, with some shameless plugs for other cool folks on (and off) Kickstarter:

If, like me, you have a unnatural attraction to all things Ti, then you will want to check out
Brad's latest TiPen campaign is totally funded, but there is a reason, he's super dependable, and makes crazy cool stuff.  Love the Splash finish, mostly because I know how hard that is to do... :) Brad helped me optimize my anodization process, so I can't thank him enough for his generous guidance. My new anodization process is much faster now, so you will get your picks faster thanks to him.

Also, Andrea in the UK just launched a KS campaign for some amazingly affordable (compared to similar products on amazon) shiny titanium flasks (...that would look totally cool flame anodized. Just saying...)

John Wrot and his wife let me know that they just re-launched their (greatly improved) fantasy based tower defense based board game The King's Armory. If you are in to such things, check it out. It looks like he's put a lot of thought into the game, and his enthusiasm is infectious, check out the vid.

And last but not least, (Technically not a KS, but...)  Brent Batas has put together a great site called  It's an online tool that let's anyone easily blend tabs and live video from around the web. He let me play with the private beta, and it was super easy to use.  It looks like a great way to start learning some new songs.  There are a lot of songs up already, and the number is growing every day. It would be a nice way to break in your new EpicGrip(s)... The site is in public beta now, so head on over and create a login! :)

cheers & YAAAY!,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lift off!

Yesterday was my birthday, and you wanna know what the best present I got was?

I got confirmation from FedEx that the picks are on their way, and are scheduled to land next Wednesday!

The factory sent some more packaging shots of the new finish, and the new picks are all looking awesome!

I will post again when I get them and let you know how they look in person.

In my last official KS update, I promised stats this week, so here is a really simple chart (not 100% color accurate) of the number of picks in each color. 

Here is the current count.
EpicGrip Anodization color choice popularity

I'm a bit of a closet data nerd, so when I have some time I'll try to do a world map graphic showing where in the world all these picks are going... But for now, it looks like gold was the least popular, and surprisingly, raw Ti was the most popular... This will totally help me know how many of each to start anodizing... And since there are a LOT of picks that won't need anodizing, that means I can start shipping sooner!

More very soon, thanks for hanging in with me guys, y'all are the most awesome supporters ever!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Unfinished Business

In my last Official Kickstarter Update last Saturday, I outlined that the picks were held up at the factory due to a lack of rounding.
Today I got the photos from my contact at the factory and the finish on the EpicGrips was indeed a show-stopper. You can see how the edge rounding is nowhere near the nice bevel on the samples. I am so glad this was caught before they shipped.

I'm not sure how they could fix this in just a week, but that is what I have been told so far.  I will make an official update on Saturday, with whatever I learn between now and then.

Meanwhile, I just want to thank everyone for the unanimously positive feedback. Your continued support really keeps me full of the energy I need to tackle this thing with full force. You guys are the best!