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.


  1. Good job! Can't wait to see my pick in the mailbox.

    As for RockSmith 2014, I totally agree, I played the demo of the old version for a while waiting on the 2014 edition to arrive, but 2014 rocks. Managed to play 35 hours already. I already learned more than the 2 years I was just fooling around and not spending enough time. Now the EpicGrip would be a nice addition!

    1. EpicGrips start going out tomorrow. We've been packing all day Sunday and today, and we've got two huge boxes of envelopes ready to mail. I can't wait to see the post office persons face when we walk in with them. :) Yours should be there soon! Rock on Raymond!

  2. Thanks for all the details. It sounds like quite the process -- so cool to know exactly how things were done to get to the final product.

    When my two picks arrive they are being tucked away as a special Christmas surprise for my husband. He plays lead guitar in two bands and is a total gear head. One of his bands has a standing gig once per month where they really rock a dive bar in a university town and all these students come to see them -- which is kind of funny because the band is comprised of all "old" guys over 40. He also loves picks that are unique and made of different materials. I am going to print out some of the info from you blog to include with the picks so he can read about it when he opens them.

    1. I love hearing stories like this. Thanks Janie!
      ...and as a "old" guy myself, I'm happy to hear there's still hope for my rock career. Glad to hear your husband is living his dream!

  3. Thanks again for typing out all these Epic details.

    An idea that could be cool is if there was somewhere we could submit short, one or two sentences about how we're using our EpicGrips, kind of like Janie's story, and combine that with the GPS map. Then it'd be a full picture of not only where EpicGrips are around the world, but neat insights into how they're being used. As a little incentive, you could raffle off all the "special" picks to randomly selected people who submitted a story.

    Even if only 10% of people submitted a story I think it'd still be really cool.

    1. Awesome idea Brent. I'll totally try to work that in. Thanks!

  4. Hey there,

    As far as anodizing them. Maybe it could go faster if you got a wire that would fit through the holes and strung 5-10 of them on it. Seems like a ton of work to do every single one individually.

    1. Thanks bdlt. I'd thought of that, but dipping the picks went pretty fast, and I'm afraid that threading 10 picks on a wire would take just as long as just going one by one. I tried doing multiples using the tweezers, but I wasn't happy with the color consistency. I'll play around some more now that I'm not on a deadline. Know any good cheap source for Ti wire? :)