Tantris Picks: Bringing on the Metal

By David Clendenen, Owner
Tantris Picks, Elk Grove California

If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with finding the right tone. As guitarists, we quest for it, and every link in the signal chain is carefully tested and swapped out until the sound is just right. How many guitars, pedals, and amps have you gone through over the years? I, for one, spent thousands chasing that tone until I finally found the perfect amplifier.

But there was one thing I could never find: high-quality metal picks. My ideal metal pick would be rigid and smooth for maximum speed, hard-surfaced for a bright and powerful attack tone, and have a nice tactile grip featuring some kind of cool engraving or embossing, so it would be eye-catching and the envy of other players. It would have heft, be durable and be a permanent part of my gear. I began exploring various fabrication methods, came up with different graphical designs for surface texture treatments, and then I founded Tantris Picks. That first set of designs we called Series 1.

While I was still working on completing Series 1, a buddy of mine took some of the early models of picks down to a “big box” guitar store to test drive some of their amps. He shredded some heavy metal riffs until he had an audience, and then he handed out some picks to onlookers. He later told me “you should see the reaction to these picks—the kids were blown away by them once they got them in their hands. You have no idea!”

We put Series 1 into several stores and immediately started making sales. Surprisingly, a lot of our customers were coming from outside the hard rock and heavy metal genres, including acoustic guitar players. The interesting thing about playing an acoustic guitar with a Tantris pick is that the sound of the pick contacting the strings— especially steel strings—is very pronounced, so the attack has a very bright ring to it.

If you’ve never considered using a metal pick, you’re not alone. Metal guitar picks are often overlooked by guitarists because they aren’t found in too many music stores, to begin with, so it doesn’t even occur to most people to try them out. Some guitarists are afraid to try metal picks because they mistakenly believe they are sharp and will damage their instruments, though this is not the case. Good stainless steel picks are quite blunt and smooth as glass—no more dangerous to use than any other hard, smooth material under the same playing conditions. For that matter, we’ve all seen guitars that have had the finish worn off by plastic picks. No, the only thing dangerous about a metal pick is the way it looks and sounds!

New designs were needed, but we didn’t want to be limited by the low contrast look of raw etched steel, so we looked for ways to shade the etched areas. For Series 2 we came up with a black oxide finish, kind of a chemically-induced patina that gave the negative space a darker, distressed-looking shade. We’ve since moved to an even deeper etch and the flat black paint backing which we’re currently using. Lately, we’ve experimented with black nickel plating in the etched areas which also looks fantastic.

The manufacturing process is laborious. These picks are not mass-produced. When the etchings are complete, we knock down the pick edges on a grinding wheel, then hand polish them to a glassy smooth bullnose profile all around the perimeter on a deburring wheel. This has to be done manually; one pick at a time. Finally, the picks are individually inspected and packaged in a rigid plastic sleeve that reveals both sides of the pick and allows them to be stacked neatly in displays. We provide our own hand-made wooden resale display cases which help the product stand out in an intriguing way amid all the high-tech looking stuff at the counter.

This hand-finishing process ensures we supply the highest quality possible to the boutique music supply retailers who carry our product. You’ll never find Tantris picks at “big box” guitar stores because we support independent music supply resellers exclusively. We also manufacture earrings made from the picks, as well as a stainless steel guitar pick-holder pendant styled like a chainsaw blade for wearing as badass rock n’ roll jewelry and—more importantly—for keeping a Tantris pick within reach at all times!

We have had many repeat customers, not to replenish their own supply but rather to share their find with others. That is because Tantris picks never wear out, and are seldom lost because they are highly valued.

Tantris Picks stainless steel guitar picks mean speed, powerful attack tone, grip, gleaming metal styling, and infinite durability. They will supply you with options that you can adopt to complete your own sound.


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Photos: Frankie James and David Clendenen

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