We may very well be living in a golden age of flatpicks. Even though the most preferred material, shell from the Hawksbill tortoise, is becoming rarer all the time with international trade in their shells prohibited by law, a wealth of new resin and composite materials have become available in the past two decades.
The latest entry is ToneSlabs, a project of David Welch and Frank Solivan, set to debut on the market September 1 in three sizes. Their flagship pick is called the Tri, a large triangle, and they also offer a standard teardrop shape, and one called a Tweener, which is a smaller triangle.
Frank says that the material they use is top secret, telling us with a grin that, “its all about the 11 secret herbs and spices.” Whatever the recipe may be, the result is a translucent material which can have most any color added.
During the development process he and David researched a variety of possible materials, concerned only about the tonal result once they were formed into picks, and then carefully shaped and beveled. What they will say about their final choice is that it matches and exceeds the hardness, rigidity, and density of natural shell. Combined with the hand beveling of the pic edges, which both David and Frank have mastered over many year of work, they have no problem claiming that ToneSlabs have hit the motherlode.
Solivan says that they combine the best of machine and hand work to get exactly the result they are after.
“For shape and dimension consistency, David has been using a CNC machine to cut out all of our blanks. The final edge/beveling is done by hand. That’s what sets us apart from other plectrum makers. The high gloss polished bevels matched with our rigid material is key to revealing one’s tone. The pick just glides across the strings like glass. We’ve refined what people have come to see as standard shapes, and we’ve made visually subtle, but tonally significant adjustments to tear drop, and triangle plectrums. It’s been years in the making. Both of us have been experimenting and honing our craftsmanship for years.”
A variety of colors are offered, with four thicknesses available in each of the three shapes. The ToneSlabs pick sells for $45, and custom options can be had for an extra $5 charge.
Pre-orders are enabled now online, with delivery expected in September. A number of endorsing artists are expected to be announced by that time as well.
Especially exciting for me is news that they are currently developing a ToneSlabs thumbpick as well. Well done!
You can learn more about ToneSlabs online.