I’ve long been on a quest for the perfect thumb pick. I switch frequently between tapping and strumming when I play, and I basically can not play comfortably without a thumbpick. I’ve tried basically everything out there. Everything is either too stiff, too long, too small, too oddly shaped or too… something.
Recently I found the Fred Kelly BUMBLEBEE Teardrop thumb pick. It’s damn near perfect, almost. The problem is that even the largest size is half a size too small for me. I set out to fix that so I could maybe finally have a pick that’s perfect for me.
So here’s the best method that I’ve figured out.
The first thing I do is make a little jig here.
The pick portion is sandwiched between 2 pieces of wood and clamped down. The topmost piece is basically a spacer that stretches out the hook. The final shape will end up with the hook and pick having a spacing of approximately 1/2 of the thickness of the topmost piece.
Here’s the fun part. First place your rig over a cup or ramekin or something.
Now boil some water.
Pour the boiling water in to the ramekin until it begins to touch the curved portion of the hook. You want about as much as you can get covered. DO NOT PUT THIS OVER BOILING WATER. It is important that you pour the water in to a second container. The water needs to be slightly below the boiling point or things go bad. Trust me. I’ve paid for that mistake (and quite a few others). I did have OK results with very cautious use of a heat-gun, but I also ruined a number of picks using it. Water is best.
Setup a second identical container with some ice water.
After approximately 4 minutes, remove the contraption from the hot water and place it in the cold water. You must keep the jig intact. If you remove the pick and put it in the cold water, the mod won’t hold. Let it sit in the cold water for about 5 minutes.
Now let it sit in the jig untouched for a few hours. A whole day is optimal. If you don’t do this, the pick will spring back to its previous state over the course of a couple hours. It needs time to ‘set’.
As an aside, I like my thumb pick to be short. One of the cool things about these picks is that they are adjustable in angle and reach. So I set my pick where I want it then apply a good bit of superglue to hold it in place. Don’t be shy. The glue doesn’t stick to the pick, but instead creates interference to the movement of the mechanism. You’re just basically making an oddly-shaped wedge to keep everything in place.
This has made a huge difference in how the pick feels to me each time I use it. Highly recommended.
That’s it. You can see the difference here. It may look small, but it’s a big difference in feel. The pick still fits firmly, but no longer causes my thumb to turn purple.