December 10, 2021

I Guess We’re Just Glowing Up – Part One. Stone Age, Ace Performance, Honey

‘I like the early stuff before they sold out’ is a common phrase amongst musicians. It’s the idea that the raw, unrefined products at the beginning of an artist’s journey are their most pure. Intertwined with this is the inference that their later works are tarnished with the trappings of success, or by some desire to integrate into the mainstream.

Through my collecting journey, I’ve seen makers begin, end, develop, and ascend from their origins. Some of these transformations are truly incredible – some are refinements in a chosen field. Today, let’s talk about the evolution of three particular makers, and the picks that defined them.
– JTD

Stone Age Products – Carving A Giant
The inspiration behind this article was a conversation that I had with Matt Halliday of Stone Age. My purchase of the Black Jazz was a major step in my collecting story; my first stone plectrum, and my introduction to a maker who would become a major player in the field.

Though I’ve got a lot of kit from Matt, that initial plectrum has always stuck in my mind. Stone Age is a very, very different company now from how it was 3 years ago, and nowhere is this more telling than in both the finishing and bevelling.

If we look at the symmetry of the Black Jazz, we can see that it’s sloping. There are clear leading and retreating edges, and the now definitive square tip is gently slanted. The flat edges, particularly for a plectrum in the Jazz XL size, are conspicuously broad and flat. Comparing the black jazz to the Pink Gin, a plectrum from a year later, we can see that despite its relative thinness, the Pink Gin’s tip, bevels and edges are infinitely more streamlined than its predecessor.

Pink Gin, Agate
Pink Gin tip detail
Risen Smoke, Agate

As Matt developed his craft and moved into new premises, so Stone Age continued to evolve. The Risen Smoke, a personal favourite of mine, is similar in thickness to the Pink Gin, and possesses a greater degree of refinement. It is more symmetrical at the tip, with the bevelling towards the edges noticeably more discreet.

These picks would be followed a year later by the Pvrp and the Darkness. At this juncture, it had been some months since I had ordered a plectrum from Matt. The leap between the plectrums previously mentioned and these was the most striking. By this stage, Matt had settled into his new premises, had taken on additional staff, and was deep in his work.

However, the final plectrum on show here is by far and away the most impressive. Based on the classic Jazz III shape, The Joker has a seam running down its centre, highly discreet bevelling towards the edges, and a perfectly symmetrical tip. Emblematic of Matt’s current output, the Joker is a far cry from its older, less tempered sibling. For a maker to go through such extremes of finishing in a three year period on such a difficult medium is truly impressive.


Ace PerformanceWalk Softly, Carry A Big Pick
A textbook demonstration of the virtues of nuance, the evolution of Ace Performance picks and Anthony’s design ethos are the greatest, quietest developments in the history of the Plectroverse. The most unassuming of pieces in a dramatic landscape, Ace’s trajectory is one of careful thought and devotion.

Earliest example in Celluloid
Electro-plated 351-style

Significantly thinner than the work he would become known for, these electro-plated plectrums look fairly industrial. They come from a time when Anthony had not yet developed his signature shapes, and chose to start with variants of the 351. Although that characteristic cheerfulness is present, it’s evident that this is a maker at the very beginning of their journey.

One of the first segmented versions of the Force
Force Prototype Tip Detail

The advent of this wonky-looking blue piece is a point of developmental demarcation. At the time of its creation, it was the thickest Ace pick, a prototype crafted at my request. One of his first multi-segment plectrums, I hammered this within an inch of its life when it arrived. Despite being an emerging process, the intrinsic joy that permeates Ace’s work is present and correct.

Pink Force Push Prototype, Jazz XL shape
White Force Push, rounded tip with taper
Teflon, slender taper

The advent of the Force Push ups the bar. It is evident that Anthony is investigating the realms of thicker plectrums. The translucent pink plectrum is another prototype, which would be indicative of Ace’s future output. It is also around this time that Anthony’s desire to branch out into Teflon becomes apparent, with the holey, Wegen-inspired piece shown here.

6mm Force Push, multi-layer
6mm Force Push tip detail

Surging into a new era of confidence, this 6mm Force Push is a pick that the fledgling Ace would never have attempted. Now highly comfortable with both the material itself and its application, this huge piece is a watershed moment for Ace Performance. A community favourite, Anthony’s picks have become the go-to for many makers, and his crazy-tough, highly discreet plectrums are in hands all over the world.


Honey Picks – Sweeter Than Wine
Currently delivering some of the most incredible materials in the scene, the story of Honey is one of glorious, serendipitous inevitability. Both Rick and Drew fostered interest in disparate aspects of this excellent business, with shared knowledge and diligence resulting in one of the neatest makers out there.

Early Bumblebee, Acrylic
Bumblebee ridge detail
Early Beekeeper, Acrylic

The edges on these nascent Bumblebee and Beekeeper picks are quite pronounced. This sharpness was characteristic of the early Honeys, which used Acrylic almost exclusively. Despite their plain appearance, the late bevelling and precise laser etching hints gently at what is to come.

Queen Bee, Acrylic
Hornet, Raffir
Hornet ridge detail

A few months in, and matters are escalating. There’s a fundamental muscularity to the silhouettes, with their bulging slopes and broad layouts. What’s immediately obvious as time elapses is the adoption of both thickness and varied materials. While plenty of their initial picks hit the 3mm mark, the 5.6mm Queen Bee heralds the move into heavyweight category. Keeping Acrylic as a central part of their line, by this time Honey were incorporating Raffir and Kirinite, with eyes on Tagua and Casein. The finishing is resolute and purposeful – despite the plectrums’ tool-like status, the Calhoun brothers are crafting statement picks that are meant to be played, and to look incredible doing it.

Cricket Hunter Custom, Casein
Queen Bee, Resin
Queen Bee ridge detail

This final pair is as accurate a representation of Honey as one might muster. Having spread their wings with a new logo, Rick and Drew take on resin overpours, Casein and Galalith in their Royal Jelly and custom lines. The lettering on some of these examples is both tiny and extremely neat, and the colours are individual and vivid. Growing in confidence and with an enthusiastic community now keen to collect their myriad works, the Honey we know today is fully formed.


Conclusion
It is fascinating to examine makers in such a manner. In both knowing the makers personally and using their picks every day, such deliberate investigation was odd at first. This exercise has given me a new appreciation for the works assembled here, in addition to plenty of impetus for subsequent episodes.

If you’re reading this you’re unlikely to take picks for granted, even those of us who collect on this scale and in these environs are capable of doing exactly that. Though their inspirations for doing so are disparate – new materials, locations, equipment etc – these makers have stoutly refused to rest on their laurels, and done the most important thing – evolve.