The Maker’s Dozen – Dusty Schiefelbein from T1 Picks
While I’m sure that a lot of you will remember the TeckPicks from back in the ’90s (which are still about today), metal plectrums have come a long way, and they’ve evolved considerably. A company at the forefront of that is T1, an American maker known for some of the thinnest, hardest plectrums on the market. Having been blown away by their Jazz, I got hold of main man Dusty Schiefelbein to talk prototyping, pick preference and perseverance. Read on!
HR – Thanks for talking to Heavy Repping! For the unaware, how would you describe T1 Picks?
DS – First off I just want to thank you for all you do for the pick community, it’s all so awesome and we are honoured to be a part of it!!
T1 Picks are high quality stainless steel guitar picks designed to give players the feel and comfort of typical nylon/plastic pick, while giving players unique tones you can’t get through other picks.
T1 Picks Started as a passion project as I searched high and low for high-quality metal picks as I loved the thought of metal picks but did not like any of the ones I had tried. Also I’ve always been so disappointed at the lack of design behind all guitar picks as far as their look and textures so I want to see what I can do about it.
HR – What was your background prior to making picks?
DS -I Grew up loving everything about all music, at a young age I loved playing guitar. Played in all kinds of bands then became a bass player!! From there I was blessed to tour all over the world as a musician. As that all slowed down I knew I didn’t want the tour life. But I always knew I wanted to create a company involved in music somehow. Being someone who grew up working with my hands I became an electrician then got into telecommunications and IT. Now I work for a very large technology integration A/V company As a field technician installing A/V services for government facilities school districts and private corporations. While doing that my wife and I started a business owning a fitness facility that we run together, well, mainly my wife runs it. I act like I do 🙂
HR – T1 are known for making insanely thin plectrums – what was it that precipitated this decision?
DS – When I started to prototype picks I spent so much time buying and testing every pick I could get my hands on. Taking note on what I liked and didn’t like about picks. Mainly focusing on metal picks and other rare materials. I found that picks were getting thicker and thicker! And metal picks were heavy and thick like a quarter, which I did not like at all. I felt like I liked the tone but hated how thick and heavy they were. so I spent so much time finding the right design and material to go the opposite way and getting them as light and thin as I could. And the result I was so happy with!
HR – As you make them from 304 stainless steel, what were the other materials you considered? Did you set out to make them this way exclusively?
DS – Yes, from the start I wanted to focus on the stainless steel as I had a connection with the manufacturer that could prototype them for me at a low cost. As other materials were too expensive to prototype.
HR – For those readers who don’t know, what sort of process is involved in working with this material? Have you had any horror stories from it?
DS – The process of making these picks is pretty complex to be honest. I go through a manufacturer that makes these for me while I designed them myself. Once I have the design down I send them to the manufacturer and they create a prototype, once I approve the prototype we move forward on manufacturing in large numbers. The process the manufacture goes through to make the picks It’s actually pretty cool. They start with the sheet of high-grade 304 stainless steel at 0.3 mm thick. The pick design is printed onto a screen similar to screen printing on a T-shirt. They lay the screen over the sheet of metal and a high-pressure chemical is sprayed onto the metal and the chemical eats away the design through the screen which leaves the pick shape and the holes In the design. That is how it is all cut. Once the process is completed a laser etches down into the metal our logo and the texture design on the front and backside of the pick. It then goes through the finish color process. Our guitar picks are hit with a coat of black paint. And our jazz and bass picks Sit in a chemical bath changing the color of the metal for the brushed copper look and the gunmetal look. And then all the picks go through a screen printing process for the colored logo. Then they are popped out of the sheet, shipped to me and then I package them myself.
HR – What was it that was lacking from conventional picks that you felt your approach would improve?
DS – I could not find a thin metal pick that was of high quality. All the thin metal picks I tried broke after little use. Also all metal picks had no design to them they were just metal and nothing more to it.
HR – What advice would you give to players looking to make the most of their T1’s?
DS – Keep at em’! I found the more I used it the more I loved it. The steel will last forever. However the edges will wear down a bit based on your playing style and smooth out and sound incredible! I’ve tried to switch back to other picks I used to love and feel my tone is lacking something. And find myself always going back to my T1 pick!
HR – What was the initial feedback like when you debuted your designs? Did it lead to any revisions?
DS – Yes!!! Before I release them to the public eye, I prototyped 20 to 30 different versions and each time had a lot of musicians demo them. Based on their feedback and my finds I had to make revisions. One of my earliest prototypes I was encouraged to make it final and release it but I knew it wasn’t right, so I kept at it and kept refining it to what it is today. Looking back at that early prototype it was so bad!!! I am so happy I did not release it and that I took the time that I did to make it right.
HR – You’re quite involved in worship music, which seems to attract a large amount of very serious equipment. How have other players in those circles reacted to T1?
DS – I love the fact that I still get to continue to use my talents and to serve GOD by being a part of the worship team. Everyone that gets a chance to play T1 picks have a very similar response. No one seems to really be sold on them when they hear about them but is soon as they actually try them themselves that’s when they are pleasantly surprised on their feel, play ability and tone! Everyone has their own preference and their own style which I understand. So I know they are not for everyone and my goal is not to replace typical picks. It’s simply to bring excitement and something new to guitar picks and to give players another option in tone.
HR – Why do you think that so many players are choosing to go with smaller companies when it comes to their equipment now?
DS – The industry has completely changed. It’s so much easier now to find new things through the Internet and social media. No longer do you just walk into a guitar center to see what’s new. Because of this there are so many companies that are able to get their products out without having to be in a major retailer. So players are able to get their hands on so many other products and try things on their own. Going with the smaller company you know how much focus and how much love is in their products they’re not just pumping out whatever they can think of. You know they spent time on developing it and love doing what they do. Why would you not want to support that?!
HR – What’s it been like getting involved in the pick community? Do the makers all talk to one another?
DS – Getting involved in the community has been amazing to say the least! I was blown away by the support by other companies even competitors! Everyone’s on the same side even if you have a similar product I honestly feel like everyone wants you to succeed just as I want them to succeed. It’s not easy, we all put so much time in so much effort into this so it’s so refreshing to feel the love from everyone in the community.
HR – I know you were at the NAMM show this year, and heard rumours about a new model – what’s next for T1 Picks?
DS – I’ve always had future plans for T1 – I knew I didn’t just want to do metal picks I just chose that as a starting point. I’m almost ready to release my carbon fiber pick, but just as my metal picks I’ve gone through a lot of revisions to make it right and I am almost there.
I also want to do nylon versions and other plastic material versions but I found it is very expensive just to get prototypes done so I’m waiting on that but I hope to have it in the future.
I also have some other guitar accessory products that I am currently in the process of working on but they are top-secret at this point but I’m very excited to get them out!
HR – Thank you very kindly for the interview – all the maximum best!
DS – Thank you again for everything. I always love everything you post and do!