The Maker’s Dozen – Tibor of Pigtrum
A genuinely exciting prospect in our community, Tibor of Pigtrum is forging ahead with an exciting new set of possibilities for commercially made plectrums. Always ready to answer any questions in regards to this endeavour, I sat down with him to talk injection molding, bio-polymers, and technical metal.
HR – Thanks for talking to Heavy Repping! For those who don’t know, can you please introduce yourself?
T – Thanks for having me, John. A pleasure! My Name is Tibor, I am a guitar player, music and video producer from Leipzig, Germany, and I am the founder of Pigtrum.
HR – What was your background prior to the inception of Pigtrum?
T – Officially, I am the nerdy guy at a desk in the office managing digital learning stuff. This is what I make a living on. Since I am leading a double life, my biggest passion is music. I play the guitar for 20 years now and after I played in a couple of bands for years I started a music related YouTube channel under the name of T-Bore in 2018 and an instrumental solo project called Gaudiopolis in 2019.
HR – What was it that prompted you to come up with Pigtrum?
T – Coming up with my own picks was a natural conclusion for me. I mean, I had already tried pretty every possible pick material out there: many types of plastic, stone, wood, glass, metal, felt and of course a big variety of shapes. My favourite picks still were hard plastic picks with a fairly sharp tip. Sound- and grip-wise they always pleased me the most. The deeper I dug the more I realised that eco-friendly picks don’t play a big role within the industry. At first I tried to come up with a wooden pick but the barriers production-wise were to high for me and I knew I couldn’t produce a wooden pick that would last nearly as long as a plastic pick. I also was thinking about stone picks but this would have meant quality variations, lots of needed energy, and in the end not the sound I personally like the most. The only thing I could find from other pick makers were picks made of recycled materials and this is not bad per se. But in the end, you just end up with a material that can’t be used anymore and needs to get burned after the pick wears down. Additionally, picks made of recycled plastic produce micro-plastic dust like any another plastic. I know that this must sound fussy to many people but I didn’t want to make any compromises and instead to try a different approach.
I did some more research and found this German company that produces many different types of eco-friendly raw materials and a lot of them are plant-derived and biodegradable. Funny enough, I accidentally noticed that a good friend of mine obtains his raw material for the production of his eco-friendly toys and sporting goods from the same company. So he shared his experience with me and told me he knows another guy who runs a modern injection molding firm not far away from where I live. As if that wasn’t lucky enough, it turned out that this boss also plays guitar in a metal band. He supported my idea and helped me a lot during the development phase. The whole process was more or less trial and error since I am no expert in material knowledge, business administration etc. After all I am still just a guitar player who couldn’t find a certain type of pick, and now produces and shares it with the guitar community. But of course, I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of some people around me, particularly Efkaesk (Instagram: @efkaesk), Hagen, Tony (TicToys), Max (1st Mould) and Greg (band: Scary Foreigners).
HR – What sort of feedback have you had from the guitar community since launching?
T – The feedback I got so far is surprisingly positive. There are even some mandolin players who are very pleased with my picks to my great joy because this was not the potential target group I expected (and I never played a mandolin til this day). I tried to be very transparent regarding the pick specs and so I guess my customers know what to expect and what not to. Of course, tastes differ. There also seem to be a lot of guitar players out there who are very interested in eco-friendly picks but would love me to make different shapes, thicknesses and colors. And I appreciate this kind of feedback a lot.
HR – Did you have a specific sound in mind while you were searching for a material? Was the Butt designed with a genre in mind?
Like making music, this also was a pretty egoistic choice. If you are inventing something you should really know what it needs to be capable of and where you can accept a compromise. I do love a lot of different music genres but my home has always been progressive metal and I tend to hit the strings pretty hard. Hard plastic picks with a thickness of around 1-2mm always suite my play style best, allowing me to play with different dynamics but with the tendency of more attack than soft picks. In a nutshell, I only had my style of play in mind and I assumed if the pick suits my needs some other people are going to like it, too.
HR – What can you tell the readers about the biopolymer you’re using? Why do you think it makes a good material for plectrums?
T – As I outlined before a bit, I didn’t want to make just another plastic pick like the thousand different types out there that only differ in their design. My ideal goal was a biodegradable pick made of renewable, plant-derived material. There are some legitimate reservations out there about certain types of eco-friendly materials like the “biodegradable” bags made of sugar cane. I wanted to create a product that doesn’t need neither foodstuffs nor animal components. So when I reached out to this company that offers thousands of different mixtures I got my needs straight and they sent me some samples of slightly different materials. The hardest one of these samples was the one I chose for producing Pigtrum picks. It feels and behaves like regular stiff plastic, but contains a biopolymer, vegetable waxes and fibres. The main ingredient is lignin, a biopolymer that usually gets burned because it is a waste substance during wood pulp production. It is the substance that makes wood hard and understandably you don’t want to have it in your tissue. In the end, what you get is a super eco-friendly pick that plays like your favorite stiff plastic pick but is physiologically harmless to you and your surroundings.
HR – How important is the manufacturing process to Pigtrum as a company? What factors led you to choosing injection molding?
T – This also comes down to aspects of eco-friendliness, reproducibility and ensuring constant high quality, too. First of all, it was important to me that the origin of the used materials and the production process need be located closely together. I didn’t want to import exotic woods from South America and ship them to China to get my picks produced as cheap as possible. This is why the whole production takes place in Germany. A big advantage of injection molding is that you don’t get much waste compared to other production methods and the quality of the end product stays on the same high level. You are able to produce thousands of pieces in a short time and to keep the production costs relatively low, except for the initial costs for the master maybe. The production plant here in Saxony is one of the most modern energy efficient out there. And of course, with injection molding you are able to define very tiny contours of raised edges onto the pick. Other methods would only allow you to drill a hole or to scrape out the pick surface somehow. With these raised edges I intended to get the ultimate grip out of a pick.
HR – Why did you settle on this shape for the Butt?
T – I have relatively big hands, so this is why I chose a pretty big format. For fast playing and more control I think it is advantageous to have a sharp tip and as I said before, I wanted a lot of grip. The only tough decision was the design of the raised edges. I always found that there are a lot of serious designs of other makers out there so I tried something different and a bit funny by putting a big pig butt onto the pick, at the same time emphasising my love for nature and animals that other guitar players may also relate to. And to be honest, I already had this portmanteau word of pig+plectrum=Pigtrum in my head, so it was standing to reason to use a pig bum.
HR – What sort of picks did you play growing up? Was there a shape that you gravitated towards?
T – Man, I tried so damn many different picks over the past 20 years, but I remember that I used the black Jazz III (Stiffo) for many years. Five years ago I switched over to the Jazz III XXL Ultex and also the Gator Grip 2.00 and 1.5. For bass guitar I tended to use the Stubby Triangle 2.00.
HR – What’s been the best part in the life of Pigtrum so far?
T – There were so many great experiences that it is hard for me to decide which one has been the best. Truly unique was the feeling of getting a big box with my own picks the first time after a year of research, experimentation and several throwbacks. Probably even better is the positive feedback I got from satisfied stringed instrument players from all over the world. This is as good as it gets.
HR – What’s next for Pigtrum? Have you got any other models on the horizon?
T – I do have a lot of ideas regarding new models. Many people told me that they would like to see a thinner, more flexible version of the Butt and a thick triangle pick which I would love to do. Another step would be offering different colours for each model. Please stay tuned, it will happen sooner or later.
HR – How has your experience been of the Plectroverse?
T – I must admit, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Since I launched the social media accounts for Pigtrum I got so much nice feedback, inspiration and help – more than I ever could have imagined. Just one example: The makers of Rombo were so kind to give you a hint towards Pigtrum without me ever asking them to do so. This community is outstandingly friendly and cooperative. There are so many little makers I never heard of before and who are doing incredible creative work like Depic from Argentina. And it feels like you are the one that keeps the glue together between all those different approaches. So thank you very much for what you are doing for this unique community!
HR – Much and many thanks for talking to Heavy Repping!
T – It was a pleasure. Thanks a lot for having me and all the best.