tmy9966

Copper guitar picks

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How do you strengthen .005 mil copper to be used as a guitar pick without bending?

The pic attached are old Jim Dunlop copper picks. How did that company harden them to not bend at that thinness?

 

copper picks .005.jpg

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Pure Copper work hardens, so work it. Either planishing or rolling would harden it without bending.

But reading the label it refers to a "special heat-tempered copper alloy" so it is anybody's guess.

"Heat-tempering" sounds a bit odd for non-ferrous metal. Heat treatment of copper and its alloys is usually a softening process. Annealing around 600˚C (900˚F) and stress relieving around 300˚C (575˚F). Maybe they stress relieve it after rolling and stamping.

Aluminium bronze will bruise mild steel and has up to 4-14% Aluminium in the mix...that would fit the description as would many other alloys.

If you wanted to make some, planishing some scrap copper would work fine, always make another if it wears out...

Alan

p.s Having just looked up a Copper Development Association leaflet there is a heat treatable alloy with Beryllium for springs etc. which would probably be the one used

http://copperalliance.org.uk/copper-and-its-alloys/alloys/beryllium-copper

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I just looked for copper aircraft springs, came up with beryllium copper (If my memory serves beryllium is bad for you to forge), phosphor bronze (which msds says is harmful if inhaled), and copper. So I'd try plain copper first then other alloys that I know to be forge friendly such as naval bronze. Work harden them after making. Or more efficient just punch them out of sheet and work harden.

But we (me) are over answering you asked how to harden them without bending. You can put them on a hard surface and hit with wooden mallet over and over. Note if you have a little bit of bend back and forth it'll harden faster. That is how I do rings and bracelets. Put on mandrel and mindlessly repeat hitting, usually while watching a video.

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Thanks people for responses. Didn't realize this was so difficult as far as just recreating these copper picks that I'm used to, wow....

The company made them in exact different sizes too. They were called .005 .006 . 007 and so on.  I wrote to the pick company too to get some answers, if they respond i'll leave info here. I'll look into so far what you guys said & ty!

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If you don't fancy hammering them out, you will probably be able to get the Beryllium Copper in strip form to the thickness you want. I still have a couple of old 1lb tins of Buck and Hickman Shim Brass and Shim Steel at set thicknesses. Thickest brass I have is 0.005"

You will have an equivalent over there I am sure.

Just noticed in your OP you referred to it as ".005 mil copper" rather than 0.005" which would be thousands of an inch...are you this side of the Atlantic perchance?

Alan

5734cad388af0_shimbrass.thumb.jpg.b77701

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Looks to me like they used beryllium copper (from a quick search of alloys that would be stiff enough).  Sheet is available for that pretty readily.  Might take a good hit to punch a pick as it has a tensile strength up to 200K psi.  I've seen similar stuff laser cut if size is critical--edge finish can be excellent if the cutter knows what they are doing.

Heck...you might be in the copper pick business if you take the dive.

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In Maine USA. Probably gonna hammer out what I have. Then look into some places who sell ber copper strips, thnx all!

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If you want a metal guitar pick, you can always go the Brian May route and use a sixpence.

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If you venture into the world of beryllium copper, proceed with hypervigilance. Even generating dust via abrasion is considered hazardous.

Robert Taylor

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http://copperalliance.eu/about-copper/alloys/beryllium-copper

Health and safety note last paragraph.

Alan

Fuller notes...it does not appear to be especially hazardous. Breathing in any sort of dust, fumes or metal vapour is not good news.

this is from http://copperalliance.org.uk/docs/librariesprovider5/resources/pub-104-copper-beryllium-health-and-safety-notes-pdf.pdf?Status=Master&sfvrsn=0

COPPER BERYLLIUM HEALTH & SAFETY NOTES

Copper Development Association Publication 104

Components made from copper-beryllium alloys can normally be fabricated and used with complete safety. However, if fumes or dust is likely to be created by any process such as those described below, there may be a health risk.

Introduction

Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (as amended by Schedule 3 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987) required the supplier of copper-beryllium (sometimes known as beryllium-copper) products to advise customers by means of a Health and Safety Data Sheet of the safety precautions to be taken with these products. The following general guidance notes have been produced on behalf of the manufacturers of copper-beryllium products. The individual supplier should be approached for detailed advice regarding specific handling, processing, manufacturing and disposal procedures. If in doubt regarding the adequacy of any of these procedures the Company Safety Officer should consult the appropriate Safety Council.

Handling

There are no special toxic hazards associated with the handling of copper beryllium alloys or with material taken orally. However cuts and abrasions should be treated by normal first aid methods and it is advised that after contact with copper-beryllium alloys the hands should be washed before food is eaten. Care should also be taken, as with other metal alloys, to remove all metal particles from the wound whilst normal hygiene standards should be observed.

Non-hazardous operations

General handling, stamping and forming, many machining operations, medium temperature hardening heat treatments, cleaning, plating, soldering and general assembly and disassembly operations are considered safe and do not require specific controls other than general levels of ventilation.

Health hazards

The only circumstances under which a health risk can exist relate to processes involving the emission of dust or fumes from copper-beryllium alloys, this by producing respirable particles, especially in the size range 0.5 - 0.7 microns. Inhalation of such dust or fumes can cause serious pulmonary illness in a small percentage of people (around 4%). Since individuals at risk cannot be previously identified it is necessary to protect all potentially exposed persons. Reference should be made to Health and Safety Executive (UK) Guidance Note EH44 - `Dust in the workplace: general principles of protection'.

Permissible levels

The Health and Safety Executive (UK) - Guidance Note EH13 `Beryllium - health and safety precautions' has established a Maximum Exposure Limit of 2 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (8 hour Time Weighted Average). Hence operations generating dust or fume from the alloys must be controlled to meet this limit and to reach the lowest practicable levels below the limit.

Hazardous operations

Operations which could potentially lead to airborne contamination above the permissible levels include grinding, abrasive cutting, abrading, polishing, spark erosion and electro-chemical machining, high temperature heat treatments, welding, melting and casting. These operations require controls and air monitoring to ensure their safety. The controls depend upon individual circumstances, ranging from the simple use of coolants and lubricants to entrap dusts, to local or general air extraction and filtration systems to draw air across the work and away from the worker.

Specifically heat treatments, such as ageing, solution annealing or re-heating for forging should be carried out in closed furnaces. In addition furnace maintenance workers should wear air- supplied breathing masks.

Oxide films formed during heat treatment may become airborne during vigorous operations, such as tumbling. Hence it is recommended that oxides should be removed by pickling and spent pickling fluids should be disposed of by standard methods without evaporation. Similarly in the case of spark erosion and chemical machining the working fluids should be diluted and disposed of as liquids.

Labelling

Solid wrought or cast forms of copper-beryllium alloys (e.g. strip, rod, wire etc) do not require any form of hazard labelling. However they should be labelled for identification purposes and it is necessary for the supplier to provide a Material Safety Data certificate with the first supply.

Spillage and Disposal

All waste material should be carefully collected, placed in a labelled container and disposed of in accordance with local and national regulations. Scrap copper-beryllium is not subject to any special restrictions for transportation.

  1. The potential risks if copper-beryllium alloy scrap is recycled by re-melting in conventional melting equipment require any clean scrap arising to be segregated from other alloys and advised to the potential purchaser.

  2. If recycling is not practicable, solid copper beryllium or components containing copper- beryllium can be landfilled, shredded or incinerated without causing any damage to the environment, subject to normal waste disposal regulations.

  3. Other solid waste from copper beryllium processes should be placed in impervious containers and disposed of through waste disposal contractors, who must be notified of the contents.

    Operators loading containers should wear air-supplied breathing masks.

Copper Development Association 5 Grovelands Business Centre Boundary Way
Hemel Hempstead

Herts HP2 7TE

Email: Website: Fax No:

[email protected] www.copperinfo.co.uk 01442 275716

June 2003 

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Hey thanks guys for warnings. I've read some stuff as well on that.  To JHCC - its the thinness of the ".005"  size pick I've gotten used to. If thickness wasn't an issue this would be easy. There are many thicker metal type picks available. These were super thin but strong & snappy. JIM Dunlop Co got back to me & said they can't release the info on directing me to where to buy the material.

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Silly question, but if the company is still going can you not just buy some more?

Alan

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1 hour ago, tmy9966 said:

I asked, they said that item is obsolete

Ah yes of course... we only have digital guitars now!

Alan

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Haha ya,  everything is digital now.

Just moved up to Maine from MA. 2 hrs up from Portalnd.  Wondering if there is another type of metal easily available  in the thinnest increments near  .005 mil  & is super strong & snappy like the beryllium copper. My first attempt online I couldn't find a co that supplies the exact thinnest levels in sheets

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We ran through literal tons of BeCu a month at my last job. Beryllium copper is a precipitation hardening alloy. We heat treated the contacts between 600-750 degrees Fahrenheit for 1.5-2 hours. It can get brittle hard and crack when bent,  so for a pick you may want to go with a lower hardness.  I have forged it, but you cannot do it hot as it is hot short. Solution anneal, then hammer like you would brass. It is an inhalation hazard, so anything that produces fine dust , or fumes, that can be inhaled will need proper PPE.  

Dunlap had a plant in Benicia CA which was just down the road from where I grew up.

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Just the wrong sort of digits...

Rashelle's earlier suggestion of phosphor bronze might be more readily available...but armed with a hammer and flat stake (both polished mirror finish) and bit of brass or copper you could forge/planish out to the thickness you required. The hammering will toughen it up and make it springier. If you need to soften it to thin it out more you might try just stress relieving it at around 325˚C rather than a 600-700˚C  anneal which increases the grain size and will reduce the potential springiness.

Check the temperature for stress relieving on the data sheet for the particular material you acquire, those quoted are for 70/30 cartridge brass, which is a hint for one source of thin brass...do you know anybody who shoots?

Alan

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With a .005" thick springy metal pick, is there a clacketyclackyness to it, or what desirable effect? I have started cold working a copper penny and will put some cartridge brass under the hammer.

Cold thinning a penny to .010"  makes it quite tough and hard (for deburring HSS cutting edges)

If you use bronze-wound strings, how do they wear under a metal pick? I have always preferred the thinnest pick I can find, but that's to soften my ham-fisted clumsiness (lefty, play right-handed).

Robert Taylor

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Ok, so I decided I'd better show something for my previous lip service:

20160523_112318.jpgThis copper gets hard really fast.

20160523_114250.jpgThen at about < .010, this really start to slow down, and I had to watch the corner of my hammer - any sharp crease wants to propagate a crack.

20160523_115142.jpgNext will be some 30-30 Win: the cartridge will unroll to bigger than pick size, but will still need to be thinned. 

Oh my gosh, I never get to make anything (no scale on THIS anvil), and it makes me crazy! I'm sure I am not alone.

Robert Taylor

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Don't forget...I advised you to sand and polish your anvil block and hammer faces to mirror finish...the imperfections in their surfaces are transposed to the workpiece. When you are only dealing with between 0.005-0.010" a blemish of even 0.001" will make a difference to the plectrum.

I would also ensure you soften the edges of the hammer faces and put a very slight crown on them so you do not get any dents. If you lightly abrade the surface of the workpiece with some 600grit wet and dry or scotchbrite (or even just dunk it in vinegar or citric acid coca cola or whatever for a few minutes) you will then be able to trace your hammer blows and ensure you planish the whole surface evenly with slightly overlapping blows.

Glad you have a source of cartridge brass...when you cut the cartridge up don't cut it down to plectrum size/shape...work it as is which will give you a handle/holding point...only cut the plectrum out when down to thickness.

Alan

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Alan Evans,

All good advice and duly noted. There is actually a 32 micro inch ground finish under that 63 finish rust patina on the anvil block. I work around 4 micro inch finishes for a living, so I am on your page. All of those surface texture and hammer face refinements will have to wait, as I am already stealing time just to get in a bit of hammering. I skid my plannishing blows, and that makes up for some of the poor static texture.

I just finished thinning a U.S. nickel, oh what pleasure! Very stiff and hard. I hope to get into some heat treatment, as noted above and elsewhere.

The missus needed a new garbage disposal installed six months ago. My in-laws are asking me why I haven't finished the new front stairs.

Oh, and the back stairs broke in January.

Robert Taylor

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Any info on what companies sell an assortment of beryllium copper sheets? Off the shelf sheets in a number of thin sizes. I've looked online but having trouble finding thin sheets ranging from .005 mil .006 mil etc.... the "mil" I'm getting from the label on the specs sheet of the picks I like. They called the one I'm used to ".005" & I had ordered .005 mil copper thinking it was what I needed. Now I've learned ALOT more to all this. 

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One mil equals .001", yes? I am good at sourcing this stuff, it will be on my list when I go to Santa Barbara next week. Wish me luck.

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Brush Wellman,and NGK are the main providers of beryllium copper alloys. We were paying around $21-$23 a pound.

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