Gary Wagner–The Pick Guy

When I went to CMSA a couple of weeks ago I was not thinking I’d come home with new stuff. But I did– vintage tortoise shell picks. Why, you might ask, when I have a lifetime supply of Pettine picks stashed away? Gary Wagner made his case in the simple effective way of dumping a couple of thicknesses of a special Pettine model on my table and telling me to try them. The pick is a marvel. And before you report us to the endangered species authorities, all his material comes from old mirror backs, hairbrush backs, cigarette cases etc. he finds on EBay. I am the sort of girl whose eyes glaze over when faced with specs, but I do remember him demonstrating that the “hardness” of tortoise shell is ~50 and the “hardness” of pick plastic, even Pettine pick plastic is ~0. But whatever the reason, these picks immediately made my mandolin and my playing sound better. Amazing. And it was amazing too how fast I changed from “I don’t need a $40 pick” to “I totally deserve a $40 pick!”

I got the Pettine small in .91 and the Dogal small in .85 to try on my bandolim. The latter may not be quite right for choro, but the tone is already far better than my plastic pick. Sorry to give y’all something else to desire, but I do have to tell you that everyone who tried these picks bought one. They’re that good. Click on the pick picture for a larger version.

Gary Wagner
Wagner Instruments
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(206) 431-8772

Posted October 29th, 2010. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Lynn Falk
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Gary’s picks are wonderful. He polished and thinned an old pick I had with me . I hope I never lose it. I am now going to look out for old tortoise shell mirror backs etc. to send to Gary.

  2. Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink Lynn– recycling for beautiful music!

  3. Barbara
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I have my grandpa’s old, what I think is a Pettine pick. I will cherish it forever, as he was a mandolin virtuoso. Also, and from what I can see, they are rare and hard to find. Does anyone know of an outlet for the long, mandolin picks. Thanks, and happy plinking.

  4. Wayne Guindon
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Amen Marilyn. Yep I went to Wintergrass and came home with 2 tortoise shell picks and alot heavier than i normally use. Normal plastic picks are very bulky and clumsy in the thicker sizes ie. 2mm but these are like butter and you have already addressed how great they sound.
    thanks for your article.

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