Having somehow 'lost' my big HPC set of 25 years recently (the teens in the house, mayhap? Absent mindedness of aging?) I bought a Southord MPXS-32 set and am quite pleased with them. Nice assortment of picks and wrenches in different thicknesses and configurations, all of good quality materials, production, and finishing. Very nicely made ziparound case, too.
Studying Raimundo's posts/techniques (three cheers and a tiger for the bogota pick!!!), I've found that well-polished, highly smoothed picks move around keyways and 'work' the action so much better than picks with rougher edges.
Having been a woodcarver for many years I've learned to 'soften' any edges that contact tender finger flesh which makes tools more comfortable to use, which also encourages longer use. Sometimes you can extend handle coverage onto tool shafts, sometimes you lightly file and use abrasive paper on chisel, gouge and knive 'spines'.
Sooooo, I strongly encourage everyone to polish the faces and smooth the edges of all production picks that are not already finely finished. Although Southord nicely finishes their picks (GREAT ARTICLE on Southord in Non-Destructive Entry Magazine http://www.ndemag.com/issues.html
) to deburr and smooth, I did a little extra work that makes them even more pleasant to use. Powered abrasive tools are NOT used except for the final polishing, as it seems too likely a chance of cutting too deep and ending up with a mis-shappen tool. Using a medium flat file I round the handle edges of the handled and thinner 'un'handled picks. I follow that with finer grit emery paper, but you may not want to bother.
The working ends of the picks were filed as squarely as I could get them, using various shapes of jewelers files that were about $5 the set at a flea market. The picks were held in the grip of my trusty six-inch visegrips (which have impressioned many a temporary 'key') and held under bright light while being worked. The jaws of the visegrips got a couple of wraps of black vinyl electricians' tape to cushion the picks and tension wrenches and minimize the chance of 'marking'. Having the light at an angle lets you move the light around to get an oblique enough angle to look for shadows from rough areas.
The metal handles by themselves are OK if edges are rounded, but feel better in the hand if covered. If the covering isn't too flexible or 'soft', sensitivity is still good.
Areas of the picks and wrenches that are likely to have frequent finger contact (like the inner part of hooks near the handle, in my case) were rounded a bit with the files and papers, working areas that touch pins were pretty much left square. I haven;t yet decided whether to round the working surfaces of disc wafer picks like the snowballs- what do y'all think?
After filing, progressively finer grits of abrasive paper were used to 'polish' the surface faces, until there are no marks left and they are smoo-oo-oo-th.
Woodcarvers often sharpen tools with zigzag paper wheels and buffing wheels with various types of polishing compounds, like jewelers rouge, on their grinding machines. The zigzag wheels 'cut' deeper than the soft cloth polishing wheels, so I start with that first. You can get a nicely polished finish just off the paper wheel, but Raimundo sets a high standard, so I follow with the soft cloth wheel and light polishing compound. A soft, dry cloth is used to get the polishing compound off, and it's time for the last step.
I cover the handles of picks and tension wrenches alike with 5/16" black heat shrink tubing from Harbor Freight (Item 98072), which is under $4.00 for an 8 foot roll. You can use a butane or propane torch to get the tubing to shrink, the kitchen stove burners, or even a candle. A candle is the most convenient but takes the most time and also tends to leave carbon if you get the tool too close to the flame. A smaller diameter heat shrink tubing is used on the tension wrenches and smaller width shaft picks.
I've tried colored vinyl tapes and bookbinder tape as handles, which invariably let the adhesive kind of leak or get squeezed or whatever onto the tool, and then the pick case and your fingers- blech. You can make handles out of formica, but then there is the attachment problem. Riveting is more work (and more tools you need), especially with annealing the drill spots. Glues won't hold very long since the tools are constantly flexed from side to side. Wire wrapping moves around with the flexing, too. But heat shrink tubing hangs in there.
The heat shrink tubing can be had in different colors, is cheap and easy to apply, is easily removed if you have to get it off, is cheap and easy to apply, stands up to fairly rough use, is cheap and easy to apply, pretty much stays put, is cheap and easy to apply, provides a little cushion, is cheap and easy to apply, increases the handle size just a skosh bit for a slightly larger grip, and is cheap and easy to apply. I especially like how it makes a cosmetic coverup for the wavy blade edge of the hacksaw blades for my Falle-style picks. And heat shrink tubing is cheap and easy to apply!
PS to Shredder - Glad I'm not the only one that replies to older posts!