Building A Guitar Pickup

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Being a keen guitar player and someone who has dabbled in making guitars for quite a while, the need to build my very first guitar pickup was overwhelming. For those who don't know, guitar pickups are to a guitar exactly what a mic would be to a vocalist. In other words, it's a method of enabling the guitar to be electronically amplified.
I collated every piece of information I could from the web and various books, and with my background in customising guitars I was all set to take on the job. As my guitar is a Les Paul model I'll be building a humbucker type pickup in contrast to the single coil pickups found on most Fender guitars.
The very first thing I had to undertake was to come up with all the guitar pickup parts required for the building process. Luckily a British pickup provider offered for sale every part I required for my project. Wonderful! The second thing I had to do was to construct a simple pickup winding machine. Basically whatever electronically spins and will allow control of the speed could be used at the centre of your pickup winder. A basic electric motor or your old electric powered drill will be sufficient with some customisation. I resolved to go for the drill option which I secured in a wooden structure. It's also vital that you add some form of digital or mechanical counter to add up the revolutions as the number of turns is important to the output of the completed pickup. I used a simple reed switch mounted on a digital counter which functioned beautifully.
I will not get into the building of the machine at this point but suffice to say that it was really trouble-free. There are plenty of articles and video tutorials on the web on the subject.
In the centre of the pickup are two plastic bobbins that will handle 5000 turns each of 42 AWG wire. This bobbin wire is as fine as a human hair and so takes practice to handle and spin. Once the bobbins are spun they require thin jump leads to be soldered to the beginning and end of each coil. One of the bobbins has 6 metal slugs pressed inside the holes and the other has 6 pole screws added. The finished bobbins are then mounted on a steel baseplate and soldered just where necessary. There is an Alnico 5 magnet inserted between the bobbins and the base in addition to a maple spacer and keeper bar.
Once everything is screwed and soldered in position it was time to try my creation, and to my amazement, I had an excellent sounding pickup.
I've clearly whizzed through the progression and yes, I did make a couple of mistakes that required correction, but I must say how satisfying it was. Now I'm completely ready for my next effort.


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