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My start to finish guide on making pickups

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Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Posts: 16706
Location: OKUSA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is now archived on my Guitar Stuff site.
"Whoops." -Waylon Jennings
Marksound Guitars
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Heavy Air

Joined: 04 Aug 2008
Posts: 4310
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome, Im glad you guys found it interesting.

The main reason I wrote it was because when I started out with my simple stewmac kits, they came with instructions but they weren't very detailed. I couldn't find any guides for someone just starting out anywhere on the internet.

90% of the pickups I've built so far have all been trial and error to see exactly what each component adds to the tone. I actually started off my using old cheap stock pickups that people had removed and put in a box collecting dust so I could see how they all worked, and to practise winding. Im lucky enough to know a ton of musicians and people that work in record stores who helped me out with their old Fender/Epi pups etc. I actually brought a box of 30 old humbuckers off a shop that was saving them for me.

I built my 100th pup yesterday and have been making spreadsheets of everything (yes I'm a.n.a.l).

I have a few models worked out ranging from ultra vintage up to brown noise inducing terror machines.

Custom options will be available where possible and complete customs (you pick exactly what you want) are very dooable - I encourage experimenting!

I have my friend who is a MUCH better guitarist than me working on some videos/sound clips and even spectral anaysis. So keep peeled!

Shoot me a PM if you're interested in anything, I know there is a large pond between me and 99% of the reranchers but pickups aren't big or particulary heavy so I'm sure shipping isn't going to be expensive.

@ BeeTL I'll have a look into metal covers for bridge pickups- I assume you mean for tele bridges with the pole pieces sticking out through the cover like on Strats

@ Fenderfool I LOVE P90's! I have a few models worked out and parts for another 20 or so in stock so yes, many P90's coming!!
New Website for my handwound Pickups! Heavy Air Pickups PM me for RR pricing!
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Joined: 26 Aug 2003
Posts: 11061
Location: NY/NJ

PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Contributed by Dave Fliski of Fliski Guitars.

Hey Guys!

Some of you know that I recently moved to a new city and am currently without a workshop so all guitar building has been put on pause until I get that fixed

However, I've been busying myself and winding away day and night for the last few months on a new business venture of custom wound pickups! Great fun for me and I'm actually starting to feel this could be my true calling. Anyways, I figured I'd write a guide on how I do it as It could be useful or even interesting for someone out there!


As most of you know, Im a massive fan of single pickup guitars, so this tutorial is on a tele style bridge pickup. I took a photo of every step and it turned out there was a lot when I uploaded them so I resized them all pretty small, hopefully it'll save your bandwidth a little..


Grab the flatwork, and give it all a light sand on the edges to remove anything that could end up catching on wire when winding (If anything sticks out then I can gaurentee it WILL catch when winding). I use 600 grit for this;


Polepieces. Im using alnico 2 for this particular pup, they come un-magnetised so I have to do that myself. Theres a few ways of doing it and this guide is going to be mostly waffle anyways so I'll just say the method I use. Firstly, I need the pole pieces to be South up (facing the strings), so using a rare earth magnet, I basically tap the pole pieces on each face of the magnets about 7 times and voila! magnetised! I use this handy little thingy from stewmac which shows me which end of the slug is North and South;

Theres a little magnet in the plastic tube with a white side and a black side, stick the polepiece in the end and the magnet flips to show which pole is on which end. Lovely.

Here's the polepieces'

Ok, so now they're magnetised and the flatwork is prepped, its time to hammer the suckers in place. I use a small plastic hammer and generally have to hit pretty hard whilst trying to keep the pole pieces straight

Ok, mine didn't come out that straight

but it's no biggie, they get straightened up using a super dooper space age tool.... um 2 bits of rosewood I cut to the right height and then put a rubber band around;

These go on like this;

The height of the wood is important as it acts as a stop for when I hammer the top of the flatwork on.

If you thought technology had already reached the peak with my super tool then prepare yourself for the second space age tool!

Amazing I know! Its a stick of rosewood with a hole drilled in it. The hole is slightly larger than the pole pieces so it fits over them letting me hammer away happily until the top of the flatwork is flush with the 2 sticks of rosewood. Here is the bobbin all assembled;

I then sprayed a dusting of poly over it all (I should really be using Nitro I know!) This is purely to protect it all from rust etc etc. After its good and dry then its time to wind!

I used Formvar on this particular pup. After trying 3 or 4 different brands of wire, I settled on the stuff Mojotone sells as the quality seems a good amount higher than the others I tried. So I ordered a few 12 lb reels to keep me going. Formvar is on the left and the right is Plain enamel with a mini left over spool of practise wire;

The first step with winding is to wrap a couple of turns of the wire over the left ferrule like so;

I leave a good amount of play and tuck it on the back of the pup like this;

That little bit of play gets kept out of the way when the bobbin is stuck onto my winder using carpet tape. The first few turns of wire are done by hand by simply turning the bobbin holders, just to ensure its all going on correctly;

I wanted to underwind this pup slightly (8000 turns is considered standard, so 7500 or so is underwound and 8500 or so is overwound) I stopped at 7611 on this particular, after slowing the winder down a few times to check I was getting a pretty even wind.

I then snapped the wire off and removed the pickup which gave me this;

As the copper is coated so it doesnt short itself, I need to sand the coating away at the ends of the start and finish of the coil to get a connection. I used the very same 600 grit with a light hand untill all the coating had been removed (Its easy to see the copper colour shows through). Once I was happy it was all removed, I wrapped the wire 4 or 5 times through the eyelet and snapped off the play;

At this point its time to check the DC out to make sure I didn't get a short or anything during winding. I was aiming for between 5.8 and 6.0 so I'm pretty happy with this;

Next up on the cards was to solder the wires, the earth wire (black) was left longer for the reason you'll discover in a minute;

Once those were soldered, I grabbed a zinc plate;

See why that lead was longer now...

If you guys think soldering onto the back of pots can be a pain, try this

I used a bit of tape to hold the back in place whilst soldering it making sure the holes were all lined up perfectly.

Next step was to protect the windings. This can be achieved with tape however I prefer the traditional way of using twine;

Right now its a perfectly usable pickup. I am double potting all of my pickups to ensure the microphonic possibility is at the utter most minimal.

Wax potting is pretty straightforward. Its a mixture of 80% canning Paraffin (the wax that they use in cooking or to make candy shine) plus 20% beeswax. This batch of wax has already been used so its hardened itself into a lump. When I made this batch initially I cut the blocks of wax up into small cubes about 1/4 inch cubed so it would melt a little quicker. I have an electric wax warmer on its way but for now Im using the stove. One thing to mention thats very important is that Paraffin fumes are explosive so DON'T ever attempt this on a gas cooker or anything that has a spark. Really don't. And wear a respirator and goggles. Oh I forgot to mention to wear goggles when winding too- you dont want a pup to come loose and hit you in the eye when winding. And definately don't put a glass behind your winder...

I melt my wax using my old chemistry teachers favourite- double boiling. Its just a thick plastic tube sitting in hot water. Its important to keep the wax hot enough to liquify but not get hotter than it needs to be as it can warp your bobbins, and I expect it could probably explode or something nasty too. Here's my lump of wax warming up;

And almost all turned to liquid;

I then put the pickup in it and wait untill all the bubbles have stopped coming out which takes around 15 minutes or so;

Then its a case of taking it out and wiping the top surface clean of wax and leaving it to dry and cool down;

Thats it! After all that I ended up with a little pickup with a huge voice, tons of clarity and that vintage tele twang that we all know and love!

Watch this space for Reranch introductory pricing, and the option of whatever components or windings etc you would like!

Congratulations for getting to end of what turned out to be yet another essay!

Nothing on earth can stop somebody with the right mental attitude. Nothing on earth can help somebody with the wrong mental attitude.
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