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Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Freekmagnet, Mar 13, 2017.
Alright, little update.
First off, let me describe a little bit of my research and development process. At this point, I've wound a good number of coils and assembled a good number of prototypes. On my desk, I have about 20 different coils of varying size, shapes and materials. I'll plop one pickup into the tester bass, rock out on it for a few days, make a few adjustments and if I like what I'm hearing, I'll keep going with it. Sometimes, I'll spend a few weeks with one idea, and decide for whatever reason it's not what I'm looking for. But then, after trying a few other ideas I may (or may not) come back to the previous idea.
In any case, for a number of reasons, I'm back on the neodymium sidewinder. Initially, and in closing, a lot of it has to do with the form as well as the tone. Because the neodymium are so small and insanely strong, I can build a smaller pickup with lots of output. I found a shape I liked and ultimately discovered that the geometry of the coil is one of the largest contributors to both overall output and tonal characteristics. From there, I was able to make variation after variation using different wire gauges and turn counts. At this point, I'm down to maybe 3-4 different versions of the same pickup that I like and eventually I will select the "final" pickup from this pool - or perhaps I'll even make a slight variation based on one of those pickups. Overall, I like the sound - I have enough bass, mids and high end. The neos render an aggressive sound without being too stiff like the ceramic-based coils. I'd say that they have a lot more warmth than ceramic, but more attack than say, A5.
After attempting a few different styles of cast shells, I started kicking this idea around:
Basically, the coils will be cast individually and then sandwiched between the steel blade poles. The neos are so strong that it takes a considerable amount of effort to pry the pieces apart, so structurally, I think this will be pretty solid despite being held together primarily by sheer magnetism. The dog ears will then be epoxied on to the sides to really hold them together. The base plate (not pictured) will be also epoxied to the bottom, also adding extra security. I'll wind and cast the coils without the magnets. I can then drill out the core and insert the magnets afterward.
This form also provides for and solves many esthetic quandaries I've been having throughout this project; first and foremost, there's lots of cool-looking exposed metal. I also changed the spacing of the poles - previously, I had them two to a string like a Jazz Bass pickup. I moved them closer together because A) I'll save about 1/4" of width, and B) once the magnets are in touch with those steel poles, I don't think that the magnet spacing will make much difference in the final outcome.
I made some originals for this over the weekend and hope to make molds later this week.
Lastly, on another bit of news, I started a little blog about my pickup making about week or two ago. I'll be posting my big forum posts there as well as some additional stuff, like Instagram images, etc. It started as a convenient way for me to keep track of my notes and it went from there. The look for now is completely stripped to just pictures and words - no layout. Part of my day job is in fact, building Wordpress sites. I just wanted a place to post pictures and a few words. I may build the WP theme out later. BTW, the site automatically ads my Instagram shots as individual posts, so those get updates a couple times a week.
Wow, I JUST started looking into molding pickup covers...what you're sharing is right on time! Thanks so much.
Just be forewarned: I have yet to actually succeed at making a cast shell - I've had about 2-3 "almosts"!
I wound the new bobbin with the more closely spaced poles the other night - definitely a better approach than building the bobbin around the neodymium cores. Basically, I glued the blank flanges to the keepers and using the keepers as a drill template, I bored the holes in the blank flanges.
They came out pretty good! I think that drill schedule will work better. It certainly took a less time. Casting and sanding the keeper is still taking a while. I'll have to work on that. I had a little more trouble with flaring. I think having the magnets in there added more gluing surface. If this magnet-less winding procedure works, I might look into making another plate for the winder that sandwiches the bobbin in there so it won't flare.
Next, I epoxied the wire terminals to the bobbins.
I used those breakaway header pins. You can't beat 'em for cheapness or convenience, although I'm still troubled by this joint; when I solder, the housing heats up enough for the wire to loosen. It hardens back up as it cools, but I can see this being problematic. I'm going to look into making some little mount out of stripboard and try using the right-angle pins instead.
Next up, resin casting the coil...
For this pickup, I had to come up with a way to cast a fairly narrow coil in epoxy. I had to do it in such a way so that the magnets would not be covered in resin and the bottom needed to have space for the wire terminals. What I decided to try was to make a two-part silicon mold and cast the coils without the magnets so that I could install them later.
First, I made a two-part mold. This basically involved making one cast using modeling clay as a filler. I used ball bearings as registration points.
I backed one edge all the way to the side of the box. Leaving on side open, this is where I will actually pour the epoxy into the mold. The wire terminals will be sticking out of the back. Once I poured the Smooth-On OOMMOO 30 silicone casting compound and let it set, I got this:
From which I made the other half of the mold - I'm actually making a couple of different parts here...
Once I go the completed mold, I placed the coil into the mold. I included a couple of nubs to hold it in place so that the coil is suspended in the mold while the epoxy flows underneath it. It's tight enough so that not too much resin goes into the slug holes, but just in case, I added some registered drill marks that would be cast into the piece. This coil hasn't had the terminals installed yet - I just placed it in there for demonstration.
Next, I pour the West Systems Epoxy. I used black Mixol as a colorant. I ended up mixing a little too much epoxy - the whole cast only used 1/2 teaspoon of material! The fixture is to keep the sides from flexing - otherwise, the epoxy will just splooch out of the sides. Note the li'l terminals sticking out of the top left corner.
And here we go!
Not too bad! First, let me disclose that there was a teeny weeny bit of resin in a couple of the holes - I just got too excited and cleaned them out before I took the picture. The sides might need a little sanding and cleanup, but they won't be exposed, so I don't have to worry too much about it. I will have to do some facing on the top part which will be visible. I had the casting in the mold for about 8 hours on a fairly hot and humid day, and the epoxy still seemed a tad soft. I may let it harden for another day before I start sanding the front surface.
Next up, the dog ears and base.
I didn't want to jump the gun and reveal my progress with this pickup build too early, but at this point I have more than a year into this design and after today, this felt pretty good. Besides, I prolly won't get to the ears and the base until Sunday. Here's an image of my neodymium bass sidewinder pickup:
I sanded and polished the epoxy parts. I basically sanded it up to 2000 grit. It polishes OK, but I don't know if I can get it up to a gloss. I think that's where CA glue would come int. The bars are just roughly sanded and need sanding and polishing. I'll get to that this weekend as well. I'm really envisioning them in chrome.
Once I cleaned up my epoxy resin cast bobbins, they looked pretty good. I've been talking a lot of smack about Garolite as a bobbin flange material lately, but I gotta say it worked great. It feathered right into the epoxy.
In addition to the base, my next big quandary is going to be this: I'm going to need to "pot" the space in between the coils and the bars. I left about .005" gap on either side - not a lot, but enough to see daylight through it. There has to be some space in order to assure that the magnets are making full contact with the bars. We'll see. Dripping the clear penetrating epoxy sealer would make kind of a mess. I don't know if I even want to think about pouring potting wax in there.
Moving right along here...
As far as names, I'm thinking it really needs an appliance name. I'd say it's definitely looking pretty toaster-like!
Anyway, all the parts are made, except I have to actually get the mounting hardware to work. I polished the steel blades by hand, which was long and tiresome.
The dog ears came out pretty good. The surfaces need a little work, but for now, I'm going to leave it. Most of them will be inside the body of the guitar. Eventually, I'm going to have to make a new mold. Ill worry about it then.
However, I wanted to point out a cool detail with the dog ears:
I cut these little channels in the original so that they'd lock into this little joint on the coils...
OK, so the next thing I gotta do is figure out how to glue the danged thing together! That is going to be a really cool trick once I figure it out!
On a side note, I decided I'm going to sell my wide format inkjet printer to my work and use some of the dough to buy something like this:
It seems like there's a lot of them around for about $100 - $150. There's about 3-4 time a week I find myself thinking, "It sure would be a lot easier to do this with a sheet metal shear instead of using a hacksaw and file to clean the edge."
This is simply awesome.
Despite your thorough explanations, this non-wood stuff is far enough out of my experience zone that I was struggling to envision where your last epoxy work was going.
So the "reveal" here is all the more magical. Thanks for sharing the whole thought and work processes.
Thanks! I'm really happy that you are enjoying this thread.
I've come to accept that pickup making, especially if you're walking off the beaten path, is kind of a lonely process. Not too many people make their own pickups and even when they do, they stick with known quantities like P90's or Tele bridge pickups. That's understandable - designing a pickup from the ground up with nothing to use as a basis or frame of reference has been a pretty enormous challenge for me. Like, how is a neodymium sidewinder supposed to sound?
When I started pickup winding about 18 months ago, I didn't have a concrete idea in my head as far as what the final outcome would be - I just knew that I didn't want to spec my bass with another P or J or MM pickup. Even to this day as this pickup project draws to a close, I'm still kind of making things up as I go along. What's great is that I can pretty much clone the components I created for this pickup to design other pickups. All it takes is a minor change like a different wire gauge, or a slightly wider coil, a single pole as opposed to 3 or just lighter gauge steel bars as poles. All those tiny changes will make a completely different pickup.
I'll be wrapping up this pickup project fairly soon. Once I have the complete pickup in my hands, I'll be able to comfortably move on to the making stuff out of wood part of the project. I've been kind of held up because the pickup is so tall and wide and I have to really design the bass body around accommodating this piece.
For the next few days, I have sit down and figure out how I'm going to epoxy that blade and coil sandwich together without making a complete mess of everything.
I managed to epoxy the pickup pieces together last night. It came out OK. Once I clean it up a bit, it'll be fine.
As far as my pickup assembly, I just took all the loose parts and glued them together. I didn't get a chance to take many photos photos because it wasn't exactly and orderly process. The dog ears didn't fit as well as they did in the dry run, and one of them was slightly askew. I'll be able to sand it in such a way that it will work, and most of the problem spots will be inside the guitar and won't be visible anyway.
One thing I'd really like to do is eliminate the process of gluing the blades and coils together. I'm thinking if I put a little groove on those nubs on the sides of my coils, I might be able to make the dog ear serve as a snap-together part and use spacers to set those pieces apart. I don't have the machining capabilities for something that refined, but it's something to think about. I have to really fine tune all the parts so that they all fit together and ensure that they are straight and parallel.
Gluing the baseplate to the bottom of the pickup wasn't bad at all. Everything seemed to survive OK. I could easily make that process easier by making a simple jig to hold the baseplate in place with the rest of the pickup. I attached a photo showing my wire terminals. I have hole behind them where I'm hoping to attach a ground wire. I stuck a piece of copper tape that stretches across the blades.
Overall, I'm happy enough with this as a prototype for my neodymium sidewinder design. However, I'm torn; there's a lot I would like to do to refine and perfect this design and perhaps make it more of a production piece but I would also like to move on and build a bass and put this pickup in it. In addition, I'm also starting to come up with more pickup designs that I'd like to start working on as well. In conclusion, I'm at a point where I have take a few minutes to relax an do some prioritizing. Refining this design is pretty high on the list, but to a certain degree I'm limited by what I can execute using the limited tools I have at my disposal. I may have to invest in more tools or tooling to take this one to the next step. In the meantime, now that I have a working prototype in my hands, I can get back on track and start cutting some wood.
I bolted the pickup into the body the other night and I’ve been rocking out on it for a few days now.
With the StingRay pre I have, it can go from really deep to really bright and has midrange to spare. I’ve dialed a little bit of the mids back on my amp and I got it sounding pretty good. I may look into building up a 3-band version of the preamp just to have some more control on-board. This pickup puts out a fair amount of information, so I’m feeling like the 2-band is a little limiting.
This pickup has a lot of kick! It’s pretty sensitive and seems to pick up pretty much everything that comes out of my fingers. If I play softly, it sounds soft. If I hit it hard it hits. Overall, the attack and responsiveness I think I can attribute to the neos. Did I say it has a lot of kick?
On a side note, I tried wiring it in both series and parallel – interestingly enough, they sounded pretty much the same, just the series version was quieter. It didn’t get that scoopy sound I usually hear from a parallel HB. I think that may be because a majority of the action is coming from that center bar.
At some point down the line, I may try a few other versions of this pickup, specifically:
Same gauge wire with a lower wind count
1 or 2 larger wire gauges wound to match the size of the current coil
I’m really happy with this pickup. I’ll be posting a quick iPhone clip in the near future. In the meantime, I’m going to start thinking about some other aspects of this project.
Here’s a quick iPhone demo of the Neodymium Bass Sidewinder Pickup. Please excuse my horrible playing and sound quality. Doing monologs in front of the camera is pretty awkward for me at best. I suppose if I spent a lot more time doing videos and did edits as well, my demos would be better. However for this, I just wanted to do a quick demo.
Today, I hogged out my body blank and routed out the main cavities. It's been really hot here in SoCal and we've been gripped in a record-breaking heat wave. It's been averaging 106° all week long. Naturally, my garage was much hotter. Today was the first day I could go outside and work on projects.
Here's the body routed out. I used a 3/4" cup and bowl bit. I made a little boo-boo in on the lower left bout. My plan is to put a tummy cut on the back, so I added a little meat on the inside. Anyway, my registration pin wasn't fully secured like I thought it was, so my routing template shook loose. I managed to take a little too much off. I should have secured it with tape. I'm not too worried about the error. Once I feather it in with a wood rasp and sand the inside, it'll be fine. If it going to be visible through the sound hole, I guess I could patch it with wood. Or I can just make the tummy cut a little smaller.
I've been giving it a lot of thought over the last week or so, and I'm really thinking that for my next semi-hollow bass, I want to steam some strips of wood and bend them over templates - not unlike an acoustic instrument. I've been reading up on it and watching an epic tutorial on how to build an ES-335 style body, and to tell the truth, I don't think it'll be as hard as it seems. I'll put a solid block down the middle and join the neck and bridge and have a nice base to screw the pickups into. The fact is that from the get-go I've really wanted to build an actual semi-hollow body as opposed to a thinline and considering how much work it was to make templates and carve out this block of wood for what amounts to a kind of compromise... well I think you know where this train is going. Besides, I kind of like the idea of taking a more sculptural approach to building a bass body. I spent yesterday afternoon eyeing some inexpensive pieces of pre-cut 1/4" thick walnut. I have a couple of sizable blocks of mahogany that might serve pretty well as a central block. I dunno - now is prolly not the best time to think about blowing cash on materials.
Carved out the interior tummy cut with the wood rasp tonight. The patch job looks worse than it is, but unfortunately, it will probably be visible through the sound hole. I patched it with fine sawdust mixed with West System Epoxy. Once I sand it, I'll see how it looks and then I may seal the whole interior with epoxy. I'm hoping that the color will blend enough so that it's not visible. If it's too bad, I'll make lemonade from lemons and paint the inside a cool contrasting color to the outside finish.
OK, so I sanded the inside contours down to 320 and dabbed some West System Epoxy in there with an acid brush. It seemed to apply fairly evenly and level out a bit on it's own. It soaked into the wood a little as well.
The next quandary is that my ugly patch job has been upgraded from "possibly visible through the sound hole" to "I should probably finish the inside." I wasn't quite ready to do that mainly because I'd have to decide on a color now. But alas, decisions must made.
It seems like ProFinisher is the prevailing WB finish of choice these days, so I'll have to pick some up. Earlier, I'd posted a drawing of this bass in a blue color, but lately I've been picturing this instrument in an off-white color with pale red-orange peachy stripe down the middle. I may do the inside with that pale red-orange. We'll see. A light to mid color might be tough on the darker wood. I wanted to finish the back and sides in a transparent dark brown - that might be an option for the inside as well.
Also coming up soon, I'm going to have to glue the maple top plate together. I was going to glue the two halves directly to the back, but I can't figure out a way to do it and still have the registration holes match up. So, I'll glue the halves together first, drill the holes and then glue the top plate to the bottom.
Last night I epoxied the top plate together. I used the method described in Melvyn Hiscock's book. Basically I clamped the sides and put a thin piece underneath the boards. Once I had them straight I glued them and pulled the thin wood out.
Seemed to work OK. I put sandbags on top to weigh the weigh the wood down.
And here's the glued-up board...
I'm going to have to do some planing before I glue the top to the back. I also have to cut the sound hole which I'll probably do before I glue the top down.
I do have a question to the smart people here on TDPRI: I've been using a router sled with a mortising bit to plane surfaces. Will it be safe to plane a piece this thin this way, or should I invest in a hand plane? I'd rather not blow any cash on a plane right now if I don't have to.
On a side note, my stainless came in today. I should be dropping it off at the fabricators this morning to have the cut a few pole pieces out for my pickups...
Picture's kinda dark - sorry.
Today I bring to you all another thrilling episode of Good News / Bad News. The good news is that I started making a template out of Masonite for my sound and control holes. Using my registration holes, I went to look at my body cavity...
It doesn't look too bad. I'm not worry about this, and I'm not going to finish the inside. I'll just sand down the inside to 320 or 400 and call it a day.
Now for the bad news...
Basically, I milled the top plate a little too far. I meant to go to about 3/16" to 1/4", and I'm down to about 1/8" and I still have to plane the other side. It's not a big deal I guess, but I was shooting for a 1.5" overall body thickness and now I'm down to 1.375". It'll be tight getting that 1" tall pickup in there. A 1/8" top seems kind of thin, but I looked at some Gretsch thinlines today and they were down to at least 1/8" and maybe less. In hindsight, I should have started with a thicker piece; I didn't realize how much material I'd be planing off.
I'll cut the sound and control holes and plane the other side. If it's too thin, I'll have to come up with plan B.
I also decided that making a template out of hardboard is a waste of time. The holes are pretty small, so I think it'll be easier for me to cut them with a coping saw and shape them with some rasps and files than to use a router. Since I have a center line and registration holes on the top plate, I'm just going to print out the templates with my desktop printer and glue them to the top with spray adhesive. The printed sheets, if anything, will be more accurate.
I'm not sweating my woodworking errors too much. For one, I've never worked much with wood, so I'll chalk this up to sheer inexperience. But also, now that I have a pickup more or less designed*, I've come to see this project in a different light. I have an idea for a design. The sketch I posted at the beginning of this thread is my outline. This body I'm making today is my rough draft. If I end up building more than one bass to see this through to the end, that's just part of part of the process that goes into refining the design. I bought these materials when I first started, thinking that I'd be building this bass right away. I've kind of since thought of other ways I'd like to approach making this bass.
*Please note that I'm not using the word "completed" here.
Moving right along here.
I spent the evening yesterday planing the other surface of my top with my router. Right about mid-job, the bearing on the router started going out and it squealed and got really hot. A desperate effort to finish the job with a bad bearing quickly ensued, and I grabbed a canned air to use as a coolant and sprayed Boeshield directly into the bearing to keep it going. I wasn't sure about the planing job on the cap and I almost went over to my friend Bruce's place to use his thicknessing sander. When I looked at it in better light this morning, I decided it was fine. Sorry, no pix - I was working against the daylight and didn't have time. In the end, my total body thickness will be 1 7/16 - not too bad - just 1/16 shorter than I intended it to be.
Tonight, I printed out my templates and went at the maple cap with the ol' coping saw. Here's the sound hole and the control hole roughed out. I hate those guys who can cut perfect lines with a coping saw. I guess I need practice.
Next, I shaped out the holes with a few rasps and files. After I was done, I pulled the template off.
Lastly, I refined the shape of the holes with a couple of pieces of 100 grit sandpaper and sanded the both sides down to 100 grit. I re-drew the outline of the guitar shape so I wouldn't do anything stupid like put the cap on backwards or upside-down or both.
Next thing I gotta do is drill the jack hole. I drilled a 1/16" pilot on the lower treble-side bout. I'm not sure what size hole - I'm going to mount the jack directly to the body. I think it'll take a 3/8" hole, but I'm not sure. I'll look into it before I drill. If anybody knows definitively, by all means let me know.
I also have to cut a hole in the back of the body for the battery box. I ordered two different ones and they should both get here by Friday. With any luck, I'll be gluing this puppy together this weekend.