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My Homemade Pickup Winder

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by kingvox, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    If you're using the capacitance setting on an LCR meter, it's not telling you the capacitance of the pickup. It will give you an incorrect value that its very high, because guitar pickups have a property about them that is very unlike an real capacitor: DC continuity. This makes the capacitor look like a cap with a resistor in parallel, causing the LCR meter to grossly miscalculate the circuit capacitance. The true C of a typical guitar pickup is around 100pF to 200pF, but because of the miscalculation, an LCR meter tends to report closer to 1nF.

    In order to measure the capacitance, you must find the inductance and the resonant peak, and then solve for C from L and f. I describe the process for doing this here http://guitarnuts2.proboards.com/thread/7723/measuring-electrical-properties-guitar-pickups

    While it's true that slightly lower capacitance is a feature of lower winding tension that is characteristic of hand guiding, you should be aware that not all machine wound pickups are "tightly" wound. Fenders are, but Seymour Duncan's are not. Tonerider's Strat pickups in particular show an extremely low capacitance, as they're arguable the first oversees manufacturer whose goal it was to take on the domestic boutique market.

    Besides, the guitar cable introduces far more capacitance to the circuit than the pickup itself contains, so if you switch your 10ft guitar cable for a 15ft guitar cable and don't think you noticed a difference, then you're probably also not noticing and difference in the intrinsic capacitance, either.

    Also note that the low tension / scatter winding / low capacitance business is only thought to be a virtue in the category of Fender pickups, which were traditionally hand wound. PAFs were never hand wound, they were machine wound in the 50's, and the PAF cork sniffers fetishize that particular machine.

    My belief, is that boutiques, and "big brand" pickups, and imports, when made of quality components, such as Tonerider and BYO, are very much the same, and that the differences between them are imagined.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
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  2. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    I relocated the center hole for the 4-40 machine screw. It was a bit off. It's much better now.

    I also epoxied (after screwing in) a brass insert for the 4-40 center screw. The screw threads in, and I tighten it with a nut against the insert to lock it into position.

    It's spinning much truer and straighter now. There was a lot of "wobble" before in the center screw, from it not being centered, which I think was at least partially responsible for my loose coils. I still need to work on getting better tension for winding, but I'm getting much better coils overall now, compared to before.

    Now for the counter! For now this is what I'm using, as I'm trying to do as much as I can while spending as little as possible:

    Keep in mind that at least for now, I'm winding "top down." I'm winding with my left hand, my left arm resting on the lathe, and holding the wire feeding onto the pickup -behind- the lathe, and above the pickup (my hand is between the back of the lathe and the front of the "peanut butter jar" bobbin holder I made)...instead of below the pickup and in front of the lathe, which is how I've seen most other people wind. The lathe rotates towards me and this is just what made sense to my brain so far, and is the way I'm doing it for now.

    This presents some difficulties with digital counter placement, though. I need to be able to see a counter while looking down from above. This is how I did it:


    Got a super high precision tachometer for free. Awesome. Only issue is it's handheld. I noticed it had an insert for mounting on a tripod, though. And a locking feature in the controls, so the laser will stay on without needing to hold the button down.

    I looked up "tripod screw size" and got a 1/4-20 screw. Bingo. Cut the head off of the screw, and drilled an angled hole in a dowel by eye to the best of my ability. I held the tachometer up to the dowel and guestimated about where it needed to be.

    Pushed the screw through the angled hole, then filled the hole with superglue. I don't want that sucker going anywhere. I was careful to make sure no glue got on any threads, just in the dowel to secure the screw in place.

    The goal was to mount the tachometer on the dowel (the makeshift "tripod"), and to hold it in my line of sight while I'm winding, so I can see the turn count as I go.

    I ended up using a nut on the screw to lock in the angle of the tachometer on the dowel. I had a scrap block from a previous project I was working on, and simply epoxied the dowel to that, to use it as a moveable base.

    A piece of reflective tape on the maple disc does the trick....almost.

    [​IMG]

    Basic complete winding setup looks something like this:


    [​IMG]

    Note the "Utz Organic Blue Corn Tortilla" chips making a cameo appearance. And the empty cup of coffee. That was made at home from fresh ground beans. Both of those helped a lot. I'm sure of it.


    Anyway...Almost??? Let me tell you something....the maple was too reflective. It was throwing the reading WAY off. I pointed the laser at the maple, didn't budge it an inch, and it was going haywire. The count going up and up and up. That's no good.

    Did some reading online, and found that it's the contrast between a dark background AND the reflective tape that triggers the sensor. I didn't consider that the maple was pale, and kind of glossy.

    So I got out my big ol' bottle of Fiebing's Black Pro Dye, a dauber, and went to town on the maple disc. I tested out the tachometer: pointed the laser right at the freshly black surface, and, thank god....no more going haywire. Stayed at "0" no matter where I pointed it...but then pass the reflective tape once, and it goes to "1."

    Tested it out at various RPM's for 1 minute, and it was dead on every time.

    [​IMG]
     

  3. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    I've been busy! I redid the bobbin holder disc completely. The old one had some issues: it wasn't spinning concentrically, which was certainly not helping my loose winds, and I also didn't have a recess for the threads on the lathe headstock, which stick out beyond the faceplate when it's threaded on all the way.

    Not having concentric winds was driving me crazy (it's a short drive).

    I didn't have the faceplate threaded on all the way and didn't even realize it. That certainly wasn't helping.

    My solution: the Stewmac soundhole and rosette routing jig. Drilled a .185" hole for a locating pin in a piece of birch plywood, and then I decided to cut a 4.25" circle (I got ahead of myself and just copied the dimensions of my old plate, and forgot to do a 5" circle as Rob recommended, although I can always repeat this in the future if necessary).

    Then within that circle, I cut a 3" circle as close to accurate as I could. That's the key here. The soundhole jig allowed me to get a perfect circle, and then another circle perfectly centered within that circle. The faceplate for my lathe is dead on 3". And my thinking was if I can cut a recess, I can simply press the faceplate into the recess and it'll be dead center.

    Provided, of course, that the inner circle was DEAD-ON 3.00".

    I kept re-routing with the jig, moving the knob by only a tiny bit each time, to get as close to 3" as possible. I ended up going a tiny bit beyond 2.998" and settling when it was 3.000" most of the way around and reading 3.007" in a couple spots, which was acceptable to me. Keeping in mind that it's plywood, and using the calipers too aggressively can easily press into the wood and provide an inaccurate reading. It ended up being a very, VERY tight press fit.

    [​IMG]

    Then I just routed as much as I could with the Stewmac jig, in order to make the recess an even depth all around. Would do a circle, then with the Dremel still running, unlock the jig, move the cutter forward, and cut a narrower circle, rinse and repeat.

    The Stewmac jig stops at about 2". I cleaned up the rest by simply tapping the locating pin out of the center, and then using the soundhole routing jig as a regular router to just knock down the inner 2" circle to the same depth as the rest of the recess.

    Then I used a 7/8" fortsner bit to cut a recess for the threads sticking out of the lathe headstock. I decided to go with 7/8" to give me some extra clearance. Last time I tried 3/4" to match the faceplate, but this dimension is not critical, and is just needed so the faceplate can thread all the way onto the lathe headstock with the disc attached to it. Very important. The 7/8" worked nicely, and of course I tested before going further. I didn't get it dead center, but it doesn't need to be dead center, just big enough to provide room for the lathe headstock threads.

    I just used some short wood screws I had hanging around, and threaded them right into the wood. The faceplate was a very tight press fit into the 3.00" circle I routed, tight enough that it could turn on the lathe with the disc attached all the way to the max 2,500RPM without coming apart or running out at all. Of course the screws are necessary to guarantee that. So in they went.

    [​IMG]

    Then the last part. I tried to thread in a 4-40 brass insert, but it ended up getting mashed into the wood instead. The .185" hole is just too big for a 4-40 insert. So it didn't successfully thread in.

    This ended up being a blessing in disguise. I put everything together, and then tested by eye for concentricity. I found that I could use this little steel angle fixture pressed up against the screw to reposition it until it was spinning concentrically.

    The insert was loose, but tight enough that it was able to hold its position while the lathe was spinning at 500RPM, which is the lowest setting, and enough for me to see if it was spinning concentrically or not.

    I tested it while it was running at 500RPM. When I'd press it gently with the steel fixture, it would hold its position. Eventually I got it to where it looked just about perfect, with no wobble anywhere.


    Once I had it looking as good as I thought it could get, and spinning VERY evenly, even up to 2500RPM, I put a whip tip on some water thin CA, and wicked it in on the front. Right through everything: screw, threaded insert and all.

    After waiting a while, I took the disc off, then wicked CA glue on the other side. THEN I mixed up some 2 ton epoxy, and spread it over the screw, nut, and insert on the back.

    Then I had to use a couple fine files, including a diamond jeweler's file, to knock down the brass insert on the front. It was sticking out a bit, which prevented flatwork from sitting flush on the disc. No good. It took me about 20 minutes of careful filing, but I shaved off enough so everything was flush, and flatwork can seat flush against the disc with no issues.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It's a permanent setup. But if I have to do this again, I will. This method definitely works, and the only really tricky part is moving the screw/insert around while the lathe is spinning and checking for concentricity, then gluing it in place. Although all in all it did take quite a while to finish. But well worth it.

    Here it is at last. Faceplate fully threaded on, center screw spinning concentrically, with the front of the plate dyed black with Fiebing's Pro Dye, and a strip of reflective tape mounted on it, so my tachometer's laser can accurately count the turns:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
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  4. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    Decided to put a hemostat with velcro on the jaws on the bobbin holder. This helps to keep the wire taut, and makes it easier to handle than it being completely loose. I just tightened it one or two notches on the hemostat and hammered some nails in to hold it in place. I also bent the craft wire a little differently and bent it forward a little bit more.

    [​IMG]

    Today, I built a new tensioner. I have a new hemostat coming in, after asking Rob about it...I think the Stewmac wiring hemostats I have are way, way too short as far as the jaws go, and I couldn't get good tension using my copy of Rob's tensioner.

    I stuck with the velcro idea, however, and in the interim while I'm waiting for the hemostat to come in, I've been experimenting with this. Came up with the idea last night and tried it today. Please keep in mind it's a real slipshod job. It's ugly but it's serving its purpose as a prototype.

    It did work but I need to do a little more tweaking, maybe use weaker springs as even a small turn seems to increase the tension significantly. I need the equivalent of higher gear-ratio tuners:

    [​IMG]

    This is a quick drawing I did in MS Paint of the design:

    [​IMG]

    What the whole assembly I tried out today looks like:

    [​IMG]

    I was gonna make a handle for the tensioner, but I need to verify that it works first. It isn't too awkward threading the wire through although it's harder than Rob's tensioner, which I'm gonna try my hand at again once I get a reasonable hemostat. I just placed an order as my local hardware stores didn't have anything smaller than 10" or 12" hemostats, and in the meantime I figured I'd give this a go.

    It does work, but my inexperience is still showing. I still need to fine tune the tension and get a better feel for it, and practice my winding pattern. Definitely very humbling to see how difficult it really is to get very good looking, tight coils.
     
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  5. FrontPU

    FrontPU Tele-Meister

    499
    Jul 6, 2008
    nyc
    Sir, I do know that your tapped pickups function as 2 (Cavalier "Twin Lion") or 3 (Cavalier "Hydra Lion") different pickups in 1 tele lead pickup configuration, PERFECTLY. :twisted:
    I would not go back to those conventional single function tele lead pickup, I can't. :p
     

  6. FrontPU

    FrontPU Tele-Meister

    499
    Jul 6, 2008
    nyc
    Thank you KV for starting this great thread. Wish you a great success!! :)
     
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  7. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    Redid it a little bit. Should be much easier with wingnuts to finger-tighten the tension on this thing.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

  8. Urshurak776

    Urshurak776 Tele-Meister

    189
    Jul 2, 2004
    Charlotte
    Thank you for posting all your pictures of the journey. Very very cool. Someday........
     
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  9. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    I'm pretty much all set for the time being. Just wanted to make another update as I've changed some things. Rob's been a tremendous help, and all it is now is a matter of practice and experience.

    I went back to Rob's design for the Velcro Tensioner. That is the best. The one I made in the above post is a dud. Too clunky and too hard to load the wire through it. Oh well. Live and learn.

    I found that single ply pickguard material works very well to make the body of the tensioner. I ordered some hemostats on eBay, I think around 7" or 8" long. I have found that I need to tighten them all the way down most of the time to get adequate tension on the wire.

    I did find a use for my spring-loaded tensioner, though: on top of the plastic jar that I use to house the spool of wire.

    That method is still going strong. Do keep in mind that my lathe maxes out at 2500 RPM, so I don't know how well this would work at faster speeds. But at 2500 RPM I have had zero issues.

    I drill out a plastic jar, then ream it until a wooden bead fits very snugly into the hole. I guide the wire from the spool through that bead, tape it on the outside, and that's it. On this particular 5lb spool, I needed to cut a jar in half because I couldn't find any others big enough to accommodate it...and I just ended up taping it down to a wooden base. Plenty good enough for me.

    I don't really think you NEED a tensioner over the bead. But I'd put a fair amount of time into making this thing, and it does help 'tame' the wire dereeling from the spool even further. I don't think this is necessary at all, but it is a little extra insurance and absolutely guarantees that the wire will not be lost if it happens to break (which it won't -- the Velcro Tensioner is foolproof as far as I've experienced so far).

    With the plastic jar around the spool, it can't collect dust over time, and there is also no way that the wire can go outside those bounds. Everything is kept neat and clean.

    Actually, instead of taping the wire to the jar, since I'm only using this spool of wire, I actually leave it threaded through the Velcro Tensioner with the hemostat locked down on it. When I'm done winding a pickup, I simply break the wire, and put the hemostat tensioner down on the bottom of the nightstand that I wind on.

    This way there is guaranteed NO variation in tension between any pickups for the entire 5lb spool of wire. I set it once, and once it's set, it stays there until the entire 5lb spool is gone....and trust me, it isn't close to gone yet.

    I didn't get the chair pictured in here, but I have a nice little backless chair that I use at the computer. It works perfectly as a chair for pickup winding.

    So this is my final station setup. Funny thing is it's a nightstand from my room when I was a kid. Finally found another use for it all these years later. On the bottom shelf I've been storing my bobbin assembly blocks, and in the drawer I keep my flatwork and magnets. It all makes for a nice, compact setup.

    I've been using the Stewmac Nut and Saddle Vise with a couple of their neodynium magnets to magnetize my pickups, and that's been working great.

    I repositioned the tachometer, but that's working great too. Accurate turn counts every time, so I can really monitor what I've been doing. I've been keeping a notebook....which, while not in use, makes for a good background while I'm winding so I can see the wire easier.

    As per Rob's advice I added a "breaker bar," so the wire stays at a consistent height when winding. I just attached a couple dowels to a wooden base by making some recesses with a Forstner bit, then epoxying them in. Then I drilled holes through the dowels and slid a polished metal rod through them. And that's it. I've experimented with different heights. I'm not sure how much it matters, but where I've got it is working for now.

    I made a quick demo video of me winding. I'm going about as slow as possible because I'm using one hand to hold the camera. The Ryobi goes up to 2500RPM which is a comfortably fast speed. But absolutely, mini lathes are the way to go. A faceplate and then a wooden disc to attach to it with the necessary center hole and reflective tape for the tachometer/optical beam is all you need.



    nightstand.jpg

    5lb.jpg

    At some point, I'd like to try my hand at winding humbuckers. I'm gonna have to figure out how to set up a platform for doing those specifically, because they don't have a center hole.

    And on my current wooden disc that's attached to the faceplate, the 4-40 machine screw is epoxied in, so...I would need to make another one entirely. But I would love to do this eventually. If I get anything going with that, I'll try to remember to post here about it.

    Anyway, that's the latest!
     
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  10. Bristlehound

    Bristlehound Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    57
    Jan 4, 2017
    Wales
    That looks really good... and thanks for taking so much trouble to document your work so clearly.
     
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  11. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    Here's a quick shot one of the pickups I've made. I've been using a custom magnet stagger, which I've found especially helpful for myself.

    Because of hand problems, I use an .008, .011, .015, .022, .030, .042 gauge. Out of preference, I also compound radius all my fingerboards from 6" or 7.25" at the first fret to 15" by the last frets. So my saddles are set a bit flatter than a normal Fender.

    The .008 on top, next to the .011, and with the flatter radius, sounds anemically quiet. It was enough to bother me. I got tired of going for solos and having the high E sound anemic, and even just comping chords and having the high E notes washed out by the other strings.

    The solution I came up with is a combination of using different magnet lengths, and carefully tapping magnets to stick farther out of the top flatwork before I wind them. I complete the bobbin first, and then, before removing the spacers between the top and bottom flatwork pieces, I flip the bobbin magnet-side down onto a block with holes drilled out for the magnets to protrude through.

    Then I just very carefully, and very lightly, tap the D and high E string magnets so they stick out just a little bit higher than the others.

    In my experience, the D and high E strings tend to be quietest strings, and the low E and G strings tend to be the loudest. And years ago when I first thought of winding pickups, doing my own magnet stagger was one of the main things I wanted to try. I finally got to try it out, and I'm really, really pleased with the results.

    Particularly for my string gauge, this works perfectly, and the difference is extremely noticeable. On a normal set of strings the extra-high top E string magnet might not be a good idea, and might be too much, but with the .008 on top, this *really* helps bring it out in the mix. Personally, I also don't mind the high E being just a touch louder than the other strings also. I've overdone it once or twice and had that happen, but it wasn't extreme, and after hearing anemic high E strings for so long, it was a welcome change.

    Anyway, I'm careful to only tap it to get it up a bit, and at no risk of coming through the bottom flatwork too much. Still plenty of flatwork holding it in place. I CA glue all the magnets in place with a solid amount of glue after as well, just to make sure nothing moves. Tape it all up and it's ready to wind.

    Very cool to have my own set of hand wound pickups in my Strat. It's something I always dreamed of doing and now it's a reality...very cool! Thanks again especially to Rob. I would've given up a long time ago if it wasn't for all the advice he's given me along the way.

    Being able to share my progress here too has also been a huge inspiration, as nobody I know in real life could care less about all this. Very glad I've been able to chart my progress on here and I hope that this thread can help people who are interested in getting into pickup winding.

    customstagger.jpg
     
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  12. kingvox

    kingvox TDPRI Member

    42
    Mar 23, 2017
    USA
    Sure thing! I am pretty obsessive, and information about pickup winding is pretty tough to find anywhere online...so I figured if I can contribute and clear the fog a bit, it might do everyone some good. The only people who are really going to care are people who are trying to get into pickup winding, and I'm hoping that this thread can help people like me who started out not having a clue where to begin.

    It's also fun for me too :)
     

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