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Open House at Wilde Pickups

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by falconer, Aug 15, 2010.

  1. falconer

    falconer Tele-Holic

    Feb 5, 2009
    I've posted this to the Tele forum, but the mods will likely move this to the pickup forum. I hope not.

    Bill Lawrence and Becky hosted an open house yesterday at the new location for Wilde Pickups in Orange, California. I arrived at his shop at 11:00 to find a small group already there, waiting for the door to open.

    My expectations were to find an elaborate operation, set up with several types of machining tools and oscilloscopes generating sine waves. Instead, I found a very modest set up with a handful of assembly and manufacturing posts, along with Bill's workbench in his amp/guitar room. He had three V.O.M.s, a couple of scientific calculators, a soldering iron, and books. Lots of books. Old books detailing historic equations of electrical theory, one of which showed a rudimentary magnetic-cancelling winding (humbucker) invented in 1825. He likes that one.

    The first picture is Bill at one of his machining stations looking through some tools he manufactured by hand for his production line.


    After Bill had shown us the general layout, he started teaching. Teaching might be the wrong word to use, as what immediately started coming out of his mouth was information impossible for the layman to understand. However, you could feel the excitement in the man when he spoke of inductance, resistance, magnetic eddies, and how modern applications and research are just now discovering that much of the information used in modern pickup construction has been error-ridden. He has the uncommon ability to sense what you do and don't grasp, then taylor his lecture accordingly to maximize your understanding. A fine teacher.

    The question everyone posed, and agreed upon, was that his pickups don't generate interest at the level of others due to relatively low prices. That one poked a stick in the hornet's nest. Bill's adrenaline rush fueled his disgust with endorsements, advertising, and inefficient manufacturing processes, and how all of this added up allegedly justifies the prices asked by others for their products.

    The next picture is a small, hand-built "station" that enables one of his workers to assemble a pickup in one-fourth the time needed by his competitors. That translates into a "lot of money", he said. You can see the stack of magnets in the foreground, some of which have been already inserted in the black housing underneath his fingers. After their insertion, Bill placed the coil on top, which is held in place by the magnets. After the placement, it's impossible to pull the finished coil off of the station unless you spin it 90 degress on that axis pin. At that point, the like-poles of the magnet below repel the pickup, allowing its easy removal. Simple and ingenious.


    Bill then took us into his amp/guitar room and sat us all down to listen to a couple of his guitars. Due to his recent health issues, up until today he hadn't played in a year, and we could tell that bothered him a lot, but his playing and dexterity belied that year. He showed his the following red Strat he uses for a test bed. The bottom has been hollowed-out, and the body is equipped with a set of quick-release tabs allowing the entire pickguard assembly to be removed and replaced in less than 15 seconds, without re-stringing. This guitar violates or destroys every tone myth I can think of, and again is ingenious in its simplicity.


    Note the skinny cable, which is one of his own making. During his playing, he asked me to unplug from the '60s era Super Reverb, and plug into the Deluxe Reverb. I attempted to grasp the small plug end which caused him to yank the one out of the guitar by tugging sharply on the cable itself. He said, "If you can't do that without breaking it, it isn't worth a damn." I'll be ordering some of these this week.

    About two hours in, most people had to leave so I had Bill alone for just over 30 minutes, as I had to leave around 1:30 to visit my father in the hospital. During that 30+ minutes, I was saturated with more electrical theory, him playing, reminiscing about his past, and subjected to his quick wit and keen sense of humor, all laced with his thick Teutonic accent. I wished that I didn't have to leave.

    Bill is a gentleman and professional to the nth degree. While critiquing the products of his competitors, he refused to name any by name including specifically one popular small manufacturer that violated one of his patents for over ten years. The knowledge possessed by this man could fill several books, and he certainly can back what he believes.

    Toward the end of my visit, he said this: "One comedian called me to say that my pickups were sterile sounding. I laughed and told him that it's probably his playing that's sterile." Nothing I heard on his guitar, using his production twin-blades, sounded sterile. All was played straight into the amps.

    In closing, here's a video I took of Bill playing. Many here have seen this Strat before, but it's now equipped with his new MicroCoil pups. If the quality of the audio is lacking, I apologize as this was done with a Sony pocket camera. I've never heard a more harmonically rich, quiet sound from single coils. I wish more people had been there to visit with this wonderful man.

    Last edited: Aug 15, 2010
  2. guitarbiker

    guitarbiker Tele-Holic

    Aug 6, 2009
    Thanks for that! Nice!
  3. thrashmetl

    thrashmetl Tele-Holic

    Feb 8, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Hey, it's Kyle from yesterday. I figured that you'd post something better than I, so I waited. Very well put. I had no idea what to expect when I went in there yesterday and thought I'd stay maybe an hour or so, but when I left at 12:30 I wished I could have stayed until it ended at 4. Bill is very serious about what he does but he's got a great, dry sense of humor. He has more technical knowledge about pickup making and the science of pickup making than probably anyone on earth, kinda makes you wonder what the pickup market would be like if all builders had all that knowledge. If they do another one, I'll definitely be back for the whole day.

    I had always been interested in Bill's pickups, but never actually owned any. I will probably be ordering some today. To me, those twin blades sounded mind blowing.
  4. falconer

    falconer Tele-Holic

    Feb 5, 2009
    I have a set in my Jimmie Vaughan Strat, which replaced the stock Tex-Mex pups. It's mind-blowing what a difference they made. You won't regret it.

    I asked Bill what he would recommend for my Kirn Tele but, naturally, he wanted specifics as to the build details, i.e. what bridge material I had. I have a Glendale bridge made of cold-rolled steel, so he recommended a twin-blade for the bridge, and a 200 for the neck. I'll be ordering them soon.
  5. Twanginator

    Twanginator Tele-Holic

    Feb 23, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Thanks for the detailed information and the nice video. I've had a couple of conversations with Bill (one way conversations). His knowledge is way over my head so I just listen and say, "uh-huh". But Bill is passionate and likable. A national treasure, really.

    I assume the MicroCoil pups are still in the works? I'm being patient here. :neutral:
  6. falconer

    falconer Tele-Holic

    Feb 5, 2009
    I was hoping otherwise but unfortunately they're still in the works. You really have to hear them in person. :eek:
  7. sonserve

    sonserve Friend of Leo's

    Thank you for that. I will be back time and again to revisit Bill. We would love to see more pics if you have any.

    Best of luck to you and yours.
  8. falconer

    falconer Tele-Holic

    Feb 5, 2009
    I wish I had taken more, but really ended up forgetting about my camera most of the time. Listening to him talk and play put photography on the back-burner.
  9. Twangthang

    Twangthang Tele-Meister

    Jun 6, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Thank ytou for sharing that!
    I am in awe of Bill. I have a set of Wildes in my CV Squire and am amazed at how they sound.
    I had the pleasure of speaking with Becky when I ordered them and she is certainly no slouch in the knowledge department.
    How did you find out about them having an open house?
  10. jefsut

    jefsut Tele-Meister

    Feb 12, 2008
    Warwick, RI
    I just received my set of Keystones from Bill Lawrence at Wilde. Haven't installed them yet but can't wait. Great story and video. Thanks for posting! This guy's a national treasure!
  11. falconer

    falconer Tele-Holic

    Feb 5, 2009
    Someone here posted that their web site had a notice about it.

    And you're right about Becky. All of their people, in fact. Bill bragged that even his assembly people know more about their products than would an engineer. He's proud of his folks.
  12. Voicing 13

    Voicing 13 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Sep 12, 2008
    Thanks for posting, would have loved going but couldn't travel the distance.
  13. fender_bender

    fender_bender Tele-Meister

    Jan 21, 2005
    I spoke to Becky over a year ago about the microcoils and my understanding is that the design has been finalized for some time but they are waiting for patents before they go into production. Might be awhile unfortunately.

    These sound SOOO good to me and I have a feeling they may be Bill's masterpiece when all is said and done. They're REAL single coils BTW just using an innovative new design that's so low noise they may as well be noiseless. Lace pickups are also real singles but they are not as good sounding IMO.
  14. Billy B.

    Billy B. Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 24, 2008
    Long Beach Ca.
    I wish I had known ,what a great day
  15. Becky Lawrence

    Becky Lawrence Tele-Meister Vendor Member

    More Pics of our Open House!

    Please click on the "Open House" link on our website and see the pics we added to Bill's site today - :cool:

    Btw, Shannon reminds us that Bill is like the shoemaker who has no shoes -- we have guitars hanging on his wall with no pickups! Hopefully we'll have this little issue corrected in the next few months because last week we set up a small area to work on guitars! Love, Becky
  16. jetagegreg

    jetagegreg Tele-Meister

    Sep 6, 2008
    Washington, DC
    Just reminded me that I need to order some pickups from you!

  17. Becky Lawrence

    Becky Lawrence Tele-Meister Vendor Member

    Bill Lawrence Guitar Wiring in the Works!

    Okay, Bill just completed rewiring this particular guitar today (see the Tele body on the table and it will be completed tomorrow too!) which is pretty cool how he did it. Thought you'd enjoy seeing it really happening - Love, Becky
  18. Derek Kiernan

    Derek Kiernan Friend of Leo's

    Sep 7, 2008
    Princeton, NJ
    Bill always does the cleanest work :D Is Bill using a Q-filter in there? I'm trying to figure out how he has all the wiring done :p
  19. Stylemaster

    Stylemaster Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 9, 2009
    West Orange, NJ
    Becky, is there anyway I can get a better description of the difference between the L280TL, L290TL and the L298TL? Thanks!

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