Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Pickup Builders I have questions

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by bassestkkm, Jun 4, 2014.

  1. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    Hey everyone,
    I want to get into building pickups. For both guitar and bass. I know StewMac sells kits but I've heard they are not the best quality as far as materials go. I've seen enough builds on the net where I can piece together a winder for somewhat cheap.

    1. Where should I source parts from? (Bobbins, Wire, Slugs, Base Plate, Magnets, shims etc) If I should do it individually where should they come from? For humbuckers and single coils for bass and guitar.

    2. Do I need to wax pot the pups? And if so what's the est way to approach it?

    3. For a first timer is it just wiser to do a kit of somesort?

    Thank you for your help and patients
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014

  2. nicholaspaul

    nicholaspaul Tele-Meister

    Mar 15, 2010
    Suffolk UK
    I'm nuts so I make my own bobbins from ABS. Once they're inside covers no one will know. Magnets and wire all come from eBay, but I am in the UK where shipping is free or cheap.
    Waxing is always a good idea, I've found, but not vital.

    Nah stuff the kits. Be creative! You can do it.

  3. FallsRockShop

    FallsRockShop Tele-Holic Vendor Member

    Jan 16, 2014
    Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
    I just went through the same thing over the past few months. Had only ever repaired or upgraded magnets on pickups but figured with the increased amount of custom guitar projects it would be worthwhile and cost effective wind my own.

    1.) Mojotone has been by far and away the best blend of availability, value, and quality. For your first run, I'd highly recommend their complete kits. Everything that you need except magnet wire to create a pickup (you'll need a way to magnetize also). I get my wire in bulk from Remington. Look them up, awesome prices and service. As you get more experience, you can get more creative and save money by purchasing the parts separate (bulk) and mixing/matching magnets, flatwork, etc.

    2.) Nope. There's a lot of differing opinion here. Some folks like the ultra-quiet effects of vacuum wax potting. Some like a light wax dip. Some (especially PAF fanatics) think that potting is the devil.. Rule of thumb is that the more completely you pot, the more you diminish microphonics from the coil rubbing on itself, but you also lose some of the openness associated with an unpotted coil. My method is pint sized mason jars filled with 100% beeswax that my father-in-law gets for me from the spent candles at his catholic church in a water bath. I dip them till the bubbles stop and then take them out and set on a dry napkin to settle. If you're potting humbuckers with covers, screw the poles all the way in, tape over the holes, wax pot, and then leave to dry cover down. It's the most complete way to dip-pot a covered humbucker.

    3.) Nothing wrong with a kit besides it costing a tad more. In a Mojo kit for a, say, a tele bridge you get evertything. Flatwork with the AlNiCo 5 magnets already installed, copper plated brass plate, tubing, screws, lead wires, and even the cloth string. Slap about 8,000 turns of wire on it, pot it, and you'll have a pickup that you'd pay well over $100 for from most boutique winders.

    The kicker is that once you want to use AlniCo 2s or 3s instead of the 5s that come with the kit, then you need to start parting it out. Even dealer pricing, I buy all of my strat flatwork with the magnets installed. It's something like 20 cents each to have them do it and set the stagger. No brainer if you ask me.

    Hope that helped!

  4. OpenG Capo4

    OpenG Capo4 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 4, 2010
    Athens, GA
    I've been using StewMac's kits and they have the highest quality parts I've seen out of the suppliers who do DIY pickup kits.

    Addiction FX on E-bay is cheaper, their stuff is good, but their Fender style flatwork is a bit flimsy compared to StewMac. Thats not necessarily a bad thing as its easier to work with pressing the top flats over the polepieces.

    MojoTone has nice stuff, too and a wide selection of parts for less common pickups like lipstick tubes, firebird humbuckers, etc.

    Buy your wire from the E-bay vendor Remington Industries. I think there are a few more good E-bay vendors but I've used Remington the most. Their wire is half the price of StewMac's. I've used Temco too, but be aware that most of Temco's stuff is "heavy" meaning it has thicker insulation and will fill up a bobbin quick.

    The more you can do yourself (cutting your own flatwork, cutting your own magnets from Alnico rod stock, etc) the better you'll come out on cost. But its worth it to me to have nice laser cut flatwork. I've found that the vulcanized fiberboard used for pickup flatwork does not route or drill easily.

  5. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I've built about 20-25 pickups with AddictionFX's stuff on ebay. He's a good seller and the materials are great! Fast shipping too.

    Wire as mentioned... Remington Industries on Ebay. Make sure you click on the proper guage, as all the items look pretty much alike and I ended up with a spool of 44 gauge because I was stupid.

    I made all my own flatwork in the beginning. If you are going to make a standard pickup, I don't think it is worth the trouble to make your own to save a couple bucks.

    As an example

    If you are going to try something unique then I'd go with vulcanized fiber used for peghead overlays ( LMII) or some other thin sheet good that won't melt. I tried Plexiglas in the beginning and it is too brittle. Pickguard material will melt with eyelet installation, although you can do the P-90 connection with it. Never tried Garolite, but many have.

    For humbuckers, I took some used epi pickups and redid them with better magnets and new wire. It can cost less but is more work and may or may not be worth it unless price is an issue. You can buy up dead humbuckers pretty easily.

    I haven't potted one pickup yet... maybe I will but it isn't totally necessary if you bind them tight with tape.

    I followed this and the stewmac directions:

  6. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    Awesome awesome info guys.

    I'll look up Remmington for wire as mentioned above.
    As well as the Mojotone kit for the first go around.
    I've seen a lot of magnet companies who do pole pieces etc

    I think I'll wait till I finish making the winder. I'm not sure if I want to use a broken sewing machine or if I want to buy the motor and make the parts for everything else.

    Another question.
    How do you magnatize the pickups?

  7. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Buy two neodymium (sp) magnets from stewmac or some other vendor. After installing them you run the pickup between the Neo magnets. I just stick mine on the vise jaws and give them a bit of clearance. After about 10-20 swipes they are charged up.

  8. Ed Mo

    Ed Mo TDPRI Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    towson, maryland
    I was getting together sources for electroplating when I realized the "guilding" was a typo for "building". (Thank god it wasn't "gelding" because I know something about that and yuck.)

    If you ever do want to gold-plate, get back to me:)

    BTW, for a while I was potting everything I could get. Lost interest and now, many pups later, have never encountered one that needed it. It is kind of like the mystical "microphonic" tube...Never encountered one of them, although that is always the first suggestion for strange amp noise.


  9. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    Hahaha Oh Man I'm sorry bout that typo. Perhaps you learned something new today? haha And thanks for the potting suggestion. I think Tape is my friend for now. Perhaps if and when something goes wrong I'll look into potting :p

  10. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    I looked it up out of curiousity... hahahaha I'm glad I'm a bit immature :p:lol:

  11. Daverius

    Daverius Tele-Meister

    Apr 7, 2014
    Austin, Texas
    Some like to put a little lacquer on the coil instead of potting.

  12. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    once ya get ready to spin 'em.... Unless you are using heavy Formvar insulated wire, the expensive stuff, cover the outside two magnets inside the bobbin, thin paper tape will work... or a couple of coats of lacquer, but you have to let the lacquer harden fully.

    this is because the insulation on the less costly wire is far less durable than the Formvar... and the pressure from 8000 turns of wire can cause the insulation to break down on the first few turns around the magnets... thus there is continuity between the copper and the magnets... really nasty on the neck, specially if it connects with the pup cover..

    While the pickups will still work, they're just not at their optimum. Such anomalies can create eddy currents .. and create a pretty noisy pickup.

    For potting... Bill Lawrence suggested to me either an electric fry pan, or a small deep fryer... kinda like this..

    it allows for easy control of the temperature... once ya get beyond winding 101..

    Ron Kirn

  13. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Aug 3, 2010
    Loganville, Ga.
    1. I liked the StewMac kits I got because they are high quality--don't know where the info came from that they're not--and they come with good, easy-to follow and understand instructions from which you can produce good quality basic factory OEM pickups right out of the box. Using them for the first few builds will give you confidence from which you can branch out and start rolling your own components, or mix n' match, etc.

    2. My experience was that the first couple of winds I did were kind of loose, which in theory is more likely to result in feedback. This is not a nice, bluesy-rough sound, but an incredibly piercing and uncontrollable squeal that comes on without warning, and won't stop until you pot down or unplug the guitar. I'm not willing to risk that so I pot the hell out of my pickups--I even vacuum pot them, 80% paraffin, 20% beeswax. A little tape around the outside of the coil won't help. Some lacquer drizzled on the coils might-- I'm pretty sure my coils that weigh about 50% more after potting than before, aren't going to feedback at all. As you get more experience, you'll wind tighter coils, which will be less likely to feed back. Then you can decide whether to risk not potting them in hopes of finding that "partial" feedback mojo.

    3. Another vote for Remington wire here.

    4. Magnetizing the slugs:

    I think Bill Scheltema's on to something with this, and have been very happy with the results since I started doing it this way:


  14. OpenG Capo4

    OpenG Capo4 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 4, 2010
    Athens, GA
    I use a wide mouth Mason jar to melt the wax in, and I set it in a rice cooker filled with water, like a double boiler. It has 2 settings, "cook" and "warm". The cook setting is great for melting the wax and the warm setting keeps it at about the right temp. One could probably get such a rice cooker, crock pot, etc at goodwill for $5 or so, and it could also be used to do hot hide glue.

  15. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    A few new questions. I bought an old sewing machine that I'm going to use to wind. :) I have a good idea for how I'm going to go about winding. My question now pertains to making bobbins. I know they can be found online for a decent price and am considering that but my question is:
    how hard is it to make bobbins? I'm going for a couple humbuckers and have a bunch of extra wood that I was considering using to make them with.
    Is this feasible?
    And what problems can/will I run into?
    I plan in using a expanded view if a humbucker to make the wooden ones. Thanks for the advice and suggestions

    Attached Files:

  16. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I made my first bobbins out of wood and plastic, although the Plexiglas was brittle and I broke more than a couple. They worked OK. Plexiglas bobbins won't accept eyelets. I used a CNC to cut them out and locate the holes. Doing it by hand would be harder, but not impossible. Drill your top and bottom plates at the same time so the holes match up for the magnets or pole pieces. It will be easier to drill the holes first and then cut and sand to size as opposed to the other way around.

    I found this helpful:

    Here is a fiber and wooden bobbin kit for a p90:

    I'll add this to see if helps you.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014

  17. Barncaster

    Barncaster Doctor of Teleocity

    Hey KK,
    You can make humbucker bobbins out of wood but they may come out a bit taller than stock and probably won't fit under a cover unless you are very careful. The bobbin cores aren't so much the problem as the tops and bottoms. Wood that thin isn't very strong so by default the bobbins will probably be taller than stock with thicker end pieces. A 3/16" Forstner bit to accurately drill the slug bobbin holes and screw side bobbin head recesses is a must. Don't try to drill with a common metal bit or brad point bit. They will make oversized, sloppy holes. The Forstner bit, accurate layout and a drill press are a must.

    After making the bobbins, I would recommend lacquering them to control the heat effects and wax absorption and subsequent warping the wood will probably do when subjected to hot wax potting.

    If you decide not to wax pot or do, make sure you use the famous clothes pin wire tensioning device used by most winders here. It will make your life much easier. It's just a wooden clothes pin with some loop side Velcro attached to each jaw mating surface. It auto-tensions very well and virtually eliminates wire breakage. Decent tension will help you avoid the squealies Rick spoke of.

    Keep us apprised of your progress.


  18. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    Thanks so much for the tips. It'll be a coupleweeks before I get started. I appreciate the heads up and the tips. Will keep you all posted as I go along. Thanks again


  19. bassestkkm

    bassestkkm Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2014
    Riverside, Ca
    Hey everyone. I'm a bit behind as it's 7 months and I'm just now getting to the pickup stage. I bought a 1 pound spool of 42awg from Remington and 2 humbucker kits from stewmac. I think this will be good enough for my first build. Later on I can expand to other things. I'm still planning on using the sewing machine as I have it working now and can attach a counter to the foot and a bobbin to the hand wheel. Do you think neodymium magnets would be strong enough to attach the bobbin? Since it is a spinning part it is what I am most concerned about. But I hear that they are very strong and see potential in the method.

  20. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Double sided duct tape from lowes is what I use on my winder.

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