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

You can't really rewind a pickup

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Sconnie, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. Sconnie

    Sconnie Tele-Afflicted

    May 1, 2017
    Denver, CO

    I've seen some stuff lately about repairing vintage pickups where the coil was compromised. Sure you can use the same magnets, pole pieces, and plastic bits, but the coil is the majority of the pickup's voice right? Or not right? haha... I guess a decent question to ask at this juncture is "how much of a pickup's voice does each component provide?"

    With a rewind you're not gonna get the same number of turns at the same tension and the same geometry (how the wire overlaps etc.) reproduced just the same way. What you will come out the other end will sound perfectly fine I'm sure, but it's not gonna be quite the same as the original, and it seems it couldn't even be claimed to be the same thing anymore.

    Seeing a set of rewound PAFs on sale for hundreds of dollars seems silly to me, I imagine a set of 57 classics would be essentially the same thing.

    I'm just thinking out loud here and I'm curious what everyone's thoughts are.

  2. luckett

    luckett Friend of Leo's

    Jun 14, 2011
    The old wire seals in the vintage mojo. When you unwind the wires, the mojo is released into the air.

  3. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2008
    I think a rewound pickup sounds much better than a broken pickup.

  4. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 6, 2014
    kamloops bc
    contact Seymor Duncan or Dan Erliwine (both these guys are approachable and fire them off your question, he may have a legitamate answer for you, vintage pickups used vintage parts and vintage wire

  5. LowCaster

    LowCaster Tele-Holic

    Jan 24, 2011
    Paris, France
    Well, yes it's not the same to me, but pickups are not rewound for nothing, right?

    They are rewound when they fail (short circuit inside the coil for example). Then you are left with some vintage parts (and vintage guitar) that don't play, and you seek a good winder.

    People who have a skill for winding pickups need to advertise that they can recreate the lost vintage tone of those pickups. It seems fair to me as long as you don't expect the exact same pickup.

    That's the essence of a restauration work. To repair and replace only what's necessary, and keep the object as close to original as possible.
    skunqesh likes this.

  6. dobrojoe

    dobrojoe Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Feb 11, 2017
    The concept of 'vintage' is an urban myth. Don't be taken-in.
    Antigua Tele likes this.

  7. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 22, 2009
    New York
    If you've done enough research on the pickup you're trying to rewind/reproduce, you can get pretty darn close, if you're willing to go the lengths to do all the R&D to match and reproduce the specs as closely as possible. You could even insulate your own wire, with vintage Formvar blend, if you have to.. like I said, if you're willing to go the lengths, but IMO, the payoff for the amount of work put in isn't really that justifiable, considering a couple tweaks with modern components and using the EQ on your amp will basically net you close enough results.

  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018 at 3:03 AM

  9. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I believe Seymour Duncan, at least in the early days, would unwind the broken coil onto another bobbin, and attempt to rewind a pickup with the same wire, if it was possible. That way if there was anything special about the wire itself, that would be preserved. If the pickup is actually unwound and a counter is involved, then an original wind count can be determined, and Seymour Duncan had some records of original wind counts, too. Aside from the wire having a distinctive color, I wouldn't say there was anything special about the vintage wire versus some new wire.

    When a coil is wound, most of the electrical characteristics owe the the overall geometry, which is almost entirely decided by the bobbin shape. All the winder can do is make it a little fatter in the middle, but the overall height and width are dictated by the bobbin. The inductance and the capacitance change a bit depending on how thick the insulation is and how neat and tightly the wire is laid, but to say that either of those things lends the pickup a distinctive voice would be untrue, because other parts of the circuit will also add to the capacitance, so the pickup is never the sold deciding factor there.

    The fact that the same winders claim to have their own special recipe when winding pickups, but can rewind your broken pickup to be just like it was before it broke, is contradictory. Whether a pickup sounds good or bad, or vintage, or unique, is all entirely within people's imaginations. You're buying a dream more than you are a pickup.
    Flakey, parademe and Bootstrap like this.

  10. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    I do believe you can get close enough that it'd pass a double-blind listening test.

    But then, I think it's not all that hard to pass a double-blind listening test...

  11. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Aug 17, 2017
    Essex, UK
    Isn't this one of those "Trigger's Broom" situations?

    I've seen numerous references to re-wound pickups and I've heard a couple of guitars where the pickups have been rewound and they sound very nice. However, while the wind might be to same / similar specs as the original, I've wondered how much difference re-winding introduces.

    I don't know the answer but I'd be surprised if re-winding can ever be identical to the original.

  12. musicalmartin

    musicalmartin Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 8, 2007
    Norfolk UK
    When I ran a coil winding shop in a electronics factory in the 60's I would be given a drawing and specs like wire size ,what wire ,and the test specs .I would then set up a machine either hand powered or mainly motor powered .Some were large machines like turret lathes.I would set it up and run off some for inspection and electrical testing .The actual weave of the wire was dictated by how I set it up .Some were cross weave like a criss cross ,others pile it on back and forth at random like a guitar pickup .I would then ,once set up ,run off ten or so and get them checked by QC .Mostly the specs were pretty loose .If a super high quality electrical stability was required it was very hard to keep em all similar however well set up . Wire tension played an important part as did weave ,wire thickness, you cab see that is why a certain pickup may be your main love and the one made after it may never hit the spot for you .Its not a very accurate method .most of its guru love is bollox and you pickup is a product of very old technology ,even older machines and for most people the name on the box will always count more than the coil its self ...sorry folks but thats it .
    smartsoul72 likes this.

  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    I have a pair of AVRI Jazzmaster pickups. Coil with alnico rods like the old ones. Each of the pair is wound so the bobbin looks like these (grabbed random off internet, these are PAF coils). See how one is piled to one side while the other is rounded in the center? That's like being closer or further from the strings with the whole pickup -- before they are installed in the guitar.


    Hand vs machine winding also does big changes on variation pickup to pickup and hand vs machine -- tension, wire position, scatter or perfect tracking.

    Remember if you are chasing hand wound you are also chasing variation -- which could make your particular bobbin great or terrible. "run the racks" is a term created for a reason ...


  14. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

    Feb 7, 2011
    Lewes De.
    How the p-ups wound gives it its quality, you re not going to duplicate that except generally. A friend had a rewind done, same kind of wire, amount of winds, etc, that sounded nothing like the original. Fortunately he liked the new sound and had just wanted a p-up w similar output, which it had. If I had a p-up break, I d just get the modern equivalent. I sold a '65 Strat p-up because the Fender CS '69 "Abby" series sounded just like it , only even better. You are right, its mainly the coil, so unless theres a break 10 winds in, the sound won t be recaptured.

  15. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Tele-Afflicted

    May 21, 2006
    If it can be wound the first time, I don't see any reason why it necessarily can't be wound a second, third or thirty-seventh time. Maybe you don't have the necessary equipment or skill to do it as well as or better than it was done before, but you can do it.

    I mean, by that logic, you can't re-string a guitar, either.
    naneek likes this.

  16. Sconnie

    Sconnie Tele-Afflicted

    May 1, 2017
    Denver, CO
    I don't, other than some occasional window shopping, but I just meant the vintage comment regarding someone trying to sell a "rewound vintage pickup". That makes no sense to me, but I guarantee some schmuck buys that stuff at a premium anyway :lol:

  17. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    How you wind the coil just manipulates the resonant peak, that's it. It doesn't even manipulate the Q factor, because the resistance losses are not affected at all by how you wind the coil. All that changes is the reactive impedance, so it's just one parameter that moves, and it's the same parameter that moves when you switch out guitar cables, which is the resonant peak. The notion that many different aspect of the tone change based on how the coil is wound is completely delusional.
    Bootstrap likes this.

  18. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

    Aug 29, 2007
    MV, CA
    I have a 58 LP VOS out of Gibson's custom shop circa 2008 and I would put that guitar/those pickups up against any vintage 58. They are the Burstbucker 1&2. They have that airy pickup sound found in the "beast" videos you can find on YouTube along with its cutting upper midrange. So the Vintage sounds can be reproduced today. The 57 Classics are very close but I've found the Burstbuckers out of the custom shop and the Billy Gibbons Pearly Gates, to emulate the best of what people like about the 58-60 Les Paul sounds. The Seth Lovers SH55 (I think that's the number) are very good as well except they don't have the mid range cut through but sound like a lot of early PAFs.

    Many humbuckers have power but are rounded in tone and thick. The holy grail sound is the "Beast". Cutting but airy with lot's of clean sustain. One of the thing that drives me crazy about pickup shootouts on YouTube is that many people plug into a tube screamer or the like, to demo the pickups. The better videos compare tone with a clean sound.

    Regarding rewinds, the variation of handwrapping pickups, as mentioned above, is what made the differences in tone of the early PAFs. That's why some vintage pickups are kind of of meh, while some stand out. I've had some average sounding PAFs in guitars from my past. This is why a lot of guys started swapping out pickups back in the day. Especially if the guitar was a dud.
    Obelisk likes this.

  19. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    While technically true, the magnitude of the different made by shifting a small number of winds nearer or further to the guitar strings will be impossible to distinguish by human hearing. Ears are not very sensitive to differences in amplitude. Nature made us very capable of hearing both very quiet and very loud things, but the trade off is that we don't perceive small variations in between those extremes.

    For the variation the be audible, the change has to be 1 to 2dB in amplitude to be heard audibly, and you can get that amount of change by shifting the wire around, you either have to add significantly more wire (SSL-5 for example), or you have to add a whole other coil and wire it in series (a humbucker), which is the same concept, but with two smaller bobbins instead of one larger one.

    Those variances are no different than the variance you get with a longer or shorter guitar cable. There's a psychological piece to it: you listen for what you expect to have happen, if you expect things to sound different, you will perceive that they do, even if in reality they don't.

  20. Bootstrap

    Bootstrap TDPRI Member Vendor Member

    Feb 22, 2018
    Though I wouldn’t call it delusional but rather misled or misunderstood, this has been my experience and understanding as well. There’s no physical property that I’m aware of that could alter the tone of a pickup in a practical, repeatable way based on minute differences in the interior structure of the coil.

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