More Fun with the Modelo Uno: Forward and Lateral Motion

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Freekmagnet, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Since “completing” Build #3 earlier this year, I’ve had a little time to contemplate moving forward with a few new projects. I’ve made some small improvements to my work area, upgraded my pickup winding operation, and come up with an idea for an all-new pickup design. On top of all that I’ve had an itch to build another bass. I’ve decided that rather than designing another instrument from scratch, I’m going to make a few improvements on my existing design.

    Because my next build will be basically the same bass as the previous one, I wasn’t sure if this project warranted a new thread. In a sense, this is could be seen another stage in an evolution, so I felt a new thread would be in order. Hopefully, this thread won’t be as epic as the last one.

    Here’s the changes I’m looking to make:

    1) I want to make a laminated maple neck as opposed to a 1-piece flat-sawn neck.

    2) I’m going to make some slight changes in the body - specifically, I want to do away with the plastic battery box and make a dedicated cavity and a wooden cover that matches the finish. If I feel inspired, I might hollow out a little of the section between the pickup and the neck area.

    3) A sculpted neck heel. This is a slight improvement that is easy to implement - the challenge will be to make it look good. Most of the sculpted heels I’ve seen are just blobular shapes that don’t really have a shape. It would be completely fair to call me anal, but those rounded heels offend my design sensibilities.

    4) I might experiment with a different kind of neck plate. I’ll post some drawings later - this idea may be a bust and might not even be an improvement.

    5) The new pickup. From this point forth code-named “Exotica”. There is a chance that this may negate the battery box on article #2, but I’m not making any promises.

    I’ll be posting a few photos later today.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
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  2. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    I made some improvements on my pickup winding apparatus. I generally use really thin cardboard for my bobbins. Why? Because it’s cheap, you don’t need special tools to cut it and I can make the walls thin enough that I can fit enough wire into a small space. The downside is that the bobbins are really fragile and tend to flare out once I lay some wire in them. This unpleasantry is remedied with a set of “holders” I made out of some 1/4” maple I had laying around.

    Here’s the cardboard bobbins inside of the holders:

    [​IMG]

    The disk on the right is an MDF assembly that attaches to the winder platen. This allows me to screw the holders down to the surface.

    Here it is attached to the platen:

    [​IMG]

    This allows me to easily center the bobbin assembly on the winder. (The photo looks wango, but that because of the lens.) Bruce drilled and threaded a couple of holes on the platen for me. He’s got the tools to put them dead center on that circular part. Anyway this is cool because now I can put all kinds of crazy attachments on my machine. It’s amazing what a pair of holes will do!

    Here’s a batch of coils I wound last night:

    [​IMG]

    They all look really good!

    I’ll have more updates on this project later.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
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  3. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    OK, on to the next part of this puzzle. First, allow me to put on my opinion hat. I use the word “opinion” because I have found that in the pickup-making universe, the ultimate truth is a relative thing. There’s some laws of physics that definitely apply, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of conjecture involved. Ultimately, one winder’s findings may be different from another’s. I’m just stating what I have discovered through my own admittedly un-scientific processes.

    Let’s first go over magnetic materials. Most pickups these are made of various grades of Alnico or ceramic and every once in a while you’ll see neodymium. (There’s some weird pickups out there with rubberized magnets, but I just give a brief overview here)

    Alnico has been around since the old days, and a lot of “traditional” pickups are made with Alnico - Fender, Gibson etc. Alnico is great because you can design a pickup that has a well-rounded tone - the highs are manageable and the mids are sweet. They’re also pretty versatile and forgiving - you can make a pretty good-sounding pickup by just wrapping some wire around it.

    Ceramic magnets are stronger, so you can build a really bright pickup with them. However, they can also make a really stiff and harsh-sounding pickup. Ceramic pickups have a really fast bass response. A lot of more “modern” bass pickups are made with ceramic, but ceramic pickups don't necessarily have to sound "modern". A perennial bass player’s fave is the classic T-40 pickup.

    Neodymium is relatively new on the scene. I’ve been seeing a few more neo-driven pickups out there lately, but it’s still considered to be kind of “exotic”. Their main characteristic is their intense strength.

    I’m writing this in an effort to dispel any myths about neodymium pickups. I’ve been playing with them for a while and they don’t magically make your pickup more amazing and they don’t give your pickup out-of-control output or anything. If anything, most of the pickups I’ve made with neodymium sounded really similar to Alnico-driven pickups. Because of their strength, you will have to alter your design significantly.

    I’ve gotten strange requests from people if I’ll build things for them like a neodymium p-bass pickup, and my answer is usually, “why?” A p-bass pickup is basically p-bass pickup regardless of what magnet you put in it. Besides you can buy one on eBay for $50. I’ve actually read statements from guys who claim that neos sound so different that the human ear is not ready for the way it sounds!

    Anyway I’m calling BS. You can make a good-sounding neodymium pickup, but it won’t be the magnet making the miracle. It’s just a magnet like Alnico or ceramic.

    What’s great about neodymium magnets? Well, it’s their intense strength. If you want to make a smaller pickup, then you can use a small neodymium magnet to drive it. Neodymium magnets are available in all shapes and sizes, they’re relatively cheap and it’s easy to experiment with all kinds of cool magnetic structures.

    /******/

    Next, let’s talk about sidewinders. I’ve been building sidewinders for a couple of years now. I used my sidewinder pickup in my Sirena Modelo Uno. They've been around for a while - most infamously in the Gibson EB-3, but they're pretty uncommon pickups. I believe that this largely because they are more difficult to manufacture, but I'm not sure. While the Gibson pickup isn't the best sounding pickup (they're affectionately known as the "mudbucker"), sidewinders are generally very bright-sounding pickups and have a neutral-sounding midrange. While they are humbuckers, some say that they have an almost single-coil sound. I've heard them described as being "natural" sounding, and I think that is a fair assessment. My theory is that this is largely due to the very narrow sensing area; basically, the central pole does 90% of the work.

    I installed my sidewinder in the bridge position, and while it sounds very clear, the narrow sensing area presented a real challenge. The pickup just didn't put out a ton of low end. I ended up having to use a preamp to fill in some of the bottom, enhance some of the mids and cut some of the highs. The bass sounds great and I've been gigging with it, but I wanted to maybe have a pickup that didn't rely so heavily on a preamp.

    Bruce and I had been talking about it, and he suggested making a wider pickup with a wider aperture. However, I'd already been down that road, and widening the space between the center and side poles didn't do all that much - again, the central pole does most of the work.

    /******/

    Next on the list are multi-coils. I haven't a built one myself, so I can't say much about them, but supposedly they are thick and bright sounding at the same time. Theoretically, this would be due to the skinny coils wired in series. The Wal bass and of course, the X-Strange AMB-2 are both loaded with multi-coils.

    /******/

    Which brings me to new pickup, code-named "Exotica"



    I've decided I'm going to attempt to build a neodymium-driven multi-coil linear sidewinder. It doesn't get much more exotic than that

    The idea is that I want a small pickup with a wide sensing area. Each string will have it's own sidewinder with it's pole running parallel to the string. This will give me the widest sensing area in the smallest space. The smaller neodymium magnets will allow me to make 8 tiny coils.

    Here's a picture of my first attempt, which was an utter failure:

    [​IMG]
    Why did they fail? Well the magnets are really strong and the bobbins and the wire are really fragile. Each set of coils would pull into one another and would either snap the wire or break the bobbin. On my second attempt, I tried putting the magnets underneath the bobbins, but I really had the same problem. I did manage to get 2 strings working and it sounded amazing. Really full sound.

    [​IMG]

    I used some polypropylene I had for the bobbins, but the plastic glue didn't hold. They were falling apart as I was putting them together. And again, the magnets would pull into one another and break the wires.

    So, Bruce made this part for me:

    [​IMG]

    This is basically a prototyping jig that will hold everything together while I assemble the coil/pole/magnet pieces. Because of space restrictions, the pickup will pretty much design itself. I can only add so much 44AWG wire. The biggest problem to solve will be the wiring. There's a lot of points of failure. I'm thinking that I might have to design some kind of circuit board to hold the coils in place.

    I'm hoping to get started winding later this week.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
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  4. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Alright, here’s the last post for the day. First off, posterity’s sake, here’s a recent drawing of the bass:

    [​IMG]

    It’s the same as my last build. I just added a rough drawing of the new pickup as a placeholder. I don’t actually know what the pickup is going to look like yet.

    I think I’m going to finish it in pearl blue with white binding. I’ll use holly as binding - the ABS binding was really easy to install, but I didn’t like difference in materials during the finishing process. The epoxy won’t soak into ABS like it does the wood. It just sits on top and it didn’t sand very well. Anyway, we’ll see how the holly binding goes. There’s a guy who sells it on eBay.

    Here’s my wood pile:

    [​IMG]

    I found the two shorter pieces of poplar in my stash. They are leftovers from a previous build. Those will be for the back. I’ll make the cap from the longer piece in the back. It’s too bad I wasn’t in the mood for a clear-coat finish - they actually had some nice, clear poplar at Mayan today. It was that nice, cream-colored Wood with no green streaks.

    The 5/4 hard maple on the right is for the neck. I was looking for walnut, but most of the pieces they had at Mayan had a lot of little knots. Maybe next time. I want to build a laminated neck, so we’ll see how that goes.

    I haven’t ordered the fretboard yet, but I saw that LMII has some roasted maple pieces. If it’s dark enough, I might get one of those. Or maybe I’ll go for plain old maple. I’m kinda digging the “all-domestic woods” vibe. Either way, I’ll have to figure that out soon - they’re having a sale on truss rods at LMII right now.

    The MDF in back is for new templates - just in case.

    Hopefully, I’ll get started on this stage within the next week.
     
  5. oldrebel

    oldrebel Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Sounds like you have a great plan. I'll be watching. GOOD LUCK.
     
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  6. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    subscribed
     
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  7. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Here’s the magnetic assembly:

    [​IMG]

    This was not easy to assemble! It took me a couple of hours to figure out a way to do it. I had to assemble each pole structure individually, glue them together with CA glue, and then glue each pole into the slot. I had to press fit the poles in there with a vise because the magnets would force each other out of the slot. If I end up doing a production piece, I’ll have to come up with a jig to hold the poles together while I pop them into the base.

    Now that the poles are all affixed in their proper places, I can safely place the coils in there without having to worry about the magnets crashing into each other and breaking the coils. Next, I have to figure out how to wind these tiny coils in such a way that I can wire them up.
     
  8. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    I got some milling done over the weekend, and I joined the body blanks together. Here’s a picture of the top half:

    [​IMG]

    I did the bottom half the day before. I just milled the edges and joined the with West Systems.

    I also milled the neck blank and cut it down into strips. I’m going to let them sit for a few days before I glue them up to make sure they don’t do any twisting.

    Here’s a picture of them alongside my fretboard that came in the mail from LMII this afternoon:

    [​IMG]

    That blue thing is a color sample I sprayed a few months ago.

    I ordered a padauk fretboard. Originally, I wanted to get a roasted maple fretboard and keep my woods all North American. However, I have not really seen any roasted maple examples that really knocked my socks off color-wise. Admittedly, I have not seen many examples - mainly just the Ernie Ball instruments at GC and I wasn’t all that impressed. I’m the end, the roasted maple fretboards were pretty expensive for a wood color I’m not really all that sure about. I decided on padauk - it’s a great color, it was $12 cheaper and as far as I can tell, it’s not critically endangered or anything. I think it’ll kick a** next to that pearlescent blue. In the future I’ll keep looking for a roasted maple sample I like.
     
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  9. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Well guys, today I went for it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I had trouble wiring it - there were a lot of phase issues. I was fairly diligent about getting the wire direction right and I did a lot of tests by isolating two pairs of coils. They all sounded fine. But for some reason, putting all eight pairs in series, the A and the D strings wouldn’t work.

    What ended up working was this: the first four coils were joined Beginning > End > End > Beginning > Beginning > End > End > Beginning. The next four were joined End > Beginning > Beginning > End > End > Beginning > Beginning > End - basically the opposite. Then I wired those two sets in series. That got it running, at least. I hope that makes sense. In the process, I only damaged one coil. I had another from a previous attempt and it worked fine.

    Anyway, the pickup sounded... interesting. The output was pretty good for a passive bridge-position pickup. It’s crazy bright - not in the ice pick sense, but rather, it hears EVERYTHING. All finger noise is right up front and center. There’s plenty of midrange and bass underneath the brightness - certainly more than my original sidewinders. The comb effect (if that’s what it is) gives it a really unique sound. I think if anything, that’s probably the best part about it.

    I’m thinking that for this to work, I’m going to need more capacitance. I turned the treble all the way down and even cut some high-mids - and it still sounded bright! I can’t really add a significant amount of wire, so I might experiment a little with hardwiring a cap to ground to make a little LPF. We’ll see.
     
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  10. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Your inventiveness/ creativity makes me quite happy :) It's a nice change around here from the same old stuff.
     
  11. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Thanks!

    The jury’s still out on this design. I’m still having a lot of weird phasing issues. The phasing is symmetrical, so I’m hoping it’s all a matter of getting the right wiring right.
     
  12. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    What about begining to end to begining to end for each pole( having 2 coils in series for each pole) then wiring all paired beginings for signal and all paired ends for ground(all paired series poles in parallel). this would drop the too bright treble.
     
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  13. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Thx.

    A friend of mine made almost the exactly same suggestion - but basically paired in series instead of parallel. They’re good ideas. I’ll try that approach tonight when I get home.
     
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  14. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    @Zepfan - you were right!

    I wired the coils like this:

    B=Beginning E=End

    B>E>B>E > E>B>E>B > B>E>B>E > E>B>E>B

    So, it was basically as you suggested, but with the pairs in series, not parallel.

    Thus removing 1 layer of humbucking and it definitely improved the sound. I have a considerable amount more output and bass and mids. I still have tons of treble, but it's more manageable. It's more proportionate to the amount of lows.

    The pickup still hears EVERYTHING for better or for worse. If I'm playing and I shift my body position, the bass picks it up. I kid you not.

    I wonder if I could remove another layer of humbucking? Maybe wire up the north-facing SU pairs to each other non-humbucking and vis-versa with the south-facing SU pairs.
     
  15. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Alrighty, I just wired it like so:


    N S N S
    B>E>B>E | E>B>E>B | B>E>B>E | E>B>E>B

    with the ends of each N pole together and the beginnings of each south pole together. The two NN and SS poles are wired in series. I hope that makes sense.

    The increased output, bass and mids are noticeable. Again, still lots of treble, but it sounds more proportionally correct.

    The pickup is still very sensitive and picks up EVERYTHING. That part hasn't changed a bit.

    I'm thinking that this may have enough lows to run as a sole bridge pickup without a preamp. We'll have to see - I can't really say for sure about that yet.

    I wouldn't mind if I could fine-tune it a bit and tighten up the sound a little bit. The highs I can knock down with a capacitor. The mids are a little wild, too. There's not too much further I can do that with wire. I might be able to use a smaller core like I mentioned earlier. Then I can either add more 44AWG or bump it up to 43AWG. The 43 would open it up more, but the bass would be nice and clear. Or I could use a smaller core and narrow the width of the coil and keep the turn count the same. That might make it a little more focused.

    I think I can probably move on to the next phase. I'll marinate on this for a couple of days.
     
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  16. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Ah! I’m so dumb!

    I think it’s microphonic. I potted the coils, but it could be the steel slugs inside the coils. I never had much problem with microphonic pickups. I’ll have to figure this out...
     
  17. Tobias

    Tobias Tele-Meister

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    Subscribed. Fun!
     
  18. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    How is the pickup mounted to the guitar? Sitting flat on the body? Hanging from a pickguard?
     
  19. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    I just have it bolted into the body.
     
  20. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Try placing some foam between the pickup and the body or a thin cushion of tape. It's good to have that "pickup all the body tone nuances", but of course all the handling noise is a nuisance. Treat it like a piezo.
     
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