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Psw's Sustainer Pickup/driver Pictorial


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OK...here it is...the making of my pickup/driver sustainer thingy as featured in the huge and ever popular sustainer thread. I hope this saves people having to search through the 91 pages of it so far for this information.

General comments regarding the sustainer device should be posted on the main thread in the electronics section, questions on the photos are welcome here however....Now, on with the show!




lucky me the bobbin turned out to be slotted just right...that seems wrong, but oh so right!


ok...so I put it all together ready for winding...the driver bobbin was made from very thin folder material, glued and taped on aroungd the blade with pvc electricians tape.


so here's what you need...the glue, the multimeter, the wire and something to wind it on...


The above photos show what you need to wind one of these beasties. I lucked out and found the pickup I modified had a slotted bobbin and was able to extend the blade right through. In a more conventional pole pickup, you may need to make a thin blade that sits on top of the pickup bobbin...should work just as well. (how you would deal with staggered poles I just don't know!!!

Edited by psw
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Now for winding...yes it is all done by hand. The white stuff is PVA woodworking glue which pots the coil and stops internal vibrations, this is applied before and during winding to make sure it gets into every space. As you go you will have to push some of the side windings in and make sure the ends don't get too tight and bend the bobbin up. You can see that the top is very thin and I used some cardboard and clamps to keep those ends down as it dried.


this photo is out of sequence (you can see I have already soldered on the end lead so it is fully wound) but it shows the cardboard double-sided taped to the top to add stiffness and the use of clamps to hold down the ends...


I've soldered the lead wire to the starting end (the blue one) and done a few turns...


as you wind the glue will be pushed up through the windings...when it doesn't, it's time to add a bit more!


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ok...finishing up the winding with tape...


I used pvc electricians tape to hold those windings in...make sure you don't short the soldered ends of the leads....


I used clamps to hold the whole thing down while it dried so it wouldn't turn into a banana...the ends get real tight and with this very thin bobbin material on top, it pushed it up...


this nest is a pic out os sequence showing the top of the bobbin just before winding the driver coil...


The end result...not bad...


the blue part is the driver...thin isn't it...that's the secret!!!...do'h, I just told you!!!


here it is in the guitar...works a charm...


Ok...hope that helps...I just added this cause I know I may want to add something...so this will let me edit it in after the photos!

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  • 2 months later...
  • 5 months later...

First of all, thank you PSW for all the info!!

I got all the supplies to build a Little gem / ruby / fetzer amp, but i'm a little confused by the design and schematics.

I wired up a very simple version of the circut, using only the LM386, a single capacitor and a 9v, and wired it to a cheap strat.

At the output, I connected a small .5-1 watt 8ohm speaker. At the input, I connected the output from my pickups, spliced from right before it goes out to the normal 1/4 in guitar jack. I used a 100u capacitor, then tried a 220u.

When I tested it, the little speaker is completely unresponsive. I tried both inputs to the LM386, and tried grounding one of the inputs like another tutorial said to.

Basically nothing happened-- the amp popped a couple of times but the little speaker didn't make a sound (yes I know it works.)

The weirdest thing is that when i was messing with the capacitor (which is located between the 386s output and the speaker) a radio station started playing through my amp!!


Could someone show me in a very basic and simple way how to wire, ground, and solder one of these sustainers AND MINI AMPS in relation to the guitar?

All of these pictures detail the driver -- which is the only thing I do understand.

I just need help with the amp and tapping into the guitar's electronics.


Also, is there anywhere to BUY a PREMADE fetzer-ruby (or either one separately) amp?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ya, the radio got a laugh.

I've gotten alot farther along since that post.

I used my crap'o'caster's bridge pickup as my sustainer -- rebuilt it and wound it to about 7.1 Ohms (IS THAT OK??)

Also -- I skipped the glue, and just wrapped the wire. Is that ok? or does it have to be glued in?

My electronics wiz friend is working on the RUBY-FETZER amp right now -- but some really close up picture of it, (not a modified version) would help a lot. I decided to go with the J201 as "Q1" as well, so I hope that works....

and, WHERE IS THE ENTIRE CIRCUT AND SUSTAINER GROUNDED TO? The battery or the guitar frame?

Thanks alot,


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I've gotten alot farther along since that post.

That's good...you really should join us over at the main thread though...there's more people there to point you in the right direction...


This is a version of the F/R amp. This was done by bancika who has developed software for electronic software that is super cool. You will find the layout on this page...F/R layout...but to read it you need to download the software. No problem really as it is free and small...see the software tab from that link and down load that and the circuit and then open it with it. You will see that there are a whole lot of stompbox and other interesting stuff available in the layout section...great stuff...

The reason you don't see a lot about the circuitry I guess is that everyone does it a little differently and the driver is at the heart of the project and less familiar to most people. Mine is pretty simple but is not the F/R while in recent times a more elaborate circuit has been developed over at the main thread.

1. that would be ok but you need to block up the bottom of the bobbin (unless you are building it on top like mine) so that the driving coil is 3mm deep at the top of the bobbin.

2. this is not ok. The glue is very important. The windings, no matter how well you wind it will vibrate in operation, work inefficintly and put out radio signals, or at least interferance that will get into the guitar's pickup and out the amp...not good!

3. great...see the pics and software above...J201 should be ok if the pins are around the right way (not all three legs are the same so check it out)...the transistor is for a preamp to avoid loading from the circuit on the guitar's signal...

4. ground to the battery negative but that is grounded via the bridge pickup's signal wires to the guitar anyway, so it is much the same...try and avoid making a ground loop by connecting only once.

5. a single pickup guitar is the ideal set up for an easy installation. A neck driver with only a bridge pickup requires only that the power is turned on at the battery with a SPST switch. A DPDT switch will be required for the harmonic switch.

Just take it one step at a time and test it like you have been doing with a speaker and then by holding the driver over the strings before modifying the guitar...

good luck... pete

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Thanks alot PSW!

What is the main thread....

1. I did block it, but left about 6 or 7 mm as the bobbin -- just 3 mm didn't give me enough space to wind 8ohms, so it is a little deeper.

2. Specifically what type of glue (would elmer's wood glue work, or hot glue?)

4. How is the battery grounded to the guitar -- I haven't seen that in the diagrams... (So the entire AMP CIRCUT is grounded to the guitar before hitting the battery or what?)

5. A DPDT switch just reverses the positive and negative lines going INTO the sustainer and AFTER the Amp circut right?


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Well you are missing the 170 pages of sustainer glory that is the sustainer ideas thread....don't try and read it, just join in on the end...Main Thread

1. well you may be winding a bit loose, 3mm is enough for about 8 ohms on a single coil...see the photos of mine in the tutorial. Make sure you are using 0.2mm wire (this is important) and you push in the sides as you go with a stick. I know it seems really thin, but that is the magic of the design. That little roll will make a few drivers and most will need a couple of goes to get it right...it's pretty cheap really...

2. I'm in Australia and we call white woodworking glue like that above PVA...anything similar like wood glue would be good. Hot glue will be no good as you need time to work it. Some have tried epoxy, some with success but it is messy and dangerous, not to mention expensive and if not mixed right might not quite set right...also, it is irreversable so you had better be sure to get it right and it is possible that it could disolve the wire's enamel and cause shorts...

Stick to the wood glue that washes off with water while wet if winding on a bobbin. The glue "potting" is important...just as the device seeks to vibrate the strings, it will vibrate any loose windings...

4. What happened to 3...hmmm...oh well... just connect the battery to the circuit, the ground to the guitar will connect via the bridge pickups input signal anyway...

5. Yes...between the driver and the circuit. It will also do the same thing if the signal in is reversed as with a normal phase switch, or even, interestingly enough, if the magnet is flipped over...

All of the links are at the end of all my posts... :D ...see below for the main thread as linked above, the Sustainer Sounds thread where you can hear and see the device, another tutorial which has more about circuitry and such and this thread on the making of my strats driver...

I am hoping to do it again with another strat at some point but there is always a range of discussion on the always active main thread as well as a whole bunch of other's that can answer these questions and more...

pete :D

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I got 30AWG gauge, which should not make any difference from 32AWG since the resistance is pretty much identical per foot, etc. It is just a tiny bit thicker.

You may be surprised at the difference it makes, it is not just about resistance but frequency response and the physical size of the coil, not to mention the amount of ekectromagnetic energy the coil can produce for a give power....and the speed at which the thing can operate.

I don't quite know the guages and they can be confusing but a wire that is 0.25mm is proportionally quite a bit thicker than 0.2mm...25% more in fact which is a significant amount...it may work, but from my tests on various guages 0.2mm is an important factor, especially for getting the high strings to respond properly...

This also explains your difficult in making a thin driver, yours needs to be at least 25% bigger and the wire less maliable than the thinner stuff...


PS...please jopin us on the main thread as these posts cloud the clarity of the tutorial, which I thought was pretty clear. The recepie is important and the device shown works perfectly just as described. There are no further short cuts or comprimises really.

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  • 3 months later...
PS...please jopin us on the main thread as these posts cloud the clarity of the tutorial, which I thought was pretty clear.

That aside...you could use a single coil bobbin like this but you would still need magnets and to modify it so as to leave only 3mm for the wire to be wound around on the top portion of the coil...

It would be easier to adapt a cheap pickup...or check out some of the posts lately on the new dual rail drivers being developed...there are construction techniques there that may be of interest...my latest driver cost less than $5 to build and is a more complex design than this. I used craft shop magnets ($2 for 8...I need three), 0.2mm wire and a hacksaw blade cut down to shape...oh, and a lot of glue :D ...and that's :D $$$!!! No bobbins were required at all.

You could use similar techniques and materials to make a basic single coil driver.

Really, the bobbin is the least of your problems, this project does require a range of skills from arts and crafts (bobbins and such) to basic electronics...you will at least have to be able to rewire a guitar completely...it can get a little tricky...

Still people are able to suceed...the main thread is still going strong with help and advice from a range of expereinced people...

BTW...the driver here is perfectly servicable and a good place to start. At the moment we are working on a "new generation" of drivers and I am working towards a driver design to operate in the middle position and allow the use of the other pickups...

This is a picture of the new prototype $5 mid-driver (works but untested in the middle position as yet)...


see you on the main thread in the electronics section...updated daily or more often, more than likely... pete

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This is the tutorial section...

PS...please join us on the main thread as these posts cloud the clarity of the tutorial, which I thought was pretty clear.

This is a tutorial section and I can't answer questions here...there are problems with your proposal...to learn more...click here...Sustainer Thread

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