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Picking Winding


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I have a few questions to ask about winding pickups.

Firstly is copper wire the only choice? Or can you use others... what effects does the material do to the tone?

Also how many winds do single coil pickups in strats use?

And what tone types do you get from different thickness of the wire?

And lastly... how do you "alter" pickup tones to fine tune the sound your looking for ? Say i wanted a thick blues tone like SRV for example... what factors play a role in fine tuning a pickup in such a way?

Reason i ask is im going to make my very first pickup out of plastic sheeting i got and i got the magnets, and this site i found has hundreds of types of copper wire and thickness so i thought Id ask first before buying. Cos is copper the best one or is there better?

Hope you guys can help :D thanks again.

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Man, you are looking for a lot of info in one single post. A quick search would have provided a lot of info. Anyway:

- Copper is not the only possible wire material. BUT I guess that it is the only available in the proper gauges. Don’t think you can make as thin aluminium wire without breaking it.

- A strat is traditional wound to just under 8000 turns (mid 50’s)

- A thinner wire allows less treble to pass through due to the “skin effect”. Treble travels through the outside of the wire and bass in the centre and a thinner wire have a smaller surface to centre ratio compared to a thicker.

- And now to the big one. The sound shaping factors min the order that has the highest impact (according to me)

1 the shape of the coil(s)

2 magnetic field strength

3 number of turns of wire (forget about DC resistance)

4 the shape of the magnetic field

5 the gauge of the wire

This is only the MAIN factors. If we have a look at what can be done to vary the sound of a fender style single coil you can more or less rule out the shape of the coil (wider coil “fatter” sound, think P90). You can use longer magnets that helps create a lightly higher/thinner coil, but the difference will not be significant. You can use weaker or stronger magnets compared to traditional ALNICO5, but it is hard to find in the right dimensions. Higher grade Alnico = stronger magnet = more treble and higher output. Steven Kerstin sells Alnico 2, 3 and 4 in smaller quantities, but stronger magnets are rare to find in right sizes. Number of turns of wire is perhaps the easiest way to change the sound of a pickup. More windings = higher output but also a boosted mid and attenuated treble. That is often considered as “warmer” in sound. If my memory serves me right SRVs pickups were overwound (more than 8000 turns), but perhaps someone else have better knowledge. The shape of the magnetic fiels can quite easily be altered with a fenders style singlecoil. Place a bar stock of magnetic steel under the pickup with the wide section against the magnets. That will direct the magnetic field towards the string like the base plate on a tele bridge pickup and add some bite/twang. As for the effect of the wire gauge I have already touched upon that

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I think you made a mistake in the gauge having an effect on the treble/bass becuase as wire gets bigger, the inside area increases by the square of the increase of the outside distance, so a smaller wire would support more treble than a larger wire.

and here is a website I found: http://www.guitar-mod.com/Merchant2/mercha...Category_Code=P

Edited by rubber314chicken
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I think you made a mistake in the gauge having an effect on the treble/bass becuase as wire gets bigger, the inside area increases by the square of the increase of the outside distance, so a smaller wire would support more treble than a larger wire.

Yeah, you right. I’m probably mixing up on what parts of the signal that travels in what parts of the wire. I think it’s the other way around. Bass is travelling along the outside of the wire and the treble in the centre. HI-FI guys have a lot of info on that available for speaker cables. Google speaker cables diameter or something similar for more info on that (have no link right now).

Regardless of reason. In pickups: Thinner wire = less treble.

Also a thinner wire affects the sound in another way. A thinner wire will not build up the coil as bulky as a heavier wire (for the same turn count). This will change the shape of the coil. Look above for the effect on sound from that change.

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The book is out of print and Jason will not make it available again. I have been in contact with guys that have mailed him about it and he is very clear about it. No reprints!

I have Jasons book and I think that it is overrated when it comes to pickup specifications and factors that affect the sound. It is mainly about how to build a quite advanced pickup winder. It contains the bobbin measurements for the most common pickups though. If you need those, I have made CAD drawings of most of them that I can send you as a PDF of other formats. Anyone that would like to have those just PM me.

I have made a bunch of pickups, from standard HBs, SC, P90s to variations like T90s/S90s and even more experimental versions. It is not as hard as some manufacturers try to make it look like. You can find a description on a very basic, but good enough, winder here. Their kits are also a good start for a winding noob.

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that page I linked to says that thinner wire, more treble.

Yeas and no. What is says is this:

43 gauge wire will have more high end, but less volume than 42 gauge wire wound to equal resistance.

The key words are “equal resistance”. A thinner wire has higher resistance per feet/meter. Let’s say that we are winding two pickups to the same DC resistance. One are done with AWG42 (thicker) and one with AWG43 (thinner). If we make a standard strat pickup and aim for 6 Kohms we will end up with something like 6000 turns for the AWG42 coil. But the AWG43 has higher resistance and will probably give us a coil with considerable less turns of wire, maybe something like 4500 to 5000 (I have never made a SC with AWG43 so those numbers are only a guess).

Now this takes us to a common misunderstanding about pickups and to where that article has some lack of understanding (a very common misunderstanding). DC resistance has *nothing* to do with the sound or output a pickup. OK maybe not “nothing” but it is mainly useful as an indicator of the amount of wire used. But it is completely unusable as information if you do not know the wire gauge type used. Reason for this is that there is a much more important factor that is very hard (almost impossible) to measure on a ready made pickup, and this factor is the main key to output and tone: turn count!

Time for a physics lesson:

The voltage produced by a coil in a varying magnetic field is following this formula

ems=N *dΦ*1/dt

ems = the induced voltage

N = turn count on the coil

dΦ = the change in magnetic field strength (caused by the string vibrating in the fiend)

1/dt = the frequency that the magnetic field changes with

I might use the wrong, “Swedish” names for things. I went to university here in Sweden and I just translate the names

OK, back to the two coils with AWG452 and 43 wound to 6 Kohms.

The coil with AWG43 will definitely have more treble. But that is only because it has 1000 to 1500 turns of wire less (more wire = boosted mid and high bass but less treble). Also the output will be considerably less.

See this is the reason that you should wind a pickup to turns count instead of DC resistance. I always do that and only note the DC resistance when I’m done.

There are more errors in the article at Rothstein Guitars, but lets not be to hard on the guiy…

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Quite correct!

The attenuation of any particular frequency is a function of the capacitance and inductance of the circuit as a whole. ie more windings more inductance and more capacitance. ie Impedance = 2*pi*F * L + 1/ 2*pi* F * C where F is the frequency, L the inductance and C the capacitance R, the dc resistance, stays constant for all frequencies.


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One more thing about the dc resistance. Suppose we wind two pickups, one out of #42, and the other out of #43. Suppose we use the same number of turns, and the coils have the same shape and size. (Perhaps we could find #43 wire with thicker insulation so that the total diameter of the wire, copper plus insulation is the same. Also remember that the inductance of the coil is affected by the shape since how the turns couple together is important, so for comparison in this "thought experiment", we want the coils to be as much the same as possible, only the resistance different.) So we have two coils, the same except for the resistance. The electrical responses will not be exactly the same, however. This is primarily because of the effect of the resistance on the resonant response. The inductance of the coil and the total capacitance from the coil and the cable make a resonant circuit, that is, one that tends to have a peak in the frequency response. With the lower resistance (#42) the peak is somewhat higher and narrower in frequency that with the higher resistance (#43).

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