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Humbucker Winding Questions


IWishICouldShred
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A warning-- If you start reading in the middle, looks like a tutorial, but it is not. I've never done this before. If you're another beginner at this, please do not get the wrong idea from anything in this post. I thought that writing out the process as I understand it so far would be the best way to show how I'm approaching this.

With that said, I'm asking anyone who has done this before to please look over my process here and tell me what I'm leaving out, and please help with the questions I asked throughout.

I've been spending a lot of time over the last few days scouring the internet for information on making your own pickups. I have a basic understanding of the process, but I have a few questions (some probably sound stupid) along the way, so let me go over this...

NOTE- before anyone brings it up, I don't want to start with a pickup I already have. I want to build pickups from scratch, not re-invent something Seymour Duncan already sold me.

First I've got to construct bobbins. This means making tops and bottoms for each pickup (out of plastic most likely) and 2 cores, for which I'll probably use leftover maple from my in progress build.

Each bobbin needs 6 holes in it for pole screws/slugs. QUESTION 1- Do I need to do 6 screws and 6 slugs, or can I have 12 screws?

Next the bobbins are wound with 42 gauge enamel shielded wire. There are more ways to do this than are worth going into here, but I think for my first attempt I'm going to use the hand drill method outlined by John Fisher. I'll be putting on 4000-7000 windings depending on how hot it needs to be.

QUESTION 2- What tool would I use to measure the resistance? Is it an ohm-meter? How much does this tool cost?

Next, teflon plumbing tape goes around the winding, followed by black electrical tape for protection. Pretty simple thusfar.

Now the pickups get potted. Heat some water in a pan and melt wax in a can floating in the water. Don't let it get above 150-160. Put the pickups in for 15 minutes, not letting them touch the sides of the can. Scrape off excess and let them dry.

Then the screws come out, the pickup cover goes on, and the screws go back in. Then the magnet is installed so that it touches all of the pole pieces, and the whole deal gets filled with wax.

QUESTION 3- What dimensions does the magnet need to be for a standard sized humbucker? Can anyone point me in the direction of a vendor that sells Alnico 5 bar magnets in the correct size???

At some point in here, the pickup cover gets filled with wax again to prevent microphony.

After that, the wire leads are hooked up, and the back plate gets soldered on, and the whole thing is ready to play. QUESTION 4 - What exactly do I solder the wire leads to?

So like I said, please let me know if I basically have this down, and help me out with the questions I brought up throughout.

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Each bobbin needs 6 holes in it for pole screws/slugs. QUESTION 1- Do I need to do 6 screws and 6 slugs, or can I have 12 screws?

Twelve screws should work as long as they conduct the magnetism well. You won't have any issues if you buy Stewmac's polepiece screws, although they are way overpriced.

Next the bobbins are wound with 42 gauge enamel shielded wire. There are more ways to do this than are worth going into here, but I think for my first attempt I'm going to use the hand drill method outlined by John Fisher. I'll be putting on 4000-7000 windings depending on how hot it needs to be.

QUESTION 2- What tool would I use to measure the resistance? Is it an ohm-meter? How much does this tool cost?

The handdrill method works quite well. Doubtless you've already seen Jon Fisher's pictures (that's where I got the idea), but here's two pictures of mine for another angle. Notes: I used a clamp to control the speed of the drill. It was pretty effective once I got the hang of it. Also, DON'T mount the spool like I did. Put it in a tupperware container directly below the spinning bobbin. Guide the wire with thumb and finger. The wire won't snag that way.

http://i134.photobucket.com/albums/q119/Ge...ct/100_4672.jpg

http://i134.photobucket.com/albums/q119/Ge...ct/100_4673.jpg

Yes, a typical DMM (digital multimeter) will suffice.

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=prod...;Ntt=multimeter

If you don't care about precision, it isn't strictly necessary to count the number of windings or measure the DC resistance of the coil. If your bobbin is typically sized and you wind it till it's full, it will have a normal output. However, the meter IS useful to make sure your coil is not a short or open circuit. If you get one, set it to 20k ohms to measure.

Next, teflon plumbing tape goes around the winding, followed by black electrical tape for protection. Pretty simple thusfar.

Now the pickups get potted. Heat some water in a pan and melt wax in a can floating in the water. Don't let it get above 150-160. Put the pickups in for 15 minutes, not letting them touch the sides of the can. Scrape off excess and let them dry.

I suggest potting the coils first. I don't see how the wax can totally penetrate the coil if the coil is already wrapped in tape. I would put the tape on after the wax.

QUESTION 3- What dimensions does the magnet need to be for a standard sized humbucker? Can anyone point me in the direction of a vendor that sells Alnico 5 bar magnets in the correct size???

Again, I'll direct you to Stewmac... I know they're expensive, but they are a good source for pickup parts. They have everything you need to make a humbucker, although it's probably more cost-effective to make your own bobbins and baseplate and buy the magnets, polepieces and wire from them.

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Electronics,_p...ups:_Parts.html

QUESTION 4 - What exactly do I solder the wire leads to?

I can't answer that, as I've never built a traditional humbucker. On the pickups I've used, I've soldered the leads to little eyelets that I got for building tube amps. One for each lead, and one 42awg lead goes in each eyelet as well. When you solder, the trick is to heat the eyelet so that the solder melts the insulation on the 42. But if you heat it too hot you'll burn the thin wire and it'll break, so be careful. It is NOT fun to rip a ruined pickup apart and rewind it!

You'll have a blast. I find pickup making as enjoyable as any other aspect of guitarbuilding. :D and your pickups will sound amazing.

Edited by Geo
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Thanks for the info on the multimeter and magnets!

The potting thing was a mistake... dunno why I put that after the tape o.O

I like your idea with the electric drill. If I end up doing the reed switch/magnet/calculator counter, I'll definitely try that.

Places like tubesandmore.com have 42awg wire for what averages out to about $6/mile. Not a bad deal!

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I wind pickups and sell them from time to time and think that I have some good understanding about this issue.

First I've got to construct bobbins. This means making tops and bottoms for each pickup (out of plastic most likely) and 2 cores, for which I'll probably use leftover maple from my in progress build.

That is perfectly do-able, but a lot of job and you need to get the bobbins perfectly straight with no or very little wobble. I really, really recommend getting a StewMac kit. And regarding the comment on the price of the kits, yeah they are pricy if you are doing 10 pickups a day. Just imagine the shipping cost if you are to get bobbins from Allparts, wire from tubesandmore.com more or Shatten, magnets from a magnet vendor, screws of correct size and plating from a screw vendor etc. Not to mention that most magnet manufacturers have minimum order quantities of like 500 to 1000 magnets. The SM kits are well worth their price when winding pickups for fun.

Each bobbin needs 6 holes in it for pole screws/slugs. QUESTION 1- Do I need to do 6 screws and 6 slugs, or can I have 12 screws?

No problem with that. The Gretch Filtertron and similar pickups use 12 screws. But beware that the longer screws actually directs the magnetic field in a totally different way fron the slugs and you would be surprised of how “Gretchy” a normally would HB with 12 screws sound. I have tried it…The double row of long screws area a major contributor the jangly, twangy signature sound of a Filtertron pickup. On the other hand you have the original DiMarzio Distortion pickup that had shorter Allen head screws that was as long as the combined thickness of the bobbin and the magnet, they are not very Gretchy…

Next the bobbins are wound with 42 gauge enamel shielded wire.

Not necessary. Everything from AWG38 to 44 has been used in serial production. A standard “PAF”-style HB is done with AWG42

QUESTION 2- What tool would I use to measure the resistance? Is it an ohm-meter? How much does this tool cost?

The right tool is a digital multi-meter. You can get really cheep ones. But a better method is to count the turns. There have been a few discussion here about why you should count turns and not wind to resistance. Search and you will find it.

A real turn counter costs a great amount of money. A makeshift version can be made with a simple micro switch and a cheep calculator. Take the calculator apart and solder two leads to the “=” button (I think) and solder them to the switch. Type 1, +, 1, and every time you hit “=” it will add 1 to the previous number (or something similar I might mix this up and it is getting late over here, you try it out). Now place your micro switch so that everytime you turn the bobbin one time the switch is bumped once the calculator is adding a turn. Other sources for cheep counters is pedometers/step counters that any woman of some age has more than one laying around (at least a lot of them), There is even a thread here someone actually makes a Lego winder with a arm and a slight weight that bumps the “=” button… Search it, it is hilarious.

Shoot for 5000 turns per coil and you will be fine. If you do it by Ohm, go for 4 to 4,5 Kohms. It is not a as precise method as you might stretch the wire and that will increase the resistance compared to the same amount of windings with un-stretched wire.

teflon plumbing tape goes around the winding, followed by black electrical tape for protection.

Don’t use Teflon tape. If you feel that you need to have any tape directly on the coil use 1/8” low tack paper tape. Use a fabric type tape instead of the plastic electricians tape to tape the two bobbins together tightly and you will be better of. If you are putting on a cover you don’t really *need* any tape at all.

Then off to your assembly sequence. This is the “correct” way IMHO

Wind the coil.

Wrap the coils in 1/8” paper tape (optional)

Screw all hardware together including magnets, coils spacers, keeper bars and of cause the base plate.

Wrap the two coils together with fabric tape (optional)

Solder the lead wire.

Put on the cover.

Solder it in place

Then pot the pickup.

There is not problem with getting hot wax into the coil even with the tape on. You will NEVER be able to get the tape as tight on the coil so that it will prevent liquid wax to get in there. And then there is the traditional holes in the top of the bobbin…

For info on how to solder the pickup wires (and more):

http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Electronic...ing/i-5961.html

no need for eylets if you do it the traditional way, and potting:

http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Electronic...indyfralin.html

Note on potting: NEVER heat the wax directly. Use a old can or something similar to put the wax info, then put this into hot/boiling water. If you heat the wax you are in severe risk of starting a fire.

Pickup winding is good fun. Good luck

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