Fender electric guitar pickup winder

I bought an inexpensive old samick guitar which was constructed well but the single coil pickups where dull. I decided to replace the pickups. I started researching this on the web and found that replacement pickups for fender stat imitations varied in cost from $20 to $450. I also found a lot of information on winding pickups so I  decided to do that.

I bought the kits from Stewart-Macdonald http://www.stewmac.com/
I bought a strat pickup kit, white pickup covers, and 42 gauge wire.

I also bought a inexpensive EMG Select pick to use as a comparison to my pickups.

The first pickup
The first pick I wound using a drill mounted in a vice. This was quick and easy to setup but I did not have the control I wanted.
The winding was not as tight as I wanted, it was hard to control the speed of the drill and aligning the wire to the pickup bobbin was hard.

The Second Pickup
I decided to build a winder using small 3 volt DC electric motor and gear box from Tamiya

The crank arm was a perfect fit to the bobbins central hole, a bit of good luck there. No need to fashion a means to hold the pickup bobbin to the crank arm.  The gearbox was configured to use the second slowest ratio
The second pickup was a lot easier to wind, but there was still a lack of control and some of the winding was lose. This is fixed by the potting but it reduced the number of turns you can fit on the bobbin and your ability to shield the pickup using copper foil, something i want to experiment with. so…….. I added speed control.

The Third Pickup

I added 12 volt speed controller, which I found as an electronics kit. There is a lot of info on the web on how to build your own controller (Pulse width modulator or pwm) using the 555 IC chip. The circuit design is below, there are many like it on the web. If you want to buy one and cannot find  any easily, a car 12 volt dimmer switch is the same sort of device.

The third pickup was the easiest to wind. I wound 8500 turns and it had plenty of room to go to 9000, if you want to add a bit more power to the pickup.

The motor will do 0 to 200 RPM on it’s current setting so you can easily wind a pickup in under an hour

The final design is below

You can see  I use a simple calculator to count the turns. The arm on the crank is offset so it presses the "equals" button every turn. You start the counting by pressing 1 + 1 =, then every subsequent press of the "=" button adds one more to the total.

The wire is given tension by passing through two pieces of soft foam held together by a rubber band.
The wire is lined up with the bobbin by a carefully constructed guide made from a wire coat hanger

I use my finger to move the wire back and forth to even the winding out.. This also gives the pickup it’s randomness.

I am not sure how long the gearbox will last as it is plastic, but it will most likely last as long as I need it.

Hope this helps you. You will find a lot of information about pickups on the web. To finish off the pickup, you will need to pot it. Wax is the common recommended method, but I used a resin, more commonly known as araldite, harder to apply but should not soften in the heat. You will also need to magnetise the pickup before it is ready to be placed in the guitar.

The final result for the first pickup was great. A lot more power, a lot more tone.  It was wound about 8500 times and potted using araldite.
The EMG was also a revelation, while it did not have as much power, it had a very clear tone, $20 was a great price for this pickup.


The result. You can see the new white pickup cover on the bridge and the EMG on the neck. I am trying to find another samick just like this to mount the other two picks so that I can start to compare my results to the originals and the EMG.

A year Later

I have found another Samick and wound another 2 pickups. The results are great, a lot more tone and power. I used about  8150 turns and potted then in bees wax as the aredite was too messy.

I have also hand made my own rat distortion box and other  distortion pedal of sorts from a sustain kit, but that is another story.

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