151. When using the same type of insulation why does magnet wire have different colors? Tom Baker- New York, New York
The insulation or coating on the magnet wire can vary in color for several reasons. A popular vintage insulation called Formvar often seen on vintage Stratocaster pickups can vary due to the thickness and amount of layers or coatings the bare copper magnet wire will have. As the insulation becomes thicker, it can also become darker with each layer or build. Heavy or triple build will be darker than single build Formvar insulation. The color can change depending on the manufacturer of the insulating material. Different chemical companies have their own recipe for making the same type chemical insulation. There are many federal regulations today and many of the chemicals used years ago cant be used today. After the coils are wound various potting solutions used can make the magnet wire have a different color. More synthetic materials are used today to create the same useful insulations.
152. I have an old Fender 5 string bass with split pickups. How are the pickups wound on the two bobbins with one having three poles and the other two?
The bobbins are usually wound with the same number of turns and not equal DC resistance. The 3 pole bobbin is longer than the 2 pole bobbin with both bobbins hooked up in series. The bass side 3 pole bobbin is usually wound North polarity and the treble side 2 pole bobbin is wound south with each bobbin wound opposite of each other. The two bobbins wired in series make the pickup humbucking when used. Even though the bass coil with 3 poles has a higher DC resistance than the treble coil with 2 poles the DC resistance of each coil is added together for the total DC resistance. If one coil is 4k ohms and the other is 3k ohms the total would be 7k ohms DC resistance. The volume and tone controls are 250k audio taper and the tone control combined with a .05 mfd. capacitor to roll of the high end.
Bass side: 3 poles Treble side: 2 poles
Turns: 8550 Turns: 8550
AWG: 42 PE AWG: 42 PE
Winding Direction: TG Winding Direction: TC
Magnet Polarity: North Magnet Polarity: South
Hookup: In series and two bobbins become humbucking
Volume Control: 250k audio taper
Tone Control: 250k audio taper with .05 mfd. capacitor
153. Can the pole pieces be moved or changed in my molded Stratocaster bobbins. Tim Jenkins-San Jose, California
Magnets can be moved or changed on Stratocasters that have molded bobbins. Ive often changed the magnets in the molded bobbins with others found from broken or destroyed pickups. At times older magnets have less string pull and staggering the pole pieces for the desired string output. I like replacing the flat poles (all the same length) with staggered ones to get unique sounds out of the pickup. You can also reverse the magnet pattern to make them left handed. The molded bobbins seen on Stratocasters have a nicely wound coil with plenty of turns for output. Using older or aged magnets make them warmer and fuller sounding with less harshness. Make sure when replacing magnets that you keep them all the same polarity. The six magnets should either be all south or north facing the strings. With the molded bobbins you can flip over the six magnets in the center pickup and reverse the two lead wires connected to the lever control and ground. The guitar will be humbucking in the 2 & 4 position using a 5 way lever switch. This is useful when playing in clubs where bad wiring interferes with your solos or when to near the transformers in your amp.
154. Can Gibson Deluxe mini humbuckers with adjustable pole-pieces fit into my Firebird guitar? Colin Welch-Sidney, Australia
The pickups will fit into the older style Firebird mounting rings and modification has to be done to have height adjustment. On the Deluxe mini humbuckers the height adjustment is done with a spacer between the leg and modified P-90 cover. The 3/48 machine screw is screwed into a threaded ferrule pressed into the bottom of the pickup cavity. The height adjust screw is held in place with a soldered 3/48 nut below the leg of the pickup. The screw has to be de-soldered to remove the nut which can be difficult to do without the proper de-soldering tools. The legs of the Deluxe mini humbucker are drilled out and you need to use a 3/48 Tinnerman nut around the leg or 3/48 nut soldered to the bottom of both legs (this can be difficult to do too). To properly do the modification you will need:
1. 2 Gibson standard humbucker compression springs
2. 2 - 3/48 nuts to be soldered to the legs or use 2 - 3/48 solderless Tinnermans
3. 2 - 1 1/4 X 3/48 oval or phillip head machine screws
Note: Always take extreme caution when working on your instrument especially when using tools or other electrical devices such as soldering equipment and always were safety glasses...SWD
155. What makes the different pickup models sound different even thought they look alike? Jeff Andrews - London, England
Pickups can many factors that make them sound different even though they may look identical. There are many variables and some are listed below:
1. The number of turns on each bobbin
a. The number to turns per layer (pitch)
b. The number of layers per total turns
c. Tension in grams when winding
d. The winding speed of the bobbin
e. The de-reeling of the magnet wire from the master spool
f. The lubricant and seating of the magnet wire per-layer
g. Traverse and winding area
h. Precision pitch control for desired gauge of magnet wire
2. The gauge of magnet wire (Bare Wire)
a. Minimal diameter, Nominal diameter & Maximum diameter (bare dimensions)
b. Nominal area in circular mils
c. Nominal ohms per 1000 @ 20? C
d. Nominal ohms per pound @ 20? C
e. Pounds per 1000
f. Feet per pound
3. The insulation thickness on a particular gauge of magnet wire
a. Increase in film or insulation diameter
b. Minimal, Nominal & Maximum
4. The bobbin shape
a. The bobbin length
b. The bobbin width
c. The bobbin height
d. The bobbin material
e. More specific bobbin dimensions
5. The pole piece shape and material
a. Steel rod slugs
b. metal bar or blade (shape and size)
c. Fingers (single or multiple)
d. Magnet rod pole piece (various material and strength)
e. Screw pole piece (various threads, length, diameter and head shape)
f. Iron core material with shapes
g. Magnet bars of various shapes (various material and strength)
6. Magnet Material
a. Alnicos (2,3,4,5,7)
b. Ceramics (various grades)
c. Cobalt steels
d. Rare earth magnets
e. electromagnets (DC with various power supplies)
f. Barium Ferrite rubber bonded magnets
g. Strength or weakness of magnet
h. fully magnetized, de-gaussed or calibrated
7. Electrical Phasing
a. Series In phase
b. Series out of phase
c. Parallel in phase
d. Parallel out of phase
e. Split adjustable
f. Split non-adjustable
g. In phase with accompanying pickup
h. Out of phase with accompanying pickup
8. Magnetic Phasing
a. In phase
b. Out of phase
c. In phase with accompanying pickup
d. Out of phase with accompanying pickup
9. The guitar string gauge
a. String gauge
b. String alloy
c. String age and use
d. String spacing from pole to pole
e. String height from pickup
f. Neck scale and string length
g. String pitch and tuning
10. Other factors that make a pickup sound different
a. Body and neck material
b. Body and neck weight
c. Electrical circuit (switches, volume and tone controls values)
d. Guitar cord
e. Effects being used
f. Fret height and width
g. Tail piece
h. Vibrato or Tremolos
i. Pickup covers- material, thickness & plating
j. Gauge of hookup wire-solid or stranded and number of strands
k. Pickup mounting-mounting ring, pickguard, mounted into body
l. Pickup placement-distance from bridge and neck
m. Angle of pickup-angled or perpendicular
n. Amplification being used
o. Speaker combination
p. Your individual ears- depending on the time, loudness and frequency will make your pickup sound different
156. I have a Gibson Melody Maker that was epoxied into the cover and when I pulled it out I broke the coil. How many turns should I put on it if I want to rewind it? Clay Horton, Idaho
First off I would try to see how many turns were broken. If you can remove a few turns to the break, lightly sand the magnet wire and solder the finish lead on and test. If the beginning wire is broken that will be a lot more difficult. When you need to rewind it and it is best to remove the magnet to reduce weight in the pickup. I would try using 42 AWG gauge, single build magnet wire and put 10,000 turns on it. Hand winding nylon bobbins can be difficult and cause the ends to flair but it can be done with proper guides. Put the top of the bobbin facing left if the top of the bobbin comes towards you when winding. Wrap a few turns around the bobbin, tape off and wind till the coil is full. When the coil is full, break the magnet wire and pigtail (twist around) to the finish wire and solder.
157. What is the best way to connect magnet wire to the lead wires? Tom Davidson, Wilmington, North Carolina
At times you will have difficulty soldering certain insulations on magnet wire. The lead wire and must be physically striped by using a 600 grit sandpaper or using a chemical stripper to remove the insulation. Note: You have to be careful in removing the insulation as you can fatigue the magnet wire. I carefully tape each joint to reduce the bare copper wire from oxidizing and failing at a later date. I see many contacts oxidized at the eyelets on Fender style pickups. A good insulating coating on the solder joints such as wax potting helps keep moisture from oxidizing the bare copper wire. If magnet wire had no insulation the wound coil would completely short out. Older insulations can break down over time making the pickup fail. If your pickups are subject to lots of moisture especially guitar cases left in hot car trunks or in the sun, absorbed moisture inside the case can make the pickup rust and coil to oxidize. Making sure your solder joints and connections are protected from excessive moisture from sweat and humid playing conditions. When I solder two wires (pig tale) together I make sure the magnet wire is completely stripped and I wrap it 4-5 times around the lead wire Im connecting to. The lead wire should be stripped about 1/4 and carefully soldered with SN 60-40 solder found at most Radio Shacks. Dont use acid core solder thats often used in soldering pipes together for plumbing. The acid core solder can eventually corrode and destroy the magnet wire. When winding or repairing pickups with plastic bobbins similar to Gibson style pickups, I carefully tape each solder joint that holds each connection firm. When you use a hot soldering iron, the copper wire (magnet wire) can become annealed (softened or brittle) and break with excessive heat and movement. Its important when building or repairing pickups all wires are carefully taped to avoid damage from stress pickups get when performing. When soldering magnet wire to eyelets in Fender style pickups, Im careful not to use excessive heat on the eyelet so I dont cook the magnet wire. Insulations have various thermal ratings (melting temperatures) and try to find out the insulation used and temperature of the soldering tip. Plain enamels, Formvar and most Polyurethane insulations have a thermal rating of 105? C. Polyester has a 155? C thermal rating. Polyester/Polymide, Polyester Nylon and Solderable Polyesters have a thermal rating of 180? C. Armored Polyester and Teflon insulations have a 200? C thermal rating. For insulations above 155? C, its best to physically or chemically strip the insulations. Trying to melt the insulations off using a high temperature soldering iron can fatigue and break the fine magnet wire. Having too hot a soldering iron can boil the solder joints at either pigtails or eyelets. As it boils, minute air bubbles can influence cold solder joints. Blowing on solder joints can do several things too. Movement of hookup wire in the eyelets while cooling can cause cold solder joints. Moisture from your breath causes condensation in the joint that could later oxidize the bare magnet wire. If you dont physically or chemically strip your magnet wire, make sure you use adequate heat to melt the insulation. Soldering tips that are oxidized often make poor contact with the heating element in the iron. Without enough heat, youll be trying to get a good solder joint for days. Keep your soldering tips clean and corrosion free.
158. On my single coil pickup I repaired several broken turns and many of the outer turns are loose. How can I secure them without dipping my whole pickup in wax. Kirk LOrange-Sydney, Australia
Often I repair pickups without submerging the whole pickup in wax. I like keeping the top and bottom of the pickup vintage looking. I like keeping the dust and dirt on the pickup from many years of playing. I mask the top and bottom of the pickup to keep it free of excessive wax residue. I scrape bits of clear wax onto the loose area of the coil. I use a voltage regulator to lower the temperature of my soldering iron. I get the tip temperature to about 180-200 degrees F (enough to melt the wax without melting the insulation) and carefully melt the wax into the coil. This generally keeps the outer windings secure to eliminate snags if and when putting covers on the pickup. Note: Soldering irons can get very hot and extreme caution must be used and wear safety glasses.
159. Years ago I heard of a company out of Birmingham, England that made guitars and many models of pickups. Who was it and what kind of pickups did they make? Lewis Harley- Isle of Sky, Scotland
While I was working at the Fender Soundhouse on Tottenham Court Road in London, England I remember talking to a guitar and pickup builder named John Birch whos company was in Birmingham. I tried to contact him recently by making several calls but could not locate him. I was always impressed by the pickup ideas he had back in the 60s and 70s. I believe the John Birch Guitar Company was started back in the 60s with founder John Birch, John Diggins and Arthur Baker. The pickups they designed are about the size of a Gibson P-90 or Soapbar pickup with mounting rings. He had a nice stainless steel deep drawn cover and epoxy sealed pickups to eliminate microphonics. Most of his pole pieces looked like phillip button head screw. From the photos Ive seen, each pickup had 9 screw side by side without gaps similar to Carvin pickups. Below are examples of pickup models manufactured by the John Birch Guitar Company.
Pickup Models from the mid 70s:
SIMPLUX-Single coil intended to replace the old black covered Gibson type fitted to Juniors and some SGs, but having the continuous row of balance screws centrally. 30- 14,000 Hz. Standard Impedance.
HYPERFLUX-Double row of balance screws to accept impulses from string vibration over a wider area. 30-13,500 Hz. Standard impedance and long sustain due to high sensitivity.
SUPERFLUX G-Single row of balance screws to accept impulses from string vibration over a narrow area to emphasize either treble or bass depending on location. 30-13,500 Hz. Standard impedance with long sustain due to high sensitivity.
SUPERFLUX B-Single row of balance screws to accept impulses from string vibration over a narrow area to emphasize either treble or bass depending on location. 30-25,000 Hz. Approximately half standard impedance with long sustain due to high sensitivity.
SUPERFLUX L-Single row of balance screws to accept impulses from string vibration over a narrow area to emphasize either treble or bass depending on location. 30-15,000 Hz. Standard impedance with long sustain due to high sensitivity.
SUPERFLUX M-Single row of balance screws to accept impulses from string vibration over a narrow area to emphasize either treble or bass depending on location. Double the number of turns compared with the Hyperflux and Superflux, therefore it has double the output and double the impedance frequency response is slightly lower, 30-8,000 Hz tailing off.
BIFLUX-Double wound parallel connected coils to reduce impedance while retaining long sustain due to high sensitivity. 30-20,000 Hz. Approximately half standard impedance.
MAGNUM-Double row of balance screws to accept impulses from string vibration over a wide area. Double the number of turns compared with the Hyperflux and Superflux, therefore it has double the output and double the impedance. Frequency response is slightly lower, 30-8,000 Hz tailing off. This is the most powerful pickup ever made to really clobber the amplifier.
MAGNUM L-Approximately half the impedance of Magnum to extend the frequency range to 15,000 Hz.
MULTIFLUX-The most revolutionary pickup ever devised. It contains FOUR coils forming a STEREO unit within a standard case, all four ends of the coils being brought out to provide the maximum combinations. Two of these pickups when linked with the complex switching will give up to TWENTY-SIX different tones in Stereo, Mono, Anti-phase or QUADRAPHONIC. Such a range of effects is of infinite benefit for studio work where tonal changes can be made without changing over instruments. The number of combinations can be limited by individual requirements to avoid over-complication.
The John Birch Guitar Company introduced many major guitar improvements over the years and his interchangeable pickup guitar was devised at the express wish of Tony Iommi for studio use, to provide a wide range of sounds from the one instrument. They made fourteen modules and were built to order at a considerable cost.
From the information I have from an older catalog, the John Birch company made many interesting and sounding pickups. I would like to find more information about this company if anyone has catalogs, info or whereabouts. Thanks..
160. How can I remove steel wool from my pickups? Andrew Dawson-Quartzite, Arizona
I often use a fine tooth brush and masking tape. You can also use a fingernail brush and keep the masking tape close to catch the fine steel wool fibers. This happens often when polishing your frets, fingerboard and fine finishes. I avoid using steel wool because it can get inside your pickup and most likely cause microphonics. You can get compressed air in cans but becareful not to get the steel wool in your eyes when blowing. Please wear glasses! As mentioned in one of my earlier VGM articles, bar magnets can be removed from humbucking style pickups to eliminate steelwool from your pole pieces. Even though the magnet is removed there may be residual magnetism in each pole but removing debris will be much easier. Once the bar magnet is removed youll notice filings have attached to the magnet on the way out. You can use masking tape remove the debris stuck to the magnet.
161. I plug my guitar into the extra channel of my friends amp so we both can play together but when he changes his volume or pickup selection it modifies the sound of my guitar. What happens? Charlie Patterson-Houston, Texas
You are putting both instruments in parallel with each other into the same input of the amplifier. When ever you or your buddy change settings it affects the other instrument. The pickups are working as if they were in the same instrument. This happened to me too during my early days of playing. One of my first bands had two guitars and a bass through the same amp with one 12 speaker. Talk about a bad sound. I remember playing in bands that who ever had the loudest amp, played lead guitar! The worst was performing shows where the amplifiers sat in front of you on the stage floor.
162. I noticed when I changed my strings from 9 to 10 gauge the output got fatter and fuller. Why is that? Robert Hawkins-Toronto, Canada
The larger the diameter of the string which is often called music wire is actually spring steel. The increase in diameter moves more of the magnet field through the coil thus producing a stronger signal to the amplifier. I remember a band in Southern, New Jersey during the mid sixties called the Sterling Brother and one of their guitarist named Mark Hutchingson played a three pickup Les Paul Custom (Later called the Gibson SG Custom). He used 3 A Tenor banjo strings for the E, B, and G strings. He had such a unique sound with such thin strings. The other guitarist in the band was a great player named Joe Seddon and both lived in the Pitman area of South Jersey. I used to watch them play all kinds of instrumentals from The Ventures especially Hernandos Hidaway and their own version of Canadian Sunset. They were a big influences on me and I used to go from club to club to watch them play. There were lots of influences while living in South Jersey especially when Roy Buchanan taught me to us an A tenor banjo string for my high E. Experiment with your gauge of strings and whose to say you cant use all 6 plain strings from E to E! I guarantee you will come up with some unique sounds.
163. The pickguard on my 1960 Fender Jazzmaster shrunk and I cant adjust the pickups up or down. What can I do to raise the pickups? Jack Nelson-Burbank, California
I would suggest removing all the pickup guard mounting screws, strings, bridge and place them in a container so you dont lose them. Next remove all 4 screws from each pickup. Carefully lift the pickguard just enough so you can gently push the pickups in the direction desired. Dont remove the covers from the pickguard because they can be hard to get back in. After you sight the adjustment needed, return the pickup guard to the previous position and fasten the pickguard and pickup screws. Dont tighten the pickup screws too much as they might move from your previous adjustment. If the pickups slip too low then insert a piece of foam rubber under each pickup to help retain the desired height. If the pickup covers are removed from the pickguard, they will have to be inserted from the underside of the pickguard first. The edges of the pickup covers are tapered and narrower at the top than the bottom. The bottom of the covers have sharper flanges that can snag the pickguard when trying to insert the cover from the top.
164. I have a Jaguar pickup that has a DC resistance of 7.4K ohms. Can I use that in the bridge position of my Stratocaster? Ted Cushman-Portland, Oregon
I wouldnt suggest it for several reasons. The pole spacing on the Jaguar is narrower than the Stratocaster, the Strat pickguard would have to be modified to fit the Jaguar pickup with existing cover and steel claw. The pickup needs to be tapped 6/32 to accommodate the two height adjust screws. I would suggest finding a Strat pickup with similar specifications. Many manufactures of pickups could custom build you the desired pickup needed. Besides have the strings and poles out of alignment the pickup could be out of phase in combination with another.
165. I wanted to give you some of my idea and opinions on things that work for me and can help you the player. Many of you have ideas too and try them and some work and some dont.
1. Pickups that feedback: I like best using hot wax at a controlled temperature for newer pickups. Older pickups I leave alone as it can lower the value of the pickup. You need to follow proper procedures and safety. Pickups with plastic or nylon bobbins need extreme care and attention so you dont distort the shape of the bobbin by the hot wax. If single coils are potted too long, the coil and rod pole pieces get so hot it causes the wax to drip out of the pickup while cooling. Quick and complete agitation should be done to remove air bubbles that can contribute to the feedback
2. Steel wool on pole pieces: Use a fine tooth brush to loosen, compressed air and masking tape to remove. On humbuckers removing the magnet from the pickup when possible works well and will help loosen the filings. I put the tape on the bobbins first then remove the bar magnet in Gibson style humbuckers. I you remove the magnet first, the darn things jump off onto the bar. Note: When using compressed air, always use eye protection.
3. Loose pickups in mounting rings: Try using a stronger compression spring and foam rubber in the cavity to keep the pickups from vibrating and moving around. Make a nice seat for the pickups. Some manufactures use 3 elevator legs to help balance the pickup. I still like the traditional two screw height adjustment.
4. Lowering the pickup too much and it falls into the cavity: You need to use a longer screw with the same threads. Most American Fenders use 6/32 and Gibson pickups use 3/48 pickup height screws. If the Gibson leg is stripped, you can solder a 3/48 nut to the bottom.
5. Legs Broken off Gibson Humbuckers: If the leg is broken at the elbow where its threaded for height adjustment, it can be bent, drilled and re tapped for the 3/48 thread height adjust screw. If the total leg is broken off, most often a new leg can be soldered on or get another replacement bottom plate.
6. Too many overtones when playing low notes above and near the 12th fret: This especially happens with Stratocasters and by lowering the bass side of the neck and middle pickup will help reduce the overtones. Also using a reverse wind and polarity pickup in the center will help too.
7. Lever switch static: Use a contact cleaner and manipulate the switch from the front and back position several times. Wipe off excess cleaner and becareful not to bend the contacts on the switch.
8. Strings extend beyond the pole spacing of a Gibson style pickup: Use an F (Fender) spaced humbucker available from several manufactures. Some folks like Eddie VanHalen slant the pickup to alien the strings better with the poles but there will be some loss of performance.
9. Pots are noisy: Use a contact cleaner and rotate the pot many times to break up any oxidation on the wafer inside the control. If it doesnt solve the problem then replacement might be necessary.
10. Toggle switches on Les Pauls pop out of position: You need to slightly bend the legs where the plastic cap glides across the contact. I often use a white lithium grease on the contact.
11. Pickups are out of phase when two or more or connected together: If the pickup is electrically out of phase then the coil direction or wires should be reversed. If magnetically out of phase the magnet polarity or magnet bar reversed 180 degrees.
12. Strings hit a pole and the signal shorts out: This can happen to Fender vintage style single coils because the beginning of the coil (magnet wire) is wrapped directly around the rod magnet or polepiece. If the magnet wire is shorted to the magnet and the wires are reversed, the signal is hot and shorted to the magnet. A string thats grounded hits the pole, it could short out the pickup. This usually happens when players are trying to reverse the pickup polarity to be used with another pickup that may be wound or magnetized differently than the one being installed.
13. Making single coil pickups: They can be made four different ways. The coil can be Top Going, Top Coming and the magnet polarity can be North or South and calibrated to the desired gauss. Gibson and other companies have calibrated magnets for years with remarkable results.
14. The shape of the pickup: Pickups can be made tall and thing and short and fat. Strats typically have a tall and thin coil as compared to a Gibson P-90 that has a short and fat coil. Fender style pickups normally have less layers of magnet wire as compared to a Gibson P-90. Fender style pickups normally have more turns per layer as compared to a Gibson P-90. Much of this is due to the width of the winding area or the distance back and forth each layer makes. I call the winding area the traverse dimension.
15. Maximum number of turns per layer: The traverse (.50) divided by the diameter of the magnet wire (.0026). If the traverse is .50 (1/2 inch) and the magnet wire is .0026 diameter. I do the following... .50 divided by .0026=192 maximum turns I can put on in one layer. If you try to go beyond the maximum number of turns per layer you start to get bulges and spreading of the flatwork or bobbin.
16. Pickups out of Balance: If the output is not balanced with a combination of pickups, I adjust the bridge pickup first to the desired output I need. Note: depending on your pickup, the closer the pickups are to the strings the increased output also depending on the strength of the magnets, string pull that can dampen string sustain. After the bridge pickup is adjusted, I adjust the neck pickup where there is a nice blend between the both pickups. If the pickups are not matched properly the neck pickup can overpower the bridge pickup. Often the neck and bridge pickups are reversed for better balance, but this will change the sound you once had in the neck or bridge position. If the neck pickup is too loud, try lowering it for the desired output.
17. Rusting Pickups: Try to carefully brush off the magnets with a soft wire brush to loosen the oxidation. I would wipe with a little WD 40 lubricant to help keep down the oxidation from excesive moisture usually found in the guitar case lining. This should be taken care of as many old instruments are failing due to this. Keep the instrument in a pretty dry place around 40-60% humidity. Leaving the case in a hot trunk can make the instrument sweat and run the finish as well as the pickups.
18. Reversing the neck pickup 180 degrees: This was done by Peter Green who played with the early Fleetwood Mac. The stud side of a humbucker usually has a stronger magnetic field than the adjustable screws used on traditional humbuckers. The stud is in direct contact with the bar magnet and directs the magnetic field to face the strings. The adjustable pole piece extends out the bottom of the pickup along with amounts of magnetic field. The transfer of magnetic field isnt as strong to the strings because of the loss out the bottom. So by reversing the pickup will give you a slightly stronger magnetic field at the string position closer to the fingerboard giving the pickup slightly more output.
19. Are patent applied for bobbins wound the same?: Basically the PAF (Gibson) bobbins are all wound in the same direction, the same machines and number of layers (pitch) per turn. Variables can be tolerances in the magnet wire and number of turns. Tension and winding speed play an important factor too. The older coil machines that wound the PAF pickups had a turns counter but had to be physically stopped to keep the pickups from over-winding. Earlier PAF pickups had a pre-determined number of turns to stop the winding machine but on occasion the winder was busy getting the bobbins ready on another machine and didnt turn the previous machine off in time and thus you have hotter pickups and more turns.
20. Does the color of the bobbin effect the sound: On early Gibson Patent Applied For bobbins both cream and black bobbins were made from Butyrate a plastic often found on BIC pens and tool handles. Certain color dyes are added for the desired color. The color probably doesnt have a noticeable sound effect but a desired visual one. I often wondered if the black pickups used a lamp black carbon for the color if it would have a sound difference. Nobody could answer that one for me. Later on when the Gibson T-top bobbins were made, a harder material was used. The T on the bobbins was for top so the bobbin was put in the machine properly to insure proper phasing when hooking up the bobbins. When the bobbin manufacture made the T top bobbins, they were molded in slightly different colors. I have ones with hints of blue, brown, and marbled. They must have been running another color with someones previous tooling.
21. Fender style bobbins: The bobbins are blanked out and the holes punched. They use a vulcanized fibre which is made from compressed paper similar to the old style drum cases. The blanked part becomes flatwork and comes in various thickness. The top flatwork is usually .062 and the bottom is .093 thick. It is very workable and has been used for many years to make bobbins and other electrical components. Its used in many hard wired Fender amps.
22. Noisy Jacks: The plating can wear off inside the output jack leaving the brass on Switchcraft jacks to oxidize. The oxidation often causes the plug to make poor contact and makes the signal snap, crackle and pop. Clean with a fine brush and contact cleaner to remove the residue or best to replace the jack completely unless its a vintage instrument.
23. Removing Covers: Extreme care should be done when removing old covers. Over the years dust and moisture can bond the cover and the coils together and trying to remove them can scrape or snag the coil. If one turn is broken, the coil is history. If for some reason you need to remove the cover, I would carefully inspect to see how hard or easy it can be removed. Try not to handle the pickup too much. They were intended to stay put in the instrument and should not be messed with. Carefully label and wrap the pickup in tissue and put in a safe place. Make sure it isnt mistaken for an old tissue and tossed out in the trash.
I recently made a trip to Washington, DC to do patent searches and found many interesting items. I will be working on articles from information direct from the patent office. The Nashville Namm show in July was a blast and listening to great players Brent Mason (Alan Jackson & sessions), Jimmy Olander (Diamond Rio), Elliot Randall, Albert Lee, Steve Morse, Bugs Henderson and band. Many of us played at the Wild Horse Saloon and was it hot! I had a spectacular visit to the Gibson factory from employee Roger Fritz and enjoyed it very much. Roger once produced a guitar for my friend Roy Buchanan. Everyone there was working hard and thanks for all their time to show me around. A special thanks to Dave Kyle who did a great cover story on Chet Atkins and for showing me around Nashville. We visited Ray Butts who invented the Gretsch Filtertron Pickup. Ray had many great stories and new inventions and had great stories about Chet.
166. What should you do with your old pickups when replacing with new ones.
Always keep then protected and wrapped using paper towels and keep in a safe place. Pickups are very delicate and if one turn of magnet wire gets broken, the pickups can quit working. On Fender Stratocaster pickups the older pickups used 42 Formvar and later 42 Plain Enamel. The diameter for 42 Plain Enamel is from .0026 min. to .0030 max. and is quite thin. If loose hardware such as screws and covers are put into a bag with the old pickups they can eventually gouge coils, scratch and dent covers and break or bend legs on humbuckers. Old Soapbar P-90s should never be kept together as they are fragile and can crack the edges of the bobbin. Ive seen many pickups sent in for rewinding thrown in a box that have been broken and destroyed from shipping. Avoid having pickups exposed to excessive moisture and warm temperatures. When things get hot, condensation takes place causing oxidation that can ruin pickups and hardware.
Many companies make pickups that retro-fit instruments made by Fender, Gibson, Gretsch and many others. Its parallels companies making auto accessories for Ford, Chevy, Toyota etc. The more accessories available seems to go hand in hand with the popularity of a particular instrument. Players use many different instruments and change pickups and accessories to use what their favorite guitar hero uses. Every player and collector hear and see something different with the instruments you buy and own. I grew up wanting to sound like James Burton, The Ventures, Jeff Beck and so many others. Recently Ive been trying to find a Fender Jazzmaster because of the great sound Bob Bogle and Nokie Edwards got on many of their Venture recordings. I also liked a Jazzmaster because of a player named Roy Lanham who recorded with The Fleetwoods, Sons of the Pioneers and solo albums. We all have favorite players and its great to have the accessories to help us come a little closer to the sound we like. When you play on stage and like whats coming out of your instrument, it gives you inspiration and makes you play better. Dont get discouraged if you cant find the sound you want. It takes time and youll find it! Talk to other players and ask what they use, read magazine articles, jam with friends and try different equipment. In my early days if your guitar broke it ended up at a garage sale or dumpster. Find those old broken instruments, take them apart and fix it. I got started that way working at a music store after school in Vineland, New Jersey. I was going to school in Bridgeton, New Jersey and would hitch hike with guitars in hand to Vineland. I was playing at the Shore along the Jersey coast and talked to many guitar players. Rick Vito from Fleetwood Mac is a long time friend I met in Wildwood, New Jersey when I was playing there. Todd Rundgren was playing in the group The Nazz at a club called the 2nd of Autumn and we would talk vintage guitars for hours back in 1965. I played at Tony Marts with Elliot Randall who did the classic solo with Steely Dan called Reelin in the years and on the other stage was Levon and the Hawks (later became The Band) with Robbie Robertson on Telecaster. Next door was The Fendermen and across the street was Roy Buchanan playing with a group called The Monkey Men...It was a great exciting time and I heard so much great music and guitar players. Ive heard great guitar players and never knew their names. I was talking to Rick Vito about a South Jersey guitarist named Little Pal and his group The Prophets. He was another guitarist that played an early Telecaster. I was spoiled by listening to Roy Buchanan and admit Ive learned much from him. We are all so lucky to have so many players to listen to that have taken the instrument beyond our imagination. There are many pickups listed and various specifications that I could get together in time for publication. There will be many other pickup models and specifications listed in following articles. Please send in information about pickup models and any specifications you may have that can be shared with our readers.
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167. One of the 4 brass screws that hold my humbucking bobbins tight to the bottom plate broke off in the bobbin. How can I get it out? Tim Palmer - Denver, Colorado
Make sure you remove all the bobbin hardware such as studs, screw or various polepieces. The best way I found to get out broken screws in humbucking bobbins was to carefully heat the broken screw from the bottom with a pointed soldering iron (not gun) to soften the plastic around the threads. From the top of the bobbin I insert a paper clip while heating the screw till its hot enough to be pushed out. If enough of the screw extends from the bobbin try filing it flat and file a small slotted groove into it, then try to unscrew it. You can try to grab the broken screw with needle nose pliers or wire cutters but this can often strip the screw making it harder to remove. I still like the soldering iron trick to loosen screws in the tight holes. You can usually remove the screw with little damage to the bobbin. If the screw is broken off way in side, I insert a small drill bit through the bottom to conduct the heat to the broken screw. If the bobbin has no holes on the top to help push the screw out the bottom I drill a fine hole in the top of the bobbin directly above the broken screw and again use a paper clip to push the heated broken screw out. This can be difficult and should be done by an experienced repairman. Be careful not to touch the hot screw with your fingers and make sure you wear eye protection.
1. Remove all bobbin hardware such as studs or other polepieces
2. Mount the bobbin securely in a small vice or clamp
3. Carefully heat the shaft of the broken screw
4. Insert a small paper clip from the top side of the bobbin through the same hole as the screw and push the broken screw out towards the bottom of the bobbin
5. If no hole exists at the top of the bobbin, then the broken screw will have to be pulled out by fine needle nose pliers or wire cutters that can grab and hold the screw.
6. I dampen the hole on the bobbin to cool it down quickly
7. Becareful the hot screw doesnt fall on a surface that can be easily damaged.
168. How can I tell if my humbucking pickups are in series or parallel? Ted Johnson, Pennsville, New Jersey
You often hear the term series/parallel/split associated with humbucking and single coil pickups. Its a way to change the character of your pickup by using different wiring that change the impedance and inductance of a pickup. In series, a combination of coils are put end to end and in parallel, one side of two or more coils can be grounded and the other side can become positive, and when hooked up look like the steps of a ladder. Depending what side the coil is connected to ground can make the pickup in or out of phase electrically when connected in parallel.
The example below is a measurement between two coils in a humbucking pickup:
Coil A: the adjustable coil reads 4.05 K Ohms DC resistance
Coil B: the non adjustable coil reads 4.05 K Ohms DC resistance
Use a VOM meter to find the DC resistance of the coils.
In series the DC resistance of both coils (A + B) equals 8.10 K
In parallel the DC resistance of both coils (A + B ? 4) equals 2.02 K
When split (one coil) the DC resistance is 4.05 K
1. When the two coils are in series and wired humbucking the sound is fat and full
2. When the two coils are in series and wired out-of-phase the sound is thin and sounds like a banjo with no bottom.
3. When the two coils are in parallel the sound has more mids and slightly less output
4. When the two coils are in parallel and out-of-phase the sound is real thin and lacks tone quality.
When putting your selector switch in the 2 & 4 position of your Stratocasters 5 way switch the two pickups are actually in parallel with each other using the standard wiring. They are normally wired in phase but is often called the out of phase position.
Measuring my Strat pickups: The bridge pickup is 6.03 K and the middle pickup is 5.85 K. When I add the two ohms together 6.03 and 5.83 = 11.88 ? 4 = 2.97 K in parallel. I get the exact reading with my Fluke 8024B Multimeter.
169. As a hobby I wind coils and I count exactly the same number of turns but the reading on my coils are different. What can cause this? Jesse Harley-Birmingham, England
There can be several factors that can give you different DC resistance in your pickups.
Most likely your hand winding the coils where you guide the wire onto the bobbin being turned by some mechanical device such as a variable speed motor like a sewing machine motor with a foot pedal.
1. Hand winding can cause the magnet wire to be stretched do to improper winding tension. As the wire is pulled too tightly the diameter of the wire can become thinner adding to the increased DC resistance.
2. The layering of magnet wire can be inconsistent from coil to coil.
3. Winding too fast can cause the magnet wire not to seat properly from turn to turn and may even become spongy.
4. Winding with too much tension can cause the walls of the flatwork to flair and lift on the ends of the pickup.
5. Winding with too wide a traverse can also flair and distort the bobbin.
6. The number of turns can be the same but if the coil is distorted when winding, the shape of the coil will effect the DC resistance
7. The quality of the magnet wire being used and how it is de-spooled from the reel can cause problems when hand winding coils.
8. Poorly made or cheap surplus magnet wire can have bad insulation with what is called pin holes in the film insulation. The insulation can be cracked, scraped or pitted which can cause oxidation and breakdown in the copper wire. Magnet wire can be continuous when winding but inside the insulation the magnet wire can have oxidation making the DC resistance fluctuate.
9. The edge on the spool of magnet wire can be sharp and scrape the protective insulation off the magnet wire as its being wound onto the bobbin. This can cause the resistance to be inaccurate especially from coil to coil. With insulation missing from the magnet wire, a number of turns can short out with each other. This would normally lower the DC resistance if you notice this happening.
10. When winding I use a whisker disc. This helps keep the magnet wire from flying off the spool too fast. It keeps it within the boundary of the winding spool.
11. Layering of the magnet wire is very important too. If you wind back and forth too fast there tends to be too many minute air gaps. Winding with a slower traverse helps fill in the many voids and gives the pickup better consistency.
12. Winding too fast, too much tension can crack the insulation and cause the magnet wire to touch the rod magnet pole pieces when winding Strat or Tele style single coil pickups. The magnet wire is wound directly against the magnet pole piece and having insulation break down the coil will fail in time.
Always take your time when winding, be consistent and keep notes of everything you do. It will help you become a better winder and repairman.
170. What are the common winding direction for Fender and Gibson pickups? Bill Stockton-Bedford, Indiana
If you are looking at Fender pickups from the top the coil will be wound either clockwise or counter clockwise. Depending how the bobbin is put on the winding machine the coil is wound either Top Coming or Top Going. When Top Coming, the top of the bobbin travels towards you. When Top Going, the top of the bobbin travels away from you. If the top of the bobbin faces left on the winding machine it is called Top Left and if the bobbin faces right on the arbor I call that Top Right. The beginning wire is normally connected to ground except in some cases such as the Mustang guitar where the phase can be reversed. Most all Gibson pickups I have seen have had coils wound Counter Clockwise. When Gibson bobbins are put on my winding machine, the top of the bobbin faces left (Top Left) and wound Top Coming and my winding code is TL/TC. It can be wound the same way by winding the bobbin Top Right and Top Going (TR/TG). This was discussed in earlier VGM pickup articles.
(insert Fender Chart)
Fender & Gibson Bridge Middle Neck
Coronado Counter Clockwise NA Counter Clockwise
Duo Sonic Counter Clockwise NA Clockwise
Esquire Counter Clockwise NA NA
Jaguar Counter Clockwise NA Clockwise
Jazz Bass Counter Clockwise NA Clockwise
Jazzmaster Counter Clockwise NA Clockwise
Mandolin Counter Clockwise NA NA
Mustang Counter Clockwise NA Clockwise
Mustang Bass Counter Clockwise Joined Clockwise
Precision Bass Counter Clockwise Joined Clockwise
Starcaster Counter Clockwise NA Counter Clockwise
Stratocaster Clockwise Clockwise Clockwise
Telecaster Counter Clockwise NA Counter Clockwise
Telecaster Bass Counter Clockwise NA NA
Telecaster Deluxe Counter Clockwise NA Counter Clockwise
Gibson Humbucker Counter Clockwise
171. What size are the pole piece screws used on Gretsch Filtertron pickups? I need to replace the existing screws that where changed. John Crawford-New Zealand
The screws used on Gretsch Filtertron pickups designed by Ray Butts are 6-40 (diameter and threads per inch) X 3/4 Fillister head, slotted, steel machine screw. Newer Gretsch pickups use a 3-48 screw to hold the covers onto a bottom plate and mounting ring. Gretsch pickups made in Japan use Metric screws. Make sure you use the proper tap for threading or to re-thread the existing hole. Gibson uses a 5-40 Fillister machine screw that is a slightly smaller than Gretsch and also use a 3-48 machine screw for height adjustment on their mounting ring.
172. What gauge wire is best for wiring my guitar harness? Ken Johnson-Chicago, Ill
The wire I like using best is stranded 22 AWG (American Wire Gauge). The insulations that are most common are cloth, PVC, and Teflon. The cloth and Teflon have higher resistance to heat from soldering irons. PVC can melt and shrink if exposed to high amounts of heat from soldering irons and wax potting. Leo Fender started using cloth braided wire on his first instruments made during the 40s. Gibson used shielded cloth braided wire since the early days of electric guitars and pickup manufacturing.
173. I replaced the middle pickup on my Strat with a Fender that has a molded bobbin with number 016730 on the bottom. Can I reverse the magnets and hookup wires to make my guitar humbucking when the lever switch is in the 2 & 4 position? Jimmy Lawton-Memphis, TN
Fender pickups that have #016730 molded on the bottom can be modified to be humbucking when used in the 2 & 4 position of your lever switch. First check to see if the polarity is the same or opposite from your existing pickups. If the magnetic field is the same as your bridge and neck pickup the pickups will repel each other if the top of both pickups are moved together. If they are opposite they will attract each other and no need to reverse the magnets. If they do repel each other carefully remove the magnet pole pieces using an arbor press with a small dowel and press out one magnet at a time. The magnets should be marked on the top so when pressed back in the marks will be visible on the underside of the pickup. If a magnet in is put in backwards it will cause phaze problem within the pickup and when used with others. After the magnets are carefully inserted install the pickup back in the pickguard. Carefully inspect the pickup and make sure the magnets are flush with the bottom of the bobbin. If the pickup has blue and white wires, the bobbin is wound TL/TG (Clockwise) and is North magnetic polarity. If the pickup has a red and white wires, the bobbin is wound TL/TC (Counter-clockwise) and South magnetic polarity. Fender pickups with molded bobbins and rod magnets I have tested have an average DC resistance listed below.
Blue and White wires- 6.00 K ohms-TG/N
Red and White wires- 5.84 K ohms-TC/S.
174. I removed around 10 turns on my Fender Stringmaster Lap Steel guitar and now the coil looks like its full of flakes. What can be done to make it look better? Stan Moran-Ft. Worth, Texas
The potting solution thats used to seal the coils can flake when turns of magnet wire are
removed. The wax or other solutions can become hardened and dry out with age. The best thing I found to make it look better is to use a hot hair dryer or carefully use a heat gun. The heat gun is used for shrink tubing and can get very hot! Wear glasses and try not to get the gun to close to the pickup. The heat from the gun will melt the outer coatings and make the wax flow evenly around the coil. If you get the gun too close to the pickup, the force of the hot air can blow the wax all over the place. Keep it at a safe distance. When removing turns of magnet wire from the pickup the hardened wax can flake. When trying to remove turns of magnet wire and they keep breaking, use a small bit of lacquer thinner on a Q-Tip to soften the outer layers of coil. Then use an old tooth brush to remove the loose or broken turns. When unwinding you can end up with several ends of magnet wire and by carefully unwinding you should eventually end up with one. Check to see that you have continuity or around 8.3 K ohms DC Resistance per coil for old Stringmaster pickups. The old pickups are hand wound with 42 Plain Enamel.
175. How can you cut a magnet for a desired length and what type of sandpaper can be used for polishing magnets? Ted Fox-Fort Dix, New Jersey
I would use an abrasive blade made of aluminum oxide for metal cutting and a silicon carbide abrasive wheel should not be used as its mainly for masonry cutting (tiles and cement). Aluminum oxide grinding wheels work well for shaping the magnets for the desired chamfer or sharp edges. Sandpaper has several backings and different types of abrasives.
Sandpaper has the following types of backing:
Paper- has weights from A to F. A is the most flexible and is used mainly for hand sanding and light touch up jobs. F is the heaviest and strongest and used mainly for roll and belt sanders.
Cloth- has weight J and X. X is used for heavy belt, disk and drum sanders. and J is used for finishing jobs where polishing and contours are needed.
Fiber- is made from multiple layers of paper similar to thin vulcanized fibre. They are tough and heat resistant and used on high speed drum and disk sanders.
Combination-composed of both paper and cloth or cloth and fibre. They are good for high speed and drum sanding applications.
Sandpaper has the following common abrasives:
Silicon Carbide-is the sharpest and hardest of all abrasives and used for soft metals, glass, ceramics, hard wood and plastics. Grain ranges from 12 to 600 grit.
Aluminum Oxide-is very sharp and harder than flint, garnet and emery. Usually has longer lasting abrasive and is usually used in power sanding. Grain ranges from 16 to 500 grit.
Garnet-is softer than the Silicon Carbide and Aluminum Oxide but harder and sharper than flint. Best for woodworking. Grain ranges from 20 to 280 grit.
Flint-not good for production as it has poor cutting and durability. Its non conductive and is used in the electronics industry. Grain ranges from 3 to 4/0
Emery-has good polishing features but poor for material removal. Its good for polishing metals and magnets. Grain ranges from 3 to 3/0
Crocus- is soft and short lived and made from ferrous oxide and good for polishing soft metals like gold.
Pumice- is powered volcanic glass and is commonly mixed with water or mineral oils. Its used to tone down a high gloss finish and comes in grades 4-F (finest) and #7 which is the coarsest.
Cork-is used at times as a wet polishing media and fine metals.
Rottenstone-is also called Diatomaceous Earth and is softer and finer grained than pumice and is also used with water, solvents or oils to produce a satin finish on woods.
Rubbing Compounds- are normally used for polishing enamel or lacquer paints. Its not used for bare woods and there is a light duty and heavy duty.
The information above came from Norton, Coated Abrasives Division, Troy , New York and Thomas J. Glover.