726. The volume control dropped into the cavity of my Gibson ES-335 while trying to clean my controls. What is an easy way to get the volume control back into the hole so I can put the washer and nut back on?
A little trick I learned was to take a standard # 2 lead pencil that you use in school and remove the eraser. You can press the end without the eraser over the knurled shaft of the control, slide on the washer and nut and carefully lift the potentiometer through the hole and lightly fasten on the nut. After the potentiometer is in place you can remove the pencil and tighten with the proper nut wrench.
727. What can you do with a pickup where the bobbin is actually wearing away the coil is becoming exposed?
This can be a problem with pickups molded out of a inexpensive high pressure styrene plastic. Bobbins should last many years and I’ve seen only one Gibson pickup worn out because the player used a metal pick. You could use a epoxy based coating over the end of the bobbin but it might make it look pretty bad. You could paint the surface with a clear finish to coat the coil and build up the surface of bobbin. It might be best to use a cover to protect the coil from further damage. I would also suggest sending the pickup back to the manufacturer and have him rebuild it with new parts. I am often rebuilding various types of pickups and doing custom modifications.
728. If you rub two pickups together will it age the magnets?
I generally refer to aging the magnets as ones that loose magnetism or strength often referred to as gauss and flux. Rubbing magnets together does not age or properly weaken the magnets in a pickup and most likely it will rearrange the magnetic domains and can cause each magnet to be magnetized inconsistently from pole to pole. Somebody once wrote that I rubbed two magnets together to age my Antiquity pickups. This is not true and there are all kinds of myths out on what makes pickups to sound the way they do. Try to figure things out for yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment with your instrument.
729. My epoxied pickup stopped working, can it be fixed?
Most epoxied pickups that stop working normally can’t be fixed. It is difficult to remove the epoxy without breaking the coil or bobbins. You can’t repair them properly and several pickup builders pour the epoxy directly on the fine magnet wire. When the epoxy dries, it can shrink and in time break the inner coil. We get many in for repair and most are not worth repairing. It’s like buying a flashlight with only one bulb. Some builders feel the epoxy will permeate the coils but typical epoxy solution is to thick so they need to insulate the coil better to avoid their pickups from breaking down the road. It’s a drag too because you spend a lot of money for your pickups and they should work for the life of the instrument. Much of this can be avoided if they spend the extra time and money to wrap tape around the bobbins.
730. Will the flexible rubber strip magnets you buy in an hardware store work for making pickups?
Most of the flex magnetic strips I’ve seen are magnetized N-S-N-S-N-S per given length and side. You would need a magnetizer capable of remagnetizing it so one side is South and the reverse side is North. I have seen pickups made with flexible magnets strips and many early Sear’s Silvertone guitars for example used a flexible magnet material inside the pickup and also on the bottom of Rickenbacker guitar and bass pickups. It works rather well but you need to specify to the vender your particular needs and applications and magnetic orientation.
731. Do all humbuckers weigh about the same?
The weight can vary in each pickup and much depends on the dimensions of the magnet and material, construction and hardware and especially the gauge and number of turns for the desired output and tone response. Much is said about the weight of an instrument and the hardware including pickups can contribute to the total weight. The amount of turns you put on a pickup is also determined by the diameter of the magnet wire and thickness of insulation on the wire. Pickups with heavier copper wire and thinner insulation will weigh more than a pickup with thinner copper wire and thicker insulation per specified turns.
732. Why is the "G" string on some guitars much louder than other strings?
If a player is using a plain “G” string the string would be louder than a wound “G” string of the same diameter. The diameter of the plain “G” string will have more mass or diameter and can move or disturb more magnetic field. Some older pickups are constructed with a raised “G” pole that was to be used with a wound “G”. As Rock and Roll and Blues became more popular, players started more and more bending strings. Players began using a plain “G” string with a larger diameter that made the note sound louder. The wound “G” string was wrapped around the smaller innercore and didn’t produce as loud of a note.
733. Why is the volume on a humbucker louder than a single coil pickup?
This is not always true and much has to do with the design, components and construction of each pickup. Humbuckers are generally louder because of the traditional two bobbin design that senses a wider string area. We’ve made some single coil pickups just as hot as some standard humbuckers. There are many variables including the location, height, number of turns, magnet, type of pole and magnetic path that contribute to the loudness of a particular pickup. In my opinion it is far better to have a great tone than just a loud pickup. I’ve always talked about great sounding pickups and such examples are one’s out of a late 50’s Fender Duosonic guitar. When used in a Strat with floating tremolo plugged into a black face Fender Deluxe Reverb amp have one of the sweetest tones I’ve heard. They are also some of the favorites of guitarist, Eric Johnson.
734. Can I have a 4 or 6 coil pickup with a trim pot to balance the output of each string?
While making custom pickups for Cheap Trick back in the early 80’s the instruments were custom built for them by Hamer Guitars. Along with the custom pickups the instruments included custom electronics. I wound individual coils for each string on their basses that included volume controls to balance the output of each string. I believe they also had a pan pot to balance the pickups from left and right channel. Many wiring and pickup ideas can contribute to unique and interesting tones that are heard on many recordings and try using one of your instruments to experiment with.
735. Can you make a humbucking pickup to sound like a Gretsch pickup in my Les Paul guitar?
Last year I made some custom Gretsch Style pickups for actor Bill Mumy who played “Will” on the television show “Lost in Space”. It was a fun project and wanted to do the pickups for Bill who is also a great guitarist and song writer. My idea was to wind a standard humbucker with the specs of an early 60’s Gretsch pickup. I knew the importance of the alnico magnet and 6/40 Fillister head pole pieces. I worked out the winding formula using a special gauge 42 with formvar insulation. The turns had to be adjusted for the bobbins I was using and proceeded to made the first proto-types for Bill. He was a real happy camper and I really enjoyed working with him on the project. Working with artists and doing projects like that makes developing new products fun and important for future tones.
736. How do you use a volt-ohm meter for measuring the DC resistance of guitar or bass pickups?
Basically there are two types of volt-ohm meters that can be used for measuring guitar and bass pickups. I use both analog and digital meters for measuring the DC resistance of pickups. The analog meter is one that has a movable pointer and the digital meters which are more popular now gives you the precise numerical reading.
You have two connecting wires with pointers or clips and the black wire is plugged into to the ground or common terminal and the red wire is plugged into the volt-ohm terminal. Pickups can generally run from 2.5 K to 20 K DC resistance on average. I use a fluke multimeter and set my meter to DC and to the 20 K range. It will measure DC resistance up to 20 K or 20 thousand ohms. Look at the meter carefully and make sure all the settings are set to DC before measuring the circuit in an instrument. Measure pickups and switches with the instrument unplugged from the amplifier. Touch or clip the black or ground wire from the meter to the ground connection in the circuit. The red wire from the meter can now test between contacts and connections to measure the DC resistance of the pickups or to check out contacts in a switch. When measuring pickups and connections, make sure the volume control is turned all the way up or disconnected from the circuit so it doesn’t interfere with the accuracy of your DC resistance. Also determine the position of your lever or toggle switches when measuring the DC resistance of pickups when they are in the instrument. The switch can put two pickups in parallel or series and effect the reading of each pickup. This can happen with a 5 way lever switch in the 2 and 4 position and a Gibson style toggle switch in the middle position of a Les Paul or other two or three pickup instrument.
737. What do you get when you replace the magnet in your pickup with a stronger one?
Generally you will increase the brightness and output from your pickup. Increasing the magnetic field can also reduce the sustain and increased string pull from the pickup that can slow down the string vibration.
738. What happens when you replace the magnet in your pickup with a weaker one?
Generally you will decrease the brightness and output from your pickup. Decreasing the magnetic field can increase the sustain from less string pull. The pickup will sound warmer and smoother but may have less attack.
739. What happens when you remove turns of magnet wire from your pickup?
By removing a number of turns from your coil will decrease the output from your pickups and with a shorter amount of magnet wire will give you a higher resonant peak or brighter sounding pickup.
740. What happens when you add more turns of magnet wire to your pickup?
By adding more turns can increase your output and with the added length of wire will reduce the resonant peak or brightness in your pickup.
741. What happens if you remove the adjustable poles on a humbucker?
By removing the adjustable poles on a humbucker can reduce the output and fullness of the pickup. Removing the adjustable poles keeps the magnetic field from passing through one of the bobbins and to the strings. The magnet magnetizes the adjustable pole piece and directing the magnetic field to the string. The pickup will still work because of the ferrous slug pole piece in the other bobbin that isn’t normally not seen when the cover is in place but can be seen when the cover is removed. The ferrous slugs conduct the magnetic field to the strings and will still give you output similar to a single coil pickup.
742. What is the DC resistance of popular pickups?
The DC resistance can vary from pickup to pickup on the same instrument being measured. The DC resistance is basically telling you what the resistance is for the length of wire being used on that particular pickup. The tone of an instrument is also determined by many factors such as wood, finish, bridge, string gauge, pickup adjustment, magnet material, magnet calibration, magnet dimensions, magnet wire gauge, magnet wire insulation, coil winding method, number of turns, tension, pitch and winding area a some examples of variations in pickups. Here are some of my favorite traditional pickups and DC readings.
Fender Stratocaster: 5.8K to 6.3K
Fender Telecaster Lead: 6.2K to 6.6K
Fender Telecaster Rhythm: 7.6K
Fender Duo Sonic: 5.7K to 5.9K
Fender Jazz Bass: 8.5K
Fender Precision Bass: 10. 6K
Fender Broadcaster Lead: 7.6K
Gibson P.A.F. Humbucker: 8.4K
Gibson P-90: 8.6K
Gibson Melody Maker: 7.4K
Gibson Mini Humbucker: 6.8K
Seymour Duncan JB Model: 16.4K
743. What is the impedance of a pickup?
Some early design of pickups the impedance was rated in ohms and 400 or 1000 Hertz (Hz). The majority of guitar and bass amplifiers are designed for high impedance guitar and bass pickups. Low impedance pickups often have a step-up transformer so the player can use low impedance directly into a recording board or high impedance into an amplifier that will be recorded by mike. Impedance is determined by the gauge of wire, number of turns and winding area for a desired output. The majority of pickups manufactured are considered high impedance pickups. Gibson guitar company offered a few guitar models with low-impedance pickups. Many bass pickups also have low impedance pickups with pre-amps to boost and enhance the signal.
744. Can I use a soldering gun when working on guitar assemblies?
I would recommend using a soldering iron instead of a soldering gun. The soldering guns have large coils that can actually demagnetize your pickups. If you use one try plugging your guitar into an amplifier with the volume turned up to about 2 or 3 and listen to the hum generated by the soldering gun. If you hear this in your amplifier, then you know that the soldering gun can cause harm to your pickups. I would use a small pencil like soldering iron for all my guitar or bass soldering jobs.
745. What kind of solder should I use?
Use a rosin core solder used for electrical purposes such as 60/40 that melts at 370 degrees Fahrenheit. Never use acid core solder that is used for plumbing. Silver solder is not recommended and is normally used for jewelry and I use it for soldering two metal pieces together. You can use solid core 60/40 solder and brush on paste or liquid flux. Acid core solder can oxidize and contaminate the contacts.
746. Can pickups be wound without a bobbin?
A pickup without a bobbin is usually called an air coil to wind them you need a collapsing fixture to hold the coil in place till they are coated with an insulating material such as tape or wax. There have been several pickup models wound with air coils. One that comes to mind are the Dan Electro pickups that had the coil wound directly around the bar magnet and insulated by cloth electrical tape. Other models I’ve seen are the Burns model pickup used on the Burns guitar manufactured in England. I’ve wound older single coil Epiphone pickups with magnet wire again wound directly around the bar magnet. Usually coils without bobbins have nicely fabricated covers in which they are fitted.
747. Can you start winding with one gauge, tap and continue winding with another gauge of magnet wire?
This can be done and I’ve often wound a pickup with 7800 turns of 42 gauge wire soldered to the normal finish eyelet and continued winding with 43 gauge wire either to a desired number of turns or a determined DC resistance. You need to add another eyelet for proper connections and lead wire connections. Often using a different magnet wire is used either for space needed or changing the resonant peak in a pickup.
748. Can you tap a pickup more than one time?
Single coil pickups can be tapped as many times as you want. You can tap a pickup at desired number of turns or at pre-determined DC resistance. Tapping a pickup at a desired DC resistance takes more time and measuring the resistance at various readings. We have a way of measuring the DC resistance quite easily while the coil is being wound on the machine. Remember that the DC resistance can change when using the same gauge of magnet wire with different insulation’s. The thicker the insulation will generally have a higher DC resistance than the exact same magnet wire with a thin insulation. As the coil is wound the diameter influences the number of turns per layer and total number of layers. I’ve tapped pickups with as many as 10 taps on a custom Telecaster order using a 10 position rotary switch in place of the tone control and I replaced the volume control with a Jazz Bass stack knob volume and tone control. As the DC resistance went higher, it also increased output and fullness.
749. Can you wind with two different magnet wire gauges?
In our custom shop I often wind two or more gauges of magnet wire at a time. This can offer the player some interesting tones and wiring combinations. Normally when winding one coil you have two eyelets. An eyelet for the beginning of the coil and an eyelet for the finish coil. When winding two magnet wires at one time you can either connect the beginning of both coils to one eyelet or use two separate eyelet’s. This can allow the coils to be used in series, parallel or out of phase with each other or combined with other pickups for many wiring combinations. You can also wind using the same gauge or two totally different gauges of magnet wire. One coil can be hi-impedance and the other coil can be low impedance. It is interesting to do and you can have fun with all the wiring combinations.
750. Can you wind with two or more magnet wires?
When winding with two or more magnet wires at a time you need to add the diameter of the two and divide them by the width of the traverse or winding area. Here is a little example: If you have a traverse or winding area of .50” and two magnet wires each reading .0028” and .0024” in diameter. Add the .0028” and .0024” and you get .0052”. One problem is you have side by side distance and not round diameter of the wire. Now divide .50” by .0054” and you get 96 turns maximum of the two magnet wires side by side. If you were using only one magnet wire at a time I would divide .50” by .0028” and you would have 178 turns per layer