A Really Basic Pickup Install Tutorial

I always forget — which end is the hot part?

Somewhat embarrassingly, I never got around to changing one of my own pickups until I was knocking on senility’s door recently. I owe part of the inspiration to that fabulous DIY Fest known as the Maker Fair, where each year hundreds of little kids learn to solder craft projects at long picnic tables. Or maybe it was the awesome soldering tutorial by 11-year old W0JAK.

Well, after a buttload of pickup installs inspired by this blog, I guess I qualify as some sort of solder “expert,” because Seymour Duncan asked me to make a video designed to walk n00bs through the pickup install process for the first time. It was a lot of fun to prepare, and I learned some important things, like the fact that it’s hard to solder, talk, and operate a camera at the same time.

Check it out:

6 comments to A Really Basic Pickup Install Tutorial

  • zyon

    One book that really helped me understand the relationship between the guitar pickup and the electronics that drive them is the book, “The New Book of Standard Wiring Diagrams” by Les Schatten. I am pretty sure StewMac sells it. I’ve used this book for well over 10 years. I also find that the diagrams on the Seymour Duncan website are awesome, even if you happen to be using a “lesser’ brand pickup. Just transpose the color code and you’re golden! 

  • JH

    Excellent! Content covered all important areas. Well presented, visually and verbally! Don’t be afraid to joke. It makes the viewer know that your not perfect and they don’t have to be perfect to do this. The (dumbass comment) was great for that.

    • joe

      LOL — what gave you the idea I was joking with the “dumbass” comment? 😉

      Seriously, though — thanks for the encouragement. Always appreciated, JH! 

  • Gary

    I started soldering electronic kits more than 40 years ago.  I’ve done a LOT of soldering.  And one thing that I generally do that is against conventional wisdom has to do with “don’t put the solder onto the tip of the soldering iron”.  I typically start to feed the solder right at the point where the soldering iron tip is touching the wire.  Holding the iron on the wire itself, and then pushing the solder against the wire, for some reason, seems to take longer and will sometimes melt the insulation which can start to peel away if the wire is bent.

    Try to avoid a “cold” solder joint, which generally appears dull, compared to a well-done solder joint which is shiny.  So, once solder has flowed onto the wires, I hold the iron tip against it again to just quickly melt everything, then take the iron away while making sure that none of the pieces being soldered move relative to each other.

    Personal style I suppose, but I usually pre-tin any stranded wires, then crimp them onto any lugs prior to soldering, then add some more solder.  Heating a lug with existing solder on it, and then pushing a wire into it, could result in a cold solder joint, because there is likely no flux left. 

    Just my two cents, solder on Garth! 

    • joe

      LOL — you know what Gary? I often start the feed by touching the iron to the solder too — I just feel really guilty about it! 😉

      Thanks for the great tips! :beer:

      Oh, I should have mentioned, since I didn’t pre-tin the wires in the video: I usually use pre-bonded wire from Small Bear, which is stranded, but has some sort of adhesive to keep the strands together. Not that tinning it wouldn’t make an even better connection, but it’s not like there are stray strands popping out all over. Anyway, it’s way easier to work with than conventional stranded wire.  

  • Cross_J

    Thanks for sharing the cool vid 🙂 simple yet essential