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Thread: 416 stainless steel pole pieces and slugs

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    416 stainless steel pole pieces and slugs

    Hello folks
    Does anybody know where i might obtain some 416 stainless pole screws and slugs by any chance ?
    I can get 5000 of each from a manufacturer in China (15 cents each) but that is a lot more pieces than i need.
    Has anybody actually tried using these in their pickups (excluding Gibson - lol) ?
    Cheers
    Steve

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    The SD Dimebucker has stainless blades, but I don't know what grade of stainless. Is 416 a particular type that works well with magnets?

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    Senior Member salvarsan's Avatar
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    Find a local machine shop and ask for samples. Specify lightly chamfered tumbled slugs in a type 400 stainless alloy, type 430 if possible. They will tell you what is possible.

    Since it is a very small job, pay them their minimum shop rate so they'll take you seriously.
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    Thanks salvarsan, but here in New Zealand we are very limited with stainless choices - 304 and 316 are very easy to obtain but no supplier in NZ lists 416 grade, which is why i am trying China not local. 416 is quite commonly used in gun barrels apparently, but here in new Zealand nobody manufactures guns as far as I know. What appeals to me with 416 is the almost complete absence of nickel and of course the addition of at least 15% Chromium. i have found nickel plated pole screws to sound ice picky bright when compared to unplated 1018 or 1022 steels. 416 grade stainless has even less carbon than 1018 too, which is always a good thing with magnetic poles. incidentally 1215 bright steel is available locally and I have cut slugs with this material - it has got me closer to what I am looking for soundwise - maybe because it has very low carbon content - lower than 1018 steel at .09% ! I cannot seem to find anyone selling 1215 pole screws but i would sure be interested in trying them as well if they were to be made available.
    I have some Seymour Duncan antiquities humbuckers - the pole screws and the slugs appear to be unplated and possibly stainless steel - they give the sound and dynamic reponse characteristics that I have been searching for, but I do not expect SD to tell me what they are - let alone sell them to me - lol.
    I purchased a small quantity of Lindy Fralin pole screws from Angela instruments on Ebay - they are readily available in sets of six. They are the brightest and highest output nickel plated pole screw I have tried - and i have tried quite a few from Mojotone, Addiction FX, Crazy Parts etc. Unfortunately they do not sound anything like the SD antiquities pole screws. I have even tried the SD screws in a cheap Chinese humbucker and the improvement in tone and dynamic picking response was audible. Surely someone has had experience with 416 stainless steel that they are willing to share an opinion, before I commit to 5000 pieces from china. After all, i am only interested in building a dozen humbuckers not interested in going into full scale production at 65 years of age - lol.

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    I haven’t tried 416, but i HAVE messed with other grades of stainless lately. From my tests compared to 1xxx low-carbon, stainless gives you a slightly higher resonant freq and a higher Q on your peak because of the higher resistivity and slightly-lower permeability. I say try it, but do it on the cheap at first if you can before you go ordering thousands.

    416 is a martensitic grade though, which has somewhat drastically-varying magnetic properties depending on hardness, etc. 430/430f/430fr/18-0/etc is a ferritic grade, and would be more predictable from one piece to another; it also has a relative permeability about twice what 416 has, and is closer to the typically-used 1xxx low carbon steel grades.

    If you are looking for standard pole diameter to try out, stainless rod in 416 or 430 is pretty cheap, and you can find it online in .187” for slugs. Try some on your own before paying a machine shop, it cuts easy with a hacksaw (bit dulls the blades quickly because it seems to smear) or a dremel cutoff wheel and a file, especially if the rod stock comes annealed.

    Also, if you want to do some REALLY cheap experimentation, 18-0 is basically the cutlery/flatware/hardware naming equivalent of 4xx-series ss (18 = chrome percentage and 0 = nickel), so if you go to a second hand shop with your magnet, you should be able to dig up enough to experiment with. The other cutlery ss grades are 18/10 and 18/8 which are closer to 3xx and not magnetic (unless they have been banged around a lot, then they are only SLIGHTLY magnetic), so it is easy to tell which you have in your hand. My first stainless experiments used blade poles made from butter knives and slugs made from a BBQ Kebab skewer before I gained enough confidence in the material to order full sheets.

    I tend to use onlinemetals.com and Mcmaster-Carr when i can… not sure if they ship affordably to New Zealand, but I just took a peek and a foot of 416 ss starts at a little over a dollar at onlinemetals. Most stainless fillister screws seem to be 3xx 18/8, but I remember stumbling across some in 18/0 430, so they do exist if you are willing to fish for them online and make a few calls. If you just want to experiment, you could tap some threads into 1/8” rod and try that until you dig up the screws or have a shop make some. OR, you could check out jewelry supply. 430,18/0 stainless is sometimes used used for hypoallergenic jewelry (usually 3xx though, which won't work), so you might be able to dig up something the right diameter there.

    Hope that is helpful.
    Last edited by AletheianAlex; 06-28-2016 at 01:35 AM. Reason: error
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    Quote Originally Posted by AletheianAlex View Post
    Also, if you want to do some REALLY cheap experimentation, 18-0 is basically the cutlery/flatware/hardware naming equivalent of 4xx-series ss (18 = chrome percentage and 0 = nickel), so if you go to a second hand shop with your magnet, you should be able to dig up enough to experiment with. The other cutlery ss grades are 18/10 and 18/8 which are closer to 3xx and not magnetic (unless they have been banged around a lot, then they are only SLIGHTLY magnetic), so it is easy to tell which you have in your hand. My first stainless experiments used blade poles made from butter knives and slugs made from a BBQ Kebab skewer before I gained enough confidence in the material to order full sheets.
    I can very much appreciate your use of hacked up cutlery to experiment with metals!

    Since I'm interested in trying out typical hardware store stainless screws, I'll ask the elementary question: what's the difference between putting a magnet on a 3xx "non-magnetic" stainless screw and a 4xx "magnetic" screw? Some basic reading on the interwebs tells me that a ferritic stainless steel will stay slightly magnetized after being exposed to a magnetic field, but an austenitic stainless steel will not. But will both of the them transfer or divert a magnetic field sufficiently for pickup pole purposes?

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    I checked the knife drawer and i have some AISI420 knives - very similar chemical composition to AISI416, so may have to try hacking them up, but i bet it is really hard to cut with a hacksaw - lol.

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    Even 3xx stainless is hard to cut compared to 10xx. A knife blade will be much harder. I was just fooling around with a magnet in my kitchen, my utensils (18/0 I believe) show very little attraction to a magnet and don't seem to transfer magnetism (when holding to the magnet it doesn't want to stick to anything). My magnet didn't stick at all to my pans (18/8 I believe). Knives (high carbon stainless something similar to 4xx) stuck okay but didn't transfer magnetism well. This would seem to completely alter the parameters of of pickup. This was a couple of minutes of casual experimenting, nothing scientific.
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    I may be able to get a small quantity of 420 in screws and slugs - just waiting for the quote from China. From what I can tell 420 has a small amount of nickel and slightly higher carbon content so may work - what do you guys think ?

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    Senior Member LtKojak's Avatar
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    I'd like to know WHY exactly are you so fixated with this particular alloy?

    What exactly are trying to achieve?

    Inquiring minds would like to know.
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
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    Hello Pepe
    I have tried most of the low carbon steels available from different suppliers - none of them come anywhere near the Seymour Duncan Antiquities Humbucker pole piece screws. the closest i have got is using 1215 unplated slugs and 1022 unplated screw poles.
    I have noticed that the pole pieces in the SDAH pickups are NOT regular low carbon steel and they are unplated. They appear to be a grade of magnetic stainless steel as do the unplated slugs. This is why i am keen to hear if anyone else on this forum has tried 416, 420, or 430 stainless steel screws and slugs and what they found.
    According to Alex "I havenít tried 416, but i HAVE messed with other grades of stainless lately. From my tests compared to 1xxx low-carbon, stainless gives you a slightly higher resonant freq and a higher Q on your peak because of the higher resistivity and slightly-lower permeability. I say try it. " Salvarsan seems to give a nod toward 430 in his earlier post. Have you had any experience with SS alloys by any chance ? Cheers Steve.

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    Careful though, 420 steel is hardenable, so that would be darned near impossible to cut if it is heat treated to hold a knife edge. Same with 440 and 416. But 430 is not particularly hardenable.

    Also, I donít know if you guys have hobby shops down there with the little cellophane bags of metal shaped and sheets, but I have found that some of the stainless packages are annealed 430 ss. Also, places that so stainless countertops and backsplashes for kitchens usually carry 430 stainless as a cheaper alternative to 316L, and some of them do laser cutting. I donít know if any do screws and rods though, but if anyone is looking for blade cores, that is another option.

    I dug up some of the tests I did on mini-humbucker blade poles to give you a ballpark idea of what is going on. Again, no 416, just 430. I know you are talking about slugs and screws and not blades, but this is just what data I had on hand. Here is a graph of sweeps of an overwound mini-hum coil with different cores: low-carbon steel, 430 ss, m-19 transformer laminations, and grade 77 ferrite.

    mini-hum-core-tests.png

    In my notes, I have 430ss resistivity listed as 0.000612 ohm-m, 1010 at 0.000143 ohm-m, and the initial relative permeability is pretty close between the two, so you end up with a similar resonant freq that just has a slightly higher peak. In the short lengths we use guitar pole material, the permeability as it effects inductance is dominated by geometry anyway. (The laminations and ferrite are just for reference, but they both have even higher resistivity and permeability, so the res peak is higher in amplitude and lower in freq.)

    I wanted to post some gauss tests, but I am rearranging my shop and I canít find my meter at the moment. Iíll post some results here when it turns up.

    I know that does not give direct data on slugs and screws, but the effect should be similar, and if you find that it is a path you want to take, there are either shops that specialize in making custom screws, OR regular machine shops with screw machines. The few that I have looked into in the past have had custom orders starting at $500 for 1000 pc, but that was for standard materials and parts, so I am not sure about 5-40 fillister stainless humbucker screws... might be in the same ballpark or it might be considerably more. Maybe someone else on this forum would have a better lead on that for you.
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    Thanks so much for your observations Alex - I have been playing around with transformer laminations and ferrites as well ;-)
    Cheers
    Steve

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    How audible are those differences? Would smaller polepieces have a similar effect as stainless? One thing that interests me is that I could alter the sound of commercially available pickups by swapping out the polepieces.
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    Senior Member LtKojak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    Hello Pepe
    I have tried most of the low carbon steels available from different suppliers - none of them come anywhere near the Seymour Duncan Antiquities Humbucker pole piece screws. the closest i have got is using 1215 unplated slugs and 1022 unplated screw poles.
    I have noticed that the pole pieces in the SDAH pickups are NOT regular low carbon steel and they are unplated. They appear to be a grade of magnetic stainless steel as do the unplated slugs. This is why i am keen to hear if anyone else on this forum has tried 416, 420, or 430 stainless steel screws and slugs and what they found.
    According to Alex "I havenít tried 416, but i HAVE messed with other grades of stainless lately. From my tests compared to 1xxx low-carbon, stainless gives you a slightly higher resonant freq and a higher Q on your peak because of the higher resistivity and slightly-lower permeability. I say try it. " Salvarsan seems to give a nod toward 430 in his earlier post. Have you had any experience with SS alloys by any chance ? Cheers Steve.
    I'd use what's available and simply tweak the wind.

    HTH,
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy

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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    I'd use what's available and simply tweak the wind.

    HTH,
    By tweaking the wind, do you mean less or more turns on each bobbin? Please elaborate if you wish to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    By tweaking the wind, do you mean less or more turns on each bobbin? Please elaborate if you wish to.
    Yes, and/or using a different TPL and/or tension. Winders do it all the time to compensate for different batches of wire for their own winds anyway, so I don't see all the fuss to get SS slugs that may or may not give the desired outcome, whatever that may be.

    HTH,
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    Yes, and/or using a different TPL and/or tension. Winders do it all the time to compensate for different batches of wire for their own winds anyway, so I don't see all the fuss to get SS slugs that may or may not give the desired outcome, whatever that may be.

    HTH,
    In the operation of the pickup, currents are induced into the metal parts, especially the cores or blades. These currents are a function of both the permeability and conductivity of the magnetic material. These currents, usually referred to as eddy currents, cause a frequency selective loss that cannot be duplicated exactly by altering the parameters of the wind. The the sound of the pickup is to at least to some extent a unique function of the material. The core material is very important in determining the sound of the pickup.
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    Senior Member LtKojak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    Hello Pepe
    I have tried most of the low carbon steels available from different suppliers - none of them come anywhere near the Seymour Duncan Antiquities Humbucker pole piece screws. the closest i have got is using 1215 unplated slugs and 1022 unplated screw poles.
    I have noticed that the pole pieces in the SDAH pickups are NOT regular low carbon steel and they are unplated. They appear to be a grade of magnetic stainless steel as do the unplated slugs. This is
    It's not a scientific test, but as I happen to have an Ant set myself, I took out the slugs and weigh and compared with the AddictionFX 1215 slugs and weight'em just about the same. I really can't tell what exactly you saw to speculate being that very specific SS 416 alloy. But hey! See it through and report back here. I, for one, am all ears to hear about your findings!

    Yours very truly,
    Last edited by LtKojak; 06-29-2016 at 06:58 PM.
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    As Mike says "the sound of the pickup is to at least to some extent a unique function of the material. The core material is very important in determining the sound of the pickup. " Yes, I agree - this is why pickups wound with similar number of turns but from different winders / manufacturers SOUND different. I believe this is a much greater contributor to a pickup's signature sound than the type of wire or winding technique although i do acknowledge these do play a small part in determining it's tone signature.
    Thanks Pepe - if you have a set of SDAH pickups then you will know what i mean by the touch sensitive dynamics, sustain and general sharp but warm tone signature - almost like a piano tone but when played aggressively like a good alto saxophone type response characteristic. I too have played around with different grades of metal for the slugs 1018,1022, 1215 etc. (plated and unplated) - although the inductance measurements are very close, there is a slightly different response or feel with these different low carbon steel grades - i am currently playing around with some cheap 5mm diameter x15mm long ferrite rods from China - cheap as chips! I am picking that these will not have a lot of carbon content. I have yet to listen to how they sound or feel to play but i have noticed quite a significant rise in inductance and slight drop in gauss level at the top of the poles. For example: 5000 turn 42awg spn wire coil on cheap bobbin measures 1.8H with original Chinese plated steel slugs, and 2.1H with the ferrite rods. I measured nearly 300gauss with the spin doctor which dropped to 260gauss with the ferrite. A bit off topic i know but just an illustration of how the core material definitely affects the inductance and permeability of the coil.

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    Senior Member LtKojak's Avatar
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    For the record, I've got all the characteristics from your description from the Ant simply by modding the Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro p'ups that came stock with my Epi ES-339.

    I've replaced the magnets(A3n/A2b), 1018 keeper bars, 1215 slugs and screws (1022n/1018b) that Mojotone and AddictionFX supplied, plus I've converted'em to braided wire, and it became the main instrument for my Smooth Jazz project. Not bad for a couple of Franklins, uh?
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    For the record, I've got all the characteristics from your description from the Ant simply by modding the Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro p'ups that came stock with my Epi ES-339....
    Yes sir, I've been using this same old hammer all my life. Only replaced the handle three times, and the head twice. Pa-rum-dum.
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    lol - ok, the thread has gone well and truly off the rails now - no problem though. I will eventually locate a source of 416, 420, or 430 pole screws and slugs to experiment with but not prepared to outlay several hundred dollars at this point in time. I will say that i have tried exactly the same thing as Pepe with replacement screws, keeper bar and slugs in some Chinese humbuckers I purchased from Donlis Musical Instruments on AliExpress - US$25.00 for a pair of alnico II bridge and neck pickups. And yes, I got very close to the response of the SDAH pickups using the existing magnet (gauss adjusted to match the SD) some 1215 unplated slugs that I hand cut with a hacksaw and 1018 unplated screw poles from Dennis at Addiction FX. The magic did not appear though until I replaced the shielded 4 core cable with the vintage braided push back wire, and then - there it was! the Donlis pickups are reasonably well made and excellent value for the low price but, the wiring is incorrect - they come with the black wire connected to ground instead of the green wire. The correct wiring is: Black, signal output; Green, ground; and red and white connected together - hope that makes sense! It does indeed appear to be the case that, the lower the carbon content the better the tone and output level. 1215 has only half the carbon content of 1018 steel (0.09% vs 0.18% ). I am waiting the arrival of some 1010 unplated slugs and 1010 nickel plated pole screws from Dennis at Addiction FX - the 1010 slugs will be very similar to the 1215 perhaps ? I am picking the 1010 pole screws will make a bigger difference though - we shall see. Dennis has told me he did the metallurgy test on a vintage PAF pickup, and the screws were made of 1010 alloy More when they arrive ;-)
    cheers
    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    It does indeed appear to be the case that, the lower the carbon content the better the tone and output level.
    You should define "better" here, Steve.

    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    I am waiting the arrival of some 1010 unplated slugs and 1010 nickel plated pole screws from Dennis at Addiction FX - the 1010 slugs will be very similar to the 1215 perhaps ?
    I've tried old Mojotone 1010 slugs and were "muddy" to my ears. However, they were suitable for bridge p'ups for players playing with gain all the time. Just the opposite of mine, as a player!

    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    I am picking the 1010 pole screws will make a bigger difference though - we shall see. Dennis has told me he did the metallurgy test on a vintage PAF pickup, and the screws were made of 1010 alloy More when they arrive ;-)
    I've seen at least a couple of dozen destructive analisys of original parts from allegedly dead PAFs, and I got results all over the place... several including non-standard alloys. However, as I don't make PAF replicas, I just use my ears and tweak my own formulae to tackle the task ahead. I don't obsess, I just deliver a solution for a problem and until now, no complaints have ever been filed.

    And last but not least: no p'up will ever sound good if the instrument's not set-up right.

    HTH,
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post
    And last but not least: no p'up will ever sound good if the instrument's not set-up right.
    That borders on snark.

    Allow me to cross the border into Full Snark:
    "The largest noise contribution in the system comes from the person holding the guitar."
    The lofted fewmet doth soon hew close to the whirling blades.

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    Yes, it must be the caustic sweat.
    I'll just point out again that steel's and especially stainless steel's magnetic properties are directly affected by "work hardening" i.e. the stresses imposed on the steel from bending, rolling, hammering, stretching, compressing etc. Unless you start every test with completely annealed material you'll never know what it went though before you got your hands on it.
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    Pepe wrote: "I've seen at least a couple of dozen destructive analisys of original parts from allegedly dead PAF"
    Would you care to elaborate Pepe - curious minds would like to know what chemical compositions you have seen ;-)
    I do feel that there are certain mismatches of alloys for the slugs and pole screws that deliver a fuller tone with a higher clarity pick attack, as well as some combinations that give a brittle and sterile response with very low bass output. the most frustrating thing is not knowing the chemical composition (within reasonable %) of the parts one is dealing with. For example, the Lindy Fralin nickel plated pole screws are very loud and bright sounding to my ears but i doubt very much that Mr Fralin will tell us the actual composition of the steel used. The same goes for Seymour Duncan, Dimarzio, Stephens, Throbak etc. Of course the chemical composition of the parts is only one aspect contributing to the core material's "personality" - was the material cold rolled, hot rolled, annealed, tempered, or case hardened before or after machining ? So many variables means that it is virtually impossible for any pickup maker's pickups to ever sound or feel the same as another's. I am certainly not obsessing Pepe, just trying different materials to help established what sounds and feels the best for my playing experience. However at the risk of repeating myself, i did find a major improvement to my ears when i replaced the 4 core plus shielded cable with vintage push back braided cable - far greater than I would have believed without trying it! Last but not least: "no p'up will ever sound good if the instrument's not set-up right." And - the same pickup will sound completely different on another guitar
    cheers
    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    curious minds would like to know what chemical compositions you have seen ;-)
    Sorry, I don't have'em in my possession anymore.

    However, that was my way to say that, being those alloys either unknown or not available, I decided to use what in fact IS available, and tweak by ear once installed in the chosen instrument.

    Maybe I'm a simpleton, granted, but to make work what you have, I'd call it "pragmatic".

    Over and out! *mic dropping*
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    "Sorry, I don't have'em in my possession anymore" - now how did i know that was going to be your answer ?
    "Maybe I'm a simpleton" - somehow I very much doubt that, but I do acknowledge one has to make do with the materials one has at his disposal, and I have achieved some very good results with your advice Pepe.
    Cheers
    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    "Sorry, I don't have'em in my possession anymore" - now how did i know that was going to be your answer ?
    Steve
    OK, while I was touring, lighting stroke and burned down to the ground the house where I used to live.

    Even though I did get plenty of money from the insurance, I lost EVERYTHING from my past, including the only existing images of my late parents.

    Not something I like to talk about.
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
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    Oh - please excuse my comment, I am so sorry to read that Pepe - that must have been terrible for you, but you still have your memory of them i guess. I miss my parents very much - lots of happy memories of when I was a younger man :-)
    Take care my friend - thanks for all your help on this fine forum.
    kindest regards
    Steve

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    I've used 430 grade for pickup blades. You have to watch your design, as the highs can get harsh sounding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    I can get 5000 of each from a manufacturer in China (15 cents each) but that is a lot more pieces than i need.
    Cheers
    Steve
    As an aside I have encountered MANY Chinese suppliers who will quote anything your desire but ship you something entirely different... While your supplier may be wholly trustworthy, caveat emptor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajaman View Post
    lol - ok, the thread has gone well and truly off the rails now - no problem though. I will eventually locate a source of 416, 420, or 430 pole screws and slugs to experiment with but not prepared to outlay several hundred dollars at this point in time. I will say that i have tried exactly the same thing as Pepe with replacement screws, keeper bar and slugs in some Chinese humbuckers I purchased from Donlis Musical Instruments on AliExpress - US$25.00 for a pair of alnico II bridge and neck pickups. And yes, I got very close to the response of the SDAH pickups using the existing magnet (gauss adjusted to match the SD) some 1215 unplated slugs that I hand cut with a hacksaw and 1018 unplated screw poles from Dennis at Addiction FX. The magic did not appear though until I replaced the shielded 4 core cable with the vintage braided push back wire, and then - there it was! the Donlis pickups are reasonably well made and excellent value for the low price but, the wiring is incorrect - they come with the black wire connected to ground instead of the green wire. The correct wiring is: Black, signal output; Green, ground; and red and white connected together - hope that makes sense! It does indeed appear to be the case that, the lower the carbon content the better the tone and output level. 1215 has only half the carbon content of 1018 steel (0.09% vs 0.18% ). I am waiting the arrival of some 1010 unplated slugs and 1010 nickel plated pole screws from Dennis at Addiction FX - the 1010 slugs will be very similar to the 1215 perhaps ? I am picking the 1010 pole screws will make a bigger difference though - we shall see. Dennis has told me he did the metallurgy test on a vintage PAF pickup, and the screws were made of 1010 alloy More when they arrive ;-)
    cheers
    Steve
    Steve,

    It looks like you could just take the poles and slugs out of a Gibson humbucker if you want to try out 416 stainless steel. According to Gibson's website, Burstbuckers, CustomBuckers, the 490 series and 57 classics all use that alloy for both the slugs and poles on their humbuckers. If you don't like the sound just put it back in the original humbucker and sell it off.

    I was surprised that Gibson released this much info on their website, they even list the number of turns used on the humbucker coils. You just have to scroll down to the Electronics section for each guitar description:

    Ace Frehley 1959 Les Paul Standard

    screen-shot-2017-01-01-7.39.54-am.png

  35. #35
    Old Timer
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Boston, MA area
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    2,577
    Type 416 (et al) is available from McMaster-Carr in the US. Don't know if they ship to Oz, but here is a start.

    https://www.mcmaster.com/#standard-s...heets/=15y904r

    Look for: Easy-to-Machine Wear-Resistant 416 Stainless Steel Sheets and Bars
    bajaman likes this.

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