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Thread: My first pickup wind (technique help appreciated)

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    My first pickup wind (technique help appreciated)

    First post on the forum (though I've lurked for a while), and here's my first pickup wind. It's a humbucker sized P90 using a parts kit I found on Reverb, which was shipped from the UK. I picked this for 2 reasons - it fits an SG I have that has an open pickup cavity, and since it's a single coil I figured it would be easier to start with than a humbucker. And I'm winding with 38AWG to avoid breaking the wire. My goal is to do enough practice on simpler pickups to eventually move on to more complicated ones.

    First, here's my setup: one of those NZ-1 manual coil winders, mounted to a piece of 2x8 with cork feet so it doesn't move around. I cut a block of wood, drilled it, then pounded in a coupling nut and spread some super glue around the joint. This is then threaded onto the shaft of the NZ-1 and the lock nut tightened up against it. That's the mounting surface for my bobbin, which I mounted with double sided scotch tape.




    I guided the wire by hand, which I think was the cause of the lopsidedness of the coil. I may need to build an adjustable guide to go on here so I don't jump the sides of the bobbin.


    I think it looks pretty good from this angle!


    But here you can see that it didn't build evenly

    I managed to get 1578.5 turns of 38AWG wire on it before the tape popped off and sent the pickup flying (next step: stronger tape). I don't have my multimeter so I wasn't able to check for continuity, but I think I may unwind this one and start over to get it right in any event. I've always liked the sound of low-wind pickups, so I was planning to try and get 3000 or so turns on here.

    I had a lot of fun doing this! And I think it will only get better once I've developed more skill. The manual winder wasn't as tiring as I thought it would be, and it really didn't take long to get this far. It does 8 turns of the shaft for each turn of the crank, so it moves along at a pretty good pace. Does anybody have any tips for me or see anything really obviously wrong that I'm doing?

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum.
    I started winding with a Dewalt battery powered electric drill.
    It was a half inch drill.
    I chucked a cutoff half inch shoulder bolt in the drill.
    I had the head machined flat, and I super glued a piece of plexi glass to the bolt that I mounted the bobbin to.
    I had the same issue you do, with the wire pileup.
    If your bobbin mounting board is not mounted exactly straight, you have, what machinists call run out.
    One end piles up on one side, and the other end piles up on the other side.
    So the issue is with your mounting plate board, mounted to the winder spindle.
    With the pickup off the board spin the board and see if you can see the run out.
    While it is spinning hold a pencil close, and you should be able to mark the end, sticking out the most.
    Other than that, your pickup looks fine.
    Have fun!
    T
    ** If anyone has a point to add, please do so.

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    Last edited by big_teee; 07-10-2019 at 05:05 AM.
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    Terry

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    Thanks for the warm welcome! I'll see if I can detect the runout, probably hold the pencil in a vise to keep it a constant distance and slowly bring the machine closer until it makes contact. Then I guess just plane down the face until the pencil makes contact uniformly?

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnasc View Post
    Thanks for the warm welcome! I'll see if I can detect the runout, probably hold the pencil in a vise to keep it a constant distance and slowly bring the machine closer until it makes contact. Then I guess just plane down the face until the pencil makes contact uniformly?
    That should work.
    Another mod I would make is a plate for the outside of the bobbin.
    A thin piece of metel or a piece of plexi glass.
    Use screws to go through the pole screw holes of the P90 bobbin, screwed into the wood.
    This will hold the bobbin flat, and prevent flaring, & attach the bobbin to the board.
    You will need separate bars or additional holes for each bobbin style.
    T

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    Terry

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    That makes a lot of sense, should also make it easy to repeatably center the bobbin on the winder. Guess I have my weekend project all planned out!

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    Supporting Member mozz's Avatar
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    I don't think you're gonna get much sound out of 38awg pickup but i could be wrong on that.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Here are some estimated P-90 bobbins with different size wire, for comparison.
    Demonstrating the amount of turns for 38, 40, 41, 42, & 43 AWG Single Poly wire.
    Looking at the bottom of each table shows the physical size of the wire, and why it effect the DCR, and maximum turns for that wire gauge.
    40, or 41 gauge would be my pick for a low wind P-90, it still allows plenty of turns, and should result in a bell ringing clear tone.
    T
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    Last edited by big_teee; 07-11-2019 at 04:33 PM.
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    I use an old-fashioned hand drill - the kind you crank - to wind my pickups. The handle of the drill is clamped to the bench, with the chuck end sticking out well over the edge of the bench. The bobbin/coilform is secured in the chuck via something going through the middle, such that the coilform rotates like a propeller. My magnet-wire supply was obtained from a scrap dealer who had a big bin of surplus rolls that they were selling for $2/lb; many rolls being 5lbs+. I bought a bunch of different gauges from #32 to #43, and am pretty much set for life.

    Because the spools vary in size/weight, there was no mechanical wire-feeding setup I could depend on. So, I just place the spool on the floor, facing upwards, leaving a space of several feet between the spool and the coilform. The wire-tension is maintained by my left-hand index and thumb, while I turn the crank with my right hand. I like this because it lets me sense any pullback from the wire spool, so I can stop cranking instantly, before things get to the point of breakage (though it still happens from time to time). Hand drills vary in their gear ratio. I used to use a drill that gave me 3.25 turns per crank, but now use another that yields 4 chuck-turns per crank-handle turn. When I'm rolling, I can achieve about 80 handle-turns a minute, or 320 coil turns. Since 320rpm makes a coilform a bit of a blur when I look down at it as I'm cranking, I like to stick a sheet of black foam rubber on the floor underneath the wire spool. This lets me see the copper wire against the background easily, so I can guide it. My coils come out about as lopsided as yours. Let's just call them "scatterwound".

    This method is far from efficient, though not especially time-consuming. Giving my cranking and tensioning hands a break now and then, as well as taking a moment to write down how many turns so far, it's about 30-45 minutes to wind a coil, depending on size/shape and what wire gauge I'm using (#43 requiring more care and gentle pressure than #40). If I was operating a pickup-making business, or a rewind service, I'd go broke in a month, not to mention receive complaints about inconsistency. But I only make a handful of pickups for myself in any given year, and the time it takes me to make one is still less than the time it would take to get in the car, drive to the closest music store, buy one, and drive home again. So I don't find my rather crude method punitive in any way.

    I pot my coils by holding a candle over the coil (coil lying on its side) and hitting the candle with a heat-gun. The melted wax drips and soaks into the coil from the outside. If it gets visibly lumpy, I'll gently melt what's sitting on the coil with the heat gun on low, so that it seeps in. It likely doesn't soak in ALL the way through, and isn't as thorough as some vacuum potting methods. But frankly, the biggest risk of microphonics comes from the outer winds - the inner ones being generally tighter. Once potted, I like to wind teflon plumber's tape around the coil. This provides a little bit of additional pressure to pack things in a little tighter, and also provides a sort of barrier against decomposing tape adhesive, from whatever you put around the finished pickup.

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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    Here are some estimated P-90 bobbins with different size wire, for comparison.
    Demonstrating the amount of turns for 38, 40, 41, 42, & 43 AWG Single Poly wire.
    Looking at the bottom of each table shows the physical size of the wire, and why it effect the DCR, and maximum turns for that wire gauge.
    40, or 41 gauge would be my pick for a low wind P-90, it still allows plenty of turns, and should result in a bell ringing clear tone.
    T
    Which tool is that? My bobbin's dimensions are somewhat different from a normal P-90 so that it can fit in a humbucker rout. It would be interesting to see how much effect that has.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    Because the spools vary in size/weight, there was no mechanical wire-feeding setup I could depend on. So, I just place the spool on the floor, facing upwards, leaving a space of several feet between the spool and the coilform. The wire-tension is maintained by my left-hand index and thumb, while I turn the crank with my right hand. I like this because it lets me sense any pullback from the wire spool, so I can stop cranking instantly, before things get to the point of breakage (though it still happens from time to time).
    That's pretty much the exact setup I used, difference in cranking device excepted. Good to know I'm not the only one with Uneven Tone Coils™!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    I only make a handful of pickups for myself in any given year, and the time it takes me to make one is still less than the time it would take to get in the car, drive to the closest music store, buy one, and drive home again. So I don't find my rather crude method punitive in any way.
    And that's the way I've been looking at it too. On top of that, in my opinion DIY stuff gets most interesting when you make something that you really can't get from anywhere else. This HB sized P-90 doesn't count, but who knows what the future holds!

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Which tool is that? My bobbin's dimensions are somewhat different from a normal P-90 so that it can fit in a humbucker rout. It would be interesting to see how much effect that has.
    If you have a humbucker route, then I would put a humbucker in it, no hum!
    Or, give me your bobbin dimensions, and I will work something up for you.
    Bobbin core
    Length
    width
    height
    flange diameter
    In inches decimal.
    T
    **I'm in awe of you guys winding literaly by hand.
    But, for me it's got to have a motor on it!

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    Last edited by big_teee; 07-12-2019 at 07:26 AM.
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    Terry

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    Woodgrinder/Pickupwinder copperheadroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnasc View Post
    First post on the forum (though I've lurked for a while), and here's my first pickup wind. It's a humbucker sized P90 using a parts kit I found on Reverb, which was shipped from the UK. I picked this for 2 reasons - it fits an SG I have that has an open pickup cavity, and since it's a single coil I figured it would be easier to start with than a humbucker. And I'm winding with 38AWG to avoid breaking the wire. My goal is to do enough practice on simpler pickups to eventually move on to more complicated ones.

    First, here's my setup: one of those NZ-1 manual coil winders, mounted to a piece of 2x8 with cork feet so it doesn't move around. I cut a block of wood, drilled it, then pounded in a coupling nut and spread some super glue around the joint. This is then threaded onto the shaft of the NZ-1 and the lock nut tightened up against it. That's the mounting surface for my bobbin, which I mounted with double sided scotch tape.




    I guided the wire by hand, which I think was the cause of the lopsidedness of the coil. I may need to build an adjustable guide to go on here so I don't jump the sides of the bobbin.


    I think it looks pretty good from this angle!


    But here you can see that it didn't build evenly

    I managed to get 1578.5 turns of 38AWG wire on it before the tape popped off and sent the pickup flying (next step: stronger tape). I don't have my multimeter so I wasn't able to check for continuity, but I think I may unwind this one and start over to get it right in any event. I've always liked the sound of low-wind pickups, so I was planning to try and get 3000 or so turns on here.

    I had a lot of fun doing this! And I think it will only get better once I've developed more skill. The manual winder wasn't as tiring as I thought it would be, and it really didn't take long to get this far. It does 8 turns of the shaft for each turn of the crank, so it moves along at a pretty good pace. Does anybody have any tips for me or see anything really obviously wrong that I'm doing?
    These bobbins are heavily flawed ...................

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    If/when you try winding a humbucker, definitely stick with the lopsided coils thing. Most of the vintage and repros (that sound vintage) have similarly squiffy coil dimensions.. And bendy bobbins under tension.
    Here some I had on my bench today.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Tension looks a little loose. There is a side view photo showing the coil on the long side and on the right the coil is built up towards the top of the bobbin and on the left its built up at the bottom- this indicates the bobbin is mounted at a slight angle to the axis of the shaft- off of 90 degrees. doesnt take much to throw off the coil shape- assuming you get that result consistently. The photo directly above of the humbuckers- when you wind the coil over the pigtail like the photo shows one end of the coil will always be distorted as shown- judge the coil shape by the opposite end- cream bobbin- see the taper on the left end compared to the right

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