Counting the Turns
One big issue was to count the many thousands of turns of the coil. If the drill I was using had an exact ratio between the turnes of the chuck to the handle (for example 3 to 1) it would have probably been a little easier to count the windings but the drill I was using had a ratio of about 5 to 1 but it was not exact so it would have been difficult to rely on this method. I used a very crude method. I thought of possibly relying on sight to count the many turns which would be difficult, as I needed to see what I was doing while guiding the wire with my hands not to mention it would drive you nuts. I got the crude idea of using sound. I taped a piece of flat wire to the drill chuck so that every time it went around 1 turn it would hit something and make a tick sound. (see above photo)
I don't know if anyone else ever tried that but it worked pretty good using a hand drill. Every time a got to a couple hundred turns or so I would mark it on a piece of paper as not to get lost in the count. The next time I wind a pickup I plan to make some kind of a digital counter.
Here is one stage of a digital counter that I once made for a timer for my darkroom. You would need to make 3 of them for a 3 digit counter. What ever means used to detect the turns should have a bouncless switch going to the #14 pin
Here is an example of a bounce free switch. I will have to wait and experiment to see what type of sensor I will use whether a hall or some type of photo transistor. This will be for my next pickup. Any suggestions?
I will be experimenting on my next pickup with a different thickness of wire and amount of turns. For each coil I used 6500 turns of #43 wire. Mainly because of some problems I had with the spool of wire I did have a few breaks throughout the winding process but I was able to splice them together ok without any ill effects.
Saturating the Pickup
To be honest, I didn't do a perfect job winding the pickup as this was kind of an experiment to get the feel of it.
I then saturated the coils in Candle wax to help prevent or reduce the possibility of microphonics. I had 2 major concerns doing this. One, was I didn't know how the cheap plastic would hold up in the hot wax with the possibility of it warping or melting. Two was, I didn't know how the household glue that the bobbin was glued together with would hold up under the heat. I heard that the best way to saturate the pickups was with a mixture of 20% bees wax and 80% candle wax as the candle wax will melt at a lower temperature then the bees wax. I didn't have any bees wax on hand so I just used candle wax.
I put some wax in a coffee can and then submerged the can in a larger pot with water to make kind of like a thermostatic bath. This way it's safer as there is less chance of the wax catching on fire (which could happen). When the wax was melted I used a thermometer the make sure that the temperature didn't get over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the wax was hot enough, I was able to turn off the flame and the wax pretty much stayed at the acceptable temperature for the duration of the procedure. This also made the process safer.
I then got some stiff flat wire and used it to suspend the coils in the wax without touching the sides of the can. I jiggled it once in a while to help any air bubbles to dislodge from the coil. I left it in the wax for a little over 10 minutes.
Victory!! The plastic didn't melt and the household glue held on ok. I then took them out and carefully wiped off the excess wax with a paper napkin, then put it on some newspaper to cool.
Here are the coils after saturating them. I soldered color coded lead wires to the very thin coil wires. I like Mark Hammer's idea of using Teflon plumbers tape to first wrap the coil up as this tape is non adhesive. Using this tape will prevent the fine wires from ripping out if you ever need to take the tape off for some reason. I then taped over this with some black cloth electrical tape. It is the kind of tape that sticks better to itself than anything else. I made sure that I chose the top surface of the pickup coils by making sure the windings were both wound in the same direction. In this case it was clock wise.
Here is the pickup put together. I used 3/16" zinc coated stove bolts for the pole pieces. I will eventually look for some kind of screws that are more decorative like screws with an Allan wrench head. I heard that you can heat up screws really hot then throw them in old motor oil to make a black finish. Does anyone know about this? There are five wires that come out of the pickup. (4 from the 2 coils and 1 ground wire hooked to the brass base plate). With the option of the five wires there are many possibilities for how the pickup can be wired to the guitar and several switching arrangements can be available.
Here is the end view showing the magnets with the base plate. I took the magnets and base plate out of a "Dimarzio Super Distortion pickup" to make this homemade one. I would have used the original pole pieces but they were not long enough because I made the bobbins taller than the Dimarzio.
Here is the pickup installed in my homemade neck through guitar. I don't like the looks of the while plastic pickup ring but I will soon change it for a black one.
It has a loud sort of mellow sound. I certainly realize now how each pickup has it's own resonant frequency. I didn't have much else to compare the sound with except a Demarzio Evolution bridge pickup. The resonant frequency of the Evolution was a little higher and a little harsh to my ears.
I did a blind A-B test on my associate sound technician and he liked the sound of mine better over the evolution. Ha! Another test will be to see how it works in the mix of a live gig on stage.
It has a definite roll off on the highs, especially when used in humbucking mode but when used as a single coil it's brighter. This was a very rewarding experiment for me and it definitely encourages me to do more experimenting.
Here are a couple of sound files to let you hear what it sounds like.
Here is a short sound clip of my homemade pickup. It was recorded on my computer with no EQ, no effects or processing. The first half of the sound file is in humbucking mode and the second half of the clip is in single coil mode. It was a little late when I recorded these files so the amp was pretty low and not cranked up.
Here is my Dimazio Evolution pickup in the exact same situation as the homemade pickup with humbucking in the first half of the sound file and single coil mode in the second half of the sound file.
Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions!
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