Rocking An Acoustic Guitar By Making It Electric

Brothers [Armand] and [Victor] took their acoustic guitar to the next level, making their own pickups to turn it into an electric guitar. The result is that awesome electric guitar sound.

The pickups are homemade magnetic pickups. Each string has a steel bolt behind it with three ceramic magnets on each bolt. A coil is also wrapped around all the pickups. That coil is what’s connected to the wires going to the amplifier. When a string vibrates, it changes the magnetic field in the pickup which induces a current in the coil and that is then sent on to the amplifier to be altered as desired and turned back into sound. Of course that meant the guys had to replace their nylon strings for steel ones.

With just the volume amplified the sound isn’t very different but when the amplifier’s gain is turned up and the volume turned down the sound is undoubtedly electric. As you can hear in the video below, Johnny B. Goode, Paint it Black and Satisfaction take their acoustic guitar’s sound to a whole new level.

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CNC Upgrade to Guitar Pickup Winding Machine

The idea of winding inductive guitar pickups by hand is almost unthinkable. It uses extremely thin wire and is a repetitive, laborious process that nevertheless requires a certain amount of precision. It’s a prime candidate for automation, and while [Davide Gironi] did exactly that, he wasn’t entirely satisfied with his earlier version. He now has a new CNC version that is more full-featured and uses an ATMega8 microcontroller.

[Davide Gironi]’s previous version took care of winding and counting the number of turns, but it was still an assisted manual system that relied on a human operator. The new upgrade includes a number of features necessary to more fully automate the process, such as a wire tensioner, a wire guide and traverse mechanism (made from parts salvaged from a broken scanner), and an automatic stop for when the correct number of turns has been reached.

guitar_pickup_winding_sample_microscope

All kinds of small but significant details are covered in the build, such as using plastic and felt for anything that handles the wire — the extremely fine wire is insulated with a very thin coating and care must be taken to not scratch it off. Also, there is the need to compute how far the traverse mechanism must move the wire guide in order to place the new wire next to the previously-laid turn (taking into account the winding speed, which may be changing), and doing this smoothly so that the system does not need to speed up and slow down for every layer of winding.

This system is still programmed by hand using buttons and an LCD, but [Davide Gironi] says that the next version will use the UART in order to allow communication with (and configuration by) computer – opening the door to easy handling of multiple winding patterns. You can see video of the current version in action, below.

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Pro-Quality Pickup Winder You Can Make At Home

A lot of people find the art of building a guitar to be a worth while and pleasurable hobby. The task can be as easy as buying pre-made parts and assembling the guitar or as complicated as starting with just a piece of wood. Even advanced guitar builders normally do not get involved enough to wind their own pickups as it can be a tedious and labor intensive task. A low-end professional pickup winder can be purchased for about $450 which is certainly not economical for the hobbyist. [Doug] is one of those folks that wanted a pickup winder but didn’t want to shell out the big bucks. So what did he do? Build his own, of course.

If [Doug] was going to build a winder he was going to do it right, with all the features to make pickup winding as quick and painless as possible. The winder needed to be fast, count the windings and stop after a pre-programmed amount of revolutions. To keep this machine safe and reliable while maintaining the ability to spin quickly, [Doug] chose to base the machine on an off-the-shelf wood lathe since they are sturdy and made to spin at high speeds. The lathe is equipped with a face plate where the pickup is mounted.

Once the pickup is mounted to the face plate, the desired amount of turns is programmed into a digital counter that receives a signal from an opto switch and encoder disk attached to the lathe spindle. The motor speed is manually controlled by a user-adjustable potentiometer. There is also a stand alone tachometer that gives speed feedback to the user. Once the counter reaches the pre-programmed limit, it trips a relay that cuts power to the motor. This way the amount of windings can be precisely controlled. There is even a switch that changes the motor direction for reverse winding humbuckers without the need to remove and flip over the pickup.

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The Automated Pickup Winding Machine

winderBack when electric guitars were a new thing, winding pickups was a very labor intensive and error-prone process. The number of windings could easily vary by a few hundred turns of wire, making the resulting pickup either anemic or much more powerful than the other pickups in the guitar. [Davide] is starting to wind his own pickups, and desiring a little more precision than simply guessing how many winds are on a coil he built an AVR coil winding machine.

The machine uses a DC gear motor running at 1200 RPM. A magnet is glued onto the motor shaft, and a hall effect sensor connected to an ATMega8 keeps track of how many windings are on the coil.

The interface is simple, using character LCD to display a wind counter, motor direction, and current motor speed. There are some useful features in this machine; slow start-up and automatic stop makes winding pickups much easier than the traditional home method of winding pickups with a sewing machine.

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Steam-powered pickup winder

[Valve Child] has been building a few three-string cigar box guitars. Of course he’ll need a few pickups, but three-string guitar pickups aren’t exactly easy to come by. To solve this problem, he’s built a guitar pickup winder powered by a steam engine.

The pickup winder is powered by a Wilesco D20 model steam engine, connected to the actual winding mechanism via a rubber belt. To the right of the bobbin bracket is a mechanism built out of Meccano – Erector sets for us americans – that provides a mechanical counter for the number of wire turns and a wire traverse to keep each layer of wire somewhat even across the width of the bobbin.

Previously, we’ve seen [Valve Child]’s really sweet sounding lap steel build from a log using a hand-wound pickup and a preamp tube as the bridge. It’s questionable if the guitar signal came from this lap steel via the pickup or the microphonic tube, but now [Valve Child] has a really, really good method of improving his pickup production abilities.

Video after the break.

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Guitar pickup winding workstation

After a bit of inspiration, [Pete] decided to build a solid body electric guitar for himself. Instead of assembling a conglomeration of off-the-shelf parts, he plans on building just about everything from scratch. This includes the guitar pickups, so he built himself a pickup winder that has measures RPM, ETA until done, and auto stop for when the pickup is complete.

Electric guitar pickups are simple devices – just a magnet for each string wrapped in thousands of turns of wire about as thin as a human hair. [Pete] began his build with a cheap sewing machine and added a tachometer and pickup mount. As an added bonus, [Pete] threw in an ohmmeter to measure the coil resistance and a Gauss meter to measure the magnetic flux and polarity of the pole pieces. It’s a very nice build that’s designed to be as functional as commercial pickup winders.

[Pete] was originally inspired to build a pickup winder by the Les Paul Google doodle, and he plans on continuing Les Paul’s tradition of guitar innovation by building his own solid body guitar. The wood has been cut already, and we can’t wait to see the final product.

Check out a video of [Pete]’s coil winder in action after the break.

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Guitar pickup 101

[Dino Segovis] is at it again!  For this week’s installment of his “Hack A Week” series [Dino] is holding a guitar pickup winding 101.  Professional guitar pickups can cost hundreds of dollars, but are all essentially a permanent magnet wrapped in a bunch of wire. Using some cheap headphones, magnet wire, and a spare bolt [Dino] produces his own pickup and throws it in a one string blues guitar. This is a great beginner’s project as it involves only a few very easy to find parts and touches on some interesting concepts such as inductance and magnetic flux.

The premise is really simple:  Sandwich the headphone magnet between two plastic discs to make a spindle, hot glue a 1/4″ bolt to the spindle, connect to a power drill, and wind a few thousand loops of magnet wire onto the thing.  Hook your coil up to an amp and lay down a jam.

We might be tempted to add a counter to the rig using a reed switch connected to the “=” key of a cheap pocket calculator, and a magnet glued to the bolt.  We have also seen a more complicated automated spool winder but [Dino] is keeping it nice and simple.

Check out the video after the jump to hear [Dino] go all Seasick Steve on us.

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