Pro-Quality Pickup Winder You Can Make At Home

DIY pickup winder

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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