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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Extrinsic Motivation: An Open, Modular Effects Pedal

PedulMicrocontrollers and Arduinos are cool and all, but dealing only in the digital domain does have its limitations. In fact, most of your electron heroes didn’t begin their electronics career by blinking pins on digital outputs; they were solely in the analog domain with their radios and, yes, guitar effects pedals.

[Josh]‘s entry for The Hackaday Prize was by far the most analog project of the entire contest. It’s an open source effects pedal that takes advantage of the modular design of the most popular pedals in history.

A good number of the famous circuits for turning an electric guitar into an aural experimentation are based on small circuit modules, packaged and repackaged again until the desired tone is achieved. [Josh] wants to pack these modules separately on different boards, specifically shields, although no Arduino is used, so any sound can be created.

Already [Josh] has done some research to determine what circuits and circuit modules to clone. The list should be fairly familiar to anyone with a pedalboard – Tube Screamers, Fuzz Faces, Big Muffs, and Phase 90s are at the top of the list. He may not get to the complicated digital effects like pitch shifters and digital delays, but it’s still a great project for experimentation.

You can see [Josh]‘s project video below.

SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.

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ServoBender, The Electronic Pedal Steel


You’ve most certainly heard a pedal steel guitar before, most likely in any ‘old’ country song, or more specifically, any country song that doesn’t include the word ‘truck’ in its lyrics. Pedal steels are strange devices, looking somewhat like a 10-string guitar with levers that change the pitch of individual strings. Historically, there have been some attempts to put a detuning mechanism for individual strings in normal electric guitars, but these are somewhat rare and weird. [Gr4yhound] just nailed it. He’s come up with the perfect device to emulate a pedal steel in a real guitar, and it sounds really, really good.

The imgur album for this project goes over the construction of the ServoBender in a bit more detail than the video. Basically, four servos are mounted to a metal plate below the bridge. Each servo has a spring and cam system constructed out of 3D printed parts. The detuning is controlled by an Arduino and a few sustain pedals retrofitted with hall effect sensors. Simple, really, but the effect is astonishing.

[Gra4hound]‘s contraption is actually very similar to a B-Bender where a guitarist pushes on the neck to raise the pitch of the B string. This setup, though, is completely electronic, infinitely adjustable, and can be expanded to all six strings. Very, very cool, and it makes us wonder what could be done with one of those freaky robot guitars, a soldering iron, and a bit of code.

Video below, because you should watch it again.

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Rock Out With Your Ribbon Controller Bass


[Brendan Byrne] stripped this instrument down to basics and built himself a ribbon controller bass guitar. Details are still a bit sparse  on his website, but there are plenty of detailed pictures on his flickr stream. [Brendan] built his bass as part the Future of Guitar Design Course at Parsons the New School for Design. His goal was to create an experience in which playing the instrument and altering parameters of effects are triggered by the same gestures. He’s definitely succeeded in that effort.

Basically, the bass is a four channel ribbon controller. The frets were removed to make way for four graphite strips. [Brendan] followed [Iain's] excellent tutorial to create his own graphite strips using soft artist’s pencils. The ribbons essentially become potentiometers, which are then read by a teensy. [Brendan] expanded the instrument’s sonic palette by adding several buttons and potentiometers mapped to MIDI control codes. He even included a triple axis accelerometer so every movement of the bass can be mapped. The MIDI data is sent to a PC running commercial music software. Analog sound comes from a piezo pickup placed under the bridge of the bass.

The results are pretty awesome. While we can’t say [Brendan's] demo was music to our ears, we definitely see the musical possibilities of this kind of instrument.

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3D Printed Guitar


We’re not sure how we missed this one, but it definitely deserves a look. Professor of Mechtronics [Olaf Diegel's] 3D printer must go to 12, because he’s printed these incredible electric guitar bodies. You probably won’t be making your own on your filament printer, however, because [Diegel] uses SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) to create the body out of nylon, then he dyes the resulting piece in a two-step process. You can read more about the construction specifics on his website.

And, they’re more than just eye-candy: the guitars sound brilliantly metallic. There are more than enough pictures and videos to keep you occupied on the site, where you can sift through all eight designs to your heart’s content. You’ll want to keep reading for a couple of videos embedded after the break, which feature some demonstrations of the guitar and comparisons to traditional electric guitars, as well as a brief history of its construction and build process.

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A Guitar From an Old Tin Box


[Atdiy and Whisker], collectively known as  [The Tymkrs] have been busy honing their luthier skills. They’ve created a 10 part YouTube series about the construction of their new cigar box guitar. Instead of a cigar box though, they’ve substituted a 1920’s tin cigarette box. The Omar Cigarette company gave “Project Omar” it’s name. Like [Tymkrs] previous guitar, Omar is a three string affair. The neck was cut from Black Palm, which really shined when polished with a mixture of orange oil and beeswax. They also threw in a couple of new tricks on this build. Omar is an electric guitar, with a pickup custom wound  by [Bob Harrison]. Omar also has frets, which creates a whole new set of complications. Frets are generally installed by cutting slits in the guitar neck with a fret saw. Rather than buy a new tool, [Tymkrs] created a simple jig for their mini table saw. The jig held the guitar neck perpendicular with the saw blade. This made quick work of the many fret slits to be cut. Installed frets must also be dressed and leveled, which is a time-consuming process. 

The tin cigarette box also created a new set of problems. The thin tin proved to be a bit on the weak side when the strings were tightened down. A bit too much pressure on the box while playing would cause notes to bend, much like the tremolo or whammy bar on a standard electric guitar. [Tymkrs] were able to counteract this by adding bracing inside, and a couple of black palm braces to the back of the box.

Hum was also a problem. When [Tymkrs] first plugged in, they found they had more 60Hz mains hum than signal from their strings. Omar uses a classic single coil guitar pickup. Single coils will pick up noise from any magnetic field, including the field created by the studio electrical system. A humbucking pickup uses two coils to counteract this effect. Humbuckers also have a slightly different tone than single coils. [Tymkrs] wanted to stick with their single coil tone, so they counteracted the hum by raising the pickup closer to the strings. Higher pickups receive more signal from the strings, so this is basically a free signal to noise ratio improvement. They also grounded the entire tin box, along with Omar’s metal tail stock. The final build sounds great, as evidenced by the jam session toward the end of Video 10.

[Read more...]

Improving A Cheap Guitar Pedal


If something doesn’t suit your needs, just change it. That’s a motto we live by, and it looks like [Doug] took up the same creed when he modified a cheap effects pedal.

The victim of [Doug]‘s soldering iron is a Danelectro BLT Slap Echo – a tiny, cheap pedal in Danelectro’s mini ‘food named’ pedal series. Stock, this pedal’s slap back echo is set to a fixed amount of time. [Doug]‘s mod changes that.

The mod consists of desoldering a single SMD resistor and replacing that with a 50k pot [Doug] had lying around. After mounting the pot between the two stock knobs, the new and improved pedal had a variable length echo. There are a few more mods possible with this pedal – changing some of the resistors on the filter for a better sound, or even connecting the rate pot to a wah-style rocker pedal for some wobbly Echoplex or Space Echo action.

You can check out [Doug]‘s gallery of pics here.


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