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.

DIY pickup winder

This pickup winder can get up to 3000 RPM making for quick winds. The parts for this project only cost a total of $160, most of which was the cost of the lathe. If you’re interested in checking out some other Pickup Winders, check out this other DIY winder or this steam-powered one.


24 thoughts on “Pro-Quality Pickup Winder You Can Make At Home

      1. Please, please, please,….all you perfect people get a life!
        I don’t mind the occasional spelling/grammar snarks … when they’re funny!!…

        but you grammar police should go stop a real crime. I mean, if the mistake changes or confuses the intention of the statement (or if its just funny!) then I’m all in for the correction. But some you needed more hugs when you were young…..

          1. Indeed. “Perfect people”, “grammar nazi”, “grammar police”, etc. It makes me sad to see people who like to defend mediocrity and use name calling to avoid correction.

            It is not difficult. Mediocre people are too lazy to learn.

        1. Some butchery is so horrid it must be called out for what it is. You functional illiterates are in bad enough shape as it is! Seeing things wrong over, and over just reinforces it. At the rate things are going even I’m going to begin struggling with their, they’re, and there.

          These people are supposed to be paid professionals. Everyone put down the fucking video game controllers and crack open some decently edited books once in a while. See how the language is supposed to be.

          1. Drink in the sheer masterfulness of that, and lament that you’re just a mere sheep and not a true wolf of the English language.

            That’s quality writing right there folks. (Or a barely coherent rant, take your pick.)

    1. It has a winder bar, but it’s not shown in the pic that’s been posted above (there are detailed pics in the instructable with the bar) but it doesn’t have an active dancer bar. Doesn’t really need one based on my experience. I’ve been using the winder for about 3 months now and have wound around 140 pup’s or so with it so far.

      For wire tensioning I use a variation of an idea from a Rob DiStefano –

      Having said that, you certainly could add a off board dancer/tensioner.

    1. I’ve got another latching interlock relay circuit prototyped and working that does this very thing. Resets with a microswitch and wiper arm on the pot. Opens with the counter relay as well.

      It’s my intention to add this to the Instructable and redo the video with the update.

  1. That is pretty neat. I saw this at Instructables and didn’t have time to comment. So you manually play the wire between the bearings to move across the pickup form as it spins, right? I’d have liked seeing a pic of a pickup mounted on the machine.

    I love seeing people void warranties on Harbour Freight hardware :-) I modified one of their 4×36 bench sanders work like a Sorby ProEdge for my turning tools.

    1. Thanks; voiding their warranties is pretty fun :-)

      Yes, winding is scatterwound (manual). I have a few pics of pickups in various stages mounted on the winder I could post up, and also a video of winding a tele pickup as well. Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll add them to the instructable over the weekend –

  2. Tension control made higher, hem. Everything I have known about winding coils is being crushed under aggravated conditions. Thousands of RPM! Why I even remember someone on HAD winding with a counter switch unattended so the process could be done very slowly so as to not create any pressure in the coil.
    Coils fail because of pressure in the bottom layers cutting thru insulation where the pressure is highest.
    This one area where planned fail and fast production run together like train tracks.
    Just ask any Fender-Rhodes player or tech, there is one coil per note. They are always going dead one at a time.

    1. I’m not willing to say that’s why Rhodes pickups fail, I tend to think it’s more from mechanical movement and getting banged around. I’ve rewound a TON of red ones and at least half a ton of green ones. I never really put more than 3000 or so winds on one anyway. Just get them tight enough to reduce microphonics.

      Guitar pickups are a different story… there is only so much real estate for the coil to reside on. Want more space for coil? Use a thinner gauge or wrap it tighter. There are arguments for both ways, dictated mainly by how someone did it 50 years ago :-)

      One thing I do is wrap the magnets with Kapton tape – prevents shorting to the magnets. It’s not original, but it doesn’t change the sound. Most pup’s fail (when output is low) that way. Some fail in the coil, but it’s rare. I rewound a ’55 strat middle coil recently that failed in the middle of the coil – unwrapped it until I found the bad section… cut it out, spliced and re wrapped from there. Got lucky, pure and simple. Archaic? You bet. Knuckle dragger? Yeah, probably. But I’ve learned something doing it the way I do it… I’ve learned through observational data why they fail, and how.

      I still rewind rare pickups from customers that way – sometimes I get lucky, most of the times I don’t (and have to unwrap till they’re bare), but I’ll still rewind with their original wire 9 time out of 10 (and not anywhere near 3k RPM), unless the coil was dipped in lacquer. The upshot is that I’ve gotten to record hundred’s of data points through the years from rare pickups. The benefit for me is I don’t have to guess or rely on what someone has told me they think Leo did, I just pull out an old composition book and look at the beautiful lines of empirical data:-)

      1. Is there any reason why guitar pickup coils are not potted? I’d think electric guitarists would welcome the idea of their instrument being as potted as they are. OK bad pun. Seriously though why aren’t the coils potted like they are in say a transformer?

        1. Most are, usually a mix of straight wax and beeswax, although sometimes lacquer was used for potting (Fender did this occasionaly, among others for example). There are deviations from the norm and several notable pup designs are non potted.

          I prefer a light wax potting.

          1. All of that sounds very light duty compared to the stuff they bake into transformers. I believe transformer potting material is some kind of a shellac? They do it under a vacuum too, to remove air. Then the coil is baked to cure it. I suppose transformers are subjected to a lot more in regular use than guitar coils should be though.

            Still, with all of the coils you seem to be repairing apparently not all guitar pickups live the easiest of lives. Time out on the road takes its toll on hard rockers I suppose.

        2. Yeah, some of them come to me in pretty rough shape. I’ve only repaired a handful of pup’s in the past three months with the new winder, and of those only 4 have been 60’s or older. The balance of 130 or so have been new winds. Started winding in 86 though, so I’ve seen a few.

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