The following information is commonly available in the public domain (or by way of general enquiry). However, I emphasize that it is not my intention to devalue or diminish the standing and competence of the professional winding artisan in any way. The answers below are offered by way of introduction only. They are no substitute for the knowledge and expertise that the dedicated 'professional' will have accumulated over time, testing and investigation. This page is offered to the novice in the same manner as other craftspersons might interact with enquirers. Conversely, in keeping with those who have 'labored long' to gain hard won discoveries and insights, I too must reserve the right to withhold information as circumstances demand.
'OK, so if
a machine, where can I get the materials to wind some pickups?'
Getting parts requires resourcefulness and far reaching enquiry. Where I am, in Aust., components are very hard to obtain in small 'hobbyist' quantities. Regrettably, I cannot assist in this area. Some of my Links may be able to help you with parts.
'Can I buy
Yes, you can try consulting the industrial listings in your local telephone book or Thomas Register. You will want 42AWG. (.063mm.) in Plain Enamel, Formvar*, or solderable Polyurethane. In the latter case, the insulation does not need removal prior to soldering (see 'removal of insulation' question below). Gauges, such as 43AWG. (.056mm.), might also be considered.
* Sometimes you will read of 'Heavy Formvar' in pickup specs.- such wire has a double thickness coating of insulation.
'How is it
sold and how much does a pickup use?'
Typically the wire is sold in 5lb. (USA), or 3 kilogram spools (in Aust.). If you can get a 2lb. spool (available in some grades), this would be a more convenient size for small production winding. One single coil pickup uses about 1 to 1.2 oz. (36 gm.) of wire. The World Copper Price is adjusted daily, and you may be asked to pay a charge on the reel, and applicable tax..
'If I can't
buy magnets or bobbins how can I get some experience at winding?'
I suggest you try winding some 'dead' (broken) pickups - this way the magnets and the bobbins will come with the job.
should the bobbin spin on a Winder?'
Winders can run up to 3000 rpm. (much faster again in industrial applications). I work more slowly than many coilwinders - my machines 'max. out' at about 1100 rpm. I like to watch the coil building in a very precise way, and seldom wind to my top speed. Beginners might find 500 rpm. a good 'learning' pace which allows easy control and observation of the forming coil. This is a suggestion only - others may differ. However, increasing speeds wind 'more loosely' and require tension compensation.
the wire 'unreel' from its spool?'
I place the stationary spool vertically on the floor or a stool beneath the winder. The wire is then drawn off the top - 'spiral fashion' on demand. Check that the spool ('reel'- if you prefer that terminology) top is smooth and free of snags.
'How do you
remove the insulation on such fine coil wire?'
Plain Enamel and Formvar type wires must have the insulation removed prior to soldering. I draw the wire through some 'wet and dry' abrasive paper (used dry). Polyurethane insulation is 'solder-throughable' and does not require prior 'stripping'.
'How can I
solder such fine wire?'
With practice! Occasionally I find it helpful to use additional Rosin Soldering Paste in very small amounts to give the solder as much 'flow' as I can, and avoid excessive heat. Avoid soldering fumes and only use electrical grade soldering products.
'What should I know about insulating
Early single coils (two plate, multiple magnet slug/pole type) often had a lacquer coating applied to the individual slug poles before winding as an additional insulation barrier between the coil and the magnets. Sure, the coil wire has insulation, but sometimes it is easily abraded under various circumstances (winding, plate movement etc.) - most particularly at the end magnets where a 180 degree turn is encountered. If you check the insulation integrity of old (and sometimes 'new') pickups a 'short' can sometimes be detected between the coil and a magnet. This does not necessarily render the pickup inoperative, but it can be detrimental - most especially where the *start wind is designated 'hot', and grounding is encountered (* not my preferred config. in any case). I prefer to insulate my single coil magnet/pole assemblies with a custom coil tape rather than lacquer (which I find less durable), and as a routine procedure, I always strive to make 'start of coil' = ground, and test each completed pickup for insulation integrity!
The above issues are not applicable where a molded plastic bobbin serves to form an insulation barrier between coil and magnets/poles (eg. HB bobbin).
build a treadle powered winder?'
I had a fine, old (heavy) cast iron wheel (purchased from a Salvation Army Relief Store) and wanted to put it to use. I applied the principle found in the spinning wheel. By using ball race bearings and pulley gearing, I was was able to work up to 600 rpm. easily. A felt padded brake, based on 'horse and cart technology', was able to stop the spinning bobbin instantly.
I know about counters?'
Mechanical ones are becoming obsolete (and expensive), and may be subject to a margin of error. Electronic counter manufacturers can be located with a Web search. Up/down and Reset controls are desirable. 'Debounce' specs. should match your switching setup for accurate counting, any mismatch may result in miscounting or 'freezing' of the counter at certain speeds.
I know about speed controllers?'
Sewing machine foot controllers can be made to work well (see comments under 'Assembly'), and I have built an AC pulse wave modulation controller from an electronics kit which works fine except that often these devices, will 'cog' at startup and low speeds (up to 300 rpm). 'Cogging' means a momentary pause/run motion rather than smooth acceleration or running.
Speed controllers MUST be capable of coping with the power rating and demands of the specific motor.
'Do you offer any plans for your machines?' Do
you sell machines?
Sorry! No! As you have read, this site is intended to get you thinking and creating.
any books or articles you would recommend?'
I would recommend 'Guitar Electronics for Musicians' by Donald Brosnac, and Jason Lollar's 'Basic Pickup Winding'
(*Update: as of 2005, the latter is no longer 'in print').
My 'Trade Secrets' story (Stewmac. catalog - Oct. 2000.) also gives advice to the novice winder.
'Why do you
use the alias "spinner" on your mail address at the end of this site?'
(Answer is provided for overseas readers.)
'Spinner' is an oblique (and light-hearted) reference to both an old Australian custom, and my pickup winding interests -
a) The Australian custom from years gone by -
The 'spinner' was a central figure in the traditional (often outlawed) game of 'Two-up', where two coins were thrown spinning into the air, and players wagered on how they landed. The cry, 'Come in Spinner!' (the coin thrower) commenced the game.
b) The Pickup Winding explanation (. . .and yes, this has much more application and meaning for me) -
Since the pickup spins, the person who makes this happen might arbitrarily be called 'the spinner' (my adopted terminology).
We use a similar naming process to describe those who spin yarn on a spinning wheel, when we call them - 'spinners'.
There you have it!
If you find
errors above, please advise to allow correction. Thank you!