5 String Bass Update – Hand-wound pickups part II

Turning the bobbins into pickups

Continuing from the first post, where I assembled the bobbins, I will now show the detail of creating pickups from the bobbins.

Pickup bobbins dipped in shellac.

Dipping the bobbins creates a protective layer to protect the windings.

Once the bobbins are completely assembled and cleaned of any burrs that could damage the wire, they are dipped in shellac to protect the flatwork and put a protective layer between the magnets and windings.  This protects the windings from shorting should the thin insulation on them corrode over time.

Hand wound pickup

The first few wraps are done carefully to secure the wire.

These pickups are wound with 42 gauge wire, thinner than a human hair.  Once the first few winds are applied carefully to secure the wire, I turn on my winder and manually guide the wire for over 9000 turns.  You can see the wire at the bottom of the bobbin in the picture above, coming in from the front.

Pickup winding

3000 turns. Looking good.

Pickup winding

9000 turns. Almost done!

Once the winding is complete, the lead wires are soldered to the pickup so any further handling of the pickup can be done with wire larger than 42 gauge.  This protects the windings from damage when assembling the guitar or replacing pickups.  In this case, I’m going old-school, using black and white push-back wire.  I like the push-back wire because it’s a lot safer to slide the cloth covering back for installation than to strip plastic insulation from the end of the wire.  For this set of pickups, I wound one of them clockwise and the other counter-clockwise and will magnetize the posts alternate polarity.  Since I wound an identical number of turns on each pickups, this winding and polarity orientation will create a hum cancelling set when used together.

Lastly, a soak in a blend of paraffin and our beeswax removes all the air from around the coils and adds an additional level of protection to the pickups.

Bass Pickups

Hand-wound, wax potted pickups, in their covers, and ready for installation.

Now that the pickups are ready, and the lacquer is cured, it’s time to buff out the finish.  Check back soon, because there a few more details in the assembly of this bass that will set it apart from the standard, off-the-rack basses out there.