Jun 17, 2016

How to build a guitar pickup winder from (almost) nothing

Looking forward to an adventure in hand-winding guitar pickups, but not looking forward to the costs involved or the potential need for an expensive specialized machine or rigging up a sewing machine somewhere, I found a super-DIY method that should satisfy any and all "hand winding" enthusiasts.

With a bit of creativity and a few odds and ends, you could fashion together your own custom guitar pickup winder with your own style!  It's not hard, it only requires a bit of ingenuity while you tinker, and that experience alone is worth it in my book.

Total materials used for mine:
  • 1 old fishing pole reel
  • 3 screws, 1-2" long
  • 2 pieces of scrap wood
  • Some wood glue
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. ingenuity

And tools:
  • Good ol' hacksaw
  • Handy dandy drill
  • Leatherman multitool/screwdriver
  • Hammer + nail or two

           Started out here with the old fishing pole, I removed the reel and gutted the fishing line within.  This particular one split into a few pieces, primarily the casing and the gear mechanism.  It doesn't matter what you use - heck, a pencil sharpener might work with some creativity - it just needs to have a convenient crank and preferably some gears that will give you a ratio higher than 1:1 (you'll thank me later.)  This reel has a ratio of about 2.75:1 and works fine, a ratio of 5:1 might be perfect.  

          Separated the shell and prepared to mate it with a base.  Two screws would hold it nicely - due to the difficulty of getting one in the back under the shell, I found that one screw and a small gob of wood glue hold it just fine.  The scrap wood base balances it and is necessary so I can have something to clamp to the table when winding.

          Next is the difficulty of turning the spinning bit into a spinning bit that we can attach a pickup bobbin to; I accomplished that with another piece of scrap wood, hacksawn to approximate dimensions.

          Possible problem - the metal plate here is held to the rest of the assembly with a nut over top.  This was navigated around with a notch sawn into the piece of scrap wood around the nut.  While it was difficult to get the nut on afterwards, it's now a relatively rock-solid joint. 

          Mounted all together, I had one last finishing touch - remember that gray cone from the very beginning, where the wire fed through?  Yeah, that wasn't doing us much good.  But chopping off half of it yielded a super-usable and aesthetically pleasing solution that holds the assembly together and basically does everything but catch a fish.

          What's more, that big gray button in the back pushes forward the winding assembly in the front by up to about a centimeter.  This happens to be roughly the height of the average pickup bobbin - if I can hook up some sort of rudimentary regulator that holds tension steady as the wire feeds from the spool, then one hand can wind while the other pushes the button in and out to control the distribution of the wire across the bobbin.  (Sound confusing?  I'll get a video demonstration up as soon as I can afford the magnet wire to do so!)

And thus I present the final product, the "Reel Great" Guitar Pickup Winder Mk. I.  
I have yet to acquire the pickup wire, bobbins, and magnets needed to test it out, but I'm confident that the "Reel Great" will be leagues ahead of literally doing every wrap by hand.  And besides, it has some kickass mojo for a few bits of junk.  

Thoughts, comments, ideas, complaints, sick burns?  Share 'em in the comments section below!


  1. Got any clips of it in action?

    1. Not just yet, got to "pick up" some pickup wire first, I'll definitely put up an update or two once I do.

    2. Video of the works here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPbXUNWm3_c


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