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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

'Ha ha ha I am the Count ....'

It was about time the old mechanical three-digit counter on my pickup winding machine got replaced. It had done its job (bless it) … rescued from a fifties tape recorder … it had clicked it’s way through the winding of our first dozen or so pickup prototypes. Granted I had to do the maths that went with using a two to one ratio three figure display to wind five figure numbers of turns. It got the job done accurately enough, but it was a strain to use; I needed a proper electronic counter.

Enter the wonderful e bay! I found a nice little self-powered (lithium ion) counter that would use trigger voltages from 1.5 to 18 volts, and built it into a nice box (cos I’m a bit fussy like that). I added a reed switch on a remote sensor that’s tripped by a magnet on the back-plate of my winder … and voilĂ  … much less strain to use and all under 20 quid ... result!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Oil City pickups ...

Above: an early prototype ... now we use cloth covered hook up wire!

Just for the record, my pickup range at the moment consists of …

The Oil City ‘Thames Delta’ Telecaster bridge and neck pickups … these are 6.5k neck and 7.5k Bridge … a tiny smidge hotter than vintage, with well-balanced outputs, Alnico 5 magnets, cloth covered hook up wire etc.

The Oil City ‘Hardman’ Telecaster Bridge pickup … a real edgy high output 9k beast … again, with Alnico 5 magnets and cloth covered hook up wire.

The Oil City ‘Triple Blues’ Stratocaster set … a little hotter than standard with a massive Texas blues sound! Flush pole pieces for definition and a natural mid boost … I have them in my own Strat, and they give the closest thing I have found to ‘that’ SRV tone.

I don’t carry a stock of any of these pickups at the moment … as they are ordered, so I wind them … simple as that … though with the work load building I may have to have a little ‘building spree’ shortly!

In the development and in the pipeline soon:

Vintage ‘Stagger’ Strat pickups, a Fender wide range humbucker replacement, a vintage PAF humbucker set … and a P Bass pair. Not as if I’m giving myself plenty of work or anything!

Thursday, 19 January 2012


I've always been a fan of the frankly, slightly loony design of Danelectro™ guitars. Nathan Daniel, the founder of the company cut production costs to the bone to supply rock and roll twang machines to the masses via the Sears catalogue. To that end 'Dannos' were built with ply, poplar or just plain 'scrap' wood frames ... clad front and back with Masonite (that's good old hardboard to the UK reader). I wanted to get some of that vibe and sound while opting for a slightly more traditional Telecaster™ body shape. Here we have the result ... still in primer ... a dead standard Tele™ body made with a pine frame and a Masonite top and back. I will be fitting this with a nice neck and some of my 'Thames Delta' pickups ... so watch this space.

One term comes to mind when making Telecaster neck pickups: fiddly! Okay so the slim chrome covers look kinda cool and retro, but Leo was working near the limits in trying to fit a decent output pickup into such a tiny space. My new vintage Tele™ neck pickup uses every available millimetre of bobbin space to come in at about 6.5k … just a tad hotter than average, but well still balanced and open.

When I order our next consignment of custom magnets I will include some longer than standard alnico 5 slugs to make a ‘hotter’ bobbin that can hold more wire. Then I will have the option of winding a ‘traditional hot’ with 43awg wire or a warmer, more Strat™ like pickup with 42awg wire.