As guitarists, we are always looking for the effect, the equipment, the technique to achieve the sounds produced by our heroes - Satriani, May, Halen, Slash. With almost any guitar, the hardest thing to replicate is the resounding sustain created by the overdriven roar of Eddie Van Halen or the subtle phase changes of Brain May of Queen. This DIY guitar sustainer uses the signal from your guitar to vibrate and resonate with the movement of the strings. It reinforces the guitar's tone and keeps the note sustaining infinitely. This is designed to be used with a passive system, but does require an internal amp to operate. Look for an upcoming instructable on constructing and setting up the electronics required to power the driver created in this instructable.
Step 1: Gather Materials
For this build you will need a collection of parts as pictured above. The critical parts can all be salvaged from an old pickup. I took my bits and pieces from a passive bass pickup.
Step 2: Making Blanks
The base structure of the sustainer is constructed very similarly to a standard pickup. There is a coil wrapped around steel pegs on top of a magnet. Blanks like the ones pictured are used to provide a structure for the coil and the sustainer as a whole. I chose to create a sustainer that would cover only the four highest strings on my guitar and so I only used four steel pins. Your blank needs to have holes for each pin but otherwise is flexible - you can use different materials, sizes and thicknesses. Feel free to experiment - all that matters is that the pegs line up with the strings...
Step 3: Fitting the Pins
At this point you can fit your sustainer together. Simply push the pins into the plates leaving about a 3mm gap for the windings of the coil. Now is also a good time to double check that your sustainer lines up with the strings on your guitar. If you left your blanks a little rough like I did, you can take the assembled sustainer and clean up the edges on a sheet of sand paper or with a hand file.
Step 4: Wind the Coil
At this point it is time to unroll the coil from the old pickup. Then simply wind a new coil around the pins leaving both ends of the wire protruding from the sustainer. It is recommended that the coil is wound to 8ohm resistance.
Step 5: Sustainer Leads
Once you have a coil wrapped, drill two holes in the bottom plate for lead wires. These wires should be soldered to the two ends of the coil that you left hanging out when you wrapped the coil. I recommend gluing the wires into the base plate to prevent the wires from pulling out of the sustainer. I also decided to slide a piece of shrink wrap tubing over the wires to add some support and protection.
Step 6: Seal the Coil & Magnetize
The last key part of the sustainer is the magnet. This allows the sustainer to create a fluctuating magnetic field and reinforce the vibration of the string. Simply take the magnet from the original pickup and glue it to the bottom of the sustainer - make sure that the pins are in contact with the magnet. At this point I also decided to seal the coil in with a bit of electrical tape
Step 7: Make It Pretty
Now that all the parts are in, it is time to dress it up. Some people decide to hide in in a shell and some like to leave it rugged. I am choosing to leave the bare pins and cover everything else up with a wrap of shrink wrap. Go wild and leave your modifications in the comments.