Picture of Make A Guitar Pickup
How to make a single coil guitar pickup!
This will show you how to make your own guitar pickup. It won't look or sound exactly like a regular pickup, but its a fun and interesting project.

What You'll Need:

- 42 or 43 gauge copper wire (very thin)
- Six steel machine screws and nuts
- Neodymium (super strong) magnets or one long bar magnet
- Thin plastic (like that on a cd case) or Thin pieces of wood
- Wax
- Wire
- Solder
- Superglue

-Dremel and dremel accessories
-Sewing machine (optional)

You can go out and buy all these things, but you can probably find most of them within old crap you already possess. For example, I found the copper wire in a pair of broken dog clippers. And if you don't have some of the equipment you can always improvise.

Here are some links I found useful while learning how to make my pickups:

Stew Mac--Pickup Building (especially "Single Coil Pickup Kits")

A guy who made a humbucker.

GuitarAttack Look at Winding pickups "Guerilla Style" to see more about the sewing machine pickup winder idea.

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Step 1: Make your pattern

Picture of Make your pattern
There are just a few parts to a pickup, and the bobbin(the thing that holds the coil) is the first thing you need put together.

To do this, you'll need to do is make up some kind of pattern for your bobbin. You need one piece for the top and one for the bottom. Look at the pictures and factory made single coils to get the general idea. You can make it in the traditional shape, with rounded ends, or you can be lazy like me and use a more squarish design. Either way will work.

Then you'll need to transfer this pattern onto the material you're using for your bobbin. You can use plastic (from a cd case, for example) or thin pieces of wood. Wood works well because it's easy to work with and has a unique look, but I decided to use plastic for this pickup.

Last of all, cut out your bobbin pieces.
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So the magnets go on the bottom of the pickup?


I dont understand the magnets. Im building an electric violin, and i know my way around electriciy, but i cant see why adding magnets would change anything. could someone please explain?
What DK69 said is right, the bobin core must be magnetizad to sense the strings movement. you are probably confused if you know that a bobin whith an iron core works as a magnet, but it needs a AC to generate the magnetic field. in this case what you are doing is generate that AC by changing the magnetic field of the magnet by the vibration of a string.
and i would like to know haw it worked out to place a magnetic pickup on a violin, because i play the cello and i've heard that pick ups don't work well in this kind of instruments, but i have never seen one.

on violins, violas and cellos using non magnetic strings you need to use a transducer style or piezo style pickup, magnetic pups wont work. with that said transducer and piezo pups are available for those instrument and it would just be better to buy one than attempt to make one ( not even sure if it is possible to DIY a piezo pup

Magnetic coil pick-ups only work with steel strings, or any string made with a ferric material (iron based metal). With nylon, plastic or cat gut strings, lol, you open up a whole nother world. A little history, Les Paul once electrified a guitar using a phonograph cartridge.

the magnets set up a stable magnetic field through the windings, the screws concentrate the flux lines beneath the individual strings, the strings(must be metal!) vibrate causing vibrations in the magnetic flux which is transferred to the coil of wire giving a voltage output, but this must go to a high impedance input(amplifier). Too low an impedance, like resistance will load the coil and reduce output, its all similiar to hor a generator works
Elswaiyr3 months ago
Can I use metal for the bobbin plates? I work in a fabrication shop and have access to all types of metal. Or does it have to be non-conductive
paulmusic7611 months ago

A humbucker pickup cancels the noise hum by having opposite polarity magnets. Can you just stick a magnet behind a single coil to get rid of excess noise? Anyone know? I know in a strat for example they reverse the polarity of each pickup to get rid of some of the hum. Why can't you just use a magnet?

@paulmusic76: I know this is pretty late, but no, you can't just stick a magnet behind the coil.

The basic principle behind a humbucker is that you have 2 coils in close proximity, so they are subjected to roughly the same external electromagnetic fields that cause noise (60Hz power hum). By wiring them out-of-phase ("backwards") to one another, that noise is cancelled- the noise in one pickup is generating a positive signal, and the other is generating a negative signal. By flipping the magnets on them, the "signal" (music) is inverted again (once by backwards wiring, then again by flipped magnetic field). Flipping it twice (from heads to tails to heads) means the music signal is now back in phase, so the music signals from each pickup add together instead of cancel.

That's why a humbucker has two coils and two set of magnets. If you have another magnet, you can verify that one coil has the north pole pointing towards the strings, and the other has the south pole.

keme6206 StevieW4 months ago

Thanks, StevieW! Nice clarification of principles, which will help many experimenters to avoid some pitfalls.

Just thought I would elaborate a bit on the subject, now that it's brought up. (Bear in mind that I'm just a player, "jack of the trade" when it comes to electronics.)

There are "split coil" pickups with
single coil footprint and sound, reportedly maintaining nearly as good noise
cancellation as a regular humbucker with parallel coils. I believe some
Fender basses even come with that kind of pickup in the standard setup.

split coil pickup designs I have seen use one coil and one magnet (or
set of magnets) for each half set of strings, with the reversal of
magnet polarity and coil winding direction like on a regular humbucker.

(Split coil pickup should not be confused with the "coil split" feature available on some
guitars, which disables one coil in a humbucker, effectively
transforming it to a regular "noisy" single coil. Also, do not confuse
it with the coil tap feature, where you have the option to use only part
of the coil to achieve a different sound. Be aware that there is a confusion of terms, so make sure you know specifically what is addressed when you do research for your own project.)

I suppose you could make a
pickup with individual coil for each string, alternating magnet polarity
and coil wind direction along the pickup. Sounds like a lot of work,
and balancing the output of the individual coils may turn out to be a
problem. Also, to get the sufficient number of windings on each coil,
you may need even thinner wire, which makes the job harder and also
increases the risk of pickup failure. I don't know whether such a pickup
is commercially available, but I wouldn't be surprised. In any case, it
would be an interesting experiment.

Bensnived8 months ago
What are the dimensions of the pickup?
VGR1011 year ago
will t work if i use 37 gauge copper wire??pls help...
how many winds should i do??37 gauge wire
8000 to 10000
a good coil is from 8000 to 10000 rolls. have fun !!!
stevegossett8 months ago

150 degrees is best temperature when potting. I have not used potting method on my last few pickups but did use tape, wrapped in twine and then waxed the twine to keep it from undoing. Those worked great. Potting would be the normal routine though when making DIY pickups.

does the amount of copper wire matter very much

Yes, Too few and you will get low output and a week sound. Too much is the better. In the 60's some pickups ended up over and under wound. If you get and over wound one it could lead to a unique sound and some specialty companies sell them that way. Shoot for the middle though. I think 6 string single coil pickups have about 8,000 winds. A counter would be good but if you don't have one, ebay sells wire with 8,000 winds on it. Hope that helped.

Before you go through all the trouble to make this and short out your coil to the screws, wrap some tape around the screws just like you wind the wire (around ALL screws, not each).

you need to have glazed wire for this to work

driftman1 year ago

Here's a link for some cheap neodymium magnets:

hibbly1 year ago
Where did you get everything from ? How much did it cost? Could please make an able on hooking them up.
You could mount this in a cigar box guitar
can i use bar magnets instead of these super strong magnets?????
If you're going to use screws, you can make spacers out of bic pens. Just remove the ink pen tube and cut down the white plastic tubes with a hacksaw.
I'm planning to make my own pickup for fun. I wonder if you can just use a variable speed drill mounted in a vise, if you're pulling the wire from a spool. Nobody I know has a sewing machine. Be careful though, wires can slice! Maybe put a stick or big screwdriver through the spool of wire to keep your hands clear.
Phoghat1 year ago
What I've learned from experience and through some research:
The more windings you put on, the stronger the signal output, but higher frequencies will suffer.
Thinner wire cuts highs more than thicker
Tall skinny coils give a cleaner sound and shorter fat coils sound more "dirty"
More wire = greater resistance measured by multimeter
3-6 K ohms = clearer tone
9-13 K ohms = loud heavy tone
Just a word to the wise. You can customize, and experiment to get exactly the sound you want

cdoggy1 year ago
Hah wow never thought of that
davidpaul236 years ago
1.can I do my windings directly on the screws for humbucker pickups? it so that i should use a 44 gauge coil and not less gauge than tat.... what happens if I use a lesser gauge coil than 44' mann? 3. how'll i know that I've done 5000 windings on my screws? 4. watz the difference bet the single coil and the humbucker pickups buddy....?
The main difference between single coil and humbucker pups is that, for the purpose of canceling the unwanted noises like hum buzzes and interferences, the two coils in a humbucker pup are opposite to each other. In the first coil of the humbucker, the poles have the North pole up, and the current goes in a clockwise motion through the wire. In the second coil, the South pole is up, and the current runs through the coil in a counter-clockwise motin. That makes the two magnetic fields cancel inteferences from other eletromagnetic fields. And, due to the number of windings on the wire (wich ads up since they are connected to each other) it has more output, and a more "fat" tone. That's basically it, there's a lot of physics behind pups, and even a small change in one of the steps can change drastically the tone you'll get. That can be very bad, or awesomely great!
So, would you need to wax between winds or separate the two coils in some way, or is the opposite wind enough to dampen the field (if that's even the right term)?
Leperello Mikesiah (author)  davidpaul236 years ago
1. yes you can.
2. You can use a thicker gauge, but try and get the thinnest you can.
3. You can count your winds, but I just put as many winds onto the bobbin as I could.
4. A single coil is only one coil. A humbucker is two single coils wired together to "cancel" (reduce) the hum.
Single coilSingle coil


Yup leperello nailed those questions, but I bet too much smaller would make a huge pickup too, but hey Leperello I just wanted to thank you for putting this up, very informative! Theres a site build that has some good tech info on pickups ( I didnt see the main page stuff just linked to the pickups) but I needed the basic dig in and tear into it concept down, before I rebuilt my pickups, so thanks for taking the time to post this!
a humbucker is a type of pick-up that is bigger and louder and its like two small normal pickups put together so they work together one makes it more clear so it doesen't have as much fead back and the other is like a normal one so thats how it works "BUDDY"
It's nothing to do with feedback, it's what freestriker said, it's to do with cancelling RF hum caused by... lots of things.
a humbucker is a double coil pickup the two coils make sounds like hum buzz disappear in single coil pickups if theres is a radio or tv near the pickup make those sounds
LSP davidpaul236 years ago
Just one thing, if you want to make a humbucker, 5000 windings would be alright. Given the way those things are wired (internally) it will be pretty powerful. You also get to use 43 wire but carefully as the thinner you go the more highs you lose. I thought you were asking in general, in case you are looking for answers on buckers these are my 2 cents.
rb522 years ago
use an old computer HD which have RE magnets in them.
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