Picture of cheap and easy guitar pickups
here is a little tutorial about improvised guitar pickups
made from easy to find junk

Step 1: Pickup basics

simply a guitar pickup is just a coil of insulated copper wire with a magnet in the center.
most things that seem simple dont always turn out this way but here is an exception(sort of).
now im not recomending that you rip the pickups out of your strat and replace them with the herein mentioned contraptions. but if your building a diddly bow or a frankenstein guitar or just looking to make a new noise then thise is for you
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Very interesting stuff. Thanks for posting. I wonder if you could help me. I would like to design a large pickup about 3.5 inches square, (there's a good reason trust me). Are there any design considerations I need to be aware of or should I just get a square magnet and go ahead? Thank you.

lennyb (author)  gareth.whittock.37 months ago

if the pickup needs to be a square instead of a bar (like most are) then there are two ways to cover it one would be to wire 2 normal pickups together to get the shape (series or parralel depending on whether you want a humbucker style pickup or not)

or just wrap a single coil around your magnet .

if i were trying this i`d wrap it around a steel block and then put a powerful magnet like a hard drive magnet on the bottom afterwards. if it gets too large you may have to do more windings

Thanks for the advice. I'll let you know how I get on. Cheers, G

crazyman752 years ago
I found your article interesting, but I am wondering how to build these pickups from scratch. The application I am trying to use these for is part of a home made radio controller for robots, so what I need to know is how to build a pick up with a diode or transistor that will connect to an antenna to send signals through the air to the robot's antennas at a max. range of 20 feet away. Do you possibly have information that could be of help to me.

check out an older cordless phone. all the parts you need are in there, like a pre assembled mic/pick up in the mouth end. Try two blue tooth enabled devices....if your savvy enough (like two cell phones). Or you could try a mic/pick up and a wireless jack, which transmits and receives, so your controller and robot take the place of the guitar and amp.

lennyb (author)  crazyman752 years ago
sorry bud thats all over my head.too much math.
if i see anything related to it ill pass it on though

The Q-tuner guitar and bass pickup company uses N50 neodymium bar magnets: http://www.q-tuner.com They do it for 25 years now, so it must be OK.

acdc1265 years ago

rahmawadi2 years ago
friends may not ask about - about how to make a pick-up coil electric guitar / acoustic
labernache2 years ago
As to the question of polarity of magnets used in Humbuckets, those are bar-type magnets with the North/South poles along the two opposite long Side, not on the Ends , as is the case with a common bar-type magnet.
Since the two coils innermost windings are placed adjacent to each other, those windings are over the opposite poles of this special side-pole bar magnet.
According to laws set down many years ago by Scottish scientist Michael Faraday,
a coil of wire passing through a magnetic field will have an induced current that follows the right-hand rule of current flow created .
It is probably more easily demonstrated by looking up Faraday's Laws regarding magnetically induced current flow. This is the same principal that makes everything from huge generators (think Boulder Dam!), to dynamic microphones, to earbuds, to kitchen mixers, etc... work.
Faraday was an interesting person and greatly influential to modern electronics.
I hope this proves somewhat enlightening and not too wordy! ;)
lennyb (author)  labernache2 years ago
that makes more sense than my own theories.
thank you for the clarification.
abadfart4 years ago
try i lipstick pick up like in a old telie
tele you mean
ya sorry auto correct strikes again
nah its good
pfred18 years ago
I thought humbuckers had coils wound in different directions over each other? Although that is just something I have read several times, I have never had the occasion to actually dissassemble a guitar pickup yet. I'll have to keep my eyes open at garage sales for some dollar instruments I guess. I've changed some pickups, and rewired some guitars, just never bothered ripping a pickup apart yet. Humbuckers do have 3 wires coming out of them though as I can recall. It is good to leave one of the wires detached, in case you ever forget the words!
lennyb (author)  pfred18 years ago
most humbuckers have the two coils side by side but wound in different directions . some are stacked one coil on top of the other{although that may be just something i heard . ive never seen one like that} the coils need to be separated a little bit so they dont counteract each other. im not sure if those makeshift pickups would work as a humbuckers but its worth a crack if you try it and it works let us know. if i try it ill post it later
lesgibbs lennyb3 years ago
a humbuckers got two single coil pickups wound in the same direction but sharing a magnet there for using opposite poles to cancel out the humm.
lennyb (author)  lesgibbs3 years ago
ahh so thats how it works.
my apologies to anyone i might have confused.
jphoton4 years ago
do not mess with coils from tv picture tubes!! tv's can store THOUSANDS of volts even after being unplugged for YEARS!! there's far better safer sources!! ;)
Kiteman jphoton3 years ago
The coils don't store the charge, capacitors do, but it's still good advice to wear gloves and then use an old screwdriver to short things out before you play.
lennyb (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
crt tubes themselves can also hold a charge for a long time.i got a good zap from one 30 years ago my arm was numb for hours.
lucky it didnt kill me
always wear insulating gloves when handling them.
once the tube has been safely discharged you can handle it then
DrThousand7 years ago
I like coils from old TV sets, The older the better. If you find an old tube set in the alley, grab it before I do. There are a lot of coils in the old sets, but my favorites are on the neck of the picture tube. The adjustment (convergence) coils are the ones I'm after. They come in 3 sets of 2, 3 sets 'cos they use 3 colors. This gives you one pickup per string, which is exactly what you want for MIDI guitar. If you want hexaphonic fuzz (1 fuzz per string so the strings don't interfere with each other), this is the way. Note that the coils are mounted on ferrite cores, which are very hard, or should I say brittle. Ferrite is a kind of ceramic which will yield to a determined person with a cut off wheel in their Dremel. Just put the whole thing on a piece of magnet. I like the ceramic ones on the back of dead speakers or inside microwaves. More ceramic shaping, but at least you'll learn a new skill.
A quick note:


The cathode ray tube can carry enough voltage to kill you even years after the TV has been unplugged. I strongly advise heavy research before you pop open an old TV or, best of all, avoidance of it altogether. (This doesn't apply to newer, LCD, plasma, etc. sets but I would still take caution.)
lennyb (author)  Gergory4 years ago
indeed the CRT can hold a charge of thousands of volts for years.
i learned this myself the hard way many years ago.
take all precautions while hunting for useful coils {insulated gloves come to mind} do not touch the neck and side contacts {cathode and anode} at the same time, thats how i got zapped.
Surely if you are taking the tv apart anyway, you could just throw a bucket of water over it. I'd think that should short out and ground any voltage left?
water, not advisable, you could still shock yourself.
the best way to disharge a CRT is to take a lead with an alligator clip and a 1 ohm resistor arrangement and short it out on a ground strap from the cup attached to the picture tube. You should hear a loud pop and perhaps see some arcing when this occurs. You could repeat the procedure to be absolutely sure no charge remains. the problem of CRT's are that it has capacitors with high values, once these loose their charge, it should be plain sailing. Also of hazard is mercury in the tube that could leak if the tube is old or compromise is some way.
do you have any instructables?
Well, I found one out in the woods! how cool is that! :P
i beat you to it last week for that teebee
mzpo4 years ago
Jack HUmmer4 years ago
nice crack man... i cant wait ti try these for myself... keep rocking....long live!!!! =D
mateolegba5 years ago
Great!!! Looking for a coil!!! Buenisimo, felicitaciones!!!! Gracias!
If your pickups seem to be a bit quiet, it may because they have a higher impedance than typical pickups(I'm kinda guessing here). Try building a fet buffer amp to put between the output of your homemade pickups and the input of your amp and see if that helps.
lennyb (author)  rowdy_riemer7 years ago
actually the resistance is much lower than a commercial pickup (2k ohms as oppossed to 8 k}because my coils wire is shorter . the idea is to induce a current in the wire by coiling it around a magnet and vibrating a ferrous metal string in the magnetic feild to generate the current. the more wire the higher the current is. if a heavier wire is used the same effect can be acheived but will require a longer wire again. using a more powerfull magnet can also boost the signal but may dampen the vibrations of the strrings.
Rishnai lennyb7 years ago
So I've never had a clue what I was doing when it came to electricity, so correct me if I'm wrong here. If your pickup has 2k ohms and the pickups from the factory have 8k, putting in 6k of resisotors somewhere along the line would fix the volume issue? Or would it make things worse?
It would make things worse. If the pickup impedance is lower than the input impedance of your amplifier, it shouldn't be too big a deal. Of course, there is maximum transfer of power when the impedance of the pickup matches the input impedance of the amplifier(doesn't matter though with voltage controlled devices like FET's and Vacuum tubes), but adding resistors to compensate doesn't really compensate at all. I think the key is to add more windings of wire. Or better yet, maybe use a booster amp between the pickup and your amplifier's input.
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