Winding, Bobbins and Hook-up...
A Quick Look inside the Tonerider Workshop.
Note: We do not outsource, and we do not get a 'Ghostbuilder' to touch any part of our pickups. We make all our own parts in-house, or get them custom build with tooling that is exclusively ours. Although we do some custom work for guitar makers large and small, all the individual retail pickups we make are sold under the 'Tonerider' brand. Moving on...
We obviously can't give away all our manufacturing secrets, but here are a few recent photos of the various kinds of coils we wind at the Tonerider workshop, and what details you might like to look for when you get your next Tonerider.
Coils, coils, coils. Winding great sounding, clean, reliable coils is at the heart of our pickup production. We do this using a dual headstock winder that has been programmed and set-up to mimic the prototype hand-wound pickups that we used to wind by hand 'back in the day' - before we had any serious machinery. If you look closely you can see the 'nozzle' that feeds the magnet wire onto the coil - and you can see how far it is from the pickup bobbin. This distance, the wire tension, and using random traverse rates are what make the wire 'scatter' onto the bobbin. Too close and its 'machine-wound' with predictable layers of wire building up on the coil. Too far and you get a jumbled mess that might bring new meaning to 'scatterwound', but certainly doesn't belong on a pro guitar. This process is key to making great sounding pickup with a great variety of tonal flavours.
Our winding system has taken a long time to perfect, but we keep trying new permutations and loading them up into our favourite guitars. You just never know what's out there if you don't keep a fresh mind.
Since the beginning we wanted to create pickups that sound great every time. Great designs and player testing are the first step - then comes consistency. These wound Pure Vintage bridge pickups show what can be achieved by our team. Words like 'handmade' don't mean much are hard to define, but the craftsmanship that goes into our vintage-style pickups really defines them. From the hand-smoothed flatwork, hand-bevelled and polished Alnico rod magnets, to the way the same final wind of magnet wire cuts across the face of the coil at exactly the same angle every time to do a final loop before ending up down at the solder point. These small details don't really make the pickups sound better, but having an exception 'look and feel' is really important to us - the smallest details create the standard for the whole product.
She's a beauty, but not quite complete yet. After threading the fine magnet wire through the eyelets we?ll solder up some US-made vintage hook-up wire, bought from the same guys that have been supplying Fender since the 50s. Then the wound bobbin is wax potted to reduce microphonic feedback (that screaming sound that tells you are too close to your amp!). Finally the coil will be taped with fabric tape and the small connecting wires all glued down to the flatwork with CA glue ? meaning that our customers are far less likely to break a pickup when changing covers or when installing the pickup.
Finally some strat coils ready for packing. Potted, wired-up, magnetized, tested and tagged! After magnetization, coils that have the same polarity like to stick together, and its actually the safest way to store them. Onto some other bobbin types.
Our two flavours of P90 coils get a pretty similar treatment to the strats, but the difference lies underneath. The two opposing Alnico magnets, in this case the pair of Alnico II magnets that power our Vintage 90 Soapbar, sit either side of our milled steel spacer. P90s need a full-sized, fat coil to get that sought-after sound, as well as great quality screws and keepers.
Humbucker bobbins are a different breed altogether. We mould the bobbin from Hi-Gloss ABS, which makes for a lot less work at the early stages of assembly when compared to Fender-style pickups that use assembled flatwork bobbins. After winding the coils are hooked-up with colour-coded fine gauge wire, and then wrapped in vintage paper tape. We've design the internal structure so that the coloured wire should emerge just after the start of the corner radius, so that there is no chance of damage when two coils are put side by side on the baseplate.
That's all for our coil intro now, more photos of bass pickups, wax potting, injection-molding and baseplate stamping will follow sometime soon!