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Been thinking about building a License Plate guitar. Found a cool how-to on You-Tube, but it's American. It says, "all these parts can be bought at Radio-Shack". Well, we don't have R-S anymore, and the Source, does not carry any of the parts listed. I've found most of them, but, it calls for a 4 post single coil p/u that they say you can wind yourself. I'm game, cause so far, all I've invested is about $40. I could buy a Mandolin p/u, but like I said, I'd like to give it a whirl.
So, where do I get 42 or 43 gauge wire? I found some on-line, but I'm old school, I like brick and mortar, and I like to go look, and walk out with something. Any suggestions?
 

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Pickup wire is actually called magnet wire in the wire industry. It is also commonly used in small motors. A very niche item. It could be used to make crystal radios and other small hobby stuff. So, maybe try some old-school hobby electronics shops in your area?
 

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I'm old school, I like brick and mortar, and I like to go look, and walk out with something. Any suggestions?
Try 'Orion Electronics' on Lancaster St. near Victoria St. in Kitchener. It is one of the oldest reamaining "ma & pa" (literally) electronics stores in the area.
They have a lot of bulk wire on spools, etc.

The other store is Neutron Electronics in Guelph. Phone ahead and ask for Rick.
They are at #7 and Imperial Rd. I am a bit doubtful they will have it...but one never knows.

Good Luck
 

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Lots of places sell magnet wire. The trouble is that they generally sell gauges more suitable for winding chokes for speaker crossover networks or switching power supplies. The places that sell wire in gauges more suitable for pickups often sell it in smaller spools. The plus is that a small spool won't set you back hundreds, and is also light enough that the risk of wire tearing because the spool won't rotate easily is diminished.

Tone-craft ( PICKUP WIRE - Page 1 - Tone Kraft ) and Stewart-Macdonald ( Enamel Coated Pickup Coil Wire | stewmac.com ) sell small spools of #42, although Tone-craft appears to not have any in stock at the moment. If one is just starting out, chances are pretty good that, much like making pancakes, the first few will be botched, whether because tension was poor, or the coil tore, or some other reason. So when their ad copy says you can get 5-6 pickups out of that spool, that assumes you are at cruising speed already. You might get lucky and make 4 decent coils out of the spool...or maybe not. And at $45-60USD+shipping, you better derive a LOT of pleasure from making it yourself, and the quality of the outcome.

I have historically bought my magnet wire from surplus places. I have a couple of big spools (probably 5lb each) of #42 that I got for $2/lb as scrap copper. If you were closer, I'd say borrow one, wind away, and return what's left once you're done.

I've been winding my own for over 35 years. Because I only make them for personal use, and not for sale, I don't worry about speed or consistency. I make what I make, and am either happy with the result or not. At $2/lb, I can afford mistakes.

My method is VERY low-tech. No motors, electronic counters, or tension adjusters (other than my thumb and index finger). I place the spool on the ground, end up, on a black or other dark background, so I can see the wire more easily when I look down at the spinning coil. The wire is fed upwards from the floor to the bobbin/coilform at bench level, and I guide the wire with my fingers, feeling for when there might be enough tug-back that there is a risk of the wire tearing. The sheer weight of the spool keeps the spool steady. I use a manual hand drill clamped into a bench vice. A slender bolt goes through the hole in the flatwork between the D and G string polepieces and into the drill chuck. The coilform is then rotated like a propeller on the end of the hand drill. I get about 4.25 turns of the chuck for each turn of the handle. When I'm up to cruising speed, I can turn the handle 70-80 times a minute. At around 70 cranks per minute, that's about 300 turns per minute. In theory, it takes 25 minutes to wind a 7600-turn Strat coil. In theory. Because hand-cranking is exhausting, not to mention few of us would be willing to count "four thousand two hundred and thirty-four, four thousand two hundred and thirty-five", I stop every two or three hundred to put a checkmark on the paper, and shake my cranking hand to get the willies out, nefore getting back to it. So a more realistic estimate is 45 minutes. If I was running a business, I'd be on welfare in no time flat. But for forty cents worth of wire, and less time than it would take to drive to and from the nearest music store and get the undivided attention of a salesperson, I figure I'm doing alright and have little to complain about.

For potting, I find that the loosest turns are probably the outer 25% of the coil. So, I lie the coil on its side, set my heat gun to low, hold a candle over the exposed coil, and melt the paraffin a few inches above the pickup. The wax doesn't seep in very far, but going over the coil with a gentle heat reflows the wax and you can see it seep in the same way water seeps into the soil of a potted plant you've ignored a little too long. It doesn't go right to the core of the coil, but as I say, it's really the outer turns where the tension is loosest and one risks microphonics. So if the wax seeps 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in to the centre, you're alright. If your pickup is still microphonic in spite of that, you've wound it wrong or you're standing right in front of a 130db stack.

I like to wrap the finished/potted coil with teflon plumbers tape. It has lots going for it. It's cheap. It has no adhesive to decompose. You can generally unwind it without any risk of damage to the coil. You can pull it snug so that it packs the wire in a little if the coil is maybe looser than you'd like. And the width is just about perfect for single coils. You can always put your outside covering of choice, be it cloth tape, string, or whatever, without that covering sticking to the coil.

Although "classic" pickups generally use #42, I've wound them with #41 and they sound fine (although lower gauges take up more space because of increased wire diameter). #43 and even #44 are used on Gretsch and Rickenbacker pickups (typically NOT Fender or Gibson), but I wouldn't recommend those gauges for newbies since they tear very easily.
 

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Because hand-cranking is exhausting, not to mention few of us would be willing to count "four thousand two hundred and thirty-four, four thousand two hundred and thirty-five", I stop every two or three hundred to put a checkmark on the paper, and shake my cranking hand to get the willies out, before getting back to it.
Thanks for a detailed, enjoyable and educational post.
I always enjoy your sense of humour!
Thanks for the laugh from the above quote. .
 

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Lots of places sell magnet wire. The trouble is that they generally sell gauges more suitable for winding chokes for speaker crossover networks or switching power supplies. The places that sell wire in gauges more suitable for pickups often sell it in smaller spools. The plus is that a small spool won't set you back hundreds, and is also light enough that the risk of wire tearing because the spool won't rotate easily is diminished.

Tone-craft ( PICKUP WIRE - Page 1 - Tone Kraft ) and Stewart-Macdonald ( Enamel Coated Pickup Coil Wire | stewmac.com ) sell small spools of #42, although Tone-craft appears to not have any in stock at the moment. If one is just starting out, chances are pretty good that, much like making pancakes, the first few will be botched, whether because tension was poor, or the coil tore, or some other reason. So when their ad copy says you can get 5-6 pickups out of that spool, that assumes you are at cruising speed already. You might get lucky and make 4 decent coils out of the spool...or maybe not. And at $45-60USD+shipping, you better derive a LOT of pleasure from making it yourself, and the quality of the outcome.

I have historically bought my magnet wire from surplus places. I have a couple of big spools (probably 5lb each) of #42 that I got for $2/lb as scrap copper. If you were closer, I'd say borrow one, wind away, and return what's left once you're done.

I've been winding my own for over 35 years. Because I only make them for personal use, and not for sale, I don't worry about speed or consistency. I make what I make, and am either happy with the result or not. At $2/lb, I can afford mistakes.

My method is VERY low-tech. No motors, electronic counters, or tension adjusters (other than my thumb and index finger). I place the spool on the ground, end up, on a black or other dark background, so I can see the wire more easily. The wire is fed upwards from the floor to the bobbin/coilform at bench level. The sheer weiht of the spool keeps the spool steady. I use a manual hand drill clamped into a bench vice. A slender bolt goes through the hole in the flatwork between the D and G string polepieces and into the drill chuck. The coilform is then rotated like a propeller on the end of the hand drill. I get about 4.25 turns of the chuck for each turn of the handle. When I'm up to cruising speed, I can turn the handle 70-80 times a minute. At around 70 cranks per minute, that's about 300 turns per minute. In theory, it takes 25 minutes to wind a 7600-turn Strat coil. In theory. Because hand-cranking is exhausting, not to mention few of us would be willing to count "four thousand two hundred and thirty-four, four thousand two hundred and thirty-five", I stop every two or three hundred to put a checkmark on the paper, and shake my cranking hand to get the willies out, nefore getting back to it. So a more realistic estimate is 45 minutes. If I was running a business, I'd be on welfare in no time flat. But for forty cents worth of wire, and less time than it would take to drive to and from the nearest music store and get the undivided attention of a salesperson, I figure I'm doing alright and have little to complain about.

For potting, I find that the loosest turns are probably the outer 25% of the coil. So, I lie the coil on its side, set my heat gun to low, hold a candle over the exposed coil, and melt the paraffin a few inches above the pickup. The wax doesn't seep in very far, but going over the coil with a gentle heat reflows the wax and you can see it seep in the same way water seeps into the soil of a potted plant you've ignored a little too long. It doesn't go right to the core of the coil, but as I say, it's really the outer turns where the tension is loosest and one risks microphonics. So if the wax seeps 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in to the centre, you're alright. If your pickup is still microphonic in spite of that, you've wound it wrong or you're standing right in front of a 130db stack.

I like to wrap the finished/potted coil with teflon plumbers tape. It has lots going for it. It's cheap. It has no adhesive to decompose. You can generally unwind it without any risk of damage to the coil. You can pull it snug so that it packs the wire in a little if the coil is maybe looser than you'd like. And the width is just about perfect for single coils.

Although "classic" pickups generally use #42, I've wound them with #41 and they sound fine (although lower gauges take up more space because of increased wire diameter). #43 and even #44 are used on Gretsch and Rickenbacker pickups (typically NOT Fender or Gibson), but I wouldn't recommend those gauges for newbies since they tear very easily.
Dear penthouse...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Lots of places sell magnet wire. The trouble is that they generally sell gauges more suitable for winding chokes for speaker crossover networks or switching power supplies. The places that sell wire in gauges more suitable for pickups often sell it in smaller spools. The plus is that a small spool won't set you back hundreds, and is also light enough that the risk of wire tearing because the spool won't rotate easily is diminished.

Tone-craft ( PICKUP WIRE - Page 1 - Tone Kraft ) and Stewart-Macdonald ( Enamel Coated Pickup Coil Wire | stewmac.com ) sell small spools of #42, although Tone-craft appears to not have any in stock at the moment. If one is just starting out, chances are pretty good that, much like making pancakes, the first few will be botched, whether because tension was poor, or the coil tore, or some other reason. So when their ad copy says you can get 5-6 pickups out of that spool, that assumes you are at cruising speed already. You might get lucky and make 4 decent coils out of the spool...or maybe not. And at $45-60USD+shipping, you better derive a LOT of pleasure from making it yourself, and the quality of the outcome.

I have historically bought my magnet wire from surplus places. I have a couple of big spools (probably 5lb each) of #42 that I got for $2/lb as scrap copper. If you were closer, I'd say borrow one, wind away, and return what's left once you're done.

I've been winding my own for over 35 years. Because I only make them for personal use, and not for sale, I don't worry about speed or consistency. I make what I make, and am either happy with the result or not. At $2/lb, I can afford mistakes.

My method is VERY low-tech. No motors, electronic counters, or tension adjusters (other than my thumb and index finger). I place the spool on the ground, end up, on a black or other dark background, so I can see the wire more easily when I look down at the spinning coil. The wire is fed upwards from the floor to the bobbin/coilform at bench level, and I guide the wire with my fingers, feeling for when there might be enough tug-back that there is a risk of the wire tearing. The sheer weight of the spool keeps the spool steady. I use a manual hand drill clamped into a bench vice. A slender bolt goes through the hole in the flatwork between the D and G string polepieces and into the drill chuck. The coilform is then rotated like a propeller on the end of the hand drill. I get about 4.25 turns of the chuck for each turn of the handle. When I'm up to cruising speed, I can turn the handle 70-80 times a minute. At around 70 cranks per minute, that's about 300 turns per minute. In theory, it takes 25 minutes to wind a 7600-turn Strat coil. In theory. Because hand-cranking is exhausting, not to mention few of us would be willing to count "four thousand two hundred and thirty-four, four thousand two hundred and thirty-five", I stop every two or three hundred to put a checkmark on the paper, and shake my cranking hand to get the willies out, nefore getting back to it. So a more realistic estimate is 45 minutes. If I was running a business, I'd be on welfare in no time flat. But for forty cents worth of wire, and less time than it would take to drive to and from the nearest music store and get the undivided attention of a salesperson, I figure I'm doing alright and have little to complain about.

For potting, I find that the loosest turns are probably the outer 25% of the coil. So, I lie the coil on its side, set my heat gun to low, hold a candle over the exposed coil, and melt the paraffin a few inches above the pickup. The wax doesn't seep in very far, but going over the coil with a gentle heat reflows the wax and you can see it seep in the same way water seeps into the soil of a potted plant you've ignored a little too long. It doesn't go right to the core of the coil, but as I say, it's really the outer turns where the tension is loosest and one risks microphonics. So if the wax seeps 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in to the centre, you're alright. If your pickup is still microphonic in spite of that, you've wound it wrong or you're standing right in front of a 130db stack.

I like to wrap the finished/potted coil with teflon plumbers tape. It has lots going for it. It's cheap. It has no adhesive to decompose. You can generally unwind it without any risk of damage to the coil. You can pull it snug so that it packs the wire in a little if the coil is maybe looser than you'd like. And the width is just about perfect for single coils. You can always put your outside covering of choice, be it cloth tape, string, or whatever, without that covering sticking to the coil.

Although "classic" pickups generally use #42, I've wound them with #41 and they sound fine (although lower gauges take up more space because of increased wire diameter). #43 and even #44 are used on Gretsch and Rickenbacker pickups (typically NOT Fender or Gibson), but I wouldn't recommend those gauges for newbies since they tear very easily.
WOW!! 35yrs has taught you a lot! Thank you so much for this post.

The p/u in the How-To video is pretty crude, so I'd like to make it "better" than what they say to do. If I do get the stones to actually attempt to build my own, this will go a long way to making that a reality. And, as of now, I really want to do this. Can I ask where you get bulk wire for $2/lb?? I know you're in Ottawa, but hey, you never know, there might be somewhere similar here.
 

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I bought it 10 or more years ago from a scrapper that sold off stuff from demolitions they were doing, most of which was older office furniture and "architectural artifacts" like fancy doors,window frames, etc. , in addition to scrap metal. One day I ropped by and there were two big industrial crates of magnet wire spools. I poked around in them until I found spools of relevant gauge. Some were small, some were big, and some were damaged, but some were just right, and I snagged them. Active Surplus in Toronto used to carry small spools of the stuff, but I don't think they do anymore.
 
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