Friday, February 6, 2009

Pickup Wars!



You know, I don't spend every second of my time making pickups. In fact it's been so cold out in the shop a few times this winter that I couldn't feel my fingers and had to delay some work. I mean, I have heaters in the shop and all but they are pretty light duty and when it's 45 degrees in the shop I can't make good pickups.


So I have spent a few of the colder nights this winter fixing up a 1997 Gibson Les Paul
Studio Double Cutaway that I bought last year. I installed my Obsession Bolero Humbucker set and swapped a lot of the parts out for gold. I rewired the controls to just have two volume pots and installed a BadAss bridge to allow for some better intonation adjustment. When I got done I was impressed with this guitar. It's a real player! HERE is a sound clip of it through a Morley Wah.
So I decide to see if any other Les Paul guys are fans of this very overlooked model that was only made for a year or two. I decide to start my quest by posting a few pictures of my guitar on the My Les Paul forum. After that I saw they had a pickup section! Cool! I gotta check that out cause I'm a pickup geek, right? Then, what do ya know there was a discussion about one of my You Tube videos. How cool is that? It's like I was meant to be there.



There were a few comments after the video. Most were cool. Someone wanted to know if I was really building a humbucker so fast. One other person questioned my jump wire technique and another wondered why I would reveal my secrets and show everyone how I make my pickups. I was only to happy to answer these questions so I posted this...

"Thanks for checking out my little video. The build was edited for time. Usually I build in batches instead of one at a time. Having the camera in the room adds about 14 hours to the build time. I don't tape the coil end of the jumpers because they are resting between the tape and the insulated magnet wire. Once the cover is soldered on and the pickup is wax or epoxy potted there's little chance of anything moving enough to cause a short. And if it does it's OK cause I guarantee all my work for life.

I don't know if showing people how to make a 150 dollar pickup in about 10 minutes is a good idea or not. Very interesting though. Not much to it.

You can get money for these things? Honestly, I don't think I have given away too much here. They're pickups not time machines. There isn't too much to them. 80% of the black arts, mad science we hear about pickups amounts to little more than marketing B.S... I've never been too good at that."

That's it... that's my first post on the My Les Paul Forum ever. I have talked to a lot of pickup makers over the years like Bill Lawrence and Jason Lollar and one of the things that seems to annoy them all is the amount of marketing B.S. you see in the pickup making world.
I didn't think this was to controversial a statement... So I was surprised when this replay came back from some anonymous we'll call..... Ummmm..... "Cap'n Sticky Bottom"...

ROTFLMA... yeah, your right. no marketing bs. just fancy edited video marketing. well, i guess that's the typical new pickup winders mentality when they come out.. dis the other winders who work hard at their "black art, science" and say that they are the best because? looking forward to seeing your , um... marketing hype? Welcome!

Stew mac kits in the first vid? hmm.. by the way, your bobbin leads should have some kinda of protecting. I know, i have learned the hard way. i do like your custom art work "iron cross" on the allparts covers. cool!

WOW! I wasn't expecting that at all. Now, I know what you're saying. The guy obviously has a tiny penis and I should just let it go. The problem with that is that I use my real name every time I post on the internet and my name and reputation is all I have. So while I don't always feel like addressing these idiots... for the most part I have too. If he makes this crazy assertions and I just disappear some folks on the My Les Paul Forum will assume there might be something to what he said. I can't have that so the battle was on... His comments are in red here and mine are in green.

Searcy:
well, i guess that's the typical new pickup winders mentality when they come out.. dis the other winders who work hard at their "black art, science" and say that they are the best because?

Wow... It's been many a year since I've been called the new pickup guy. I'm new to the My Les Paul forum though. Guess that's what you mean. Did I say a bad thing? I call terms like "Calibrated, aged magnets and special potting solutions and Rosie Wraps" marketing B.S. The reason I mention it at all was simply because folks always seem amazed when they see me build a pickup and there's no mojo dance or magic wire or anything. I wasn't trying to call anyone out. If I hit a nerve it was inadvertent.

Stew mac kits in the first vid?

Nope, you can tell by the color of the cream bobbin, type of magnet, length of the legs on the base plate and the size of the spacer. If you miss those little details you can go by the fact the Stew Mac doesn't sell 50MM base plates. Besides I can't afford to by bulk parts from Stew Mac. I have bought some tools from them though. Good stuff... but spendy!

i do like your custom art work "iron cross" on the allparts covers. cool!

Thanks, but it's not an allparts cover. It's a cast epoxy cover I made for a neodymium powered bass humbucker I made about 5 years ago.

Here's another cover you wont' see at all parts.

Where do you think I got that one?

Again, I'm not trying to upset anyone. Just wanted to thank you guys for checking out my work.




Ok , So I figured that was cool. I made my point and let the guy know that I wasn't picking on anyone just in case he was a pickup maker I had never heard of.... But no.... he was still mad about something...

no nerve hit. I am sorry never heard of ya. i am sure that many people can wind and build a pickups as you. it's as simple as 1,2,3... that's why so many are always popping up and starting a biz and are taking off through the roof but you have 5 years right. cool!

i do find it amusing that according to you that many pickup winders around must be a bull shitters and your the home run winder saying that there is no science behind it and it's all bull shit. I am NOT a winder at all.. I have tried it and they came out crap but i do know that there is a science behind it and maybe you should really do some back ground here into this section and you will see that there is some great data available here and on the net.

i do see a new arrogant guy who's just joined a forum with some very respected winders here and do put in a lot of "marketing B.S." science and love into their work and you come out of the park your first day saying they are bull shitters. just to remind you.. no nerve hit here. I am not a winder but an assembler and i do see a BS marketing scheme in the works here. so instead of going back and forth with ya..

I just end it here and watch your no BS marketing plan go into effect here at the seen it all, heard it all MLP.

Nice p-90 cover.. do your own covers. nice.

So I had to reply...

i do find it amusing that according to you that many pickup winders around must be a bull shitters and your the home run winder saying that there is no science behind it and it's all bull shit.

You know... you sure don't have much of an eye for details. I never said there was no science involved in pickup making. I never said that I was the home run king or that people should even pick my pickups over anyone elses. Seems you've decided to pick a fight even if here isn't one here. That's the sort of thing a real asshole would do. Not that I'm calling you an asshole or anything. I never heard of you before yesterday so it's too early to make such a character evaluation.

I am NOT a winder at all.. I have tried it and they came out crap but i do know that there is a science behind it and maybe you should really do some back ground here into this section and you will see that there is some great data available here and on the net.

Well... I am a winder. You would have known that if you had spent 30 seconds on Google instead of deciding that I must be the new kid with a StewMac kit, a video camera and a plan to tear down all the giants of the pickup making world. Now just so we understand each other.... again... I never said there wasn't any science involved but you just keep on fighting that fight if it makes you feel like you're defending the downtrodden.
Now...I can see by looking around that there is a lot of good information here on the MLP forum but just what data is it that you think I need to find? I have spent years studying every aspect of pickup making. I have made, restored and designed more pickups than I can count (again google would have told you that) and one of the things I learned very early on was that it can be hard to separate the science from the marketing B.S.

i do see a new arrogant guy who's just joined a forum with some very respected winders here and do put in a lot of "marketing B.S." science and love into their work and you come out of the park your first day saying they are bull shitters.

What you call arrogance I call being confidante in my work. There's a difference between science and marketing BS. I can't believe I actually have to say that.... Now... what I see is a real tough guy who defends his friends against the slightest insult even if he has to twist comments to make them sound the way he needs too in order to wring an insult out of them and feel justified.

just to remind you.. no nerve hit here. I am not a winder but an assembler and i do see a BS marketing scheme in the works here. so instead of going back and forth with ya.. I just end it here and watch your no BS marketing plan go into effect here at the seen it all, heard it all MLP.

The dragon is dead and the villagers are now safe. Well fought Don Quixote of the web...

Nice p-90 cover.. do your own covers. nice.

Thanks! A lot of love and science went into making them. They won't make your guitar sound better though.

After that he let it go and I got back to work in the shop. But his constant comments about my covert marketing plan just baffled me. Why does this guy who claims he isn't a pickup maker seem so offended by and suspicious about my comments? Well, I did a little more digging around this morning and I figured out that this guy actually works for a small pickup company in North California. I won't name them because I don't believe the owner of this outfit had any idea one of his flunkies was picking fights for him. I will tell you that their claim is that using antique magnet wire, an antique pickup winder and some custom made parts result in fantastic sounding pickups.

That guy with the small penis must have thought I was picking on their claims or something and decided to defend his boss. After checking out their website I'm sure their pickups do sound just fine. But I don't think there is any magic mojo at work there. The guy who runs the company simply has an amazing eye for detail and works hard to reproduce vintage style pickups.

So, why don't I have some big marketing push with ads in magazines and web banners all over the place? Well, while I do sell a small number of my pickups to the public the majority of my pickups are sold to luthiers like John Derrick, Steve Benford, W. Jeffrey Jones, EllieGuitars and the list goes on and on. There are boutique basses hanging in shops all over the world with my pickups in them even though they may have someone elses name on the cover. I sell everything I make and until that changes I don't see any need to buy ads and launch the mege marketing blitz. If that day comes you can bet that I won't have ads claiming that I alone know the secret to making the best pickup in the world or that my very limited supply of NOS maple humbucker spacers are the key to nailing the Peter Green tone or that my potting wax that's been infused with the sweat of Steve Ray Vaughn is the only way to get the Texas Flood sound.
The plain and simple truth is that a Gibson PAF style pickup is easy to make. They have been around for over half a century and we have had decades to study and document hundreds and hundreds of them. Seth Lover has been interviewed at length about them and has given up every magic secret there was about them. Most of the parts are easy and cheap to get in bulk. There is scarcely a pickup maker out there that doesn't offer up some sort of PAF style pickup and they mostly understand the ins and outs of altering its tone. Replacing the alnico magnet with a strong ceramic magnet with give you more highs and some more output. More windings with smaller wire will give you more output and low end. Wax potting can remove microphonics but can dampen the harmionics. Perfectly matched coils gives a smother sound. Slightly mismatched coils adds a little edge to the tone. This is 1950's technology folks. It's just not that tricky....

It's hard to believe that something as simple as pickup making could lead to such bruised egos and hard feelings. To
Cap'n Sticky Bottom, you know... you can get that SMALL PENIS fixed these days. They have an operation for that.



Ok.... back to the shop!






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