Dan Erlewine's Mod Squad(6)

In the past two columns, the Mod Squad has been refurbishing a ’63 Fender Mustang. We patched an unwanted humbucker hole that someone had routed in the pickguard, replaced worn frets, and filled in the gouged-out humbucker hole in the body. Elliot is now touching up the finish, and, in the meantime, Erick came up with a great solution for replacement pickups (the originals were long gone). He made two pickups from scratch using parts available from Stewart-MacDonald. g

Because the shape of a Mustang pickup is the same as a Strat’s, Erick used Strat-style pickup flatwork. Instead of using the Strat design of staggered-length polepiece magnets, however, he used six of the longest polepieces in order to accommodate more winds than a typical Strat pickup. He hammered the polepieces into the bottom flatwork, then hammered the top flatwork onto the magnets, leaving all the polepiece ends flush. (Fig. 1)

After winding each coil, Erick threaded the black-and-white leads through the eyelets and soldered them in place. Then, to protect the thin, delicate wires that are the start and finish of the coil, he tacked them down with a layer of #20 medium-viscosity Super Glue. (Fig. 2)

Erick winding the custom pickups for the refurbished Mustang. He wound the two pickups in opposite directions so that, in the middle position, the pickups cancel any single-coil hum. He also used 43-gauge wire, which is smaller in diameter than the 42-gauge wire normally used on Strats, resulting in more winds and more power—which, at 8.73k is even stronger than P-90s that weigh in at about 8.3k. In addition, Erick always listens to appropriate “pickup-winding music” on his iPod for the type of pickup he’s tailoring. (Fig. 3)

The last step was to charge (magnetize) the polepiece magnets. We do this by gluing (with epoxy) a magnet to each jaw of a small machine vise—south facing in on one jaw, north facing in on the other. When a new, uncharged pickup is slid between the two magnets, it becomes magnetized. If you want the tops of the pickup polepieces to face south, the bottoms of the polepieces must pass over the south magnet, and the top of the polepieces must pass over the north magnet. Erick charged one pickup with the south polarity facing up, and one pickup with north facing up (reverse polarity). Coupled with the reverse-winding mentioned earlier, he produced a set of pickups we refer to as “reverse wind/reverse polarity.” (Fig. 4)