A few weeks ago I was contacted by John in Cardiff. He was looking for a set of David Gilmour pickups to go in his Squire Stratocaster. After our initial conversations it became clear that John was also potentially looking for a new guitar too. As luck would have it I was contemplating selling my Fender Stratocaster in Olympic white so John jumped at the chance of owning this fine guitar and having it loaded with a set of my David Gilmour pickups plus a full rewire.
Now don’t get me wrong, the aim of this project was not to create another ‘Black guitar’ but to create a sound-a-like. I thought this would be an interesting project to document so I took some photos as I went along and will try to describe in as much detail what went in to creating this beast of a guitar. Some parts of the process have been deliberately left out because they are a closely guarded Tonefinder secret but you should get the jist of what’s what. Here we go……..
Where do I begin????
This project had to start with the pickups themselves. Once they were made and tested then the rewire could commence and the final build completed. First off, comes the flatwork and the pole pieces. I have my own way of mating the poles with the flatwork which I won’t go in to too much detail here but suffice to say it’s one of the many critical steps involved in creating a pickup that will stand the test of time.
The next step is to isolate the pole pieces from the copper wire otherwise shorts can/will occur and the pickup will be rendered useless. This is a multi-stage process and again I won’t go in to a huge amount of detail but it’s very time consuming, very intricate and vital to ensuring the pickup will last a lifetime.
Believe it or not there is still a long way to go yet before I can start winding these pickups. The next photo may look like nothing has happened but the multiple processes involved between the pickups above and where they’re at in the photo below will ensure consistency and reliability.
So now it’s time to decide which bobbin will become which pickup in the David Gilmour pickup set. There is a decision making process involved here that involves a number of factors but I won’t bore you with the details. Once each bobbin has been allocated it’s position then they are marked up and prepared for the next stage. You’ll know if you have a Tonefinder pickup, it’s got terrible handwriting on the back of it (not one of my fortes lol).
The next stage is to magnetise the pole pieces. I’ve developed my own way of achieving that and I can assure you that many, many hours of R&D work went in to getting that process just right.
Next comes the winding. This is an incredibly delicate part of the process given that the copper wire that’s going to be wound on to the pickup is thinner that a human hair (42awg wire is 0.063mm thick and 43awg wire is 0.056mm thick!!). For the David Gilmour Stratocaster pickups I developed my own winding pattern. Each pickup is scatterwound but if you were to take a cross section of one of them then you’d see distinct ‘cores’ where I’ve deliberately allowed a few hundred winds to build up in certain places.
The bridge pickup is slightly different to the neck and middle in that it has 43awg wire wound on to it (the neck and middle have 42awg) and is also wound a lot ‘hotter’. All three pickups are then wax dipped, allowed to cool and then have their covers installed.
As important as the pickups are the electronics that are going to be controlling them. Quality is the name of the game here and I’ll never compromise in that department. The wiring for this Strat would compose of 250k volume and tone pots (one of the pots is push/push for selecting the neck pickup), 5-way switch, 0.047uf paper-in-oil capacitor and vintage push-back cloth 22awg wiring. Oh and lets not forget a new jack socket too.
The more observant amongst you will notice in the photo below the treble-bleed that I’ve fitted to the volume pot. That comprises of a Mustard 0.001uf capacitor and 150k carbon composite resistor.
Once tested the final stage is to mate the newly wired scratch-plate to the guitar, install strings, set-up, fit new strings and then melt in tonal joy.
Here we have the finished article :o)
A few days after John took delivery of the Strat I texted him to find out how his first try-out of the guitar went. Below is is reply:
Thank you, John! Enjoy the guitar, I hope it brings you years and years of joy.
Thanks for reading, rock on!!