So this is a little documentary of how I turned my cheap ceramic magnet humbuckers into true alnico magnet single coils.

First off, of course I had the pickups and I had 12 alnico 2 rod magnets (.195" diameter). So the plan of attack and the theory was to move both slug side coils to the screw side position and replace the steel slugs with alnico rod magnets. The screw coils would then become dummy coils (so I can still buck the hum if so desired).

First off I had my pickup

I had already hacked it for four conductor operation. If I hadn't, that little white wire would connect the two coils together (and it would also need to be cut).

The first thing to do was to heat the thing up and drain as much wax out of it as I could because it was a mess of wax. Then I desoldered and removed my pickup leads. If your pickup hasn't been messed with, the wires might not be soldered on, but rather just one piece, so you'd have to cut them (leave length on 'em to work with of course).

Next I flipped it over, and removed the four screws that attach the plate


Next, I pulled the pieces apart. They were attached by some light glue but mainly just wax.

Here you can see the two bobbins, the ceramic magnet, the two plastic spacers, and the steel screw bar thingy.

Next I pushed out the slugs. I did this with a small screw driver. They weren't held in by anything but of course, wax.

Now before we push the magnets in, we need to know which way to put them in. If you've already got another pickup that will be in the set, take you rod magnet and let it attract itself to the other pickups magnet right on top. Like so:

Now the way this sits, if you'd imagine that the magnet you just set on there was an entire pickup would be that the tops of the pickups were facing each other. This makes sure the polarity of one pickup is oppoiste compared to the other. So, when you go to put in your first magnet, keep this orientation!

Next came the tricky part, pushing the new magnets in. Now these magnets were a bit bigger than the old ones (I think the old ones were .187"?). This means that as they went in, they shaved off the plastic bobbin insides a bit. So it was very important that I had the poles situated just right by getting them started by hand before putting it in the small vice seen here:

After the first magnet, you need to know how to orient your next magnets. This is easy, just set another magnet on top of your first magnet and let it orient itself. How it sits now is how this pole shall sit in the pickup (the end that's up now, will be up in the pickup).
Now the three poles you see here that look white are the farthest through you can get them with the bobbin flat against the other side of the vice. This is because the poles shave the plastic inside the bobbin off a bit (remember my poles were .195 compared to the original .186). You need to space the bobbin off the back wall now so the poles can travel the rest of the way through

I did just that with the plastic spacers that came from the pickup:

Then I had this!

Cool! Nearly done. Now is a good time to check the continuity of your pickup with your multi-meter (you should have one, if you don't, get it, you'll use it all the time). Mine was still good because I was careful! Mine read about 4k ohms (on the bridge pickup).

Next we have to position the poles how we want them. This would actually already be done if I had started putting the poles through from the other side (d'oh!).
I just laid the pickup face down over those plastic spacers and pushed the poles through one by one with that steel keeper from the screw side (to distribute the force out over my hand). I'd recommend doing this on the floor, I had to use my whole body weight to move them

At this point, the bobbin was done! Yaaay! Now I had to drill out the base plate to accept the extra long pole pieces I have here. For conviniences sake, keep in mind how your bobbin will sit compared to that little solder blob where the ground of the lead attaches. You can see here, having the cable come through the bridgemost-knobmost corner of the plate, I have the bobbin nearest the neck. On my set, I put both bobbins in that position because that's how fender bridge pickups are roughly positioned (on the low e at least). I used a drill press to do this, because I have access to it, but you could easily do it with a little power drill as well. It always helps to back it with a piece of wood while drilling to prevent bending of the plate. Also, I would drill from the bobbin side, that way any blow out will not mess with how the bobbin sits against the plate.

Cool! Now it's just assembly time! I arranged my parts like this. You can use some glue, I just set them there and then tightened 'em together with the plate.

Done deal!

Now of course you have to solder up your lead. This is pretty self explanitory. If you have a four conductor lead, solder it up as you normally would. If you have a two conductor, you'll have to decide if you want the dummy coil in there or not (it does change the tone). Now phase reversal, and all that suff, that's up to you. I must have wired something a bit off because my phase was accidentally reversed on the bridge pickup. But you can sort that out.

Next up, you almost have to wax pot them or else it will be a nasty squeely little pickup!

But we won't get into that, as many many others have. Also I won't show removing and installing covers, as that's also been gone over.

Here's the final beauty shot! Actually this isn't that true, because this is just a mock up (note no lead).
Last edited by LeviMan_2001 at Feb 6, 2013,

As for the sound, it doesn't sound like a split humbucker to me. Sounds much nicer, nice and fat but with a great top end clarity on it. In my guitar (agile as-820) I have a jimmy page wiring setup so I can add the dummy coil in with the push pulls on the volume. It really changes the sound dramatically when you do that, almost sounds like a normal humbucker with the dummy coil. This is, of course due to impedance.
Last edited by LeviMan_2001 at Feb 6, 2013,
Wow, that's actually pretty sweet. I have a few questions/observations though.

Don't you need the dummy coil to have reverse polarity magnets to buck the hum? I'm no expert on the subject, I just have always thought that was how it worked, RWRP.

Why not do that to both coils so that you can run them in parallel?'

Also, I know this is knit-picky, but I think the standard for single coils is to have the wire wrapped directly around the pole pieces(so no bobbin between them). I'm curious about how that layer of plastic in between affects the tone.

This is pretty cool, man. I like the way it looks with the pickup cover too.
The reason for reverse wind reverse polarity is this. The reverse winding first puts everything out of phase (including the signal), then when the magnet is flipped, it puts the signal from the strings back in phase, however the hum is still out of phase, therefore, dat shit gets bucked! So without magnets in the dummy coil, we only have the radio interference coming from that coil and it's put out of phase with the other coil.

You totally could do it to both coils and run 'em in parallel! I'd be interested to hear that too. The old fender wide range humbuckers sound so clean and clear because they use threaded CuNiFe rod magnets (similar in properties to alnico, just able to be machined into screws) rather than the bar magnet like a gibson humbucker. I'm not sure if those were wired in series or parallel though. Parallel would sound nice I'd think.

As for the plastic in the bobbins, you'd be correct on that. Nice fender-style pups have the wire wrapped directly around the poles. But cheap squiers, and other cheaper fender pups have the poles through a molded plastic bobbin like these. I think GFS pickups might have a plastic bobbin to, and they sound absolutely killer. I don't mind the plastic bobbin, after all I'm not trying to turn this into a straight up strat pickup, just a nice sounding single coil.

If you're interested, this is the article that inspired me to do this:http://www.moore.org.au/pick/06/06_gobd.htm
Thanks for the info, I definitely have a lot of research to do on pickups before I attempt to wind one. That link looks like a lot of great info.

As for the GFS single coils, I can tell you first hand that the 60s repros don't have the plastic bobbin because I accidentally destroyed one Maybe that is the secret that sets them apart from cheap stock pickups?
Well, not like this thread got much attention, but I made a demo anyhow because I wanted to share how lovely these pups sound now! And because I might be a bit of an attention hoar...


Really neat stuff. The middle position/humbucking setting had a Gretsch-y feel. Very interested to know how this works with each humbucker wired in parallel.

Your bridge pickup seemed to have more volume than your neck, what are the neck vs bridge ohmeter readings?

Last question, what is a good place to buy rod magnets? I'm interested in trying this with some of my junkbox humbuckers.