Wax Potting Pickups - A Primer With Photos!

Discussion in 'The Tone Zone' started by Lane Sparber, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. patrikberg

    patrikberg New Member

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    Hey Lane,
    thanks for your great tutorial, I have an old Yamaha SA-50B with microphonic pickups, they're unusual in design. Could you have a look at the photos and tell me if I should immerse them with or without the plastic piece on the bottom. There are 2 small wires that would need to be unsoldered to remove it.
    Thanks in advance
    Pat
     

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  2. Lane Sparber

    Lane Sparber Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    Hi, Pat!

    Potting those pickups with the plastic pieces on them should work out just fine. Fasten a couple of rubber bands LIGHTLY around the whole assembly to stabilize it while in the wax. You can then remove the rubber bands (or just cut them off) after the pickups have dried. :fingersx:

    Cheers!

    -Lane
     
  3. patrikberg

    patrikberg New Member

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    Thank you Lane, I might make a before and after video, I have another vintage Japanese guitar that needs doing as well. Thank you again
     
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  4. patrikberg

    patrikberg New Member

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    well I did the humbuckers in my old Gonzales les paul copy today with outstanding success, so tomorrow I will do the Yamaha, before and after video will be made and posted. Thanks again Lane
     

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  5. Copperheadroads

    Copperheadroads Active Member

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  6. Lane Sparber

    Lane Sparber Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    Cool! I've never used beeswax, as I said above.

    Thanks for the link! :)

    -Lane
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012
  7. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid New Member

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  8. Lane Sparber

    Lane Sparber Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    Hey, Rayne!

    With all due respect, I humbly disagree with this statement.

    One of the main reasons, for example, that epoxy is such a poor potting medium is that it does NOT saturate the coil and just lightly coats it (another is that it's irreversible and the coil has to be cut through completely and subsequently re-wound to do ANY work on said coils). If the coil is not saturated, then the sound waves will still penetrate to the core and they can still vibrate any loose, unpotted coils there. A FULLY potted pickup has ALL of the coils fixed with wax and is impervious to vibrations through and through. Heck, even the Stew-Mac article that is linked to above refers the coils as having to be "saturated." This theory has been bourne out both in pickups I've potted myself, and in pickups I've unwound from major manufacturers. The wax in all instances had saturated the whole coil. :)

    -Lane
     
  9. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid New Member

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    Maybe I mistyped Lane. Yes you are correct that some wicking is good throughout the coil but when they become like a Epi pup not so much. Unfortunately with Bees wax generally about 20% will or rather can produce a dampening of the inner coil. I prefer strait parrafin these days as while it still wick in a good coil it is not as "watery" so it does not make like a cake batter in the inner portion of the coil. I guess it all depends on the wind or the style in which it is wound. I do not use Epoxy save for 1 set as I have not found an alternative. But even it is waxed prior to epoxy. I agree epoxy is not a great "repairable" method to seal a pup but rather a nifty way to stop R&D on said pup.


    As far as HAVING to Saturate the coils, I believe that pups from many manufactures as far back as 1956/57 era have proven that not all need this. I have been doing it this way every day for years even with my monster winds at 21k and get very little squeel, and that is only if I am at 6 or 7 in front of mt 100 watter.

    I think this is a great debate and no one is right or wrong here. It is just a matter of what certain winders do and do not do. Also another major reason for a lot of the saturation is to tame certain wires used in major brand pups. I do not do major brand style pups so I can spend a bit more time on individual coils just like many of my cohorts.

    I would not put all my faith in Stew Mac articles as a lot of them regarding covers and wax potting are from the school if you wind it it will squeel. I have been fortunate enough to talk with and share info with some of the best "boutiquers" in the business today and the notions of the days of the this has to be done this way or it will sound like crap are coming to an end.

    Example it was thought that mixing wire was no no and you could not get a viable tone. BS Kevin over at Fuelie is doing some really cool stuff mixing wire and gauge.

    People thought Cahrli Christian was nuts for putting out stuff that was done with 38 awg instead of 42 or 43, 4k for bridge pup never. But as of late they are becoming a hot commodity. Wh7y because the norms of yesteryear are quickly becoming myth.

    I have the utmost respect for you and this is a great thread, I hope it continues so we can both educate people on this.

    And by the way I almost re tubed my amp myself but after reading you sig it is now at a techs. Thanks.
     
  10. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid New Member

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    As far as vibrations through a coil, well the most coveted pickups in the world bar none are not wax potted at all. In fact they did not start wax potting Gibby pups until the 90s.

    Early Strat Single coils neck and middle are not wax potted either rather they are shellacked. The reason for potting pups is not for a stable coil for the most part but rather to tame squealing and noise. A properly designed wind will do this without tons of potting time. Another reason for the beeswax in major manufacturing id=s because when they pot they either use a vacuum method and or the pot for very little time as the number of pups they put out prevents time for just paraffin. There is a Duncan video out there that shows how they do it at the plant in Santa Barbara. They literally are in and out of the wax.

    I am not arguing the fact that of the saturation from big box companies, I have seen it many times as well from repairs, dead coils etc..... But I do subscribe to you have to do it this way or that way. I firmly believe it works for you then do it that way.

    Side note I finally have a clean bench. Still not as pretty as yours but working on it.

    Peace and Tone
    Rayne.
     
  11. Lane Sparber

    Lane Sparber Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    Excellent posts, Rayne and I do agree, with the one exception that I still believe that the entire coil should be saturated in order to completely tame ALL squeals. While it's true that you most often won't notice a problem until 8 or so on the dial, most of my clients (ESPECIALLY the metal guys) demand a silent pickup at ALL volumes, so I've got to cover my bases in that respect when I pot a pickup.

    Down the road I'm thinking I could use some new pups in a guitar or two of mine. I might be hitting you up should I decide to go that route. Heard great things about your work!

    You said it best: if it works for you, run with it!

    My bench is kinda a wreck right now. :D

    :cheers:

    -Lane.
     
  12. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid New Member

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    No worries Lane let me know. You get Bro pricing so when ever. I do have a wait right now so. Let me know what you are thinking of and i will put it in the que.
     
  13. AlvisX

    AlvisX Well-Known Member

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    Great thread ,great potting rigs!
    I just use the scented candles from the dollar store...particularly cheap at this time o' year.

    I still have some of my 1st potting experiments from '78 or so....wish I had a pic so you guys could have a good laugh
    Have used a couple kitchen gadgets for potting ...cheese warmers ,fry daddies . Best to have one with a variable temp control...dont wanna get that stuff too hot ,just melted

    The "rig" the last 15 years .........

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid New Member

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    Hahahahaha that is funny Alvis i use a modern day version of that now. i love it.
     
  15. Billyblades

    Billyblades New Member

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    So Rayne.. i guess what youre saying us too much saturation will actually "dull" the tone.

    So i guess just doing a dip method will block the soundwaves by like the candy coating of an mnm? Very intersting and its something i never tried but sounds like good logic which putting a wax "shell" around the pickup would be a balance between the vintage open tone and a modern squeal free pickup!

    Awesome... i was wondering there for a minute because i come from the VH "just let it soak it up " school of thought.

    Im never to cool for school ;)
     
  16. psychodave

    psychodave Member

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    I can add one more step that ensures complete was penetration.

    Get a piece of steel pipe threaded at either end. The pipe needs to be big enough for a pickup to fit in. Screw on one bell end using Teflon tape to make it sealed tight. Next tap a hole for an air chuck. Warm up the pipe (so its not cold)Ready the other bell end with Teflon tape, etc. take the freshly potted, still hot pickup and put it inside the pipe and screw on the bell end (pickup will be inside the pipe. Now take an air compressor, which has the pressure gauge set to 50-100 psi, and hook the air up to the chuck already installed and VOOM, the pipe is pressurized, thus pushing the hot wax into all of the nooks and cranies that regular potting can't get to. After a few minutes, release the pressure and take the potted pickup out. It should be perfect.

    Please note that i like to use a 60-40 carnuba/bees wax mix so the carnuba doesn't get brittle over time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  17. Billyblades

    Billyblades New Member

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    Wazzup P D :)

    So it seems thes two schools of thought here. One to totally "saturate " the pickup and the other is like putting a wax "shell " around the pickup leaving the air in between. I know sound pressure in a tube amp is powerful so i would think the total saturation would be better.

    Im thinking even with just a wax coating wouldnt be sufficient to stop feedback.... especially playing at high gain levels.

    I dont see how much tone can be "robbed by totally saturating the pu?

    I mean.. everything is still in tact... and the wax just replaces the "air " in the gaps but has no effect on magnetism..

    I dont have any unpotted or lightly potted pickups to guage a real test on my own so im asking you guys.

    DAVE.. you always had great tone.. ... have you heard any sonic differences?
     
  18. psychodave

    psychodave Member

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    Hey Billy. I'm usually re-potting pickups after magnet changes or coil changes, etc. so there really isn't a difference. I have heard a difference potting a PAF clone that was never potted and it made it slightly darker...meaning it got rid of some of the depth on the high end....but it also got rid of any squealing so the benefit outweighed the sonic change.
     
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  19. jack daniels

    jack daniels Well-Known Member

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    This subject really brings up a good point which is those pup winders that really know what they're doing manage to wind the coils whether single coil or humbucker such that squeel and feedback are minimalized. There may still be a little squeel however, lightly dipping versus complete immersion will still allow the pup to breath just as if it had never been potted at all. For a long time I thought that complete immersion in wax was the only way to cut the squeel and feedback but not so. Peter Leonard of 'The Pickup Wizard' taught me this much.
     
  20. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid New Member

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    A lot has to do with coil design. I strive for just the outer 20 percent of the coil to be waxed
     

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