I recently watched this video on youtube and felt to share it with all readers of my blog. It shows Abigail Ybarra winding a pickup in the Fender custom shop. In case you haven’t heard of her, she started to wind pickups at the Fender factory in 1956, and again does so at the Fender custom shop today. She is the mother of pickup winding so-to-say.
The youtube video shows you what is meant with hand-winding a pickup, or scatter winding. Of course noone wounds a pickup by hand in the sense of laying single turns of thin wire around the coil, and neither by turning the coil by hand. For this always machine have been used, but the wire is led by hand. This way the person who operates the machine controls where exactly the next layer of wire goes, and also the tension of the wire.
Scatter winding means all the time the wire is led from one side of the bobbin to the other, and back again. Such details are of importance for the sound of a pickup because they affect physical values, e.g. the capacity of the pickup. It is a mistake to think only the number of turns and the material of the magnets matter, it is much more. Even the insulation of the pickup wire – normally something like enamel or a material called Formvar – is of importance, and both the thickness of the insulation and the material cause clearly audible differences. Of course it is still all physics and not vodoo, but a pickups is really a highly complex issue.