Potting Pickups

Wikipedia defines microphonics as "phenomenon where certain components in electronic devices transform mechanical vibrations into an undesired electrical signal (noise)." The desired function of a guitar pickup is to turn the vibration of the strings into electrical signal. The pickup is basically magnetic pole pieces wrapped with thousands of coils of copper wire, if the copper wire or any other metal part in the pickup vibrates against itself it creates a screeching noise through the amplifier. Microphonics are not our friend, but they can be minimized by dipping the pickups in wax.

The process is fairly simple, but certain safety precautions have to be taken to avoid being burned by the hot wax or catching fire. Wax and the vapors it puts off are extremely flamable and should never be in the vacinity of open flame, that's why you can't melt the wax over your kitchen stove, and never try to heat it in the microwave. Use good ventilation.

The first thing you'll need is a deep fryer designed for home use, these can be fairly inexpensive and all that is required is that it has an adjustable temperature setting. You will also need a thermometer that measures at least up to 150 degrees.

You will also need about a pound of canning paraffin wax and one-quarter pound of beeswax, you can find these at a hardware store or a hobby shop, call first though because this is not always something stores keep in stock.

Set your deep fryer to somewhere around 150 degrees (mine only has settings for 0-225-300-350-390, so I set it somewhere between 0 and 225 and watched the thermometer.) According to Lindy Fralin, a professional pickup winder, the mixture should be four parts paraffin to one part beeswax, so drop in one pound of paraffin and one-quarter pound beeswax.

When the wax is completely melted and the temperature is consistantly 150 degrees you can drop in the pickups, try to keep them from touching the bottom of the pot because that can be hotter than the wax, so put the pickup in the fryer basket or on top of a layer of marbles a the bottom of the pot.

Let the pickups set in the hot wax for about 10-20 minutes and pull them out. Set them somewhere to cool and when they are cool enough remove the excess wax with a soft cloth. They are ready to install and should play with very little noise.