So you want a LOUDER cookie tin instrument? Your wish is my command. After tinkering with piezo pickups made from simple buzzer piezoelectric units and being a little frustrated by the fussy electronics I had to add to cool off the signal generated by these little wonders (don’t get me wrong, piezoelectrics are super swell, just not right for me) I switched to winding my own pickup coils. A dirt simple solution that just requires building a winding rig, some patience with very fine coil wire, and a few experiments with potting.

electric coilsIn this case, my old favorite beater – the electric blue test rig, I installed two coils on an adjustable block (so I can move the magnets close to the inside of the tin without touching) and wired them in series directly to a 1/4 inch output jack.
electric socketThese coils are wound on rough cast Alnico 2 magnets (5 x 25.4 mm) magnetized with a pair of super-duper rare earth magnets scavenged from the display assembly of a dead A1181 MacBook. The coil wire is AWG 42 poly coil (easier to solder without stripping the coating) with about 11,000 turns on each coil. My winding rig takes about an hour and a half to spin one up. The next time I’m winding, I’ll add a few photos of that process.

Here’s a short demo of the results:

The crummy amp I’m using doesn’t give the greatest performance (I am anxious to get my hands on a better amp for a real test of what the coils can do) and the limits of the mic on my wee camera stifle the sound, but you get the idea. The signal strength to the amp is a bit low and I have more tinkering to do to refine things but so far it works surprisingly well. Two coils made for a smoother sound than one, and three might be even better. The future is open wide. I can add pickup coils to just about any of the instruments I build. If you are interested in giving me an excuse to wind more coils, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.