Building a Chameleon - a pickup design saga - Part 2, The build, initi – Alegree
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Building a Chameleon - a pickup design saga - Part 2, The build, initial impressions and remedies

Did you read part 1? Find it here


For those of you who played the game attached to the last blog post , the answers are at the bottom of this post!


They'll never know the chaos going on under those covers, until you strum a chord.


The pickups are built, and they've been thoroughly tested. It's very rare to hit a perfect design first time, to hit 6? Nope, that's not happening. The very long process of prototyping different designs to get all the modes sounding great has begun.


Let's begin with a run through of just what is going on under the covers - I'm sure you're all curious.


It starts with a wind of vintage flavoured wire (notice the brown colour of plain enamel). It also happens to be the thinnest of insulation, so that's perfect for bobbin space considerations.

Then the second coil is wound on top of it. The colour difference makes this very clear to see. It's wound until it's literally bursting off the bobbin - P90, Strat and Tele pickups are much bigger than a humbucker bobbin, so it's a big squeeze with some thinner wire to accommodate enough winds.

The coil ends (all 4 of them) are taped to the back. They have to be long enough to connect leads to, but there can't be enough flapping about to get caught in the coil as the bobbin is wound. This means tape. A lot of tape. Very slowly and carefully the tape has to be peeled off in the reverse order it is stuck on - any slip here that breaks any of the multitude of wires will result in the whole bobbin (only half of one humbucker!) being completely broken. 


And that's how the winds differ from a normal humbucker. The start of the first coil and the finish of the second coil have to be hooked up to leads, and the two connections have to be hooked up to an additional third lead. After that, it's assembly as usual. Or so I thought.


Looking from the back of this first prototype, you can see how the wires won't even fit into the cover! A normal humbucker has 4 wires - and that's a squeeze. Not to mention the fact that the bobbins are absolutely bulging too, leaving very little room around them for manoeuvrability. 6 wires is going to require some intuitive redesigning.




Here's what a normal humbucker looks like - you can see the red, green, black and white wires all coming out (all 4)


Right side of a Chameleon

 Left side of a Chameleon. 3 wires on each side is far more manageable! 


It's a steep learning curve, and it certainly feels like we're redesigning the humbucker here,  but they seem to come out pretty consistently now. Prototyping with pickups that'll be structurally the same as the finished product is important; with the process ironed out now, we can start forming opinions on the tones. How close they are, and how we're going to rectify any issues.


The initial observations are that

- The alnico rods in the slug coil have a very significant effect on the total humbucking sound - they add a huge amount of brightness, airiness and clarity. The humbucking modes have to be compensated for that with higher winds. 

- Due to the location of the bridge slug coil, the Strat and Tele modes can be brighter than their actual counterparts due to being further from the bridge. They're too bright at the moment and lack output. More winds are needed.

- The P90 mode needs a stronger magnetic field to accurately replicate a P90, so a larger spacer magnet is required. Unfortunately no bar magnets are the same depth - so custom shims are going to have to be made for the bobbins to sit flat.

-The low output humbucker mode is too weak and bright - more winds required (which is convenient, as the Strat wind that forms part of it also needs more winds)

-The high output humbucker mode is too weak - more winds required. There's not enough bobbin space left for more winds, so smaller wire will have to be used for the outer coils.

-The neck modes, due to their location, don't need much modification from being too weak and bright. Being so close confirms that the Chameleon concept as a whole is viable!


Stay tuned for the next part, where we'll be discussing the results of the tweaked prototype(s), the ETA and possible future models that can be made!



The answers from the P100 blog post are -

A - Cirrostratus

B - P100 

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