Custom humbucker baseplates

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Custom humbucker baseplates

Postby Jason Rodgers » Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:28 am

Last week I did a little R&D on building my own custom pickup baseplates. My guitars are multi-scale, and I've gone back and forth on whether or not to slant the pickups with the frets. Some multi-scale builders angle them all, some don't, and some choose to angle them or not depending on the pickup and availability of angled bases (either custom or provided by the pickup manufacturer). Since I'm already winding my own pickups, I have the choice to purchase stock components, or go fully custom. My first few sets were angled and with simple, flat bases. This was an experiment to see if I could make something more traditional, like a nickel PAF baseplate with bent legs.

I bought some 22 gauge (.025") nickel silver sheet on amazon from a jewelry materials supplier. Then I built a sheet metal shears. The blades are the old, nicked-up blades from my 6" jointer that I replaced. The blades cut on the back square edge. I tested it out on a soda can. I could cut through 12 layers, which was about .042".
Guillotine parts.jpg

Guillotine assembled.JPG
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
Jason Rodgers
 
Posts: 1553
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Custom humbucker baseplates

Postby Jason Rodgers » Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:40 am

Next, I drew up what I thought the baseplate should look like. I'm going to have three different scale splays for 6-, 7-, and 8-string guitars, so I have three different pickup angles to match them: 12 degrees, 14 degrees, and 16 degrees.
Baseplate sketch.JPG

Then, I scratched my cut and fold lines onto the sheet...
Baseplate scratch.JPG

... and started cutting. I learned very quickly that this was not going to be a good plan. Too many cuts, and inside corners, made for an ugly, pinched, and puckered plate. After most cuts, I had to hammer the sheet flat again before proceeding.
Baseplate cut.JPG

Finally, came the bending. I bought a cheap pair of flat-jawed, "seaming" pliers from Harbor Freight. They had to be trued up quite a bit for the jaws to close flush. For the legs, they worked fine. For the long bend for the lip on the sides, they racked and wouldn't stay closed along the length of the jaws to grip the metal firmly, so these bends were ugly. Lesson #2, metal brakes are a special tool.
Baseplate bent.JPG

Overall, it's not terrible, especially for a component that is hidden, but I wasn't happy. The next day, I started working on version 2.0.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
Jason Rodgers
 
Posts: 1553
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Custom humbucker baseplates

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:58 am

If you have a large enough metal vice you can clamp the plate with only the part to bent sticking up. Then hammer the piece slowly going back and forth until complete.
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Barry Daniels
 
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Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:58 am
Location: The Woodlands, Texas

Re: Custom humbucker baseplates

Postby Jason Rodgers » Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:59 am

For baseplate version 2.0, I knew I had to solve two main problems: 1- no inside corners to cut, 2- better bending method for the lip along the side of the plate. I drew up this design on Autodesk Fusion 360 (thanks to John Sonksen for introducing me to this software, and helping with its use). You'll notice that there are 8 sides for 8 cuts (7, if I put one long side on the edge of the sheet). This made the cutting go very quickly and accurately, with no warping of the metal.
Baseplate template.jpg
Baseplate template.jpg (13.42 KiB) Viewed 2048 times

No pics of bending in action, but the long bends were done in a vise with wood covering the jaws: the lips were tapped over with a dead-blow, then hammered square with a peen. The legs were bent with the seaming pliers again, and this went fine.
Baseplate 2.0.JPG

Baseplate 2.0 side.JPG

Baseplate 2.0 bottom.JPG

If you're asking, "Hey, where are all the holes?", I'm not building typical PAFs: I will only be drilling 4 small holes for the bobbin mounting screws, one larger hole for the lead wire, and 2 holes on the feet for mounting to the body.

I'm very happy with this process, and I can make them fairly quickly as needed.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
Jason Rodgers
 
Posts: 1553
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR


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