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Manufacturing a pickup is about matching a shape and sound to an instrument and person.
Manufacturers of pickups, IMO, do an awesome job, they have a range of sounds to suit different instruments, the advantage you get over a local luthier making you one, is they can match the pickup to the instrument rather than using a generic unit.
You also need to ask, are you making me a custom pickup or winding a "Kit Pickup"
Time to manufacture, approx 1 hr
Taking that distance, I draw up in cad a custom top and back plate to suit the guitars string spacing.
The poles used for magnets can be made from any carbon steel or even magnetic stainless steel if you wish.
The most popular material used for making magnets is Alnico, this is a mix of aluminium, nickel and cobalt, it provides a relatively weak magnetic field, but readily available as its almost an industry standard for using on pickups.
Here for simplicity, I am using some Alnico material, grade 2.
The raw material has no magnetic field in it, as indicated by this gauge, (zero reading)
To turn the Alnico into a magnet, you have to introduce it to another magnetic field, some people use exisiting magnets and so forth, the issue is, the Alnico material can only be magnetised as much as the strength of the magnetic field of the item making it a magnet, that is if you use a weak magnet to magnetise the unit, you have a weak pickup.
I prefer to use whats called an electro magnet, this is a unit that uses 240volts and converts that into an electromagnetic field, which saturates the Alnico material for maximum strength.
Electro Magnets can put out AC or DC magnetic fields, for our purpose we want DC.
Pumping a magnetic field through the Alnico material.
Gives us now a magnetic Alnico pole.
That magnetic field can be measured, here we are using a tool called a Gauss meter, it tells us exactly the strength of the magnetic field.
First, generic pickup kits can be obtained with relative ease on the internet, companies like LMII, Stewmac, Guitar Parts etc readily carry these generic shapes.
For me, making a pickup is about customising it to the guitar, its like cutting a bone nut, we dont grab a bone nut and just attach it, its got to be fitted to the guitar.
This middle pickup is to be replaced, customer wants a unique sound.
I start by measuring the outer E string distance from each other.
And then cut that out of some Vulcan Fibre.
Back to the front and back plates, we insert two brass wiring ferrules