How to Route a Humbucker

Written by simon foden Google
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How to Route a Humbucker
A humbucker is approximately twice the size of a single-coil pickup. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Humbucker pickups have a dense and thick tone. This is because humbuckers are effectively two single-coil pickups wired together in parallel. If you are upgrading a single-coil pickup for a humbucker, the existing cavity is too small. It's therefore necessary to perform some basic woodworking mods to the body of the guitar to expand the pickup cavity to accept the new, louder, dirtier and less hum-prone humbucker pickup.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Soldering iron
  • Electric plunge-router
  • Plunge-router bit
  • Shaping-router bit
  • 80-grit sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Measure the height of the pickup. Measure the width and height of the pickup mounting ring. The pickup mounting ring is wider than the pickup, so the mounting cavity must be large enough to fit the ring. Note, the ring is actually rectangular in shape. Add together the depth of the height of the ring and the pickup to calculate the required minimum depth of the cavity.

  2. 2

    Remove the strings.

  3. 3

    Unscrew the existing pickup from the mounting ring. The mounting screws are located on either side of the pickup cavity.

  4. 4

    Lift the pickup out of the cavity, and use a clean soldering iron tip to melt the connection fusing the wiring to the base of the pickup.

  5. 5

    Flip the guitar over. Unscrew the back panel to expose the pickup selector switch and potentiometers. Sometimes these are housed in separate cavities, in which case remove both panels.. Pull the pickup wiring attached to the selector and potentiometers respectively, so it recedes from the original pickup cavity.

  6. 6

    Draw a template of the pickup on the guitar. To keep the new humbucker in an optimum position in relation to the strings, plot the outline so the existing pickup cavity is inside it.

  7. 7

    Push the spring-powered protective plate to the desired distance from the bit. The distance between plate and bit determines routing depth. Use the measurements on the side of the router as a guide. Lock the lever to set the correct router depth.

  8. 8

    Fit a plunge-router bit to the top of the tool.

  9. 9

    Turn on the router and drive it into the wood. This bores a circular hole the exact depth of the cavity. Repeat this process so you bore several circular holes inside the outline, until most of the wood is gone.

  10. 10

    Vacuum away the sawdust.

  11. 11

    Change the plug-router bit for a shape-router bit. This is smaller and allows for more accurate routing.

  12. 12

    Turn on the router and press the side of the bit against the inside of the cavity, so the top of the bit lines up the top of the cavity. Push it toward the outline and stop approximately 2-mm short of the outline. This stops you from overshooting. The router bit is roughly half the height of the pickup cavity. It won't yet have routed the entire depth of the cavity. Position the router bit so the bottom touches the base. Route the remaining wood so it recedes to the same position as the cavity wall.

  13. 13

    Sand the cavity, using 80-grit sandpaper, so the sides recede to the pencil outline. Use the sandpaper to smooth the base and sides of the cavity. The cavity is now ready for the pickup mounting ring.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear goggles when routing.

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