I am trying to make a single coil guitar pickup. The problem is, I can't find any cylinder-shaped ceramic or alnico magnets in my country.

Can I put screws (or another conductive material) where the magnets are supposed to be and somehow put a little magnet touching the screws to make it work? If I can, how would I do that?

Plus, the pole pieces for humbuckers are pretty expensive here- so can I use screws instead of those?


  • The word 'screw' is a little ambiguous. To a lot of us it means a woodscrew, which is tapered by design. As such, it wouldn't produce a similar magnetic effect at each end. A bolt, or setscrew, with parallel sides, would be preferrable. Or even a nail, with the head and point removed. – Tim May 12 '20 at 12:54
  • It doesn't have to be a screw. It can be anything I can easily (and preferably cheaply) find. – nar May 12 '20 at 22:49

If you are interested in making your own pickups for guitar, you can find all the materials needed online along with instructions on how to magnetize the pole pieces and wire for winding the coils. Allparts and Stewart Macdonald are in the U.S., but I'm pretty sure they can ship their stock parts world wide. You might see what they have to offer and decide for yourself if it interests you.

  • I'll definitely check them out. Thanks. – nar May 11 '20 at 4:05

Engineering info.

As stated in Wikipedia,

Many electromagnetic coils have a magnetic core, a piece of ferromagnetic material like iron in the center to increase the magnetic field.The current through the coil magnetizes the iron, and the field of the magnetized material adds to the field produced by the wire. This is called a ferromagnetic-core or iron-core coil. A ferromagnetic core can increase the magnetic field and inductance of a coil by hundreds or thousands of times over what it would be without the core. A ferrite core coil is a variety of coil with a core made of ferrite, a ferrimagnetic ceramic compound.

Choice of core material thus affects the magnitude of the signal created for a given string vibration amplitude (not to mention some dependence on frequency). Then there's the "saturation" effect, where some materials reach their max possible magnetic field strength.

All this is to say that pretty much any metal that will sustain the magnetic field caused by interaction between the string's motion and the magnet (full core or button on top) and thus generate the desired AC electrical signal in the coil. Sound quality and gain and the like depend on how serious you want to get into the theory and practice of E&M .

If you go with some hardware-store screws, definitely pick ones which a magnet can latch onto. There might be some stainless-types out there which could be problematic.


There's a decent introduction to coil & core behavior, with pictures, at electronics-tutorials.

  • So in theory, it should work well with the appropriate metal, but I'm guessing it will not be as good as putting magnets for a single-coil pickup. And i think it would be better to do less wrappings since the magnetic field is definitely weaker. – nar May 12 '20 at 22:46

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