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Word & Image: Lindy Fralin, 48

Owner, Lindy Fralin Pickups

The people who come to me are building or customizing guitars, or fixing ones they’ve let rust. When a pickup is bad it either makes its own noise or a really poor sound. Something has to hurt a pickup, and it’s usually beer or sweat or smoke — or it’s made wrong. The wire is insulated, and the insulation is only two one-thousandths of an inch. So if you scratched this (handling a pickup) even if you didn’t break it, it would oxidize. If that coil isn’t complete from beginning to end, say it’s 9,000 turns, it doesn’t work. Often it’s these magnets that corrode. They eat up the copper inside, way down in the middle of the coil. We wax them, though. It keeps the beer out. Guitarists, you can’t tell them not to drink beer and play their instruments.

This is a coil winder (points). It was probably made for electric motors and transformers. There are not enough pickups made in the world for someone to make a machine. I have four of these winders. You’ve got to go to a machine shop and have tools made so you can use them for what we’re doing.

I don’t give anybody free pickups. Most of the time when you see Eric Johnson in a magazine ad saying, “I use these kinds of strings,” they’re paying him $10,000 bucks giving him lifetime free strings. We’re too small to pay somebody to endorse our product. I also never get to talk to the famous people. I get to talk to their guitar tech. I can’t say who’s using my pickups. They’re a few guys who give us credit, like this country guy now who’s huge. But I don’t like to drop names. To me it’s not a classy thing to do. — As told to Brandon Walters; photographed by Scott Elmquist.

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