Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wax Potting (did you just double dip?)

Wax potted pickups, vacuum potted pickups, double wax vacuum potted pickups, potting wax, bees wax, paraffin wax, pickups potted with magic beans... What does all this mean?

Pickup makers are always looking for technical explanations of their product that makes it sound fancier then the next guy. Take the simple act of wax potting a pickup for example.

Potting a Pickup is the process of solidifying a coil against microphonic vibration by submerging it in a 130-F (54-C) to 140-F (60-C) degree bath of wax comprised of 80% paraffin and 20% bees wax. This ratio is something of an industry standard. It’s a good mix that insures the wax will saturate the coil well and will harden yet won’t become brittle.

Double Potting a Pickup is the same thing as above accept that the pickup is potted a second time after it's had metal parts added like the chrome covers of a PAF or the steel base plate that's on a Tele bridge pickup. This insures that the metal parts can't vibrate and cause microphonic feed back which has been known to happen. Teles bridge pickups are bad about this and some folks like to have the entire bridge potted with the pickup to prevent rattling springs or screws.

Vacuum potting is potting the pickup in hot wax in a vacuum chamber . This can speed up the potting process and some believe it allows for better saturation of the coils because the vacuum forces the air out of the coil and wax into it.

While there are some rules to fallow it isn't rocket science.

Now... what to use to melt the wax. I have seen many people over the years claim that this is a simple matter and you can just heat the wax up on your stove....


Hot wax is very combustible and heating it on a stove is a good way to burn your house down. Using a stove burner to heat wax also allows no good way to control the temp of the wax and over heating your pickups can destroy them. Wax should only be heated in a device specifically designed to melt wax like the one in the picture here. I have about 8 of these wax pots of different sizes and types. The best ones have built in temp controls that prevent the wax from over heating. If your not willing to use one of these pots to do the job then send your pickup to a pickup maker that can do it right. Even if you don't burn your house down you could ruin your pickup by potting it incorrectly. I charge $19.99 to pot a pickup including shipping. A pound of bees wax is about $12... Paraffin wax is about $6 a pound. Then you need to get the wax pot. How many of these are you going to do? It's probably cheaper to just let me do it. Drop me an email if you think your pickup needs to be potted. I will help you decide and let you know if Searcy String Works can pot your pickup.

Ever Learning
Clint Searcy

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