The JB model might be a production pickup, but Seymour also has a custom shop. Maricela Juarez (MJ) manages the custom shop for Seymour, where you can get most anything you want. Even custom versions of production models.
Years back, there I am looking at giving a cherished guitar a makeover. It originally came with JBJ. It should be a reverse zebra, but for some reason this one was a regular zebra. I still want a Custom Shop JB made by MJ in the guitar, so I ask her to make one. It’s important that it sounds like the JBJ that is already in there, but I thought a little fun would be in order.
The standard for me is going to be short mounting legs and 4-conductor wiring. This guitar has a bridge position humbucker on a slant, so the standard pole spacing is best. My special request is a bit of a scatter and moderate potting. What’s the big deal with the scatter and the potting? Alrighty then, let’s take a look.
The short version of scatter winding is that it delivers a lower capacitance. What’s that? Think of how a spool of wire looks. The layer starts at one ends and is laid flat, side by side, as it spools to the end of the bobbin. Then it goes back the other way, in the same method for the next layer. All nice and neat and in a row, evenly placed in line. There is more wire in contact with each other, and that raises the capacitance. The higher the capacitance, the more of a tight or a congested character or voice to the tone.
By comparison, a scatter (or random) winding lays down the wire with a decided randomness to the layer or layers. One of the effects is how it breaks up the amount of wire that is so snugly put in place next to each other. Imagine a lot of little pockets of space permeating each layer throughout the entire coil. That reduces the capacitance. Less capacitance means a little more of an open vibe to the pickup. That’s a pretty high-level look, so feel free to dig deeper into the topic if you’d like to learn more.
Interesting side note to a scatter wind. Generally a hand application, these days there are CNC machines that can be set up to wind with a scatter. I think that’s cool — so much so that I started looking into CNC machines a lot more than I originally intended. I ended up looking at the Company Profile of Berthold Hermle AG (WSJ Markets) because they’re major manufacturers of these machines. It’s fascinating the number of applications these machines have. They’re very beneficial to businesses as you can get a consistent result if you want more than one.
Potting is simply immersing the pickup in wax (or a combination or wax and paraffin) to cut back on microphonics. In other words, it helps eliminate feedback. Generally, it can be at the expense of that same type of airy quality that I’m already trying to achieve with the scatter wind. But the JB is pretty hot, so I definitely want some potting. Just not quite as much.
Other not-so-special requests for my Custom Shop JB are butyrate bobbins and the roughcast alnico 5. The bobbin request is for fun, but the magnet is intentional. If you have kept up with this series on the different versions of the JB, you know the roughcast alnico 5 magnet fuels some of what I consider to be the better sounding versions of the JB. In most instances, this is where the Antiquity JB should be in play (long mounting legs aside)… but I want a bit of scatter going on.
Now, you may be asking yourself if it’s still a JB if it’s made differently. I think we can say with confidence that the production model JB has the same winding pattern today as it’s had since it was first a production model. Any variances in materials aside, the wind should be consistent. Fine. With that settled, let’s also look at this 2008 quote from Frank Falbo (Seymour’s VP of Product Development, 2007-2012):
The thing you have to remember is that Seymour is a master. He makes pickups. So when he and MJ are talking about JB’s, and “old JB’s” etc. remember that the Custom Shop has probably 10 different custom pickups that they’d call “JB’s” because they think of it like cooking. A pinch more or less of this or that spice, cook it a little longer, etc. That’s the world they live in. Everything is custom.
So while Seymour may consider a lot of things a JB with some “tricks” in it, those are the kinds of awesome conversations you can have with the Custom Shop. That’s what makes our Custom Shop so great. And it definitely makes for some cool pickups. How about a JB with 100 more turns? JB with an A2 mag? Degaussed A5, Underwound JB with A2 & 100 less turns anyone? JB with short screw poles? JB with a little bit of scatter?
So, you betcha. A Custom Shop JB is still a JB. And my request is only scratching the surface. Imagine a JB with a scatter, roughcast Alnico 5 and 5% underwound? Or whatever combination. This resource is a sure-fire way to address the “ice pick” complaint people have with the current production JB model… well, at least until they put the roughcast magnet back into the mix. LOL!
Let’s look at some specs.
Custom Shop JB
Series – 16.93 K
Inductance – 7.707 H
Split Slug – 8.47 K
Split Screw – 8.46 K
How about that? Those coils are pretty well symmetrical. Not bad, you think?
What surprises me about the Custom Shop JB is that it is what I asked for. Wait… that sounds bad. LOL! But it’s not a bad thing at all. The scatter and the potting choices do open it up. It delivers more clarity and less compression. It’s more touch sensitive and responds much better to picking dynamics. You still have the presence and roar of a JB. Yet this Custom Shop JB has far more character. For all the similarities, it is different.
Being in a single hum guitar, it is connected to a push/pull pot for series/parallel. Why not split? Yeah, well, I find that many higher output humbuckers can still be a little sharp for my needs when in split mode. Parallel wiring seems to take just enough of that off the top for what I’m trying to find. Still, with the Custom Shop JB, you might need to tweak the amp or dial down the guitar’s volume knob a bit for when going into clean settings. As a result, you might still find more versatility in a guitar with neck or neck/middle options. Especially relevant is that you can order your Custom Shop JB however you want it to be.
Check out this video of Seymour and MJ talking about pickups in the Custom Shop: