Wax Potting is an essential part of the pickup-making process. At Fralin Pickups, it is the last step of the manufacturing process before it goes to the shipping room. It is a delicate and vital technique that requires a good deal of attention to the details.
We get asked all the time about Wax Potting. What is it? Is it necessary? How does it work? Let’s clear up a few things with this short-and-sweet article.
What is Wax Potting?
On its surface, Wax Potting is a simple series of actions. However, it is one of the most crucial parts of the manufacturing process. Wax Potting is the process of immersing guitar and bass pickups in wax. The method solves two main problems: 1.) It prevents Microphonics, and 2.) It protects the pickup for many years.
Problem #1: Pickups can be Microphonic
What are Microphonics? Microphonics are the byproduct of vibrating metal. Pickups, ironically, are designed to pick up vibrating metal (strings), but particular vibrations are unwanted. These unwanted vibrations can transform into an electric signal, and sent through to your amp. Guitar Pickups tend to produce Microphonics, especially under high gain. Pickup materials include metal covers, baseplates, screws, hardware – not to mention the coil itself. Any physical vibration from these elements can cause Microphonics.
High Gain situations tend to amplify microphonics. Putting your guitar’s signal through a distortion pedal amplifies your signal until it breaks up and distorts. Because of this amplification, microphonics are more common.
How does Wax Potting Help?
Wax Potting remedies this problem by coating the metal parts in wax. The wax, when dried, dampens and prevents any vibration coming from the coil or pickup parts.
Problem #2: Corrosion is the Enemy.
Corrosion from moisture is the main threat to the health of a guitar or bass pickup. The coil, made from insulated copper, is very delicate. If the insulation and copper have been worn away, your signal can experience high resistance or a broken circuit.
How Does Wax Potting Help?
Moisture from humidity, sweat, and beer are the reason for the bulk of our rewinds. Look at the image above: moisture most likely entered the coil around the magnets and killed the pickup from the inside. By potting the pickup effectively in wax, we ‘seal’ the pickup and prevent direct and indirect moisture from penetrating the coil.
Strat Pickups from the ’70s were dipped in lacquer – a process that worked for years. However, as the lacquer aged, it flaked off and allowed moisture to enter the coil. Furthermore, lacquer does not penetrate the coil – it merely coats the surface. Because of this, Paraffin Wax is our go-to preservative. It has wonderful shelf-life.
Our Wax Potting Process:
At Fralin Pickups, Lindy carefully selected our wax to provide the best protection and lowest tonal impact as possible. The wax we use has a low melting temperature, a low dielectric constant, and doesn’t shrink when cooled.
Having a Low Melting Temperature is essential. Having wax at a high temperature can warp plastic parts, and damage the pickup. The wax we selected also has a low dielectric constant: it has a minimum impact on the tone of the guitar pickup.
Is it Necessary?
Some manufacturers did not pot their pickups at the factory. Some of those models are very desirable! Original PAF pickups sound lively and responsive. However, we’ve seen a fair amount of these pickups in the shop for a rewind. We believe that our wax not only protects and preserves but also sounds the best as well. Lindy has tried a few different types of wax but has found that our current wax has the best effects on quality and the lowest impact on our tone!
What do you think about Wax Potting? Leave us a comment and start a discussion below!