What is a Black Bobbin?

Black Bobbin is an acknowledgment of the small details which enhance the overall experience. It represents the quality of service and attention to detail that we strive for which has been modeled after the ancestry of electric guitar manufacturing. It is a thank you to those who have come before, and a reminder to all who follow. 

If you are a regular in the guitar community, you may be familiar with the term Black Bobbin as it pertains to a guitar pickup. For those of you who are interested in the history of guitar making but do not know, here is the story.

Bobbin

First we must look at what a bobbin is, and how it is used. A bobbin is a spindle on which wire or thread is wound. Most often it is recognized as a part of a sewing machine where thread is wound, however it is also used in the manufacturing of guitar pickups. A bobbin in this application is used to spin a thin copper wire tightly around the pole pieces of a pickup. Without the bobbin to contain the wire coil, the pickup would not operate.

 Photo courtesy of Tone Kraft

How does a pickup work?

This may get technical, but that is where all the fun is! Now that we have identified the role of the bobbin in a guitar pickup, let's take a look at the other components and how they function. A guitar pickup is made of a few basic components that work together to pick up, or sense, the movement of the strings. The components are copper wire, a bobbin, and magnets. The magnetic components, called pole pieces, are set in to the bobbin, and the copper wire is spun around the core.

 

courtesy of Seymour Duncan

 

Once the pickup is constructed, it functions based on Faraday’s Law of Induction. The Law of Induction states that a disruption in a magnetic field causes an electric field to be set up in a nearby wire. This disruption creates a current that flows through the copper wire. So when you pick a guitar string, it moves back and forth across the magnetic pole piece, which causes this disruption and subsequently a current to flow through the wire. Send this current out to an amplifier, and voilà you've got tone! 

Black Bobbin

The year is 1965. A man named Clarence "Leo" Fender has taken what was a radio repair company in the 1940's, and has turned it in to one the largest manufacturers of solid body electric guitars. Fender's creations are cultural icons that have become part of the foundation of a golden era of music. But it is 1965, and Leo cannot keep up with the pace of this massive and growing company. The stress of it all, paired with a nasty bout of Strep throat causes him to sell his namesake to CBS for $13 million dollars. This was almost $2 million more than they had purchased the Yankees the year prior. With new ownership comes new practices. We now have the ability to look back on what we call the "Pre-CBS" era with fondness. I promise you I am getting to the point... 

One of the many ways in which the guitar community dates instruments is the sum of all of the components. Knowing what kind of materials were used in particular years is important. Once CBS took over Fender, they changed the material used for their pickup bobbins from black to grey. This tiny change, which may have been to cut costs, draws a line in history between artisan and mass production. The black bobbin pickup signifies almost 20 years of development that Leo put in to getting the right sound, whereas the grey bobbin has come to be remembered as a mass produced item by a major company. We would like to honor the early years of this company, and the care that it took to build it.

Black Bobbin as a company is a collaboration of like minded small businesses within the coffee and guitar community. Our goal is to provide the space for creativity and connection to thrive, and to deliver high quality goods and services to the music community.