WHAT IS HANDWOUND & SCATTERWOUND?
I’m often asked what hand winding or “scatterwinding” means. Here’s a quick explanation.
It would be commonly accepted among pickup winders that “handwound” means that the traverse of the wire back and forth on the machine spun bobbin is hand-guided. The coil itself is not literally wound by hand. A machine turns the bobbin upon which the coil is wound. With so many winds of such fine wire and with precision being a necessity, a machine is necessary to spin the bobbin.
The very fine wire that comprises a pickup coil is fed through my fingers and onto the bobbin. The tension and traverse I use are unique to my style, and both are being determined by me and not a machine.
Scatterwinding or Scatterwound means that the wire is not laid down side by side with the last wind. In this very literal definition, any hand wound pickup is also scatterwound, the human hand being incapable of the precision necessary to perfectly lay the wire down side by side. This is also true of some mechanical winders, where the play in the compnents of the mechanism translate into a “scatter” unique to that machine.
But what’s being communicated with the term Scatterwound is the idea that the wire is wound in random patterns, not nice perfect rows. Certain winders do it certain ways and therein lies the better part of the nuance of a pickups’ sound. Therein lies the art. A painting can be copied and still be a beautiful painting, but if it had to be reproduced by hand by another painter, the art of the painting would be found in the nuanced differences of colors, brush strokes, and even mistakes.
Is there anything wrong with machine wound pickups? Yes, there can be. For one, many of them are manufactured under ethically questionable circumstances. This has less to do with the machine than it does with the living and working conditions of the countries in which they’re manufactured. But in this particular scenario these pickups are being machine wound and assembled as quickly as possible. And maybe that pickup sound OK, but it’s one of thousands, all of them the same. If you’re going to spend the money why not get something special, made by hand just for you?
But assuming it’s a reputable pickup maker who uses a machine for whatever reason, there’s doubtfully anything wrong with those pickups just because they are machine wound. Some of them are amazing. Some of them suck. So it goes.