How did you originally get into
Well, I always knew how pickups worked. I dissected my guitars as a teenager, and because
I didn’t have the tooling to repair any of [the
pickups] that were dead, I would just chuck
them. But I came to own a ‘ 79 SG with a dead
neck pickup, and I wanted to keep it original. I
took that pickup apart, saved the original tape
and discovered the starting wire was broken. I
decided to start unraveling the bobbin, but my
method of peeling it off didn’t work—it kept
breaking. I didn’t realize how delicate this wire
was, so I went online looking for exact replacement wire and found a source selling vintage
enamel wire. Of course the minimum they
would sell me was a two pound roll.
the slight inconsistencies between each wire
roll made it tough to reach that target ohm
value each time. Sometimes I’d hit the 7.5k
ohm value and the coil shape looked fine, while
other times I couldn’t reach 7.5k without spilling the wire off the edge of the bobbin… by
the time you get all of the wire on the pickup
it would be a hit or miss, and sometimes the
pickup cover wouldn’t even slide on. So I said,
“This is too dangerous. I can’t guarantee this
will work for me every time,” so I dropped the
spec down to 7k, so even when I come across
those minor inconsistencies, it will still work. It
will either be a super-full pickup or it will be just
right, right where I like it to be.
a tool for playing blues and hard rock. If you
want to play surf music, you need a vintage
style pickup with weaker magnets and lower
output, like my VS set. The SPs are a whole
different animal—strong Alnico V magnets,
vintage enamel wire and high output.
Why should someone buy a set of
Amalfitanos out of all the boutique
options out there?
I think it’s just about great tone—a lot of guitar
builders and professional musicians like them
and use them. I’ve had great reviews so far, but
I gotta say, tone is subjective. Your ear might
So I purchased it and made a suitable winder,
using a small electric motor from an electronics
supply house. The pickup had just one dead
coil, so I ohmed the good one and tried to
match it. I handwound it and reinstalled the
original leads, reassembled it, and it sounded
great. I thought, “That was fairly easy.” Upon
researching to find the magnetic wire, I also
found sources for various pickup making materials, bobbin material, pre-cut flatware for Strats
and Teles, pre-cut magnets, etc. Seeing I still
had a lot of wire left over, I thought I may as
well try to make a Strat set for myself, and let
me tell you it sounded awesome.
The wire I bought for that Gibson humbucker
was NOS vintage enamel—it had that purplish brown color. When wound for my Strat
set, it gave it such full bodied tone, and that’s
what spawned my SPs. I attribute the bottom
end of those pickups to that wire, because
it’s a darker-sounding wire, while Formvar
(aka Fender) wire is more airy and open-sounding, because of the different insulation
used. I’ve been using vintage enamel wire on
all my SP sets and it works great.
Photos: Frederick Vola / VIP Studio
You just stumbled onto that sound and decid-
ed you liked it? Have you learned the rest of
your pickup building through the same trial
and error process?
It definitely was an accident—I admit I didn’t
know exactly what I was doing. The internet is a
great tool. I read about Fender Texas Specials,
Lollars, Duncans and everything in between
that people post about on forums. I said,
“Okay, I’ll make a Strat set, and I want it to be
rich and gutsy.” Recognizing the high output of
Texas Specials was about 7k, I said, “I’m gonna
do one better.” I figured more would be better, of course, so I made my first prototype set
having a 7.5k bridge pickup. I’ve still got players using them, and they love them. However,
What do you hear when you imagine
the perfect Strat single-coil pickup?
Is there such a thing?
That’s a tough one—my VS set sounds great.
It’s nice and open and chimey. It has that
Buddy Holly bell-like fifties Strat sound. It
sounds great and is very melodic. But I get
customers that say, “I want to sound like
Stevie Ray, but I also want it to sound like surf
music,” and I say, “You can’t! It’s two different
strengths, amp settings, attitudes, everything.”
I tell them one pickup set can’t do it all. My
SPs have a purpose; they hit the amp hard.
They’re ballsy without being distorted, they’re
loud and proud and they’re constructed as
think they’re great, but somebody else’s might
think they’re not. And that’s not a problem with
me. That’s why there are so many out there.
They all have a following—you know, people
say, “I love my Lollars.” “Well that’s good,” I
tell them, “don’t change them then.”
Pickups aren’t that complicated and it’s not
rocket science. It’s just magnets and wire, but
what gives them their tone is in the pickup
maker’s specs—where you stop winding, your
magnet strength, your magnet heights, your
wire tension and your scatterwinding technique. This all shapes the tone at the end, and
mine are just very musical and articulate. You
can strum your guitar and hear every note ring
out—it’s that clarity, and players like that.