1978 Seth E. Lover Interview on Gibson Humbucking Pickups
Interview by: Seymour W. Duncan (SWD), 6-13-78.
(This interview transcribed from audio tape.)
Location: Garden Grove, California-at the residents of Seth E. Lover -
Inventor of the Gibson ďPatent Applied ForĒ Humbucking pickups.
Thanks to: Seymour Duncan! He did all all this cool interview work, and let me host it.
Hosted by: Vintage Guitars Info (guitarHQ.com) website
SWD: I guess Iíll start with where you where raised and born and where you raised in California?
Seth Lover: I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan at what they called the Borgus Hospital and itís no
longer there, and a new one built outside of town. Where I was born I believe is now the Upjohn
Company. They make drugs and so forth. I lived there till I was about 7 years old and my parents
moved to Hastings. From Hasting, Mich. I stayed there till after World War I then we moved to
Muskeegan. Then in 1921 I was sent from Muskeegan I was sent to my grandparents in
Pennsylvania. I lived with them till they both died then I went to work with another guy on a farm
there and while I was still with my grandparents I built my first radio about 1922-23. Iíd been
interested in radio and while I was working on another farm I took a radio course ďRadio
Association of AmericaĒ. A.G. Mohawk, President I can remember that. and I was really
disappointed in that course because I was supposed to get parts to build a large radio, instead of
that I got an ďAirlineĒ radio already built. Laugh. Less batteries & speakers. So I had a little
money in the bank and took it out to buy batteries and a speaker for it and I wanted something I
could put together.
After I left there I left the farm and left for Michigan, I got about 5 miles from
where I worked and took on another job because I was short of funds and stayed there and
worked for him for a couple of months. Then I went to work for another guy for a month and then
went to work on the railroad and I was 17, I told them I was 18 and they were hiring back in 1927
and I was, we called it ďhigh hidden diamondsĒ, digging the rocks out between the ties and taking
all the dirt out and sift it, throwing all the rocks back in, then pound it underneath the ties to bring
em up, tighten them in there, I think they called it ďGandy DancingĒ in some places. Then they
started working us overtime, that was kind of funny. The guys were complaining because they
never knew when they were going to get home at night, the forman would never tell them whether
they would work overtime the next day so all of them decided that after eight hours they were
going to lay their tools down and leave so sure I went along with that, seemed like about 5 of us
walked off, I had about 2 months seniority so I didnít last long. Laugh...They laid me off and hired
a guy who has less time then me to come back to work. So that was the end of me working on
Then I went to work for a guy in lumber cutting down trees. Thatís where I got
swatted in the face with a limb that was caught on another limb. I gave it a push and it came back
and whapped me in the face. And I finally had to go to the hospital to get it sewed up to stop it
from bleeding. So then I went to work for a guy who was working for an old man, he must of been
in his 60ís and it didnít sound like a good proposition to me so I joined the Navy. The only thing is
I had to go to the local Doctor and he said I had flat feet...Laugh, So that let me out of the Navy, I
tried the Army and they accepted me, Laugh...So I went into the Army from June of 1928 till June
While I was in the Army I took another course, another radio course, National Radio
Institute. I got quite a bit out of that, it was a good course. The only thing is when I joined the
Army a cousin of mine went along with me. I wanted to get in the Communications Radio section
and my cousin wanted to get in ďHorse outfitĒ...Well I got in the Horse outfit and my cousin got in
the Communications section. Laugh...We were both in the same outfit, 16th Field Artillery. He
was in the Head Quarters Battery and I was in Battery C. That was the ďGreat Horse BatteryĒ the
ones that had a show team when some high muckity muck died like when ex president Taft died I
remember going to that funeral riding a horse and we where called the escort for him. His casket
was put on a cason and we went down into Washington, DC to Union Station and took the casket
over to the church waited out there while the ceremony was going on and then after that we came
out we took him to the Arlington Cemetery and buried him (Taft). And who ever was buried in
Arlington Cemetery the 16th field Artillery and the 3rd Calvery was stationed at Ft. Meyer, VA right
along the Arlington Cemetery, one would furnish escort and the other would furnish body bearers
so we spent a lot of time there.
Then I got out of there and went back to Kalamazoo, decided to
go into the radio repair business because somewhere in the last course they supplied me with
about 100 cards saying I was a radio technician. Laugh....So I started fixing radios from about
1931 to about 1935. I either worked with somebody or had a shop of my own...then I didnít have
enough finance to make a go at it and took a job with the M & T battery and Electric Company in
Kalamazoo. They were the Delco Distributors of automotive parts, car radio and at that time 32
Volt home radios. Power plants out in the country were 32 Volts DC. You had your own home
lighting plant, there was no wires at that time and I did their auto radio installations and repair and
home radio installations & repair.
Then in the early spring of 1941, Walt Fuller at Gibson
contacted me, I had known him for quite a while, he wanted to know if I wanted to come to work
there, so we talked it over and it looked like a better future than where I was working so I took that
job (Gibson). Then in the winter in December when the war came along, having 3 years in the
Army it wouldnít be long before theyíd be knocking at my door greeting me, I started investigating
the possibility of enlisting in the Navy. They would take me then, flat feet and all. Laugh...that I
could go in as a Second Class Radioman, which they didnít have technicians at the time it was
Radioman, so I took that on and they sent me to Treasure Island in California and I went through
there school there and it was called Radio Material School (RMS) and they gave us all a test when
we got out there.. I was in class 3B....we started part way along their course, we missed a lot of
basic theory that they gave to the earlier classes in 4 & 5. We went through much AC & DC
theory and got into their transmitters and receivers, sonar and radar in special service, Oh yea!
when I first went into the Navy in December of 1941 they sent us to Connecticut first until they had
enough people gathered together till Treasure Island was ready the influx of people at the time.
When we got out there in February 1942 we had to move a bunch of bunks to get things into
place. I finished there in August and they figured they need some teachers so they sent me and a
bunch of others guys back to Chicago.. They gave us a teachers training course, they took us 30
days, got a leave and went to Washington, DC to Silversprings Maryland and started teaching
school there. Taught theory, lab etc. I was made 1st class I was made Chief Petty Officer. They
sent me to the Navy building to write examinations. That was 30 days special duty and after 30
days, they renewed it for another 30 days. That was the end of it and I was put on a ship in
Boston that wasnít commissioned yet. Went to Boston and waited by checking spare parts. We
where on board, checked in spare parts, radio, sonar etc. We headed out to sea, we got out
about 500 miles and the drive shaft wasnít working right and had to turn around and for that I got
my American Theater of Operations ribbon. Laugh....
I got back into port and had to cut a big hole along the deck to get the drive shaft through and put
in another one and weld all that stuff back together. Laugh...by that time the war was over and
you would get out with points to burn. After it was fixed I was sent to Guantinimo Bay, Cuba and
we made sure the ship worked we were sent back to Boston and I was out of the Navy in October,
1945. I went back to work for Gibson and worked for them about 8 months before the war and, so
I went back to work for them and was doing more engineering and developed one of their pickups
youíve probably seen with the rectangular magnets that screws up and down, individually
adjustable, it first came out on some hollow body guitar...Iíll go get some of those pickups, I have
a bunch out there in the garage...here it is, thatís the pickup the first oneís.. shortly before this one
was brought out, DeArmond brought one out that had a very large magnet polepiece that was
adjustable up and down. It had individual screws and Gibson felt they needed something to
compete with that so I designed this one (Alnico pickup with rectangular Alnico magnets) the
polepiece are ajustable rectangular magnet.
SWD: How was the bobbin made? Was it cut out with a routing template.
Seth Lover: No...this is a handmade coil form made from a rectangular piece of celluloid and we glued
the ends on, drilled the holes out and filed it out to shape to fit the rectangular magnets and this
was one of the first hand made ones made. The magnets were so strong on this and if you got it
too close to the strings, it would vary the tone and you would get what they call ďWoofĒ tones and
that never went over too well, I donít know whether they made a hundred or two hundred of them
SWD: Where all the bobbin made by hand or at that time was a special tooling made?
Seth Lover: No unless we got into real quantity we made them by hand, before that the ES-125 pickup
eventually had a bobbin made for that, called the P-90.
The next one that I made for them was a bass pickup. The non humbucking bass pickup with a
single winding with the magnet up one end and the screw up at the other end and between that I
designed a number of amplifiers for them. I worked for Gibson from 1945 to 47 and just
designed amplifiers and no pickups at that time... at first and designed an amplifier called the GA-
50 model if I recall and thatís the one that had a pair of 6SJ7 tubes that were balanced and had
tremolo on it. It was the GA-50T (tremolo) you would drive your signal into one 6SJ7 and had
another 6SJ7 that was connected out of phase with that first one and drove both of those grids
with a tremolo signal, in the plate circuit the tremolo if the circuit was equally balanced would
balance out.. I still have the schematics out there in the file cabinet out there too and at that time
the first two years after that from 45 to 47 I didnít do any pickup work that I could recall...If I did, I
donít remember and at that time I didnít feel they were paying me enough and had a chance to go
back in the Navy at the training center in Kalamazoo, Michigan as a station keeper, I installed the
radio, radar, CIC equipment, receivers, transmitters, built a code practice table all kinds of things
to use in the training center there and that paid better than Gibson wanted to pay.
Then in 1952
the Navy decided it was long enough for one to stay in one place...so I contacted Gibson and they
made it worth my while to stay there, rather than move. Ted McCarty wanted me to design a
pickup for them and that was the thing I worked on first just before I got out of the Navy till I got
out and was working full time for Gibson. I designed the non-humbucking bass came along then
somewhere along in there is when I designed the 3 pickup job or a triple job for the steel guitars.
Thatís the Humbucking pickup patent drawing (Seth is showing me the drawings-SWD) Thatís
the Rhodes Piano pickup patent they still havenít used...maybe someday...Here it is, there are 3
rows of magnets, one all the way across, one at the bass, one at the treble and then the switching
circuits for the switch that you added one, would be the center pickup by itís self, one and two was
the other pair and all, Iím not sure...that was the neck selector, 306954, there was bass, when the
bass was added in.. that was a selector switch to give you different connection of these coils and
was filed January 9, 1957...no that was when the patent was granted. There was one position
called Chime, one they called Treble, and I think that was Normal and Bass. There should have
been a schematic with that...lost in the shuffle.
I have several copies of the original humbucking patent and hereís a speaker design patent I got
while working at Fender and also a patent on the speaker (Des. 229,289) This is a design and
shows the grill cloth and how I pulled it back in...looking from the outside it looked like a curved
linear speaker, they built the speaker but kept the front flat and never used the design patent.
Hereís the article I wrote for guitar player magazine...this is what I wrote and sent to them and
these are the drawings I sent along and Iím still getting letters and just got one last week...hereís
the patent and how I mounted the four speakers in the cabinet and at an angle...you know how
you yell at someone across the street and they donít hear you and you cup your hands and thatís
how the idea came from....we fastened the screw under the Fender logo to tightened it down.
Hereís a good copy of the patent you can have and send back when your done. Every time they
issue you a patent, their supposed to give you a dollar...when your working for a company
(Gibson) they give you a dollar....The first dollar I ever got...Laugh....I am currently working for
Logic Research Labs. Dave Love was the president and chief engineer...they never got into
production and not enough produced before they made changes and went bankrupted. I work for
the people who took it over. They make a mechanical Leslie sound and also make foot pedals.
Hereís the patent for the tine on the Rhodes Piano.. I was able to get the harmonics since they
were unable to before. Before every time you hit a note it would sound like ďooh ooh oohĒ (rhymes
with you) and have a non-consequential sound, you get up to the treble end...sound pretty
good...you get to the bass end...sound pretty good, in the middle register about an octave below
the middle ďCĒ and octave above middle ďCĒ sounded sour and didnít sound like piano...by
changing the pole piece I was able to change it from a response of this nature to this which when
they wanted to get harmonic content they had to move the tine closer to the middle... they could
never get enough harmonic content before they canceled the fundamental, this one here by
forcing the magnetic field off to the sides you could get the overtones. This particular patent they
had 43 claims on it for my humbucking patent I had one....Laugh....
The piano pickup patent is (3,069,954)...
SWD: Tell me about your humbucker.
Seth Lover: This is the original Humbucking pickup I had made and given to the lawyers and made
their drawings form that... Lover (2,896,491)...it didnít have to be taken apart and they asked me
how it was constructed and I told them. I had tabs folded over and was a hand made sample that
was not a production unit...later on when we started making them I drew covers and we fastened
everything together with screws and the cover was solder fastened along the edges on the final
assembly. When you get a patent...somewhere it ways 1 claim...they always list references cited.
Here I have Lestiís (Re. 20,070) patent cited and a copy of Lestiís patent and sure enough he had
two pickups and see how he did it...he had electro magnets...heíd throw the switch one way...he
applied for his in 1935 and in 1955 is when I applied for mine...thatís when they referred mine
back to his...he had humbucking construction, he merely did it with electro magnets, he
magnetized the strings, so that was one of them...the next one was Knoblaugh (2,119,584)...he
also had double coil construction so connected that it gives humbucking action but he also applied
DC...he switched back & forth...Arnold Noblaugh...this is setting underneath the strings...I assume
that what he means by these things across here...he might have had 16 strings...by magnetizing,
one on top of the other, an iron core flush with the top & bottom...the iron core magnetizes the
strings and the string is magnetized and moving that over a coil induces the voltage...so thatís the
way Noblaugh did it...Hereís Russellís (2,262,335)...patent and a horseshoe shaped magnet but
he had a raised pole pieces with the strings going through the holes....here is his U shaped pickup
and had holes in the magnet...he was first to use a permanent magnet and the other two guys
used an electromagnet....that would have worked but at the time (1939) there were no solid body
guitars to speak of but maybe some experimental models so when you put the weight on top of a
hollow body guitar you deaden the thing...you lose the overtones...you dampen the body...back
then people who played guitar were very fussy about what they heard and if the amplified sound
and if it didnít sound like a guitar exactly the way, how they thought it should sound, theyíd rather
be caught dead than play an electric guitar.
Another is Alverez (2,542,271)....I donít know why
they mentioned that one.... they say a device for creating oscillations, it didnít have anything to do
with what I was claiming but in the early versions of the patent application the lawyer made some
reference that caused them to dig this one out and claim it as a reference...that was filed in
48...the next is Grimshaw (2,581,653)...here is another one I couldnít understand why it was
reference...it had a single winding and adjusting screws on the end...in this picture and itís still a
single winding....Grimshaw is from London, it says...something simple to manufacture employ a
minimum number of parts.. simple to assemble and adjust to require no or very little alterations in
construction of musical instrument... now his claim he didnít claim any humbucking action so forth
and got 7 claims...just why they referenced that I donít know... I do know that we mentioned ours
being simple so forth and maybe that what they referenced that to....Then the next one was Keller
(2,683,388)...now this looks strangely like this one here but the coil is turned sideways, the
mounting screws slightly off center and now why they referenced this one, I really donít know
either....because it was a single coil, and maybe something in the language said something the
same as I did and compared the statements and so just why it was referenced and no claim for
humbucking I donít know....I think you can have some lawyer in Washington search and go
through the files buy when you make an application for a patent, they search files under the same
heading ďelectric translating device for musical instrumentĒ so they go through their musical
instrument file and dig through all the things and if thereís something that references the same
thing...I assume they must have something that reads that for them. I canít see them sitting there
reading all the patents, it would take them for ever...and this one here since I couldnít read it, I
couldnít find anything humbucking in that...they were using a magnet top and bottom and could
magnetize the strings...Here is a patent of Leo Fenders (2,817,261)...shows the Stringmaster
when the volume is up all the way the pickups are in series and humbucking...they could turn one
side off when the volume control was turned down it would use one coil...or single coil...
SWD: why do they call it an electromagnetic pickup? you usually think of a pickup with a
electrical current going through it.
Seth Lover: I donít know why they call it electromagnetic...itís a generator...your changing mechanical
motion and changing it into electrical energy, itís a generator...thatís why lotís of times they like
using the work transducer that sounds a little more modern. I donít know why they use that term,
there are electro magnets and permanent magnets...anytime you change the statement in the
patent thatís been started through you must make declarations and so forth...it gets quite fuzzy at
I came across my original notes the other day for the humbucking pickups...I believe the pickups
(Alnico) was used on the ES-175 and keeping the plating on the magnet it was first with copper
plated, we had the magnet copper plated then I could solder to it....the wire was grounded to each
polepiece because if somebody would happen to touch those it would ďtickĒ, because of capacitive
coupling...your body picks up fields that are radiated through you, if you touch something of a
different potential there is going to be an exchange of energy between your body and another
object being the pickup pole piece, like static, since traveling from this body to that body at
different potential, OK that current is going right through the coil so it will make a little pop...if you
touch the strings you will hear the click...Iíve seen guys play with a strap around their wrist to
ground themselves to the guitar to get away from that. Laugh... Iíve heard some stories but never
have tried it myself, if you keep the bridge, strings, etc. all insulated and don't connect the tail
piece through the ground system that you get away from that...Iíve never found a time when I
could do that and never investigated it but seemed we had more noise when isolating the tailpiece
SWD: Was your first humbucker bobbins wound by hand?
Seth Lover: Yeah!
SWD: How did the tooling hold the bobbin
Seth Lover: What I have on my present one we had on the Gibson ones, a flat plate that was
connected to a shaft that was rotating...that plate would go through here and bolts that would bolt
the system together...and this is typically what happens...they bow, they bow at the ends from the
winding pressure...the more turns you have the more pressure they tend to give a little...and thatís
one of the things by going to a heavier plastic you can sort of tend to control that....the prototype
Alnico (staple p.u.) was wound by hand...Iím pretty sure I wound this one myself...I believe I made
this pickup around 1952...thatís when I went back to Gibson........the first of July of 52 got out of
the Navy and went back to Gibson...I was working on this prier to joining Gibson and when I
started working full time I finished this one up.
SWD: Did you always use 42 AWG magnet wire Plain Enamel
Seth Lover: 42 was the size wire to use if you were doing something economically...if you go to 44 you
stand more chance of breakage and while the additional DC didnít mean to much to you....as long
as you keep the volume control impedance at the right value, say 250K volume control you tend to
load it down a little more...but if you went smaller in size to 40 you couldnít get enough turns on to
give you the amount of output...because the one major measure of how good a pickup is, is how
loud it is...Laugh...
SWD: Why does the DC resistance vary in pickups...
Seth Lover: this one here (alnico-staple) was wound I believe with 10,000 turns of 42 PE....Iíd been
trying to think how many turns I put on the coil of a humbucking...it seemed to me it was about
6,400 turns...but than I think that it was a little high but it was in between the 4 & 5k range...some
of my earlier data suggested that I had 4,200 to 4,400 turns, then I got to thinking, didnít I have
more turns than that on it...it seemed to me I had more turns on it. Iím not sure but I can take this
one apart and unwind it.
SWD: Are the coils made by hand in the prototype humbucker (PAF)
Seth Lover: Yes, thatís right, the coil forms are made from celluloid with a bar magnet underneath with
iron pole pieces on each side, you see when I first designed this I had the cover plain on the
original one...I wanted them to sell it without any adjusting screws because I found that with this
there was much difference between the first and second strings like there is on most of the old
non adjustable type there was quite a difference in the first & second string but this didnít seem to
have that major difference, and I thought it was not necessary to have pole pieces...well when you
take away a talking point from a salesman itís like breaking off your arm....the first thing I came up
with an idea was just fake some things there so I stamped them on the cover, that didnít please
them either, by that time we already made the patent application...thatís why it went through that
way, so they finally decided they wanted screws in there, so I put adjusting screws in it for them,
then the question they asked me then was which way should those screws set? Should they set
up or down? Well youíve got to give them an answer.. so I decided to take the one closest to the
fingerboard and put the screws facing it and the one closest to the bridge towards the bridge,
laugh...that made them happy, they had a set way that it should be set, it only amounted to turning
the pickup around...
SWD: Did you feel the screws in it would change the flow of the magnetic field..
Seth Lover: It would change the direction of the magnetic field out the top and also the bottom..
SWD: Did you spend a large amount of time at Gibson just developing the humbucking pickup?
Seth Lover: Most cases I was doing other things at the same time and Iím trying to think...let me find
my note book that had my original notes...this is electric string data that I took back in 1964, this is
core wire tinned music spring wire...nil stain winding material, stainless steel, nickel winding
material, magnetic, question mark, source, Wilber Driver, at HK Porter. this was a part number
for strings the core was so and so, the winding was that and core was that etc. the winding
material was Nil-Stain...down here we had nickel, this was at Gibson.
Here was some ideas I had back then, see the problem with guitars is the peg head waves around
and I was trying to stabilize it but keep it out of the way of the player, because he had to get his
hands in there to play it too, and so I was just dreaming things on paper...This is two L 5 pickups
split pickups, into three poles and the winding turns were 10,000 and each 5250, electric mandolin
pickups. I once made a mandolin pickup, the ES-125 had 5.5 into itís self resonance, it was a
standard than various changes I made and I attempted to get a low impedance output.
SWD: Did you design the coil form for Gibson.
Seth Lover: Yeah. .When I designed something, I designed the whole thing, the bobbin shape, I made
an electric banjo, the solid body electric banjo. a mixer unit.
SWD: So the first coil forms were made by hand?
Seth Lover: Oh yeah--I used celluloid...youíd mix up some acetone and celluloid and from that youíd get
a glue. Thatís the way you made your glue; you take the chips of celluloid and thin it with acetone
until it was in pasty form.
SWD: Iíve got a question for you. When a patent was issued, why did Gibson put the number--
patent number--2,737,842 on the bottom of the humbucker instead of your humbucking patent
number 2,896,491? On the bottom of the they use the patent number for the tailpiece instead of
Seth Lover: Thatís a good question, I donít know. Did you get a copy of that particular patent number
they put on the bottom of the humbucker.
SWD: Yeah. Itís their patent for the early tailpiece used on 52í Les Paulís and other acoustic
Seth Lover: I think they just got mixed up. Somebody said you have to put patent notices on so they
grabbed them out of the stock room and put the wrong ones on. They had the patent applied for
stickers on till the early 60ís or so--Iím not sure exactly when they took them off (PAF). I donít
think they used that too much after they got the patent. It could have been, say, a year after the
patent. Sometimes manufacturers feel thereís more protection in a patent applied for sticker than
there is with the patent number because as long as thereís a patent applied for, nobody can look
at the patent and see what it looks like. Once they have the patent number, then they can. Just
how long they use that number, I donít know.
SWD: In 61í there were a lot of guitars that had patent applied for pickups and I didnít know if
they assemble all the pickups and just stuck all the decals on or maybe they had a couple of
thousand sitting around and used them at random
Seth Lover: Itís possible. They may have had pickups manufactured that far ahead. I think what quite
often happens--you see, those guitars are built up and come down there in racks--so many in a
rack. Well, they could get all assembled, down to the final tester and somebody testing it, he
looks it all over--gee, thereís something that doesnít look right in the finish--they have to send it
back. So that could show up months later, you know by the time it got around through the
finishing...it depends just how much they had to tear down and put back together to complete that.
So that could extend the life considerably.
SWD: What is the humbucker like in your terminology? What should it be called--
electromagnetic pickup or electrogenerator?
Seth Lover: I like to call them just humbucking pickups. I call them a generator, because thatís
essentially what they are.
SWD: Did you design the coil forms (bobbins)?
Seth Lover: Yeah, in other words, that was just part of the job when you wound the pickup you had--first
you had to figure out how close do you want that thing to sit together. And thatís going to govern,
then, the size of the coil from because just half the distance between the pole pieces can be
allotted to one half of the coil. So thatís going to govern that.
SWD: When the bobbin had a tooling number, did Gibson issue it or is there any reference to
what it meant? This bobbin here says M69.
Seth Lover: I think thatís just a tooling number thatís put on there by the guy who molds the particular
SWD: Here is a cream bobbin out of a 1963 Thunderbird bass. Why where they using cream
plastic at the time and how many would they mold at a time. Would it be hundreds or a thousand?
Seth Lover: Oh no, there must have been several thousand at a time. I donít think that they ever
ordered bobbins, a thousand at a time, because it took two for each pickup and that would only be
500 pickups. 500 pickups donít go very far. If you have two pickups on a guitar, thatís only 250
guitars, see. That wouldnít be too many. I know something came up about the cream bobbin
back there and Iím trying to think clearly just what it was. I think that we felt that maybe the
cream, when you look down through the cover by the adjustable pole piece it would not show as
much as the black.. the adjusting screw side there..and I think at one time we thought maybe that
wouldnít look, well, I shouldnít say objectionable, maybe it would look better if it was cream
instead of black. And then again Iím not too sure that it wasnít a case of the supplier calling up
and saying hey, I donít have any black, you need these in a hurry, I can run them in cream like
the Les Paul mounting rings. Can you take them the supplier said, and in either case I would
have said yes. But we started out with black and went to the cream for a short period of time and
then back to black.
SWD: After the first bobbins you had made, were there any tooling problems or anything you had
to change in the design after you had the bobbins made?
Seth Lover: No. I donít recall. There was some debate at one time whether we could make more than
one spacing. The spacing-spacing of the strings near the finger boards are different than the
bridge. I wanted to make one for each, well that meant making two molds. So I think we settled
on one and let it fall where it would on the forward or fingerboard pickup.
SWD: Where the coils wound by hand or was the magnet wire guided by machine?
Seth Lover: Only the experimental ones were wound by hand. Once we decided to make a bobbin and
got our coil forms molded, then we set it up on the machine and Iím trying to think just how many;
there was one machine that wound just four coils. I know there was one little machine and then
we had a larger machine where we would wind more.
SWD: Was the wire guided on by hand or did it have an automatic traverse.
Seth Lover: It had an automatic traverse. (the machine automatically layers the magnet wire on the
SWD: I read an article that someone said earlier humbuckers sounded the way they do because
they were wound by hand and the newer ones were different because they were wound by
Seth Lover: I canít recall that anybody wound any by hand except people who were repairing. I wound
sometimes, and if an old pickup was sent back in and they didnít have a machine for winding it
then it would be rewound by hand.
SWD: Would HPI make the tooling as well as do the injection molding?
Seth Lover: I believe HPI made the first bobbins and they also made the tooling for it.
SWD: Who would submit the drawing, would you do that?
Seth Lover: Oh yes. In fact those old original drawings--I donít have any more.
SWD: When were the first humbuckers used commercially? Early 1957 or 1967
Seth Lover: I suppose 56-57, right along in there. I know when the patent was applied for, and there
was no activity from CMI as to wanting it put on until some trade show came along where some
competitor had a humbucking pickup. And the story came back, why donít we have something
like that and I said ďwell youíve got it hanging in there on the wall, all you have to do is figure out
how you want to make the cover. So that brought it to a head and we went into production.
SWD: What were the first instruments if you can recall that the humbucker was used on? Would
it be the solid body or acoustic?
Seth Lover: As I recall, I could be wrong, but I think it was the ES-350. It was not the thin one. It was
the full sized body, as I recall, and then shortly after we put it on the Les Paul solid body. They still
had the other early style, I guess, the ES 125 with the cream cover (dog ear P-90) that was fit
down in the body. And they had that on some because people liked that particular style of pickup.
And then we added--the ES 335--that was a thin model.
SWD: How did you figure out the distance between the pickup and the bridge, not making it too
close or too far away?
Seth Lover: That was pretty much trial and error. You used what was basically used before as the
position. And you might have tried it a little forward or a little backwards to see if you could get
any particular improvement, but I thing that it was pretty well mind set by a musician as to the
position. They liked to have certain--they thought was correct for the pickup. And if you started
fighting a musician by moving it to some place he didnít like you could get into trouble. Now if you
came back too close to the bridge you could get it a little brighter, but you had a tendency to lose
volume because the string vibration did not move as far. If you lost too much volume because
then you were in the dog-house because you were not as loud; therefore, you were not as good.
SWD: Did you have players try out the pickups before they wanted to market them commercially?
Seth Lover: Not commercially but when you say try out--yes. We had musicians come in and listen and
try them out. We also had very good musicians there at the plant. Julius Belson was a very good
musician--Wilbur Marker, another one. And they listened to them and--oh I can remember when I
was working on the first bass pickup, the non-humbucking bass pickup--Wilbur Marker came in
there each time I would get one ready and he would try it out--Ēthatís better than the other, but not
quite right,Ē so we would make some changes and go on--wind up another. We finally go to the
point where you had to stop--you could have gone on forever and never been exactly perfect. But,
now we had some very good years there. When I can begin to hear the differences I make
certain tests--I can hear the differences between the, and then when they would corroborate what
I could hear, then we knew we were getting somewhere.
SWD: How did you figure out the number of turns for the type of frequency--if you put too many
turns on, when do you start loosing your high end?
Seth Lover: Well, I was just simply using # 42 plain enamel magnet wire. I put as many turns as I could
satisfactorily fill the space available. And thatís where we stopped right there.
SWD: The pickups were designed using heavier strings than today.
Seth Lover: The pickups were designed using heavier strings with the high E being a .012 gauge and
now they use .008 which moves the magnetic field much less. They just canít generate enough
energy with that size string. Some players say ďmy pickups are weak,Ē if they would only use a
heavier string that the pickup was designed for they wouldnít have any problem.
I sometimes wonder if unconsciously if guys who are playing and bending their notes arenít trying
to get the string into tune that donít have it quite in tune. Unconsciously I think their ears ought to
slide a little bit higher in pitch. Iíve hear musicians talking about things that are just bothering the
hell out of them--complaining and so forth and Iíd listen and listen and I couldnít hear. At the
same time I could hear things in there that were bothering the hell out of me and theyíd pay no
attention to them. I hear something they donít and they hear something I donít. What are you
going to do?
SWD: We were talking earlier about how many turns were used to--whatever could fill up the
Seth Lover: Whatever would fill up the bobbin nicely. In manufacturing, normally when you are winding
by hand the bobbin fills a little faster than if you have a traverse there that lays them in nice and
smooth. In other words they can get a little more in than you can get by hand unless you are very
careful about your winding, which is a little difficult to do. People are lazy--you know you try to
keep it going as fast as you can so the job doesnít take quite so long. Where it builds on one
side, and you have to crowd it over here and hope that it doesnít get squeezed on.
SWD: The wire used then was 42 AWG?
Seth Lover: 42 plain enamel.
SWD: Would the plain enamel be a single or heavy build?
Seth Lover: I think it was just a single coating.
SWD: Have you looked at the tolerance allowances that the 42 AWG magnet wire can have?
Seth Lover: Yes. .0025Ē to .0029Ē (thousands). I donít think that at that time they had a thin or thick
insulation. I donít recall. I can remember seeing wire that was double and DCC--double cotton
covered. When we had plain enameled I donít think that we had the thin and thick enamel
covering. My recollection is that it was just plain enamel. And then I think possibly later on they
were getting so much variation the manufacturers were getting a little more critical so they would
ask either if I can accept the wire a little thin and the coating is a little thinner than what we call
minimal. The first thing you know the manufacturer he would have a whole lot of one and not so
much of the other, so another guy would accept this range and not the other range, so I kind of
think they split it up that way. I could be wrong. Maybe theyíve always had two layers or thickness
available that you could buy. Since I wasnít doing the buying, I was merely using whatever theyíd
get out of the stock room.
SWD: Would they just use one supplier?
Seth Lover: That would vary, I supposed as to then they started bidding with different suppliers. Now I
know that weíve used Essex wire, weíve used Hudson, oh Iíd say most of the major suppliers of
magnet wire theyíve used.
SWD: Did you ever use any other types of insulation or was it just mainly all enamel?
Seth Lover: Back then all enamel and now theyíre using a polyurethane insulation. Iíve used
polyurethane on pickups recently when I was working at Fender and I donít see any particular
difference. The major difference I see is sometimes if you did a little soldering and got things a
little bit too hot, it would melt, because the big reason for using that is speed in production so they
donít have to take the enamel off first. In fact Leo Fender never used to take the enamel of the
wire. They would wind the coils and rub the soldering iron across the eyelet to break through the
insulation. And that is one thing that they never did at Gibson. Weíd always use a little piece of
sandpaper, wipe it a couple of times and solder to it. We didnít try to burn through the insulation.
With the early humbuckers they always started the lead wire from inside the coil, they soldered the
small, I guess 30 gauge wire to the magnet wire and extend it through the square hole on the
bottom end of the bobbin.
SWD: Did you ever get into using aluminum or silver magnet wire? Economically it wouldnít be
Seth Lover: No. Since you had to have special soldering equipment for aluminum and silver magnet
wire. Back 10-15 years ago there wasnít too much around in the way of aluminum solder. Now
days they have.
SWD: Were the coils when wound on machine wound identical? Two bobbins, number of turns,
equal traverse and tension?
Seth Lover: There was a tension adjustment for each coil. You could have a different tension on one
than the other. But normally the girls got so they could feel that. They didnít use meters like they
do today to measure, because those girls got so they could just sort of lift up on the wire and feel
it pulling through their hands and tell the tension. And of course if there was too great a difference
you could immediately see it because a loose tension, the bobbin would fill up in a hurry and
couldnít get the turns on. Then if you had a break, sometimes they couldnít stop that machine in
time, before too many, they didnít notice it--one coil would break, well theyíd try to stop the
machines so they could make the connection there and splice into it and go on. Because they just
strip the ends, wool them together, solder it, fold it over, put a little piece of tape around it, so it
wouldnít touch any of the others. Because whenever you solder like that there might be a little
sharp point of solder that would break through the additional insulation. Lay a little wrapped tape,
just fold it around there to cover up the point and start it up and again and get going. So you could
have a coil that might have 50 or 100 less turns, depends how quickly you stop the machine.
SWD: We talked about the addition of adjustable poles pieces; would that change the sound any,
the magnetic field-disbursed through the bobbin?
Seth Lover: On the humbucker the adjustable pole piece extends out the bottom. If you had a magnet
that was quite weak you could absorb some of the energy, depends on how far through that screw
was, because itís going to absorb some of the energy there. But as a rule, with a good magnet
there wasnít too much.
SWD: What was the reason, for having adjustable pole pieces, was it for a better balance
Seth Lover: Yes, It would give you a better balance but it was also a selling point.
SWD: On the ďpatent applied forĒ bobbins there is a square pin hole with a recessed ring on one
end of the bobbin. What is the reason for it?
Seth Lover: It was in the mold and I recall it was for ejecting the bobbin. It would help pull the bobbin
out of the mold.
SWD: Why didnít they use a round vs. square.
Seth Lover: I donít know for sure, but it was something in the tooling that formed that square hole, as I
recall. The square pin hole would keep the bobbin from falling as the bobbin was being pulled out
of the mold. I used that hole as an exit for one of the leads. The leads only came out the bottom.
We wanted to bring the lead out at one end from each bobbin. The beginning from the adjustable
bobbin was soldered to ground and the beginning of the stud bobbin was the hot output. The
finish of each bobbins were connected together and insulated with tape. I never saw the tooling
they molded the bobbins on. Weíd merely give them a drawing and then theyíd ask for variation
to do certain things that would help them. Iím pretty sure the mold went together this way from the
sides. At that pin at that end there turned out to be square for some reason. I didnít ask for a
square hole. Iím sure I asked for just a round hole. But apparently they wanted a square hole for
some reason or another. As I recall it was the mold makers request to make a square pin hole.
SWD: The newer ones theyíre making now donít have that hole. They have a ďTĒ on top which
they say is for winding.
Seth Lover: ďTĒ most likely for the top of the bobbin. Making sure they keep the ďTĒ on top when doing
SWD: Where the bobbins made out of celluloid or nylon?
Seth Lover: No it was Buterate. Itís not celluloid. The early P-90 and Alnico bobbins were fabricated
out of celluloid and acetone. Itís not nylon, nylon I donít think was very popular back then. The
Firebird and Mini-Humbucker bobbins are made from nylon.
SWD: We talked about the cream bobbins being used for the humbucker bobbins. There were
double cream, black adjustable and cream stud, black stud and cream adjustable, and double
black. Why where they made this way?
Seth Lover: They just picked the bobbins out of a bin and assembled at random.
SWD: How many bobbins may have been run at a time?
Seth Lover: I would imagine 5-10 thousand at a time.
SWD: There are rumors going around that the black bobbin pickups sound different than the
cream bobbin pickups. How can that be possible?
Seth Lover: I canít see that it is. The plastics are the same and if the pole spacing changes, the
magnetic field would be slightly different on Byrdland humbucking pickups changing the sound
SWD: The Thunderbird Bass pickup was out in 1963. The bobbin was routed down the center
and a bar magnet was inserted. Where did the bobbin come from.
Seth Lover: We made steel guitar pickups that were humbucking too. There were some steel guitar
pickups and I donít know if they made thousands, maybe several hundred or something like that.
The Thunderbird bas probably used the left over bobbins they had. They were modified steel
guitar bobbins and used for the bass pickups. If you see the bobbins you can notice the
adjustable pole recess molded into the bobbin.
SWD: How do you feel about the price of the ďPatent Applied ForĒ humbuckers? In the several
hundred dollar category.
Seth Lover: Probably back then a pickup was made for about $5.00.
SWD: So the bobbins were put in a bin and were just picked out at random. The creams were
probably mixed in with the black ones.
Seth Lover: Chances are thatís what happened.
SWD: How did the mounting ring come about? In the drawing in your patent...
Seth Lover: I used the old ES-125 (dog-ear cover) as a start because we didnít have any mounting ring
for this. So this was not acceptable as a mounting ring I felt. Because you notice this there was a
slight slope to it--slightly different here and here (neck angle). I designed two different mounting
rings. One near the bridge and one near the fingerboard. One near the fingerboard is quite
shallow at the front edge; and, I tried to set that so the thing would have the slope of the strings
when you were fretted at the last fret. And then the one that was back near the bridge, it had to
be held up a little higher so I wanted to bring the pickups up close to the string. Because the
closer you can keep the pickup to the string the more output you are going to have. It doesnít do
any good to bring--to put the pickup down and bring the screws up to compensate because youíve
lost--youíve got to get the pickup as close as you can to the strings.
SWD: Because your losing your magnetic field?
Seth Lover: Thatís right, the magnetic field comes up to the stings there and magnetizes the strings.
Thatís one of the things that most people donít understand. They figure that string is waving there
and cutting the magnetic lines of force. Nuts. That isnít it. The magnet, all it does is magnetize
the string. Now youíve got a waving magnetic field. And we have a fixed coil with a waving
magnetic field to induce voltage. If you want to, take the magnet out. One youíve magnetized
your strings, it will play until the string loses it. Players think the string, the magnetic field from the
magnet comes up to the string and by twisting the magnetic flux back and forth thatís what
induces the voltage. Thatís not what happens. Thereís a certain amount of that, but thatís minor.
What is happening is you have a magnetic field that is moving back and forth across the coil. And
when you move a magnetic field back and forth across the coil you induce voltage. If you move
the field up and down it wouldnít induce any voltage. Itís the motion back and forth across the
pickup that does it.
SWD: How did you decide on the mounting ring angle?
Seth Lover: We took the standard stock guitar and added the humbucking pickup to it and needed it to
tick up a little bit to give us some decent appearance so that meant that you had to have the front
edge thin, the back end a little thicker to get the slant you wanted on it. I thought originally I was
going to have to put two screws on each side to keep the slant the way you want it. But for some
reason the pickups tend to take on an angle with the cover there.
SWD: Did you have to submit any changes when a player came in?
Seth Lover: If a player wanted something else, you talked about it, maybe make a few changes before
the product went out. The cover was the only essential change. In other words I wanted it bare to
start with. Then they decided they wanted some indication of a pole piece. So I put these rings
on my prototype and that was not sufficient so we put adjusting screws on one side.
SWD: How did you come about using alnico magnets?
Seth Lover: If Iím not mistaken I think the Oscar Moore pickup had tungsten carbide magnets or some
such name as that. In other words what ever as the best magnet available-pre WW II (World War
II) Well after WW II alnico magnets became quite popular. They started using it for the magnets
in speakers and things like that. And finally electrodynamics died out and we had the alnico
magnets. And of course everybody was selling speakers, selling alnico magnets and we found
that we could get alnico magnets fairly reasonable, small in size for the amount of strength and
the only thing that you run into with alnicoís was they were cast which means if you wanted to
keep a dimension you had to pay the price for grinding the edges. And if you wanted an assembly
to fit exactly between those pole pieces, you had to make sure that your dimensions didnít vary
too much. As cast, they ask as much as plus or minus .030Ē thousands. That means as much as
16th of an inch variation. We didnít care about the thickness varying that much because one
would be a little bit stronger and another a little weaker. You could live that. But the distance
across the width had to have ground surfaces. They were ground to dimensions. We tried to hold
within plus or minus .005Ē which is pretty tight.
SWD: What is the material and purpose of the bottom plate?
Seth Lover: The bottom plate is a non-magnetic material so that you did not detract from the magnet.
You wanted the magnet to go through the pole pieces and the pole screw to the strings. Thatís
the path you wanted the magnetism to follow. Thatís why on most of those youíll find brass
screws in the bottom. I didnít want to detract any from the magnet into those brass screws.
SWD: Some pickup manufacturers use steel screw to secure the bobbins to the bottom plate.
Seth Lover: If they are willing to accept that loss, well fine. When I designed it, I wanted brass in there.
I didnít want to take away any of the magnetic strength in a useless point.
SWD: You like using Nickel Silver for the bottom plate and cover.
Seth Lover: Yes.
SWD: The legs on the bottom plate are Lí shaped.
Seth Lover: You had to have room for a spring so if you are going to adjust up and down--you couldnít
have it come just straight out, there wasnít room enough for a spring to get any appreciable
adjustment up and down. So I brought the legs down so I could get a long enough spring there--
so I could adjust up and down.
SWD: Did the cover that was nickel silver have a plating?
Seth Lover: I think it was nickel silver plating and they started using gold plating--If they donít plate too
heavily, thatís fine. Chances are they are not going to plate to heavily at the cost of gold today.
SWD: How thick should the cover be so it works properly?
Seth Lover: I just selected a size that was easily drawable. In other works that they could handle easily,
drawing without tearing. I wouldíve like to have kept it as thin as possible. If you get it too thin you
get to many rejects when youíre drawing it. It tears easily.
SWD: Does the cover have good shielding properties?
Seth Lover: It is good for electrostatic shielding. Removing the cover leaves a hole for electrostatic
SWD: Are the pole pieces soft iron or steel?
Seth Lover: They are soft iron pole pieces are plated to keep them from rusting and to have a nice
appearance. The little slugs are also soft iron. You have a spacer next to the magnet which the
screws go into and is used to help hold the screw in tightly and surround the screw with a
magnetic field. It was to make sure you got a magnetic path to the screw as much as possible.
Also to have something for the screw to adjust in. If you relied on just plastic, it would wear too
SWD: The ďpatent applied forĒ magnet was 2.5Ē long
Seth Lover: As I recall I think it was called or #55 magnet. 2.5Ē long X .5Ē wide X .125Ē thick. That was
the nominal dimensions. The length could vary +/- 16th inch--wouldnít matter too much. The
width had to be held close to .5Ē if you wanted to keep your spacing right. And the thickness, that
could vary +/- 1/32ndĒ. You could still put the coil assembly together.
SWD: How about the 4 brass screws? They were used to hold the bobbins in place and to
Seth Lover: Yes, in other words everything has to fit tight together or if you have some possible
movement of one part vs. another you can get a pickup like a microphone--the coils tend to move
or vibrate a little, you can talk into it and hear it out of the amplifier.
SWD: Have you heard coils squeal when too close to an amp.
Seth Lover: Well the squealing part, that could be electrostatic couplings between the speaker.
Sometimes on amplifiers they do not ground one side of the voice coil. When they do that, the
voice coil acts like a little radiating antenna and you can get electrostatic coupling into your pickup
that may cause a high pitched squealing and quite often we were able to cure that by grounding
one side of the voice coil in the amplifier. make sure that one lug of the terminal was grounded to
the frame of the speaker. As soon as we tied the frame of the speaker to ground, then that would
tend to quiet down in most cases. Now you can still get close enough to them where youíll even
that wonít help you much. But then normally an acoustic electric guitar youíll get plain acoustic
feedback or sound from the speaker will cause a howl. It depends where your tone controls
setting, to what frequency you are tending to accentuate as to what frequency you are going to
hear where it feedbackís. Itís not a very high pitched note, itís generally lower.
SWD: On occasion Fender had feedback problems with microphonics at high volumes and use a
wax solution to keep the components from vibrating.
Seth Lover: When they assembled the humbucking pickups usually they had to clamp down unit tightly
until they soldered it together. That would keep them good and tight. If they didnít keep it tight
you could get that same condition where maybe even the magnet might vibrate a little bit.
SWD: On many bobbins the coils are wrapped with the insulation tape. Was that for a certain
Seth Lover: For mechanical protection
SWD: Did they always use the #4 flatback tape? Itís been used for years and was it for a specific
Seth Lover: They always used the black paper tape and I think it was probably habit forming and then
too, in other words thatís probably what the first tape, commercially, they started using.
SWD: It works well.
Seth Lover: And it worked well for them. Itís inexpensive and they just keep on using it because it
would be just like if they changed the color of the wire, somebody would scream, if they change
the color of the tape--Gosh, if when they upped their Fender when they changed the color of the
string they were wrapping them with, that was the cause of all the problems, see?
SWD: Guitarist say ďyouíve got to put that enamel wire on it! Nothing else!, cause it wonít sound
Seth Lover: Well as long as they pay for what they get, give it to them.
SWD: Gibson has been using the shielded, cloth braid, 7 strand Lenz wire for a long time.
Seth Lover: Is Lenz still making wire?
SWD: At this time they still were making it.
SWD: Tell me a little bit about what you were doing at Fender.
Seth Lover: I left Gibson in 1967. Before I left there they wanted me to take over the service
department on amplifiers. So I didnít like the idea but I took it over. It got to be such a hassle, I
said get somebody else. I said ďlet me back in engineering.Ē And then I kind of got the feeling at
the time that they were not going to build amplifiers too much longer. I got an inkling of a job out
here at Fender. So when I quit Gibson, I flew to California and looked the situation over and they
met the price I wanted to get. Maybe I didnít ask enough (laugh), I donít know. I was happy with
what I got. So I took the job and went to work for them. Starting out, I was component evaluation
and tested speakers. I never saw so many speakers in one building in all my life. In building 1,
that was the first building Leo Fender built. That was full of speakers to be tested. Find good
speakers so they would have speakers to replace the ones they were presently using because
about that time they were having a heck of a problem with speakers. Back around 1967. That
was about the time ceramic magnets became popular. They had all kinds of trouble keeping
those magnets on the speakers. They would fall off inside the cabinets on their way to the
customer. We had the same trouble back at Gibson. So that was one of the problems. And of
course thatís the beginning of the high power. The boys wanted more power, you know, and so
they began driving things into distortion, clipping and so forth. Sometimes the speakers let loose
and sometimes the guys listened to that and said the speaker rattles when it was just clipping so
badly it sounded that way. And you had to determine which was which. And then you got to
checking speakers and you found that if you drove them at that level very long some of them
So manufacturers had to start building speakers to handle more power. And thatís
where they got these new voice coils with aluminum lining in there to radiate some of the heat. So
my job was to test speakers and see what would an acceptable sound and to stand the power.
The next thing I got into was the big solid state amplifier. Fender had already started building a
set of solid state stuff. Well theyíd get it up to the point where theyíd start shipping and nothing
would stay out in the field. It would come back because it wouldnít sound right, they just wouldnít
sound like the old tube amplifiers. About 1969 I designed a solid state amplifier for them. They
wanted a three-channel. And the specs were--this was for small groups, the bass would play in
channel 1, Channel 2 somebody could use one of those oil can reverbs (echoís), the only thing is
the cans are forever leaking. Channel 3 will have tremolo and reverb for the lead guitars. Okay,
that meant coming out the back with three foot pedals. I was leery of transistors amplifiers,
transistors for some reason or another are always breaking down. Instead of having one big,
heavy power output stage, Iíll have two-70 watt outlets. It would have 6 speakers--that was the
XFL 2000. We discovered that if a guy bought an amplifier, he was not going to let anyone else
plug into it, he wanted all these effects. Well the quickest way was to put jumper cords on the
second jack of each channel over to the first jack. Now you were able to play using three foot
SWD: Did you design the humbucking bass pickup for Gibson?
Seth Lover: After I built the first bass pickup, it was non-humbucking. If you ever got it near an
amplifier you picked up and unduly amount of hum. I figured the humbucking is natural for bass
because thatís getting down in the frequencies where 60 cycle hums--youíve got 60 cycle notes
plus 60 cycle natural hum you are going to get a lot of wobble in there.
SWD: What are the line on the magnet, does that represent the north pole?
Seth Lover: Yeah. When theyíd magnetize those theyíd always mark the same side so that when they
put them in a pickup, all the pickups will be the same polarity. Since you had plenty of energy--
see this is not the ideal way to place the coil if you want maximum efficiency. This one here works
and thereís enough turns on that thing--it seems like 20,000 turns on each coil or something like
that. It worked pretty well. Of course one of the requirements of this is that it had to fit in the
space that the old non-humbucking coils--so that was one of the designs and configurations I had
to stay with. The covering held the pickup in place and there was some padding underneath there
SWD: Where all the parts manufactured outside or in house?
Seth Lover: No, a guy by the name of Watkins, as I recall, Watkins machine shop I think made a lot of
the pickup parts. He was out of Kalamazoo and made most of the parts like the bottom plate. I
think the covers were made by some place down in Ohio, as I recall. HPI made the bobbins but
Watkins made the unit base and pole pieces. The poles in the humbucking bass pickup would
have to be removed before the plate inside could slide through the coils. It was a lot of fun
making this type of humbucking.
SWD: What do you think about the Gibson Melody Maker pickup?
Seth Lover: It was a little inexpensive pickup that Gibson made. They were great pickups and were
really good. Like some of the higher priced pickups, I think the ones that are simpler sounded
pretty good compared..You see they got by without having an adjustment screw and it worked
very well. They used this not only on Spanish guitars but they used them on some of the steel
guitars. Little 6 string lap steels.
SWD: Did the magnets come from Indiana General back then?
Seth Lover: Oh, I think they got some--G.E. had a magnet plant around Midland, Michigan--somewhere
up in that area. I think they supplied them for awhile and down in Indiana--Indiana General. Then
thereís another company that I canít recall that we got some from. I think Gibson shopped
around-when they got down low in magnets they shopped around with the different suppliers--
whoever could supply and make deliveries at the time that they needed them and had the best
price were the one they got them from. Because Alnico at the time was getting pretty common--
everybody could make it and had the facilities.
SWD: Do you like reading about magnets?
Seth Lover: Iím still interested in magnetic systems. While in the Navy they asked me what I wanted to
do with my life. Of course I had to include my own statement and I said that ďI wanted to make the
most efficient electromagnetic device possible.Ē And whether I accomplished it or not I donít
SWD: Do you think youíll ever pickup up your guitar and do some playing?
Seth Lover: Iíve got several course books. Iíve got a guitar in there, and electric guitar that I made--itís
got a doubler, dividers, automatic Wah Wah, fuzz and you can play chords with the fuzz on it and
play chords with the divider on it.
SWD: Does most of the hum come from transformers producing a magnetic field?
Seth Lover: Magnetic fields from transformers or if thereís a motor running in the area, magnetic fields
will come from that.
SWD: Do you still have a coil machine to work with?
Seth Lover: Yeah, I have a coil winder stuck back in the corner.
Seth Lover: Earlier you asked me the question and I thought about it. Somewhere I have some notes
on the first ideas on electric guitar pickups--the humbucking coils. I think it started out back
around 1954, or it could have been 1955. Ted McCarty wanted a new pickup. I said instead of
just a new pickup why donít I make some improved pickup, something that will do something that
the industry needs, which is get rid of the darn hum whenever you got close to an amplifier.
SWD: The rest is history.
Here are a few more of Sethís patents:
- S.E. Lover: Metallic Stringed Musical Instrument. Filed Jan. 9, 1957, Patented Dec. 25, 1962,
- Ted McCarty & S.E. Lover: Patented Aug. 4, 1959, #2,897,709, Russell Zick (Hughes Plastic).
SWD: Do you make bobbins for Gibson?
Seth Lover: Yes.
SWD: Do you know when you started working for Gibsons, we were the first to start making
bobbins for Gibson, let me get a computer print out first.
1/15/95 transcribed 1995 by Seymour W. Duncan.