Back in the olden days when I made Wosrites my ultimate goal was to try and inhabit and understand what it was Semie Moseley was trying to do. Semie is the single biggest influence on me as a guitar builder and everything I have ever made that is guitar related has had, hopefully, just a little bit of Semie in it.
When I got my winder back up and running a couple of years ago to make pickups for my TMI guitars I hadn't really considered remaking Mosrite pickups as my new guitars were all going to run more P-90 inspired pickups using pre-manufactured and hand made covers. But, I'm a little obsessive when it comes to Mosrite and it didn't take long for me to be wanting to make and understand the intricacies of Semies genius again which led me back down this rabbit hole.
After having access to a couple of early Ventures models and digging in through some early pickups I decided I wanted to make an exact replica of Semies first attempt at what I guess we'd call the pre mass production Mosrite pickup. There's lots of info about Mosrite pickups in my Mosrite section (mostly page 2) but once you start to get nerdy about it, Mosrite made quite a few "versions" of the Ventures pickup, along with all the other pickups they made.
From the first production pickups in very late '63 to late '64 the pickups were made by hand molding a cover over a wooden die using an oven to heat the plastic. These covers were slightly rounder and more organic looking with obvious handmade traits. Despite being formed over a die they all had very slight differences and most have stretch marks and slight deformations in the sides, especially as you get to the bottom of the cover.
In '65 Mosrite went to a die cast cover (and surround) which was much more consistent (and cheaper) with more squared off edges and tops. Initially these had Mosrite of California embossed into them but about a year later got the ® symbol added.
These early hand formed cover pickups had a bobbin made of cast epoxy as used to make the surrounds with thin clear plastic sheet glued top and bottom to complete the bobbin for winding. Some time in late '64 this bobbin changed to a wooden centre made from maple offcuts from the necks. These were simple blocks with 6 holes drilled in them with the same clear plastic which were still crudely cut by hand and glued top and bottom.
The bobbins were wound with #43 or #44 AWG wire depending on what was available but most from this period appear to have 43 with the bobbins packed with wire to achieve the high output Semie wanted from his pickups. The coils were then wrapped in a white medical tape with thin black and white lead wires.
2 segmented magnets that Semie favoured throughout his productive life were then epoxied to the bottom of the coil (north up) on either side of a row of nuts to hold the pole pieces in place. Personally I don't think the segmented magnets are crucial to making a Mosrite pickup sound how it does and in fact there were periods, or at least runs where Semie didn't use these maybe due to supply or trying something new, and these pickups still sound like a Mosrite. Personally I think the type of magnet is more important and I have always got the best results with A2 bar magnets.
Early versions had a thin copper foil between the bobbin and magnets with the earth lead from the coil soldered to this foil and the whole assembly was epoxied into the cover. The pole pieces were 6x32 thread x 3/4" long Phillips Fillister head screws and ran down through the generously drilled holes in the wooden bobbin and anchored in the nuts glued to the bottom between the 2 magnets.
The assembly was then sealed in a white foam material and a simple aluminium bar with height adjustment holes drilled in each end was epoxied to the base of the pickup.
This simple, primitive design made for an exemplary pickup that, while based on a P-90 design, has a tone and push like no other pickup, partly due to the fact that early Ventures pickups can reach over 15K which can push the front end of your amp into distortion. Listening to live Ventures tunes from this period ('64-66) you can hear their Fender Showman amps breaking up purely from pickup output.
So, here I am again obsessing over silly little things that don't really matter but do. I don't believe in a lot (most actually) of "guitar building snake oil" and myths but I've always been someone who has to try something if I'm going to form an opinion and build stuff accordingly so this was just another path I had to take to make my perfect Mosrite pickups.
While Mosrite didn't make a specific neck and bridge pickup (in fact both pickups were identical including pole piece spacing with the neck pickup angled to achieve alignment) I have based this set on my favourite sounding actual Mosrite pickups with the bridge being 15K and the neck being 12K with everything else being equal. To my ears this balances out better and gives me the bridge sound I liked from one set and neck sound I liked from another, so technically not a matching pair but a pair that play well together.
I fitted these to one of my favourite Kurokumo Mosrites and initial tests are very positive. I'm currently writing a blog on a shoot out between an original '65 Ventures and a different Kurokumo '65 which I've kept completely standard to make the shoot out fairer, but I've always liked the feel of this one A LOT.
Semie has been and will continue to be a HUGE influence on me with anything I do that is guitar related. For me, he made the ultimate guitar in looks, play-ability and tone and that's pretty special so if it takes me a life time to come close to what he did that's fine with me. That quest to get inside his head is a powerful driving force that keeps me going.