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Back in the early 1970s a pickup winder produced an iconic humbucker design which was used by an iconic guitarist. A punchy, harmonically rich pickup which had more output than the PAFs everyone seemed to be using. In the mid 70s that pickup winder started a company which would go on to be huge in the replacement pickup market, and he decided to mass produce that early design … but the problem was the 43awg, vintage style plain enamel wire was expensive and difficult to work with – it really didn’t go too well with building a mass market pickup. You see a switch to 43awg polysol wire … cheaper and much easier to work with, wouldn’t work, as the insulation layer of polysol is thicker than PVA Plain enamel, so you can’t fit as much of it on a bobbin … the pickup would have had to have it’s turn count lowered, and the chief selling point of the pickup, it’s extra power, would of course go down. Not wanting to reduce his pickup’s ability to compete with other newly introduced ‘hot’ replacement pickups, he changed the wire gauge down to 44awg polysol without announcing the fact publicly: it would be his ‘dirty secret’. Of course the tone of the pickup changed with the wire swap – but most of the public had only heard the original pickup on recordings … so the mass produced model sold like hot cakes.

However, a very few of the original spec pickups have survived, and it was from one of these I got the specifications for the Dirty Secret – and of course the inspiration for its name!

The Dirty Secret is a mid, bordering on high powered, harmonically complex pickup with subtle compression when overdriven, but without the more honky and adenoidal tone associated with similar pickups with finer wire. It keeps it’s essential PAF like character while being raucous enough for hard rock and metal.

When people ask you how you get your tone … tell them it’s a Dirty Secret!   


Sold individually in Neck or Bridge. Other bobbin colours may be available, please see our custom shop or contact us with your requirements. 

Bridge 14.5k alnico 5 neck 7.6k alnico 5 


Oil City ‘Masterwound’ range

Our premium series: these pickups take on the top boutique makers worldwide, and set a new standard for tone.

‘Using the finest materials and with the most exacting assembly each Masterwound pickup is hand made, serial numbered and signed, by me alone’.

~ Ash

As fitted to Feline Guitars, the Blackmachine B6 and many quality UK made custom instruments.


  • We wind pickups to order, please allow 21 days for build and dispatch.

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