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The lipstick-tube pickup was first introduced by Danelectro on their line of electric guitars. The original lipstick-tube pickups were, in fact, manufactured using surplus lipstick tubes, and were featured on Danelectro, Danelectro's Coral series, and guitars that were later marketed through Sears, Roebuck and Company department stores under the name Silvertone.
These pickups have been featured most recently on Danelectro's reissued guitars in the 1990s and 2000s. The current production pickups are not made using surplus lipstick tubes, but rather using tubes machined especially for guitar pickups.
Unlike a traditional guitar pickup that uses a plastic or fiber bobbin as a form for winding its coil, the lipstick-tube pickup has its coil wrapped around an alnico bar magnet, and then wrapped in tape, usually a cellophane-type tape on vintage units, before being inserted into the metal tube casing. Most vintage Danelectro guitars had their pickups mounted using spring-loaded brackets underneath the tube casing, which could be adjusted for height by means of screws located on the back of the guitar body. Other Danelectro guitars, like the Coral hollowbody series, suspended the pickups from the guitar's top with two screws threaded through the guitar's top and into the brackets. Modern lipstick-tube pickups are usually mounted in a pickguard like on a Stratocaster.
Vintage Danelectro lipstick-tube pickups are quite wide, at 3.22 in (8.18 cm) overall. They cannot be retrofitted into a Stratocaster or similar guitar without removing plastic from the pickguard and wood from the guitar body. To overcome this situation, a variety of aftermarket lipstick-tube pickups have been offered that are the same general width as the common Stratocaster style single-coils, with a 2.77 in (7.04 cm) wide tube casing. More recently, Fender themselves introduced a Stratocaster with lipstick-tube pickups for their Squier line, called the Surf Stratocaster.
The sound of lipstick-tube pickups is frequently described as "jangly" and is most closely associated with surf, rockabilly, and jangle pop. Silvertone and Danelectro wired their pickups in series rather than in parallel (the usual wiring for guitar pickups), which is similar to a humbucker wiring, and this may have contributed as much of the pickups' sound as did their unique construction.