Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Adventures in Guitar Pedal Building: Part 3

I find it amazing how addictive and rewarding it can be to wield a soldering iron and repair or create things, once a person truly gives it a try. For years I used a very old, perhaps antique, soldering iron for repairing or modding video game consoles and was ecstatic when I got it right. That has all led me to building guitar pedals, and I'm beginning to believe I may just have a bit of a problem with this addiction.

For years I had dreamt of owning the pedals, or clones there of, that my guitar heroes use(d). The MXR Distortion Plus for Randy Rhoads, a DOD 250 for Yngwie, a TS808 for almost everyone, a Marshall Guv'nor for Gary Moore, the list goes on and on. What started off as a small mission to build (again perhaps clones there of) these pedals has now led to a different mindset. What if I could build any guitar pedal I've ever wanted, and then some? Well, that may be truer than I ever believed.

Really Cheap Compressor Fail

There are many websites on the internet that offer guitar pedal layouts, with almost endless supplies of guitar pedal layouts to choose from. I'm finding myself dreaming bigger and bigger with each layout that piques my interest. My mindset has now shifted to it's more cost efficient to build than it is to go buy the actual thing. In many cases this is true, but in some rare cases it's not. For example, I recently built a Boss OD-1 clone that I really enjoy. Does it sound exactly the same? I would wager no, but it sounds close enough that I enjoy it. Once the OD-1 was complete I figured I might want to build a DS-1. Who would build a DS-1 when they're so ubiquitous that guitar stores use them to prop open their front door on cool summer days?

The Boss OD-1 isn't even the most recent build, it all started with a Morley MOD-D1B clone that sounds pretty good too. From there I built another EHX LPB-1 but this layout offered a tone control, which is actually quite useful. I built a clone of a JHS little black buffer, just because I had the parts. I built, and failed, at a Really Cheap Compressor pedal. Hey, nobody promised every pedal would be a success, but it is a learning experience. I also built a Fulltone Fat Boost, where I must have used underpowered JFETs, but the basic principle is there so I can change out the offending parts later. And most recently I built both an Effdub Flapjack clone and Danelectro Cool Cat Drive clone, with another pedal remaining to be completed when the clipping diodes arrive.

Top: Boss OD-1 and Fat Boost
Middle: Little Black Buffer
Bottom: Morley MOD-D1B and LPB-1 w/ tone

When I'm not sitting outside soldering together a pedal, or at least contemplating what pedal I want to build next I get very bored. I love sifting through my spare parts and bagging up what the layout requires. Cutting the stripboard to the required size, making the needed cuts and soldering in the jumper links before putting on the real components in order of height. Sure it's a hobby, to some, but I'm so addicted that I've built more pedal circuits than I have housings, footswitches or input/output jacks to complete them. In the meantime I've had to accommodate all these builds by making two test boxes that just require me to solder in the pedal's circuit board and potentiometers to test it. I guess of all the addictions known to humanity building guitar pedals isn't the worst, and maybe someday it will become more than a hobby and start paying for itself.

Test Boxes