Saturday, December 30, 2023

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 7: My Terry Labonte Collection

As a kid I had my pudgy little Vienna sausage fingers in a lot of different hobbies. Obviously my longest lasting hobby is playing guitar, but just like most kids I was heavily into collecting things. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I collected sports cards, action figures, POGs, video games, a few Beanie Babies, Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars, and of course Micro Machines. I had a fairly large collection of 1:18 scale diecast model cars, as well as my normal 1:24/1:25 scale model car kits. I even collected comic books one summer; yeah one whole summer. I guess you could also say flea market hunting was one of my hobbies, but I was too young to be able to do it on any regular basis.

When it comes to my biggest collection, well that has to be my Terry Labonte collection. Growing up in Indiana I was beaten over the head with Indy 500 celebrations, the whole month of May. As an alternative to that, I started liking Nascar. The brightly colored Hendrick #5 caught my eye, and Terry Labonte quickly became the one I watched every Sunday. It wasn't just a Terry Labonte collection, Terry became my favorite Nascar driver of all time. Whether you call him Ice Man, or Iron Man, be sure to call him the 1984 and 1996 Nascar Champion as well.

What started off my Terry Labonte collection was a simple model kit. It was a Monogram Terry Labonte #5 Chevy Lumina. The kit was already yellow, so all I had to do was paint half of it red, and the decals did the rest of the paint scheme. Somewhere along the way I lost the hood, but I still have the body. From there anything I could find with that Hendrick's #5 on it, I collected. From scale diecast cars to almost anything in between. I have a full-size cardboard cutout of Terry. I have a handful of model kits that I've never touched, one of which I think is Terry's 97 Frankenstein car. An unopened pack of yellow pencils with metallic red "5 Terry Labonte" on them. I have a few Terry Labonte action figures, a small scale RC car, a little beanbag Hendrick's #5 Chevy and so much more. Sometimes I had to eat a lot of Kellogg's cereal and send away for stuff, but I've got it! I even have some of his #44 stuff from prior to his retirement. Sadly, I don't have any of his #44 Piedmont, nor his #11 stuff.

My bedroom walls were covered in 1:64 scale Terry Labonte cars still in their packaging, as if they were wallpaper. My shelves were adorned with the larger diecast cars. I even wore Terry Labonte t-shirts proudly, even though I was an alternative kid with long hair and knockoff JNCO style jeans. Remember those? When it came to playing Nascar video games, well I wouldn't use the #5. Nope, I would either use the #4 and pretend I was a team mate, or I would use an actual Hendrick car, mostly #25 when available. I spent so much time learning to bump draft with the AI, pretending I was trying to team up with Terry and finish first and second. The problem being the AI is setup in such a way that you can only bump draft them so much before they veer off wilding and crash. Sorry for all the times I accidentally crashed your virtual counterpart Terry!

For the past few years all my Terry Labonte stuff has been packed away, but I've still got it all. I just currently have nowhere to put it, or display it. Sometimes I'll pull out a box of my Terry Labonte stuff and look through it, for nostalgia's sake. Sometimes I think maybe I should sell it to finance another hobby, but there's just something deeply rooted to these things still. Even though they're not out on display, they still mean a lot to me. To most they're probably just metal, plastic and paint, but to me they're tangible pieces of my youth, and a small pieces of one of Nascar's greatest drivers. I mean, in 1996 he drove with a broken hand! A broken hand! If that doesn't say dedication and talent, I don't know what does.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Learning to Love The World's End

When it comes to Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, I'm almost always a fan. Spaced is an absolutely brilliant show, and it's sad it only lasted two seasons. Shaun of the Dead was where it all started for me though. I remember Comedy Central playing it over and over one year, so much so that I ended up getting it on DVD shortly thereafter. Such a great movie! Then came Hot Fuzz, which I wasn't originally sold on, but I learned to love it. I've even gone through and watched Big Train and Man Stroke Woman to see more of their talents when they're apart. The one exception to the Cornetto Trilogy has been The World's End. I love it for having familiar faces, but to me it didn't feel like it fit. Oh yeah, I even liked Paul, even though I find a lot of the American talent to be extremely annoying.

I get that all three films have their own themes, their own settings and their own characters, just with the main actors recurring as the leads, but still The World's End just felt off. What it was, I can't quite explain. Maybe it was the time between the release of the first two and The World's End? I've found myself being petty over smaller things than that, so maybe.

The reality is that our internet company can't figure their shit out, and we keep losing internet. In October our internet was out for three of the four weeks. Since then it's gone out numerous times, for brief periods of time, yet long enough to force me to dig through my digital movie collection for entertainment. In doing so, my go-to movie has become The World's End. Why? Because I don't want to burn out Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but also in doing so I've picked up many details about The World's End that make me like it more, dare I say maybe even start to love it.

The brilliant writing of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is undeniable. The brilliant acting of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg is just as undeniable. So why did I not click with this movie before? I still honestly have no answer. It's not at all like most trilogies where the first movie is a smash hit, the second is kind of good and the third is a straight to DVD bin at Walmart release, just to earn the trilogy moniker. No, all three movies are great in their own rights. Oops, did I just say all three movies are great? Yeah, I did. It just took our internet company being a massive pile of shit to realize how great The World's End was. And in saying all this, I fully expect another massive outage of internet service. You wait and see!  

On a side note; I remember being at a Best Buy store in 2009, either buying Hot Fuzz or something to do with the Cornetto Trilogy. The man at the cash register asked me if I had heard a third film was coming out. I was shocked to find one of my own out in the wild, so we started talking about how good Shaun of the Dead was, how he preferred Hot Fuzz over Shaun of the Dead, and we even touched upon Spaced. I had read online that the final movie was coming soon, so I told him the final film wound be out the following year. We both rejoiced and said our goodbyes. Whoever you were, if you ever read this, I'm sorry I unintentionally lied to you.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Nostalgic Christmas Nightmare: The Time My Parents Stole My Bike

As a forty-year-old man, I have a lot of things in my life that I need a therapist to work through. One such case is when my parents stole my bike and gave it to another kid in the neighborhood, only to replace mine at Christmas with a shittier bike. At the time I was maybe thirteen or fourteen, and this was no ordinary bike. This was an awesome mountain bike that had, what I called, a lava paint job. The paint was a mixture of black and metallic red bubbles, and looked like a mistake in the factory that ended up working out really well. I loved that bike and it wasn't a bike I was ever going to outgrow, as it was a standard sized mountain bike.

The memory of the day I was accosted and my bike was stolen is burned into my brain. I was sitting on my bike, taking a short break from having been out riding, when my Dad walked up to me, followed closely by the stepdad of the kid who they ended up giving it to. My Dad repeatedly said "Get off the bike.", in a tone as if I had done something wrong. Feeling as if I was being cornered, as well as being a kid, I complied with his repeated demands. I was told that he and Mom decided to give my bike to the kid across the street. So my Dad teamed up with a man he still calls a worthless alcoholic to this day, to corner me and steal my bike to give to the kid across the street. The kid in question is currently serving a 200 plus year sentence in prison. YES! The kid who ended up with my bike is currently in prison for some seriously fucked up shit.

I still hold resentment for this moment, but sadly that bike is long gone now. I didn't have a bike for a few months, until I ended up getting the new one for Christmas. The bike that I ended up getting to replace it was a seriously shitty bike. The colors were grey and green, and it was truly fucking awful. I hated that bike. I often thought about dumping that bike in a creek or selling it off, but then I would be left without a bike again, so I decided a shitty bike is better than no bike at all. I don't think the kid across the street used my old bike that often either, but he claimed to love it, so I knew trying to trick him into trading for my new shitty bike wasn't going to happen. I don't blame the kid who ended up with my bike, at least not for this incident, he didn't have a bike at all. I blame my parents for scheming behind my back and not even asking me. That was one of the shittiest parenting moves in the history of parenting.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Two for Two!

It was a bit fiddly, but the second December build is officially in the books! A Screaming Tree treble boost that works as well as can be expected. As with every single pedal circuit I build, I can't assure that it's anything like the real thing. I figure if it functions I can find a use for it. If you've been following my blog for a while (thank you) you'll know December 14 and 23 are extremely important days for me. You know who you are, and why they're special. I see you checking in through the views counter. Don't deny it! Anyway, I just wanted these dates to have another special meaning, as I can't celebrate those two dates the way I really want to. Plus, I'm not sure I'll be doing more winter month builds.

However, that leaves February, for which I've got an SHO clone planned. No special date for that one, just whichever comes along and feels right. Sure, I could be cheesy and do it on Valentine's Day, but that's not really necessary. I'll just wait and see which day feels the best to get it done. January 2020 was when I started and while I don't count every single Bazz Fuss I built back then, I do count the first one. I built a handful, so January is fine for builds even if I don't count them all.

In 2024, apart from February, I have a handful of circuits that I plan to build. The updated list is: the SHO for February, a Univox compressor clone, a Way Huge Overrated Special clone, Cornish SS2 and CC1 clones, a Menatone Blue Collar clone, and now a Timmy V1 clone. I've wanted to build a Timmy for a while, but which one and why was always the reason I decided against it. Instead I built a Greer Lightspeed clone, fucking loved it, and now I figure you can't have too much of a good thing. Por que no los dos!?

While testing the Screaming Tree clone I found the test box I've been using has an issue with the power input, and at first the circuit sounded like it was broken, and sputtery. I'm wondering if that's partially why the Em-Drive clone sounded a bit off. I'll have to investigate further in the future. All that really matters is they're done and in the books. So from myself here at Sam's Asylum, take care of yourselves! Enjoy your holiday(s), and I'll keep writing as long as you keep reading.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 5: The Snakeskin Siren SLO-100

When I was very young my brother either left the house of his own free will, or was kicked out. It depends on who you ask as to which version you'll end up getting. Regardless, this all happened long before he and I could form any type of sibling bond, or rivalry. As my teenage years started to set in I chose to hang out with him as often as I possibly could. At a certain point I decided to ask him to teach me guitar, which I knew was one of his favorite hobbies. I figured it would bring us closer together, give us more reason to hang out, more chances to bond and maybe I would learn a valuable skill to use at an older age. This skill, of course, still hasn't paid off all these years later. I am glad though that we both took those chances to hang out with each other, and all the times we went out scouring pawn stores and guitar stores looking for gear, although it rarely yielded much other than memories.

There is one time that still sticks out in my mind above all the rest. We made a visit to the local Guitard Center (No, I didn't misspell that), as we had many times before. The first thing we both noticed when we walked in was a snakeskin Soldano SLO-100 sitting right in the middle of the room. Neither of us knew if it was just coming in, or sold and just going out, but it stuck out like a beacon. My brother asked a sales man to demo the amp and let me tell you, even though almost 30 years have passed since then the impression that amp left on me has yet to tarnish. It was loud, raw, but articulate and sounded absolutely amazing. Sadly, it was also very, very expensive! So, what do we do when I can't afford something? No! We don't steal, you bunch of heathens! We create something similar to the best of our ability!

I chose to look for a pedal that emulates the Soldano SLO-100 so that I could build my own. I found a few pedals that claim to sound like an SLO-100, but most of them don't have layouts (as of the writing of this entry), so they're not an option. The closest thing I could find was tagboard effects' Modern SLO 100 which I did build. Currently it's been tested and functions, but it still needs a bit of tweaking. I chose the resistor method over the trim pot version, because I'm quite possibly an idiot. Also because I've not been a fan of trim pots since building my ROG Umble clone, The Humble. After using the resistor method I've learned no matter what my stances used to be on trim pots, they are very, very, very, very, very, very useful, compared to trying to nail down the correct resistor values. Too late now, but I'm sure I'll get that sound someday.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Chasing Greeny

As a fan of Gary Moore you can't think of him without also thinking of at least one of his legendary '59 Gibson Les Pauls. Much like I did with my YJM strat on a budget, I've been chasing my own version of a Greeny Les Paul. I reluctantly admit it took me far too long to realize why it was called Greeny. I knew bits and pieces of how Gary acquired the guitar, and how the guitar came to sound the way it does, but for some reason it just never sunk into my thick head to research and appreciate Peter Green's role in the guitar's life. Selective learning, I guess. Now that I know the lineage of the guitar, I appreciate Peter Green much more, as well as the guitar itself. It's new owner, however? Meh. *slips on wah pedal and falls over crying*

If you're into burst era Gibson Les Pauls you know there are a ton of famous '59s out there. I would wager to say no other '59 Les Paul has been tributed/reissued more so than Greeny. Should money be no object, you have a lot of options to own your own Greeny. The first would have to be Gary Moore's Signature Les Paul. Albeit a simple Les Paul Studio, it still bore the signature of Gary Moore, and most certainly would have been inspired by Greeny to some degree. After that was a BFG version, with a P90 in the neck and looked like it was kicked around the Gibson factory floor for a few years. This one kind of hangs in the shadows, as it was probably inspired by Greeny. Then there is the Collector's Choice #1, which came in two versions. You could either get the realistic relic version just like Gary Moore played, or you could get the Melvyn Franks version, who bought Greeny from Gary, in an unworn condition. Unlike the previous two, the Collector's Choice #1 is a highly accurate Gibson built replica of Greeny, and thus costs quite a bit more.

The first of the most modern versions was a super expensive, limited edition Custom Shop version. Then came a collector's edition at a slightly less insane price, but still a bit too expensive for the average fan, and then the Gibson Greeny Standard, which for a Gibson signature model actually seems reasonably priced. However, I don't like the back being brown, as it's always been cherry on the real Greeny. If it was a cherry back I would probably start selling bodily fluids to buy one, but it just makes the guitar look cheap and unattractive. Finally we have the Epiphone Greeny, which at $1500 is fucking nuts. No. Just no. You can't tell me that guitar, even though it has the Gibson headstock and real MOP inlays, is any different to the regular Epiphone '59s that cost much less. No. Do they cost that much because Kirk broke Greeny again (seriously, he did!) and each Epiphone Greeny sold helps pay for the repairs?

If you're wanting a true Gibson, you have at least seven options, depending on your budget. If you want an inspired by Gibson, the Epiphone is also an option, unless you're like me and think the price is fucking insane. But what if you are like me? Firstly I would say seek therapy, and I'm so very sorry others like myself exist. Secondly I would say there are cheaper options. It really depends where your hang-ups are. Aria Pro makes the PE-350PG, which is clearly their own nod to Greeny. Sure, the body shape is Aria's own design and the burst isn't the same, but it doesn't cost anywhere near the other options. Vintage has the ICON V100MRPGM, again a clear nod to Greeny. The body is closer than the Aria, but still a bit different.

What if you're just wanting a lemon burst LP style guitar and you'll install your own GreenyBuckers? Gibson has made a wide variety of 50s and 60s inspired LP standards with that finish for decades. Those would be a great start. If you're a lot more budget conscious, or as I like to call myself "A cheap fuck", Epiphone too has offered lemon burst Les Pauls for decades that could benefit from a set of GreenyBuckers, or whichever PAF style pickups you prefer. Even cheaper still you have Harley Benton's SC-450, or SC-550. Cheaper still? Chibson. I've never played a Chibson, so I can't say whether the hype about them being good or crap is true, but they're cheap and they look the part. You choose whether or not you're comfortable with a guitar saying Gibson on the headstock that's not really a true Gibson. I'm not your father.

I myself have an inexpensive import Les Paul style guitar, who I've named Paola, with Gibson Burstbucker Pros installed. As soon as I got the guitar I immediately fell in love with it. The pickups were ok, but I knew I wanted BB Pros because that's what Gary Moore's signature Les Paul had from the factory. If they were good enough for Gary Moore, they're good enough for me. My BB Pros have four conductors, which made the out of phase mod super easy. I've read there is a difference between a magnet flip and four conductor out of phase tone, but I'm not sure there is. I would love to see someone like Dave Simpson on youtube test this theory. Sure my guitar is inexpensive with expensive pickups, but unless you lived through the 90s where people often put multi-thousand dollar stereo systems in their $300 cars, you wouldn't understand.

Ideally I would love a Gibson 50s or 60s inspired Les Paul Standard in lemon burst with GreenyBuckers, but I'm just not on that level. If I were doing gigs where I could put the guitar to work and earn the investment back, sure I would, but I don't. I'm a bedroom guitarist, and everything I have has been super budget conscious. I mean, I build my own effects pedals and play through an almost sixty-year-old tube combo amp that I picked up for less than $10. Is there any working musician out there that does that? There might be, I've just never had the benefit of meeting them. Maybe someday I'll get a windfall and invest in my dream Greeny. For now, I'll stick with my inexpensive version and enjoy it for what it is.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

First December Circuit Build = Done!

You take small parts success with huge piles of failure, and that is the meaning of life. Regardless, I took thirty minutes today to finish the first December build and put it into the books. I was really looking forward to this little circuit, but I skimped on parts and it bit me in the ass. As you can see below, it's a super simple layout that's supposed to yield a pretty neat little overdrive. Instead of a 2N5088 I used a C1740 (pinout adjusted correctly), and instead of a 2Meg resistor I used a 2.2Meg. The results I got were more of a Fuzz having an asthma emergency than an overdrive. My mistake!

Knowing my mistakes means I know what to fix in 2024. The main thing is the first December build is in the books. The circuit works, albeit not correctly, so I know there is hope for it to be rectified in the future. Trust me, I have quite a few circuits that still need some troubleshooting that are far worse than what I ended up from this little thing. No biggy. I'll just order the right parts when I can and when troubleshooting time comes along I'll get it working the way it's supposed to. Maybe I can still make the C1740 work, I just need to bias it correctly. We'll see what ends up happening.

Now I'm looking forward to the next build on the 23rd, which I hope turns out better than this one currently is. The Screaming Tree seems like a simple enough treble boost circuit. It's a tiny bit more complex than the Em-Drive, but it's still small enough that it should be easily accomplished. The main thing, at least in my mind, isn't so much the results of the builds, but rather having these dates down in the books. These dates truly mean a lot to me, so if I can't celebrate them the way I wish I could, building a circuit and having that as a permanent part of my life is the next best thing. Don't get me wrong, I want these circuits to work, but things can be adjusted later down the road to make them work better. And that's a metaphor for life kids!


I dug out my last 2N5088 and this circuit sounds better, still not perfect, but it does sound better. It's still sputtery, but so was its brother the Paramount Drive until I cranked the amp. I'm not currently able to do my Kali test, but I'm hoping to get the same results when I can. The only part that's not to spec is the 2.2Meg resistor. Looks like I'll be ordering a small amount of 2Meg resistors just to see what the results are. Even if it doesn't change anything, I'll know I used all the correct value parts and it is as good as it can be. I'm happier with this circuit now that it sounds better too.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

And Then There Was December!

December is here, and I'm just meh about it. It used to be my favorite month of the year, having a few more celebrations in it than just Christmas and New Years Eve. For the past few years it's become just another dark, lonely month. Nothing much to celebrate, including the aforementioned holidays. With temps dropping into the 40s, sometimes 20s, as a high I'm growing more and more discouraged about my ability to do my December 14th and 23rd builds. I did plan small enough builds that they could be done indoors, but again my quarters are cramped as it is. We'll just have to wait and see what the next few weeks have in store as to whether they're done or not.

That being said, the next thing I want to say is "Fuck Oblivion!". The game is so buggy and broken, even the Game of the Year Edition, that I've had to use console commands more times than I've ever had to in Skyrim. As a matter of fact, the only time(s) I can recall needing to use commands in Skyrim was the whole Vampires capturing my wife bug. Apart from that, Fuck Oblivion! What a shitty fucking waste of the Elder Scrolls name.

Moving into 2024 I have six builds already put together, and I'm pretty sure that's all I will be building next year - or ever. I had been using Microsoft Rewards as a way to help purchase the items I needed to build my pedals. Microsoft Rewards has been going down the toilet ass first for the past few months. I suppose I can count myself lucky, as before things got really bad they decided to suspend my account without explaining why. They also refuse to acknowledge my support tickets, thus rendering the whole program useless to me. Even if they were to reinstate my account, the points have been lowered so much that it would take five times longer to get a simple $5 Amazon gift card.

I can only guess the reason they suspended my account was because I was Grandfathered in from years ago, giving me a steep discount on certain gift cards, even including some that newer members couldn't even get. When they went global with the program they must not have expected such a positive response, and income was much lower than outgoing. Toward the end they continually redefined their TOS, I'm guessing so that even the slightest indiscretion eventually knocked all the older accounts out of the program.

The only other thing I can put together is how our ISP constantly changes where our internet is coming from. The targeted ads I see can come from locally, or anywhere over a hundred miles north, and it constantly changes. Microsoft Rewards, for some reason, is very strict about where you use the program from. With our internet being fucked throughout most of October, I came back and found my Microsoft Rewards account was suspended. Those are my only two working guesses.

With MS Rewards being gone, it's going to take a while to buy all fifty-two projects enclosures. I do have some plans to put two into a singular 1590BB, but even that will only go so far. That's not including the footswitches, input/output jacks and all the solder and wiring I'll need. Put into a bind to say the least, but we'll do as we always do and wait to see what happens. Maybe a Christmas miracle? I won't hold my breath for that one.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Landtone Klon Centaur Clone Kit Guide [Fix]

Let me preface this by saying I am not throwing anyone under the bus here, I'm just stating a fact. As I browse r/diypedals, I find that the Landtone Klon Centaur Clone overdrive kit comes up often. A majority of the time the person is seeking help with their build not having output. The issue here is there is a guide online that most people follow, since the instructions included with the kit are useless, that has a mistake in it. I myself used this guide and came up with the same results of no output. Frustrated, I started to remove the cables from the pedal while the amp was still turned on. As the tip of the cable came out of the jack it scraped against the right part, allowing me to hear my guitar. This told me the wiring on the jack was done wrong. All I needed to do was swap two wires and everything worked perfectly.

Every time I see someone needing help with the Landtone Klon clone kit I post an image of my known working wiring because I understand how frustrating it is to build a kit and it not work. It's even more frustrating when a guide is put online and it's WRONG. Which leaves most novice builders completely in the dark as to what happened to their build, and possibly ruining their first experience building a pedal. Which may also ruin them ever wanting to try again. I will provide an imgur link as I don't think blogger will support such a large image. So, if you've purchased a Landtone, or Landtone style kit from TTone or ProLandtone, etc. and your build has no output, check the image provided below. The main problem will be the top jack on the righthand side of the image. The wiring is colored different to make things a bit easier to follow. Hopefully this will help people, maybe even so much so that GuitarGearFinder will fix their guide, or post a correction of some sort.

Correct Landtone Klon Clone Image

After publishing this I went back through and noticed they acknowledge they wired it wrong in the "guide", but they still got it wrong in the image, even though they claim it's corrected. Please note: The image below is the incorrect way to wire the output jack.

Heading to Oblivion

I'm a fan of the Elder Scrolls series, or to be more accurate I'm a massive fan of Skyrim and I would like to give the other games in the series more attention. I've tried to play Morrowind, but I hate the combat system. I've played tons and tons of Skyrim, because it's Skyrim. I used to play ESO, but I've since given up on that. Now, when it comes to Oblivion, well, I've owned the Game of the Year edition (for PC) for quite some time. Every so often I'll install it and roam around aimlessly, but I get bored and give up soon thereafter. Admittedly I think I'm spoiled by having played Skyrim first.

Since I've finished Dragon Quest III, I decided I would make Oblivion the RPG I try next. After installing it I loaded up some old saves and quickly realized I had totally forgotten every key command. After a few minutes of randomly punching keys to see what did what, I felt confident. Once I felt I had a fairly good grasp on my controls I went to work actually trying to accomplish things. I found out where Thoronir was getting his discounted items, and took care of the problem. I did a few more odds and ends so that I could buy the shack in the Waterfront District, then fully furnished it. After having played Skyrim this little shack leaves me wanting a bigger place. Since I took the key off Agarmir I might see if I can take over his place. He doesn't need it anymore.

I've also gotten into the arena stuff, because it reminds me a bit of the first Fable. I'm really enjoying the game, more so than I have before. Now if I could only get the combat system in Morrowind to be less of a one out of a billion chance at hitting I might like it too. The only problem is actually nothing to do with the game, but more that the game crashes after an hour or so of gameplay. For some reason it's only this time after installing it, I've never had this happened before. It's really annoying and sometimes it corrupts the last save. Needless to say I'm in a habit of saving often while playing. The quests keep me busy and roaming freely is now a byproduct of actually accomplishing things. I'm glad I stuck it out this time.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Rosetta Dilemma

Some of you might remember my Washburn A20 named Rosetta. From time to time I exhume her cardboard coffin from my closet and look at how beautiful her flame maple (veneer) top is. Last night was one such occasion. I've had this guitar for over twenty years, and she's been in this pitiful state since a week or two after I brought her home from the pawn store. A brief explanation for those who don't know is this: I bought a Washburn A20 from a pawn store, it was painted in green Krylon granite paint, paint was covering a bondo job which itself was covering someone's ill-advised attempt to drill-press-route the body for a tremolo, possibly Kahler. The problem is I'm really wanting to get her repaired properly, but I can't afford properly. If I had a router I would attempt the repair myself, but such a luxury doesn't exist. Nor do I possess the ability to properly use a router.

Last night, as I'm holding Rosetta and looking her over, I noticed just how amazing the Ash body wings look. The whole situation frustrated me, mostly at myself, because I really want to hear what her voice would be. The biggest problem is I'm massively impatient, and I want to hear her now. Should I have left the bondo under the bridge? I don't know, but what's more is: Should I put bondo back just to get her back to useable? I always thought a piece of Purpleheart would be an amazing wood to fill in the hole under the bridge, but I've heard Purpleheart doesn't move as much as other woods do during seasonal changes. If true, I'm worried that would cause issues with the body around it.

Another part of that idea was buying a new set of veneer, which I did. There is kind of a funny story about that. There used to be a website that sold veneer for Ibanez RGs. I think it was UniversalJems. I contacted the vender and asked if they could cut a special set of veneer for Rosetta, which they gladly accepted. The only request was to let them know which order was mine, so I would be sent the proper order. I made the purchase and within the notes I put something like for Washburn A20 and never thought much else about it as I waited for it to arrive. After a few weeks I asked them if my order had shipped, but they didn't realize I had even ordered and sent me a normal Ibanez RG set of veneer. To their credit they immediately cut the Washburn A20 set and shipped it out free of charge. I felt bad, I really did. I should have emailed them back instead of writing it in the purchase note.

Anyway, here I am now with two sets of beautiful flame maple veneer. I originally thought I was going to be able to steam the old stuff off and simply apply the new stuff. The Washburn A20 is a flat body, so it could be done, but it's far more complex than I original thought. Again, I lack the tools and knowhow to even do so. For all these years they've both sat together in her cardboard sarcophagus waiting for the day she can speak to the world again. I've slowly been purchasing parts such as pickup rings, cheap PAF style (double cream!) humbuckers, and two push/pull pots for the original style wiring. Although now I think I'll use the neck push/pull for phasing. Give me that Greeny tone, baby! Apart from screws for the original wooden control plates I think I have everything to put her back together. Sadly, the gaping wound someone so malevolently drilled into her, over and over, is the major hang up.

Believe me, I clearly understand if I were to just fill the hole with bondo I would be creating more work later down the road. It would eventually need redone, but if bondo gets her back into working order I might have no choice. I'm just so tired of waiting. I was just a budding adult of eighteen years old when I bought this guitar. I thought I had all the time in the world. Now, at forty I'm growing more impatient by the day. Rosetta once spoke to the world, and whatever was done to her by her previous owner needed to be undone, but in doing so I removed her voice from this world. I never intended on keeping it from this world for so long. And no, she's not for sale. Not even for Joe Bonamassa. Sorry. Don't get me wrong I would love to see Rosetta on stage doing some Albert King or Gary Moore covers, but she will still remain my guitar. Hey, if all I have left is a dream, I'll dream as big as I want!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

A Terrible Habit of Mine.

I've always been into music, and I do mean always. I can remember slight bits of being very young and begging my Mother to turn on my Dad's stereo so I could listen to music. I would sit on my little plastic chair in front of his home hi-fi system and listen to anything I could. This was all through olive green headphones from the 70s that barely stayed on my little noggin. From there I've always had a set of over-ear headphones and a way to listen to music. Even on a road trip from Indiana to Tennessee for my Grandma's funeral, I brought Match Box 20's Yourself or Someone Like You, and Yngwie Malmsteen's Fire and Ice with my CD player and headphones. I've never been far from music if I could help it.

One sad fact about music is the landscape changes so quickly. Who might be a top five hit maker today is a nobody tomorrow. Or even worse, who might be a top five hit maker today is deceased tomorrow. When I started playing guitar Randy Rhoads quickly became a major influence, but I knew I would never get the pleasure of seeing him play live in concert. After BBC America aired a whole Thin Lizzy live concert I fell deeper into their catalogue. I was familiar with Jailbreak and The Boys are Back in Town, as well as Southbound, but it caused me to dig deeper to the point I can't even listen to Jailbreak or The Boys anymore. They're not Thin Lizzy's greatest songs, they're just marketable. I find they're nowhere near as good as the rest of Thin Lizzy's catalogue.

Sometimes things sneak up on you, such as the passing of Dolores O'Riordan. I was familiar with The Cranberries' success with Zombie and Linger in the early 90s, but it wasn't something that stuck with me for all those years. After hearing Dreams in Derry Girls I dug a little deeper and later found I Can't Be With You and my all-time favorite When You're Gone. Those three songs were quickly added to my MP3 player, without question.

Then we come to a double whammy with The Outfield. Everyone is familiar with Your Love, it seems to be their trademark. But, just like with Thin Lizzy there are other songs that make it almost impossible for me to listen to that song. Since You've Been Gone, All The Love, and No Surrender are such great songs! I already knew John Spinks passed away, and that I would never see The Outfield play their hits live. John Spinks is the reason why I want a telecaster style guitar. His red PT style telecaster looked fucking awesome!

After finding the three songs I mentioned above I decided to do some searching to see if they were ever performed live. This yielded videos of Tony Lewis playing their hits live in Mexico in 2019 (I think). The beauty of the city, the passion of the crowd and how they sang the lyrics back to him to perfection spoke to my heart. TE AMO MEXICO! TE AMO! Tienes mi corazon! Sadly, Tony Lewis passed away in 2020, leaving behind a legacy of songs that truly deserve more attention than just Your Love, which is still a good song, it's just not their best.

I don't like finding some of my favorite songs only after their artists have passed on, but it seems to turn out that way. There are a lot of bands I listen to who are all alive and well, currently, but it just seems, for some reason, I only get the urge to dig deeper into a band's music once I can no longer see them perform those songs live. It takes time to go through any artist's catalogue, although the internet makes it much easier these days, so naturally I can't find them all. I'm terribly regretful that they're gone, first of all, but I'm also very grateful that they wrote and performed these songs. These songs have all inspired me to write music of my own, regardless of whether it will ever see the light of day or not. Music is, and always has been very deeply meaningful to myself, and I'm sure many others. Flesh shall one day return to the Earth, but music carries on from ear to ear, heart to heart, and soul to soul.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Dragon Quest III Completed!

Dragon Quest III has officially been completed, with the exception of Skyworld. I do plan to play around with Skyworld, but the core of the game has been completed; Zoma is dead, light has returned to Alefgard and all is right with the world. That is until Dragon Quest IV. I had a really great time playing Dragon Quest III, although I initially felt overwhelmed starting the game. When I start a new RPG I feel overwhelmed trying to micromanage everything, but once I get into the groove I feel much better and focus on the story/lore.

I can remember playing Final Fantasy for the first time all those years ago and my favorite thing was grinding. No, seriously. I think it comes from my MMORPG days where that's pretty much all you do. In an MMORPG you're just trying to get more levels for better armor, better weapons, better spells, better quests, unlocking new hunting grounds etc. Really your only focus is getting as much exp as you can to unlock that new thing. In a traditional RP video game you're mainly out doing quests to progress the storyline, which will yield a certain amount of exp and levels as a biproduct. Eventually you're going to be facing a boss, and sometimes those levels aren't going to be enough to defeat the boss, so you're going to have to find ancillary exp.

In the original Dragon Quest there was a small level system, so I made sure I maxed out my level by grinding. I figured if max level wasn't good enough to defeat all the foes that I should be faced with, then the game wasn't any good. Luckily I was wrong, and Dragon Quest was fucking fantastic! Dragon Quest II has a bit more of a leveling system, and was also fantastic. Dragon Quest III has a full 99 level system, which I would never have spent the time grinding to max out. Believe me getting to 45 was a struggle, but even so 45 was good enough to beat the game. Which was also fan-fucking-tastic!

With Dragon Quest III being completed I'm thinking about starting IV, and this time I hope it doesn't take more than five years for me to actually start. There are a lot of RPGs that I want to play, because I generally like them all. The only RPG I've not liked, in fact I borderline hated, was Lagoon for the Super Nintendo. I saw Lagoon sitting on a table at an indoor flea market and paid a couple of bucks for it because the brief internet research I did for it made it look like Ys. I actually like Ys, so I figured I would give it a try. NOPE! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NOPE!!! From what I struggle to recall about Lagoon is it focused more on puzzles and back and forth fetch quests than it did on combat, because the combat system was horrible!

Remember when I said I actually like Ys? The combat system is basically a bump and kill system. Imagine BattleBots, but it's humans and monsters alike with sharp objects taped to them, bumping into each other until one of them loses enough blood to croak. That's not where it ends though, as hitboxes are a thing. Often you'll find yourself aiming at the sprite to find the hitbox and missing it entirely, while taking loads of damage to yourself. So when you really needed to kill something, it was a 70% chance you were going to miss the hitbox and take a load of damage, mainly during boss fights. Although it's not a great system, Ys made it work and did a great job of feeling more fleshed out and well-rounded. Lagoon, however, well, it makes Hydlide seem like a multifaceted epic RPG. To its credit the graphics in Lagoon are nice. I did enjoy the fetch quests, as that usually comes standard in RPGs. With only 35 levels to gain, the leveling wasn't bad. It was the combat system required to level that was horrible.

When it comes to games I want to play, there is no shortage. When it comes to games I've started and really need to finish, there is also no shortage. I started playing Ocarina of Time (N64) in Autumn 2010, and for one reason or another I quit. Allow me to disappoint you further by saying I also have it for 3DS and, after beating A Link Between Worlds, I tried to get stuck into it on there, but again I gave up. I honestly can't explain why because I was genuinely enjoying it both times. Illusion of Gaia is another one where I am literally on part 12 of 13 in the walkthrough and I still just let it go for some reason. Earthbound, I'm at the Fourside Department store, and I haven't touched that for almost ten years. There is a Final Fantasy 7 save somewhere I've not touched in years as well. Don't ask why, as I have no answer.

Currently I want to start Dragon Quest IV, or maybe I'll get stuck into Resident Evil 2. Now that I've brought it up I'm feeling like Ocarina of Time, or finishing Illusion of Gaia. Shoot, I might even go back through (by which I mean suffer through) and finally beat Lagoon. I've watched tons of videos on how to beat the final bosses of Lagoon, it's just a matter of playing the game until the only thing your brain knows is where the hitbox on the bosses are. Once the game is beat you have to relearn how to walk, talk, breathe, eat, sleep, digest and do complex math such as 1+1=PS2.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Bit off More Than I Could Chew

It's Wednesday, 8th of November and it was almost 80 degrees here. You know what I did? I built the Green Channel! Yeah, but guess what happened. It wasn't fun! Thanks to this unseasonably warm weather I've had my bedroom window cracked for the past few days. Today seemed like it was gearing up to be a really nice day to build the Green Channel. As soon, AS SOON, as I stepped out the door you would have thought a tornado was tap dancing on my back deck. At no other point during the day had it been windy, or even mildly breezy. Needless to say, the wind has jokes and dumped my capacitors all over the deck and made me search for them all. Ugh!!!

This was a very frustrating build, due mostly to the fucking wind, but also because of the oddball resistor values that I needed to build out of two resistors in series. Since I built my first tube screamer clone I've wanted to build a Nobels ODR-1, because it's the other green overdrive. For some reason I've never found a layout that I felt confident enough to take on. Again, you can scream at your device's screen about all the other builds I've done, but that doesn't change the fact I found the Nobels ODR-1 intimidating. Thanks, again, to Dirtbox Layouts for doing the whole Browne Amps Protein because the Green Channel seemed to be perfect. In the end, it actually seems like it was.

After all that had happened I was super frustrated and resigned myself to the fact this build simply wasn't going to work. I was just going to have to put it beside my failed Boss BD-2 clone from last year and just never look at it again. To play devil's advocate I decided to plug it in and try it anyway. The first thing I do when testing a new circuit is turn the volume and gain controls to 0, and the tone control(s) will be set at noon. Next I test it without power. Most circuits will not pass signal without power, although some do, so I listen for any unwanted signal. If nothing comes through, as expected, I put the IC(s) into the socket(s) and then I plug the power in and listen for the pop. If there is a pop, I know the IC(s) received power and I proceed to turn up the volume control and strum a few strings on my guitar. From there I should slowly but surely hear signal coming through. Then I turn up the gain control, which should slowly but surely increase the volume and/or distortion. Once those are working I test the tone control(s).

I plugged in the Green Channel, fully aware it wasn't going to work, and wouldn't you know it --- I WAS WRONG! Just like Bobby Boucher told Colonel Sanders, I was wrong, wrong, wrong! And if being wrong meant this circuit worked perfectly and sounded great, I don't wanna be right! Even though it's coming through my Noisy Cricket and a tiny little speaker it still sounded amazing. I've built a ton of overdrives and maybe it's just because I know the Nobels is "Nashville's secret weapon", but there is a twang to it that comes out like I've never heard before. I use my partscaster strat with an HS-3 in the bridge and an unknown single in the neck, and I've tested a lot of overdrives, but never heard this level of twang before. Psychosomatic? Maybe, but it sounds good.

Maybe it was just the wind messing with me by dumping my capacitors that made me lose faith in this build, and a bit in my ability to build it. Having this outcome against all odds does feel great though. Now that I have the CMAT Mods Butah clone that I slightly modded I think I'm going to try and fit that into an enclosure with the Green Channel and make my own Browne Amps Protein clone. Obviously I'm not going to call it that, but that's the essence I will be going for. Score a third build for the month of November! And with that I'm calling November a done deal. Seriously. Even if we get some more nice days I don't plan any more builds for this month. At most I might work on some circuits that need some troubleshooting, but nothing brand new. The Emerson Drive and Screaming Bird are still set for December, so we'll have to wait and see what it holds in store.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Soldering in the Cold November Wind

Monday the 6th of November came in sunny and 70 degrees, but very breezy (again!). I decided it was good enough, so I set up my soldering station and got to work. Ever since I saw the Boss SP-1 clone layout on Dirtbox Layout's website I really wanted to give this circuit a try. The Boss SP-1 is a bit of a strange beast, and as explained by it's not easy to clone. You'll need to create a hybrid 10k Log and Anti-Log dual potentiometer. Thanks to their guide making one is super simple, although you will need to sacrifice a 10k Log in the process. If you really, really want a Boss SP-1 Spectrum clone, like I did, it's well worth it.

My main motivation was to find an alternative to my topless Behringer HellBabe. Since it's missing the treadle it added a really cool cocked-wah flavor to my sound that I really liked. I've tried finding a treadle for it, but it seems I just can't. I asked Behringer and they've given me a few different answers. One time they told me I could order any part I needed and even sent me a diagram explaining each part and giving the part's number. When I went to make the order the next person I talked to acted like I was stupid and said no, they don't sell spare parts, they've never sold parts and they never plan to sell parts. That person did suggest I contact local dealers, as they might have some "broken" ones. Just to humor myself I contacted a few dealers and started with the line "I know this is going to sound stupid, because if you had any broken ones they would be sent back to Behringer under warranty, but....". Every single one of the dealers I called, which was only three, agreed that any broken Behringer pedals they would have taken in on return/exchange would be sent back to Behringer. 

ANYWAY! As I really want to get that HellBabe working again one day, I decided to pack it away for safe keeping. Afterwards I did notice there was something missing from my tone. Over time I did get over it, but I always kind of miss it, even though I've forgotten exactly what it sounds like. That's where the Boss Spectrum comes in. To me it sounds like a wah pedal that you can manually dial in which frequency you want and boost that frequency to your liking, which it essentially is. Once the clone circuit was built I did my preliminary testing and yes, it's absolutely something I can use to add back that missing part of my tone, and then some! At first it had a really bad oscillation problem, but adjusting the trim pot seems to have fixed that. Exactly what the trim pot is for, I'm not sure, but it did seem to help.

Like I said, the potentiometer isn't difficult to make, but the wiring of the two dual pots is tedious. As some of you might know, I hate wiring. I'm pretty excited to get this one housed up as quickly as I can because it's pretty much exactly what I've needed. I would dare say this is much better than the HellBabe, which leaves it to do it's job as an actual wah pedal rather than a tone spicer. I've had an idea in my head about making a pedal to emulate a certain sound, and this pedal already comes really close. I imagine with an EQ pedal this circuit would be able to nail the certain sound I'm after. The problem being IF there is data showing the EQ curve on this particular sound I'll never find it. I'm going to have to do some experimenting and if I come up with something that works I'll put together a prototype. As for now, I'm just glad this is my second ever November build, and it was a success. Now, Wednesday looks like a really good day to build the Green Channel clone. That's the plan for now!

Monday, November 6, 2023

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 4: Summer of 99 Resident Evilfest

Way back in 2011 I made a post called A Collector's Nightmare where I chronicled the details of my first, and final sale to an establishment such as FuncoLand. These days all I hear is how great FuncoLand was, but I think that's because ShameStop bought them all up, dropped the bar and made FuncoLand look like the shiniest turd by comparison. Regardless of how they fucked me over, what came from that experience was, among many things, the summer of 99 Resident Evilfest! As an angsty 16-year-old I wanted nothing to do with the outside world, instead preferring to sit in my tiny little bedroom and brood. All I needed at the time was my Playstation, my 13" color CRT, my copy of Resident Evil [Director's Cut] and my stereo blasting out hair metal legends Warrant!

For the entire summer I sat in my room shooting zombies, solving puzzles and throwing my controller in frustration when either of those went wrong. Luckily Playstation controllers were really well built. To add to the atmosphere I put a black trash bag over my window to keep as much light out as possible. Although it did a pretty decent job, there were times during the evening where the summer sun's light was just too powerful, turning my room an odd orange color. At the time I had a bookshelf stereo system with a three disc changer and a remote. I never had to get up, keeping the same three discs in rotation. The first was Warrant's Dog Eat Dog, then Cherry Pie, but those are the only ones I actively remember.

I still have that Playstation, TV and both Warrant CDs. Although these days the Playstation's disc drive is shot, the TV is dying a slow death and I've ripped my favorite tracks off the CDs in favor of having them in digital form and packing the discs away. I had the stereo for quite a few years after that, but I ended up leaving it behind in favor of making a hasty escape from a relationship I was no longer a part of. It was a small sacrifice. Maybe when I'm done playing through Dragon Quest 3 I'll start playing through the other Resident Evil games. I have quite a few of them, I've just never tried them beyond a few minutes after starting them. It sounds crazy, I know, but I have this small fear that playing the other games will in some way tarnish my nostalgia for that summer.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

First November Build in the Books!

I've been anxious to get November's build done, so I've been hovering over the forecast from Google, MyRadar app and's 10-Day forecast. Today, Friday the 3rd of November 2023, looked to be the best day for quite a while. That was until Friday started to march closer, then the few days following seemed to progressively look better and better. So much so that I hatched a plan in my mind to build one of the smallest builds today, and, because it will be even warmer, I plan to undertake a bigger build on Monday. That is pending the weather holding out and not being anywhere near as breezy as it was today.

Now I understand it might seem foreign to some people that I prefer to solder outside, but that's the way it is. My soldering schedule revolves around the weather no matter what the project is. I have been known to do some very brief indoor soldering, but my space is so limited I prefer to keep indoor soldering to an absolute minimum, if at all. The setup for doing November and December builds was that I chose projects so small they could be done indoors, but I still prefer them be done outside. In this case I originally chose two, an Emerson Paramount and Emerson Drive clone. While scrolling through layouts I decided to add a third to that in the form of an EHX Screaming Bird clone. All three are very small, very simple and rather quick builds.

Remember when I literally just said simple and rather quick? Well that is unless it's 55 degrees (12c) and breezy. One tends to forget how the body refuses to cooperate when you're sitting in that type of climate trying to actually do something productive. I started off by swapping some potentiometers from previous builds where I used good enough for the correct, required values. That took me five minutes or so, and it was only three changes. Then I setup the Emerson Paramount and got to work. Everything was slightly more frustrating than it normally is, because my fingers kept forgetting how to bend. You may be saying to yourself 55 degrees (12c) isn't that cold, and you're right! It's when there is an unrelenting wind constantly pushing it into your skin that causes problems.

After twenty minutes of trying to get my fingers to bend and work correctly I finally had a finished circuit built in November. When I first tested it the tone wouldn't work, but some xacto knifing through the gaps seems to have fixed that, even though I didn't see any bridges. Which, really quick, is an odd thing that even though you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there when it comes to solder bridges. Anyway, it sounds like a light overdrive on preliminary testing. I'll have to do the Kali test to really see how this pedal sounds. So far it's not bad. If the weather holds up I plan to build a Boss SP-1 clone on Monday, which I'm excited for. Do you remember my topless Behringer HellBabe? Since it doesn't have the treadle it has that cocked-wah sound and I found that really added something to my tone that I really liked. I'm hearing the SP-1, and hopefully clones thereof, can achieve that type of sound. I guess I'll find out on Monday.

Apart from the wiring it looks pretty nice

Added 5th November after publishing

Verdict: When it's not pushing the amp, it sounds poorly biased. This could be because I chose to use a 2.2meg instead of a 2meg, and an MPSA12 instead of MPSA13. When I set Kali's volume to the point I normally test overdrives at things sounded better. I set the tone a tiny bit above mid way, volume at about 9 o'clock and adjusted the gain to taste, backed off slightly on the guitar's volume and this circuit sounds pretty damn good! It does bug me that it can sound poorly biased, but an overdrive is really best suited for what ended up making this clone circuit sound the best anyway. I'll most likely just leave it as is, and learn what it does best just the way it is.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Thank You Tayda Electronics!

I've debated making an entry about my appreciation for Tayda Electronics, but every time I did I was afraid doing so would ultimately cause something to go wrong. I know I've mentioned them in a post I did over at, but I'm not sure I've talked much about them here. Tayda Electronics offers a ton of electronics parts at very reasonable prices, and what made those prices even sweeter was their super saver shipping. This shipping option could take up to 30 days, but parts were so inexpensive I found the wait to be well worth it. I didn't need my parts fast, I just needed my parts. Often times it would only take about two weeks to arrive, but when it would take the full 30 I feel that was mostly on the part of the shipping partner holding on to the package for almost a week. In early 2023 this option was discontinued and the more expensive shipping options were all that was left.

When the super cheap shipping option was removed I felt as though it was all over. How was I going to get the parts I needed? With Tayda I knew they were working with reliable suppliers and if something did slip through, which I've never encountered, they would to make it right. It took a while but I was able to find a few reliable sources on Amazon. I know I've talked ad nauseum about how many fake TL072 ICs I have, so I erred on the side of caution when it came to buying things like that from there. Potentiometers and resistors tend to be ok, but I have had some absolute dud potentiometers come in. After some testing I did manage to find reliable suppliers for resistors, potentiometers and op-amps, so everything kind of worked out, but I still wasn't getting them anywhere near as inexpensively as I could from Tayda.

In rare instances I reached beyond even what Tayda offered, like when I bought genuine J201 and 2N5457 TO-92 JFETs. Thankfully Guitar PCB made these small batch orders painless, with reasonable shipping. Even so, I still missed ordering from Tayda, but $13+ to ship $5 worth of stuff just couldn't be justified in my mind. I would go to their website and use my shopping cart as a shopping list of things I needed to order from somewhere else. Well, now Tayda has a new cheaper shipping option. It's not as cheap as the original, but it's much better than the other two options and it arrived in ten days. That's something I can live with! I just want to thank Tayda Electronics for finding a shipping option that works for those of us who don't buy in massive quantities, and giving us a much more justifiable shipping cost.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Life Without Internet, AGAIN!

Yep! Early Thursday the internet went out yet again, and didn't returned until Monday the 30th. In that time I started playing Dragon Quest 3, which has been fun. For years I've had the Game Boy Color version of Dragon Warrior 3, but I didn't want to stare at a tiny screen for hours on end. When I found a translation for the Dragon Quest 3 remake for the Super Famicom I decided that would be the route I took. I really missed getting stuck into a classic RPG when the daylight rests early and the Sun's heat wanes. My ultimate goal is to get back to DQ8, because I bought a copy in about 2010 and played quite a bit of it, but it felt weird not having played the first game. I quit playing eight and took on the first one, in all its antiquated glory. I really did enjoy it. I also enjoyed the second one, so the next logical step was three, but it took years for me to get around to it. Now that I'm playing it, I wish I had done it years ago. There are a ton of things in my life I wish I had done years before I actually did. Life lesson, kids!

Another thing I wish I had done years before I actually did was building guitar pedal circuits. I've said it before, but this desire started long before I ever soldered anything. I ran across BYOC's website and wanted a kit, but never bought one. After the messy end to 2019 I decided 2020 was going to be my year, and it was, at least in terms of starting pedal clone builds. On October 26th I built the 40th clone circuit of the year, The Dane, which I'm finding to be just another overdrive. Now, I opted out of adding the boost and lows control, so I might be missing out on a whole set of dynamics. It's not a bad overdrive, it's just simply an overdrive. On the plus side, should I decide I need the boost later, tagboard effect's layout included a separate layout for that as well, so it's always an option.

Time without the internet has also given me a bit of perspective, which I'm starting to believe is a bad thing. Back in September I built a slightly modded CMAT Mods Butah clone, which I've dubbed the Blues Master MKIII, and while I like it, I wasn't sure what exactly I was going to do with it. That is until my brain had too much time to think, instead of being clogged by the internet, and I've decided to make it the blue channel on my own Browne Amps Protein style clone. I'm super excited to get the green channel built because I've always wanted a Nobel's clone. I've decided that must be why I built the Butah clone; to become the blue channel to the Green channel I didn't even know existed until after I had already built the Butah clone. Funny how things work out.

The tiny little builds are still set up for November and December, as the first of November fast approaches. I believe I already see a date for the November build, this weekend as a matter of fact, so I'm hoping the weather and internet hold out so that I can get the first one done and report back. Sadly the December build it going to be quite a bit more difficult as I want to build it on a specific date. This year wasn't just about mass building, it was also about building on dates that mean something to me. I have accomplished a few of those, but December 14th or 23rd seem like they're going to be just too cold. However, that's why I'm saving the smallest build for December. Even if I need to do it indoors, it's a simple enough circuit I could throw it together quickly. We'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Ok, So I Fibbed

Over the past three weeks the internet has been sporadically up for a total of seven of those days, and it's been sketchy at best. Between the internet taking a big old dump on itself, thanks Bright Speed, I downloaded some layouts that I had planned to build in 2024. To while away the hours without internet I decided to actually start putting those kits together, instead of waiting for the winter months. Well, that turned into having a total of five more kits ready to be built. Whoops!

Now not only do I have small builds to sneak into the months of November and December, I have one final build for the 2023 season. That will be a clone of The Dane's overdrive section. I know, I know, I have too many overdrives as it is, but a wise man once said "You can never have too many overdrives, unless they're all connected together and all of them are dimed." Actually, that's not a real quote, but maybe someone has said that in the history of the world, I don't know.

I still need to put together the secret project, but I'm putting that off for the newest build, and I have to find a day within the end months of this year and get the tiny little builds done. Apart from that I have a Boss SP-1 clone kit ready to go, a Cornish SS-2 and CC-1 clone kit ready to go and a Browne Amps' Protein Green Channel clone kit ready to go. The last of which is supposedly based on the Nobel's ODR-1, which I've been really looking forward to eventually building a clone of. I'm debating pairing it up with the newest Bluesbreaker clone I built not that long ago. They might compliment each other in a really nice way. Kind of my own clone of a Browne Amps' Protein.

The moral of the story is never say it's over before it's actually over, because you never know what will draw or push you back to where you never thought you would be again. I thought the build season was wrapped up and I was just waiting for nice days in November and December, now I'm waiting to see what tomorrow's weather will be like to do this new overdrive clone build. Pending Bright Speed doesn't shit itself again, I'll report back. Trust me!

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

2023 Pedal Build Wind Down

As 2023 winds to a close I can officially say there are only two planned builds left. I still need to put together the super secret project, but as far as from scratch builds only two remain. The two left are planned just to have tiny little builds for November and December. When I say tiny, I really do mean they're tiny little builds. One is 6x6 and the other is 7x7 sized stripboard with less than ten components all in, so we'll see how those work out. In total I've done thirty-nine builds this year alone, and with two more that means I will have built over forty circuits in one year. Looking back I see where there has been lag time between builds and I know that if I were to put in more effect I could easily build fifty in a year, but for 2024 I do plan to focus more on housing the circuits I've built this year, rather than building in mass again.

The reality being I don't really need many more pedals. I already have delays, reverbs, tremolos and a ton of overdrives and distortions. What else do I need? I am thinking of building a looper so I can build a new pedalboard. Apart from that I might just build a few easy circuits to see how I can modify them or use different component values like I did with experiment #64. For 2024 I do have a few ideas that are almost locked in as builds though, such as a Boss Spectrum clone, a Bearhug compressor with a few modifications, and a couple Cornish clones to use up my single op-amp stock. I'm still debating building a Deep Blue Delay clone, and maybe, just maybe I'll try my (left) hand at another HM-2 clone. Firstly I will do some more testing with the HM-2 clone I built before I dedicate more materials to another one. I actually think I might know what I did wrong with that build, and if I'm right that I was wrong it may sound better once I get it dialed in.

In 2024 I really do need to use up my LM741 and TL071 stock, as the large majority of the circuits I've built use dual op-amps. Speaking of, I also need to use up my fake TL072 stock, which I've learned work well with very little to no gain pedal circuits. I also have a few TL074s and a single LM324 which probably could use good homes. I think you get the idea of how this works. I have parts, parts need homes, search for homes, find many circuits to build, oops I need more (x value) resistor/capacitor, etc. and the cycle just keeps repeating itself. It's not that pedal circuits are the only reason to have the components around, but it is currently the most fun and easiest reason.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Masters of Distortion

In a previous entry I questioned whether or not my Maxon DS-830 Distortion Master clone was truly a master of distortion. I can definitively say it is, but after some testing I've come to find that things aren't exactly perfect with my build. When I tested the circuit through my Noisy Cricket it sounded ok, but I was merely looking to see whether or not the circuit and controls worked. When I tested the circuit through Kali there was an odd sag that seemed to oscillate. I would hit a chord and the distortion would slowly swell in and out. I started troubleshooting the build by first checking the input JFET. The circuit requires a 2SK246Y, but I don't have any clue where to get one of those. Instead I went with a JFET from the same parts board I sourced the SC1815 transistors this build also requires and used a K223. 

Since I had the foresight to socket the JFET I started testing others that I had. I tried my J112, J113, another K223 and even a 2N5457, but the K223s were the only ones that worked. For completeness sake I turned the K223 around and it works either way. *Shrug* While I was swapping the K223's direction I had forgotten to unplug the power, which I usually do as a precaution, and the sag wasn't there. This told me that it probably wasn't the JFET at all, so it's probably a crappy electrolytic capacitor. When the circuit is powered off and back on the oscillating sag returns, but if the circuit is left powered up for a while it comes to life and works just fine. I'll need to test some of the capacitors and see which one might be causing the issue, or what else it may be. Aside from that I'm happy with how good this circuit sounds when it's firing on all cylinders.

Next up we have the super secret project I've been working on, which requires a screamer type circuit as the heart of the overall build. Since I built my Screaming Pumpkin I've found I'm not a fan of the clean bleed, or whatever you call it, that is common with 808 style circuits. Don't get me wrong, I love my Screaming Pumpkin, and TS808 circuits can sound great in the right circumstance, but this project is most certainly not that circumstance. I listened to demos of TS9, TS10, TS7, TS5 and even other kinds of TS circuits. I finally settled on the TS9 as my circuit of choice. As TS circuits go it didn't take long to put together and once I was done I went through my normal pre-test jitters. I'm anxious whether the circuit will work, and if it doesn't what will I need to troubleshoot/fix. Luckily for me everything went off without a hitch.

This circuit sounds really good, but as always I'm not sure it sounds as close as I wanted to the project circuit I'm going to end up building. Regardless, it is what it is and I will be moving ahead with it anyway. This project also requires a boost, which I just so happens to have a LPB-1 circuit laying around. I will also need to work on adding a blend circuit, which is something I got into earlier this year and built a few. Finally I need to work on some sort of bass boost switch to go along with it. So the project is a TS style overdrive, with a clean blend, a boost and a bass switch. Does that sound familiar?

Monday, October 9, 2023

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 3: The Lowrider Kid!

As a kid I had a small collection of 1:18 scale diecast model cars and a rather large collection of 1:24/1:25 scale model kits. Though they were all different kinds of cars they all fell victim to the fact that I was really into Lowriders. Even before AMT and Revell started making lowriders kits I was going to websites like Pegasus and Hoppin Hydros to get wheels and accessories to build my own lowriders. Now, let it be known I was great at painting the interior, engines, and setting up a stanced lowrider chassis, but I couldn't paint the body for shit. That's one skill I just could not master. I'm sorely disappointed to this day, as I really need to learn to spray paint for my guitar pedal building hobby. It's been years since I've tried, so I might be better at it these days, as I've learned how to be more patient.

The first official lowrider kit I can remember was AMT's 1970 Chevy Monte Carlo, which came with various hydraulic cylinders so you could stance it almost anyway you wanted. Model kits including extra parts to allow you to customize how you built the car wasn't new, but this blew my tiny little mind back then. The car was green on the box, but moulded in an off white/ grey color, so I knew mine was never going to look great. Even so, I built what I could, stanced it how I wanted and still enjoyed what I had created. I also had quite a few 63 and 64 Impala kits. I did paint one of the 64 kits blue, but the paint started to run on the rear quarter panel. I didn't care, it was the best I could do, so I lived with it.

Then came Lindberg, hitting heavy with their kits that included hydraulics. These were already moulded in nice colors, all I had to do was put them together. I had EVERY one of them, although I never got into their Pocket Hoppers line. My favorite by far was the S10. I actually still have one of the 63 Impala Red's Hydraulics Jokers that still works, kind of. I also bought the Hoppin Hydros Linberg D's, which were an upgraded lowrider wheel and white walled tire set for each and every one of them. It becomes apparent that I, at that age, had no clue what money meant.

Years later I bought a pre-built 1966 Bonneville kit off ebay thinking I could fix it. The previous owner had already setup the hydraulics, but the wiring was a rats nest. I tried to fix it, but all I really did was take it apart and forget how it went back together. I also tried to mate a Dodge Caravan kit with a Lindberg hydraulic chassis, which was going great, until I could never get the body to sit straight on the chassis. I also bought a metallic hunter green Chevy dually that I lowered and added wire wheels to. Soon after some company started producing a line of diecast bodied ones that looked a lot like mine. I have my suspicions they might have used mine as inspiration, I'll explain more at the end.

Something I only saw for a short period of time in the early 2000s and never seen since was a huge radio controlled lowrider with hydraulics and everything. It wasn't the Radio Shack Lowrider, but whatever it was never really lived up to the hype the ebay listing had promised. I used it the day I got it and put it back in the box for display, and as with almost all of my other model cars it was eventually sold. I even made my own lowrider from a super cheap remote controlled car I bought at a dollar store. There is also some other cheap lowrider car that came with a key fob that I have somewhere. I'll try to find those and add pictures below.

As a part of this hobby I also still have a small collection of Lowrider and Lowrider Bicycle magazines packed away. In the back of Lowrider Bicycle, if you flipped the magazine over, you had a whole half that was dedicated to lowrider scale model cars. I used to look at those cars and wish I could do stuff like that. It wasn't until model car companies started painting the bodies that I ever actually felt I was anywhere near that level, of course I still wasn't, but I felt as if I was.

Now way, way back in the old days of 2002 I started a website that, looking back, was poorly named. Low Ridez N 1:24. Yep, the early 2000s were a veritable wild west of misspelling to come up with something catchy. I wanted to be a one stop shop for all small scale lowrider information, and I really thought I was. I added anything and everything that came across my path that had to do with lowrider model cars, as well as photos of my own builds. Now all that's left is the web archive, but when they crawled the site they never archived the photos, which were literally kilobytes in size but whatever. So having my builds posted wasn't a concern, until I saw the diecast lowrider duallys that looked like mine. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, it doesn't matter twenty years later, but to me it just seemed odd.

Prepainted 1977 Monte Carlo Snaptite
Upgraded wheels for the 77 Monte Carlo Kit
Dollar Store Blazer with real Hoppin Hydros wheels.
Oddball remote lowrider toy.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Autumn is Here!

Ah, Autumn. What can you say about Autumn that hasn't already been said? *shrug* I guess you can say whatever you want about Autumn, I'm not your Dad. As for myself, as the darkness comes rolling in earlier and earlier, the temperatures start to drop off, just like leaves from the trees, I like to get stuck into an RPG. It's been a while since I have, but I like to give myself an RPG to get stuck into that takes up multiple days, if not months of my time to simply while away the cold months. Back in 2011 I finally sat down and played through Dragon Warrior (Quest) 1, a few years ago I played through Dragon Quest 2 and I set up Dragon Quest 3, fully intending to play it immediately, but guess what? Yep, I forgot.

Since I've been going through and beating NES games lately the urge for my Autumnal RPG playthrough has been super strong. So this year I'm thinking I'll surely play through Dragon Quest 3. Another reason is because I really, REALLY want to get back into Dragon Quest 8. Yeah, that's a hell of a leap isn't it? Well, I'm just going to have to work my way all the way back up to DQ8. It's the only way! The problem with Dragon Quest 3 is which version do I play? The original NES version? A translated Enchanced Super Famicom version? The Game Boy Color version? And I'm even reading there was a Super Enhanced Wii version? So many choices, so little time to decide.

As for pedal circuit builds I built the Distortion Master clone and it turned out - well, it turned out. It's distortion, I don't know if it's the master of distortion, but it sure is distortion. If you read my last entry you might recall (go back and read the final paragraph, go on. Go on! I'm giving you time. GO!) that I said I wanted to find projects to build in November and December just to say I've built pedal circuits in those months. Well, I found them. Super simple circuits that are less than half a dozen parts on a 6x6 piece of stripboard. Ten minutes each and I'll have myself a new pedal circuit. One build is planned for each month. I'm also still working on the mystery project, but it's going to take a bit of mental gymnastics to figure out how it goes together. Again, I'll show you when it's finished. By finished I mean complete and working, or I've set the fucker on fire so it can never hurt me again.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Shot for the Moon, Landed on Mars

One of my first circuit builds this year was a Kay T1 tremolo clone. To say it went poorly would be an understatement. The first problem was the layout has an error in it, which the author still has not fixed. Only after asking on the DIYPedals subreddit was the error in the layout brought to my attention, as well as how to fix it. Once it was fixed I was getting much better results, but it still ended up just being a warbly overdrive. Building a tremolo was really just an exercise in seeing if I could do it, and with such lackluster results I wasn't ready to try it again. However, I actually was, because I'm an idiot sometimes!

The Vico Vibe really got into my head and I wanted to build one so bad, but I just could not do another transistor-based tremolo and have it fail like the Kay T1 clone. While searching for help with the Kay T1 clone a nice young chap by the name of Ian kept telling me to shoot the moon, by which he meant build a Shoot the Moon tremolo. This one uses two op-amps and has four controls, so again I wasn't really willing to use all those parts just to face another failure. But, sometimes we just need to push through the fear of failure and do what needs to be done, so I did. I built the chopped down version of the circuit that boils it down to two controls, a shape switch and an internal trim pot.

The simplified Shoot the Moon tremolo is such an easy circuit to build, but even so I had my pre-test jitters thinking there surely had to be something I messed up on. The final step of any build is to put the op-amp(s) into the socket(s) and plug the power into the pedal to see what happens. I have a large stock of janky op-amps that can't take too much gain before they get fizzy. They were sold to me, and marked as TL072s, but in any high gain overdrive/distortion these things fizz more than Mentos in Diet Cola. I have learned that for low/no gain applications these things work amazingly. I don't know what they actually are, but so far they're sound absolutely amazing in this tremolo circuit. Which also means this tremolo circuit sounds amazing.

I was elated! Finally, a tremolo circuit that works and sounds awesome. I will say I haven't ran humbuckers through it, nor have I given it the Kali test to make sure it sounds good through my tube amp, but so far I am very happy with the results. I didn't heat shrink the LDR and LED yet, and I may not as they seem to work really well just the way they are. I did test it in a dark room, so I'm guessing an enclosure might be good enough, but I might heat shrink them in the future. The adjustable gain is a nice addition, and since I will most likely set it slightly above unity and forget it, I'm glad it's an internal trim pot.

Well, all I really have left to say is Thanks Ian! This tremolo circuit works, it works great and sounds great! Had he not suggested it, I may not have ever given it a try. So what we've learned here is from failure (the Kay T1 clone) we've been set on the path of something greater. Fear of additional failure kept me from testing that path, but eventually I decided to overcome that fear, and I'm glad I did. It's almost as if guitar pedal circuit building is teaching us life lessons. Funny isn't it? I still have a few builds left in the year and I've decided to plan small builds for November and December, just so I can officially say I've built during those months. Remember, I solder outside so my builds are very weather dependent. Should I get good weather for a singular November and December build the only month I've not built in would be February. We might just have to rectify that in 2024!

Monday, October 2, 2023


About ten years ago I picked up a Johnson Amplification J3 footswitch from a thrift store for about $2. Even though it looked like it had done a world tour, or two, I knew a few bucks would be a solid investment. Since I've never owned a Johnson amp, or their little modeler, I've never known if this thing worked or not. For years it sat in my closet without any purpose, until I started wanting to build a DIY A/B/Y box. It seemed to fit those needs well, in fact too well, but my A/B/Y didn't need three switches, so I had to sort out a way to plug the middle hole on the top. I would also need to drill additional holes for LEDs and the additional outputs.

Eventually I got around to drilling the holes and putting everything into place, but I never bothered soldering it together because I was really put off by the middle hole. Hindsight being more than just looking at big, round booties, I should have thought it through before drilling the additional holes and just left it alone. In the end I used a small 1590A enclosure and made a very simple A/B switcher and at that point the A/B/Y project was completely dead. Now I just had a J3 footswitch with extra holes and no wiring. So what do I do with it now? I rectify my stupid mistakes and fix it up, duh!

Lucky for me I had enough foresight, which has no questionable quip, and took photos of the insides so I could replace them, should I ever decide to do so. Which I have, obviously, that's why you're reading this right now. I'm sorry. I got everything set up and removed the excess outputs and LEDs, then I soldered back the coupled pair of 1N4148s which I always left alone, even when I needed them for pedal builds, and used the images I took all those years ago to rewire it back up. If you'll refer to the opening paragraph of this blog entry you'll remember I've never owned anything this footswitch will work with, so I still can't tell you whether it works or not. I can tell you that aside from some extra holes, which are now bugging me more so than just the middle hole when I wanted it to be an A/B/Y box, it's back together to the best of my ability.

Below I've provided the images I took before tearing the footswitch apart. These may help someone rewire theirs, or you can tell me that mine isn't wired correctly. The previous owner may have rewired it to work with something else, I'm not sure. That's the problem with having nothing to test this thing with. Again, it's wired to the best of my ability and that's what matters right now.