Saturday, February 18, 2023

It's All a Process: Improving My Pedal Building Skills

When I first started building pedals I simply wanted something that kind of resembled what I could pick up at the local guitar store. Since these pedals were built for my own personal use, and to prove that I could do it, I used very inexpensive components, as well as haphazard methods of getting them into metal enclosures, just to reach that goal. My original builds used inexpensive, unpainted, metal enclosures, plastic input and output jacks, and DPDT footswitches. I didn't worry about LEDs, labeling the controls, or even grounding the metal enclosures until more recently. Now that I'm going back through my original builds, I'm finding many of them can be improved upon.

My latest finalization was my op-amp Muff Fuzz clone that I stuffed into a 1590a enclosure. With this one I realized the importance of 3PDT footswitches, as well as the easiest way to add an LED. While my original thoughts of "Well it's an overdrive, I'll know when it's on. I don't need an LED!" were valid back then, they're not valid anymore. I've begun the process of swapping out DPDT footswitches for 3PDT so that I can implement LEDs. As for the plastic input and output jacks, well, they seem to be holding up alright. Some professional companies use them as well, so I'm in no hurry to change them, however I've grown to love the jacks that are metal with the plastic boxes. These provide a simple way of grounding the enclosure along with both the input and output by simply grounding one of them. Quick and efficient!

In some cases, such as my Fat Boost clone, I have to upgrade to the original required parts, as I originally threw close enough parts in just to get the circuit built. Upon testing the Fat Boost I noticed the humming when I touch the metal enclosure and footswitch. As I said, many of my original builds are like this, so I'm working on finding washers to sandwich between the enclosure and either the input or output jack, then I can solder it straight to ground. I could even sandwich one between the power input and the enclosure and solder that straight to the ground lug. A simple upgrade, yet only recently have I realized just how important it truly is.

Many of my original builds need adjustments to be up to spec. Ranging anywhere from adding an LED, possibly painting the bare enclosures, and grounding the enclosure to dumping the input to ground when in bypass to stop oscillation leaking into the bypassed signal. While 2023's guitar pedal season already has eleven pedals planned, with a few other projects that may or may not be added to the schedule, I'm going to find time to make the upgrades I can so that my personal builds are hopefully gig ready. Those improvements will be used on all pedals built from here on out. I also have a few secret pedal builds planned for the future, when I can build pedals for people other than myself.