Monday, April 15, 2024

The Plimsoul Clone

The builds of 2024 continue and the Plimsoul is the latest to be completed. Essentially, in the off season, I was searching for any circuit that could even loosely be associated to the word "blues". I've become more of a blues player as I've gotten older, and lets face it, since my body and fingers don't work the way they used to. I do find blues connects with me though, and I greatly enjoy playing blues guitar, so I figured I wanted as many guitar pedals as possible to give me multiple options for blues tones. One circuit that had been on my radar for a while was indeed the Plimsoul, but I felt it was a bit more distortion than bluesy, but tagboard effects description has the word bluesy in it twice, so that's all it took to convince me it was worth a try.

As far as the build, well, it was going fine until I remembered that it was suggested in the comments of the layout to substitute one of the three A100k pots for an A10k. I decided to go with a C10k as it was the only 10k I had on hand, which works just fine. Luckily it was an easy situation to rectify, once I found out which pot it was. It's the sustain pot by the way. I was a bit anxious about wiring the dual pot for stage two control, because I'm always anxious about wiring dual pots, but that turned out just fine. Once it was all soldered up it was time to test it.

At first the circuit didn't work properly. All I got was a stuttering sound when I played the notes on my guitar. My first tactic is always knifing the gaps, so I took my xacto knife and slit between the rows and tested it again. That did the trick, and the circuit came to life. After testing it a little bit more this circuit did surprised me as it's one that offers quite a bit of flexibility. Is it bluesy? It can be. It can also be a boost, or an overdrive all the way to a distortion. I enjoyed this circuit more than I thought I would, even though I've not really played around with it too much. I pretty much tested how much drive it offers, then engaged stage 2 and left it full tilt as a distortion. Now that the Plimsoul is done what the next build will be is up in the air, but whatever it is will be the 90th build.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Now the Timmy Post!

My Timmy clone was born the same day as the revitalization in my life, but that's the other post. This is all about the Timmy! I was excited to build this circuit because I had heard so many good things about it. So I put everything together and on a nice Tuesday I built it. It was a super simple build. The issue however is I can't find any 4559s, so I used a 4580 instead. I'm still debating whether it sounds anything at all like a Timmy. It's not a bad circuit, and it had plenty of options for tonality, but whether it sounds like a Timmy is still up for debate.

I'm really digging transparent overdrives and that's one of a million reasons why I wanted to build a Timmy clone. I chose the V1, which suits me as well as any other, so I'm not too concerned with what makes them all a little bit different. This is the one I built; this is the one I own, and will use. I'm still uncertain what the internal dip switches do, but it's something I'll learn about over time. There's really not much more to say.

Other than the Timmy being the 88th total build, and the fact I still have 7 more confirmed builds and a few sitting on the outer cusp of consideration I might get to the goal of 100 builds before I know it. The Plimsoul, Menatone Blue Collar, a Klon Buffer, another Naga Viper clone, two Cornish clones and an EQD Zoar are all on their way, bringing the total up to 96 once these are done. I do plan a Diaz Texas Ranger clone, as well as another Texas inspired clone both of which bring the total up to 98. The two final circuits will really need to be something important, and believe me, I bet they will be. I just don't know what they will be yet.

I Didn’t Have Ambulance Ride to the ER on My 2024 Bingo Card, Until I Did!

As some of you may know I suffer from anxiety. It's a disorder that sometimes can not be properly looked after. This year started out with some really bad symptoms to the point I filed to get medical insurance and once I did the real mental fuckery started. Symptoms started to appear that were very concerning, and knowing now I could take care of them made it impossible for me to ignore. However, covid locked me in this mental box that anxiety took control of and made it seem if I left the property I would immediately die in the worst possible way. How does one combat this? Internally, mentally, and eventually they feel like they're drowning with no way of reaching help.

So I decided to try and shake off the horrible way I woke up this morning and build the Timmy clone circuit, which went really well. Once it all was soldered up I brought it inside to test and immediately my skin began to crawl, my body was trembling and my internal alarms were on full alert. But I can't leave the property! I'll die! If I don't take care of whatever is setting off this anxiety, I'll die! Damned if I do, damned if I don't. The option was literally taken out of my control when, suddenly and without warning I simply stopped breathing. I've had anxiety and panic attacks, but this was a completely different beast. This sucked the oxygen right out of me and left me feeling the cold fingers of the Reaper upon my arms, directing me away.

911 was called, and after a brief sit outside the team came over and started taking my vitals. Obviously in a panic things weren't perfect, but things weren't alarming, or so they didn't let on anything was alarming. I was then transferred to the ambulance and awaited the horrible death anxiety had promised should I try to leave the property. As you may be guessing, because I'm writing this entry, it was all bupkis! I was loaded into the ambulance, the vitals guy kept an eye on everything and we talked the whole ride about my life, my anxiety, my hobbies, and even my lost love from Mexico. What stays with me though is how he kept looking at the EKG and saying I have a beautiful EKG, and it slowly got better as we rolled along the way to the ER.

I felt far more calm than I thought I would throughout the whole process, which was surprising, but a welcome change from what anxiety said I should feel. Transitioning from Ambulance to ER was immediate and everyone was there to greet me. My vitals were constantly checked, blood was drawn and everything was underway. I was even given some kind of drug, whose name I already forget, that quieted all the intrusive thoughts in my head. Although my numbers aren't 100% perfect, at least now I know what I need to work on with my PCP.

Listen, if you're having chest pains and shortness of breath, don't simply chalk it up to anxiety, unless you've been to the Dr or ER and you've been cleared time and time again. This isn't anything to mess with, and although mine turned out to strictly be inside my head, for someone else it might not. Do yourself a service and burst through that mental block like I did and give yourself much more life to live. Believe me it's worth living!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

The Crap Fuzz [Re]Build

Back on New Year's Day I tried to get an old Bazz Fuss circuit going again, and failed. I figured this was a fairly decent Saturday so I took the time to try again, and still failed. The board was coated with solder, and there was really no way for me to clean off enough solder to prevent bridging, so I decided the next best thing was to scrap the old board and use a new one. It took literal seconds to cut the board, cut the traces and solder everything up. Once all was said and done, it now works! Horribly! I mean, it's horrible.

I strictly stuck with using the parts I had in the original, so instead of a 2N3904 I used a BC546, with pinout adjusted, so it's not biased correctly. It's fuzzy, it's gnarly, but it's really not anything useful unless it's full blast. The circuit works and that's really all I was after. I just wanted to resurrect a very old circuit that I built many years ago, but never gave any real notation to. Now this little circuit, as horrible as it truly is, has a birthday (or more a rebirthday I guess), and it's written in my build log. This brings my total circuits built to 87 officially noted circuits. Remember, that's both pedals and a few amps, but 87 total nonetheless.

The problem now is I still have 8 builds planned for the year, bringing me to a total of 95, once those are completed. As I stated in my last entry, about building, I need that nicely rounded, even 100 total. I don't want to build a bunch of Bazz Fuss circuits, or buffers, or other simple builds just to pad it out. I want circuits that truly mean something to my building history. I'm not sure what I'll do, but I'll do my best to come up with something.

Fallout 3: Heading Back Into the Wastelands

Of all the Fallout games I've played, Fallout 3 is my favorite. That's not to say Fallout 4 or 76 aren't good games, it's just I've not been able to play them, yet. Last year a dear friend actually purchased Fallout 76 for me, but thanks to Bethesda's "What Bug?" policy, it locked me out of playing the game indefinitely. I've not been able to catch Fallout 4 on sale, so I think that's the only Fallout game I don't actually own. Throughout the past few years all off the others, with the exception of 4 and 76, have been given away by Epic Games, which is nice of them. This has given me a chance to reconnect with Fallout 3, which I originally played on the PS3.

Last year I tried a failed attempt at finally getting into Elder Scrolls Oblivion. I generally like Bethesda's open world games, but Oblivion just didn't play that well, and Morrowind's "Whoops, you didn't hit them this time, try again!", even though I smashed them in the face with my weapon, policy completely turned me off. These are all simply me problems, but Fallout 3 feels like a pretty decent game with its own bugs, but it's rare that I encounter them. The slow grind of getting started, getting established and finally getting things done was a bit of a hassle, but once I was there I started to have a pretty good time, again.

Now, here is the real meat and potatoes of this entry. When I was a child my class went to on a field trip to the Indianapolis Children's Museum. There were a lot of fun things to see and explore and learn, but one thing haunts me to this day. The fucking Woolly Mammoth! They have a life size Woolly Mammoth inside the museum, and when I went it was in a dimly lit corner. Imagine young me walking into a new room, filled with wonderment and happiness, only to be stopped in my tracks instantly when faced with a gigantic Woolly Mammoth recreation. It ruined the rest of my field trip, and like I said still haunts me to this day.

Those of you who have played Fallout 3 have already put the puzzle together and are probably laughing to themselves, while others are still wondering what I'm talking about. In Fallout 3 there is the Museum of History, and everything is fine as you enter through the lobby. Things change as soon as you move past the lobby and into the first display room where the skeletal remains of a T-Rex have come crashing to the floor, but on the other side of the room is a full size, upright Woolly Mammoth! Even in video game form it freaks me the hell out! Instantly I recall the feeling of my younger self and try to face my fear, but it still freaks me the hell out and I just leave the room.

Aside from past trauma, I can finally visit the Lincoln Memorial. This one doesn't freak me out because it's not like a 30 foot tall Abe Lincoln is going to try and make me his lunch! Well, a stuffed Woolly Mammoth wouldn't either, but I'm pretty sure my DNA is still at least 50% Neanderthal, so it makes sense to me. For some reason in my first playthrough I didn't get to this part of D.C. and I don't remember why. I explored a great deal of the wasteland, but for some reason never reached this part. Now that I'm established, roaming the wastelands freely and enjoying my time there, I think I'll go off and do some DLC stuff to mix it up. Fallout 3 is a great game, and I appreciate that Epic Games has given it away, at least a few different times, so that I could get back out there and relive the experience I enjoyed so much the first time around.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

A Touch of OCD - Version 3 That Is

Way back in 2021 I built a Danelectro Cool Cat Drive clone, which itself is supposedly a clone of the Fulltone OCD. I actually really like the Cool Cat Drive clone that I built, but there was always a nagging inside about what an OCD clone would be like. Well, thanks to the folks at Tagboard Effects I decided to find out. The V3 seemed to be the most popular, so that's what I went with. I gathered all the parts and waiting for another sunny day. That day came, so I got outside and soldered it up.

The day actually started out with me finishing the Mockman. Yeah, yeah, I know. I only put it into the enclosure, but I didn't bother wiring it up when I wrote the entry a little while ago. Sorry if you feel like I fibbed to you, but if you've read any of these entries you'll know I hate wiring. Anyway, I finished up the Mockman, put together the OCD V3 and it was time to test them. As with every pedal I was worried it wouldn't work, but the OCD fired up immediately. I put a little gain into it and it sounded really good. I dimed the gain and it sounded even better! Fiddled with the tone control to make sure it works, and I flipped the switch to make sure it worked, which they both do. What a great circuit! How does it compare to the Danelectro clone? I'll test that later.

Now it was time to test the Mockman. Everything worked as expected with it too, thankfully. It had been so long since I played this circuit I forgot how much I liked this one too. The mods I made to it are well worth the added functionality, so I'm glad I did. It's all housed up and ready to rock. Which makes me feel bad for the two builds from 2022 that still need enclosures, but they'll get them at some point. As far as the future is concerned, I added a small build to the roster just because. I built a buffer before, but there seems to be a mystique about the Klon Buffer, so since it's such a tiny little build I figure I may as well build one, just to see what it's all about.

With the addition of the Klon buffer that brings the total builds left to seven. Oddly enough that's how many I've already built this year. So, that leaves me with a bit of an issue. I've built 86 circuits, I have seven left to build, that leaves me at a total of 93 builds. We can't have that shit! No no, we need a nice, rounded 100 builds total if we're going to stop building. But how am I going to add seven more builds to the list? I have no clue yet. I know I'm really close to 100 already, if I count all the Bazz Fuss circuits and the blend circuits I've built but not bothered to add to the built list. Regardless, I want to reach 100 circuits for myself, and then maybe I'll start building simple fuzz pedals to help fund putting all my circuits into enclosures. Either way, I know I have to hit 100 total, dated builds. That's my goal!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Silly Way My Pedal Builds Got Started

As I was pacing this morning, waiting for my lunch to finish microwaving, I looked over at a tin of coffee and started to wonder what pedal I could stuff inside that tin. This reminded me that it was Christmas 2019 and an empty peanut tin that got this whole ball rolling. You know, me building pedal circuits. I had been wanting to build pedals since the mid-2000s. I know I've mentioned this before, but I came across the BYOC website and wanted to try building pedals, but for some reason the video game hobby won out and that's where my money and time were committed.

After Christmas 2019 I took the peanut tin and imagined building a fuzz circuit to fit inside, as the roundness of the tin, in a way, reminded me of a Fuzz Face. I remember drawing out the control placement on the bottom and puncturing it with my x-acto knife, taking extra care to not break the blade or puncture myself in the process. Although not perfect it did the trick, and to me it looked like a little Fuzz Face. I put potentiometers in the holes and knobs on top of them. I was proud of myself, because it felt like I had really done something. I basically just mutilated the bottom of a peanut tin and put potentiometers in it, that's really all I did.

I looked at that tin for a week or so and finally decided to throw together a fuzz circuit to put in it. I searched for the easiest fuzz to build, which turned out to be the Bazz Fuss, and on January 1st 2020 I slapped my very first circuit together. It was a massive learning experience as I used parts I had laying around, only to find out about pinouts! The transistor I originally used wasn't compatible with the layout, so I changed things around and eventually got sound out of it. That's where I learned about biasing, which I didn't do to my first fuzz circuit because I was too excited that it ended up working at all. It's still really poorly biased, but that's the way I'm keeping it.

As of right now I'm 85 circuits deep into this journey, give or take a few, and I'm still learning, but the peanut tin that started it all is long gone. I could replicate it with any old peanut tin, but I would rather its memory live on unsullied as the inspiration that finally pushed me over that edge to actually commit to building circuits. I've learned a lot, I've had a lot of fun, but I'm still not confident enough to build my own circuits from scratch. I've tried to come up with some ideas, but nothing ever felt right. Who knows, just like the peanut tin finally inspired me to build circuits, maybe something else will come along and inspire me to build my own circuit design. It could happen!

Monday, March 25, 2024

Happy Birthday to Myself!

Since today is my birthday, it will be a double feature today. I decided that today was a nice enough day to get outside and solder, so I did. I recently received a restock on some parts from Tayda, so almost every single one of the planned builds have everything they need to be completed. There is one outlier that needs a few parts, but other than that everything else I planned to build is ready to go.

I spent the morning debating what I wanted to build. Should it be the OCD clone? The Plimsoul clone? The Timmy clone? The Way Huge Overrated Special clone? Ah, that's the one! Initially I wanted to build something small, but I decided to knock the Overrated Special off the list because I've really been wanting this circuit done since I saw the layout months ago, and it's one of the bigger builds I have planned. With the decision made I grabbed my stuff and setup outside.

With 13 links to solder in, it felt like this circuit was going to take all day, and possibly more. Once the resistors started to go on everything came together pretty quickly. I really like my order of operation now, because it makes things feel less daunting as they're being put on the board. Once it was all said and done I soldered it in the little test box and tested it. Fucking - awesome! This circuit sounds so good! I believe it's meant to sound like a Dumble, but either way it's so good! The volume pot had a bit of a hiccup at first, but I think I've managed to work that out. Not sure if it's fixed or just waiting to screw up again next time I try to play it. Hey, I'm happy! It's not easy turning 41, but here we are.

Getting Old: A Gift to Myself

Everyone ages. It's a sad reality that sometimes sets in far too late for most of us to do anything about it. Some tend to go through what is called a Midlife Crisis, and to combat their internal struggle they compensate by making major changes in their lives. Whether it be a change in location, shift in life direction, or making a large purchase they would have otherwise never dared, most tend to go big with their life-altering outburst. As we age, most of us, tend to mature and grow. I've found myself looking back wondering where all those years have gone, sadly only to realize just that - those years are gone.

When I turned forty I realized I've been so wrapped up in being me, that I never took the time to get to know myself. While I understand what foods, music, movies, video games, hobbies, etc. that I enjoy, I never really got to meet myself and explore the depths of who I am as a person. Even though many people say forty is the new twenty, there's simply no telling how true that might be. So while I would love to purchase a genuine 1959 Gibson Les Paul, a Marshall stack and parade myself around doing Blues gigs at everyone's backyard party, I can't. That doesn't mean I can't do something for myself though.

Almost ten years ago I thought I was getting married. Although no date was set, the question was asked, the promise was made and dream was living in my consciousness every single day. As I truly believed this was happening I wanted to be the best possible me for her sake, so I tasked myself with reaching out to my ex-girlfriends and asking them what it was I did right, what I did wrong, and why they cared about me. This might sound like asking for trouble, but the answers I received back were quite comforting, and oddly enough they were mostly the same. I realized why someone could love me, what I did right, but also I now knew what I needed to change to be a better me for the woman who I truly hoped would forever be by my side.

Sadly, that choice wasn't up to me, and eventually that dream faded in her mind. I thought I was crushed then, but the process of aging never ceases. As the hopes and dreams continued to live in my head, I had to remind myself that just isn't happening. I'm getting older. I'm losing time. By now I thought all my dreams would have come true, and it would be nothing but happiness. Every day I am acutely aware that my existence is temporary, and I'm nowhere near where I want to be. So again I tasked myself with asking many of my friends who I was when they knew me.

I asked friends I hadn't spoken to in years. I tried to seek out as many as I possible could and asked them: "Who was I when you knew me?". Again I found many of the answers quite comforting, and many answered almost entirely the same. So as I face life each day, I realize one of two things. Either people are completely full of shit, or maybe, just maybe, there is a chance I am a special person to many people around me. The cynical side of me wants to believe people are merely answering in their best interests, saying what they think I want to hear. The other side of me doesn't believe people I've not spoken two in years would even bother to make up such lies, let alone say nearly identical things and express to me some of their favorite memories of us together.

I never knew what my legacy would be, but now, as I face the unknown, I realize I've made truly deep connections with people. I've fostered events throughout my life that have yielded life-long, positive memories for others. Deep down I feel all anyone truly wants is to be remembered. To know that we've done something good with our lives, and made things a bit more positive in our absence. In more recent times I thought perhaps my guitar pedal circuits would serve as a bit of a legacy, but my connections with the people around me are far more important. Again, I would love to own a 59 Les Paul and play every backyard party and blues festival that requires my services, but I can pretend to do that. I could never pretend to have truly made long lasting connections with the people around me. That had to happen for real, and apparently it has.

So maybe if you're feeling confused by life and all the constant shifts against what you feel is your best interests, or best attempts to right the ship, try this. Reach out to people you've not spoken to in years. Ask them who you were when they knew you. Express your favorite memories together and listen to theirs. Maybe even apologize to someone you've wronged and feel guilty about what you've done. Because just like I was promised we would be married by now, nothing would ever tear us apart; nothing is assured. Life has a funny way of making us feel like a singular speck of dust in a universe of dirt. If you ask, I'm sure you've made an indelible mark on someone's life somewhere. Listen, you do you, but it's worth a try.

"Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together." - Red Green

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Box'an the Mockman!

I know the title is a bit of a stretch, but work with me here. Anyway, this is just a quick update that the ROG Mockman that I built, and modified finally has its forever enclosure. I really loved this circuit's distortion and I've been so busy working on building more circuits that I've totally neglected the fact there are a ton of builds that need enclosures, and every circuit I build will need an enclosure themselves. Enclosures are going to be the most expensive part of this endeavor, but I knew that going into it. Regardless I still have a few builds to get done this year.

Since this is the distortion section of the Tom Scholz Rockman, I decided to follow the same color scheme with my build. I'm glad this one is finally housed, because this was the last build from 2021 that needed an enclosure. I still have two circuits from 2022, not to mention all the ones I built last year. Out of all the circuits I built last year a few were amps, and a few others were already housed, but the large majority still need enclosures. I do plan to get the Faux Analog Echo housed up, because I like it so much, then I need to focus on getting enclosures for the homeless circuits from 2022.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 9: Saturday Mornings

Having grown up in the 80's and 90's, there was nothing better than a Saturday morning to my childhood mind. After having to suffer through school for the week, Fridays started off that very special feeling. All I needed to do was come home, play with all my stuff, have dinner, watch some Boy Meets World on TGIF, and go to sleep knowing I could sleep in for a little bit the next day. Of course, that little bit was indeed just a little bit because the cartoons started at 8 or 9am. We never had cable, so all I had were the basic TV channels for Saturday morning cartoons. Regardless, believe me there was no feeling better than waking up on a beautiful sunny Saturday Morning, before anyone else in the house, pouring a bowl of cereal and sitting down in front of the old CRT TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Then going back to the kitchen multiple times to add more cereal to my already flavored bowl of milk.

I can still remember waking up in the darkness of my room, and walking from the dimly lit hallway into the brightly lit living room. The windows behind the television were on the east-facing side of the house, so on a sunny day the sun shined directly into those windows. I would adjust the amount of sunlight with the blinds, but usually as long as it didn't interfere with the TV's visibility, I allowed as much in as I could. I remember how soft the couches we had throughout my childhood were, and the TV trays we had sitting in the corner of the living room. Everything added up to an amazing start to many of my Saturdays.

For younger Sam, Saturday mornings weren't just about cartoons, multiple bowls of overly sugary cereal, being off school and not having to worry about it for another day, or the inevitable weekend grocery store run that allowed me to go to game stores. No, Saturday mornings were also about the commercials. Fast-paced advertisements that rotted my brain from the start and left me wanting whatever they were selling by the time it was over. Whether it be the newest video game, or a basketball star selling his sneakers, Saturday morning commercials were all part of the package when it came to the routine of Saturday mornings.

Since I've not been a child for over thirty years, I don't know what today's Saturday mornings are like, but I'm sure there are plenty of nostalgic memories being mentally logged on them, just the same as they were back in my day. Things did shift a bit when I got a bit older. As the cartoons I liked stopped airing, cartoons I didn't quite like took their places. That was when video games became the new Saturday morning ritual. Breakfast stayed the same, and the Saturday outing to video game stores became a bit more important, but they still retained that Saturday morning feeling to me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The ABCs: Ambitiously Building Circuits

Not since September 12 2021 have I attempted to build more than one circuit in the same day. Heck, even last year, when I built a total of 45 circuits, I avoided doing more than one per week. Those two circuits were a Flapjack Overdrive (Crowther Hotcake clone) and a Danelectro Cool Cat Drive (reportedly based on a Fulltone OCD). Neither of which are tiny builds, but I was really excited to get both of them built, so I did it in the same day. Both circuits turned out to be some of my favorites. So much so that I've decided to build clones of the pedals they were inspired by. I already built the Crowther Hotcake, and I plan to build an OCD clone soon.

This time the circuits are both a bit smaller, being a Univox Uni-comp clone and Subdecay Stupid Box clone. I don't know what it is about compressor pedals, but since I managed to realize the Really Cheap Compressor circuit works I've been wanting to build them all, almost like Pokemon. Anyway, I planned these as backup February circuits, but since that all went pretty well I was left with these to build at some other point. I figured I should do something special with these, and building them both in the same day was the best idea I could come up with.

First I built the Univox Uni-comp, which went pretty well. However, a comment under the layout said that theirs doesn't work, so I went into this understanding this circuit most likely wouldn't work. Which it doesn't. Without even testing the Uni-comp I set straight to work on building the stupid box. This was a much quicker build, and I did test it immediately afterwards. I'm actually really surprised at how such a simple circuit can create such a nice sounding distortion. My only complaint about the Stupid Box is the tone works backwards to how it normally does, but that's ok. The Subdecay Stupid Box gets two thumbs up from me! The Uni-comp gets a big, steaming pile of crap. I knew it wouldn't work, but I wanted to try anyway. I'll do some troubleshooting later. The main thing is, regardless of whether the circuit works or not, the built date for every circuit is the day it was completed.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 8: Tyco Psycho!

Being a product of the 80s myself, I'm fully aware that both the 80s and 90s were filled to the brim with less than accurate advertising. That being said, I was completely sucked in by every radio controlled car commercial ever made in those days. As a kid my brother had some really cool top tier Tyco RC cars. My RC cars were mostly RadioShack and the type tethered to the controller that only went forward and one singular direction.

This was until I started having my own bit of expendable income from doing odd jobs in my late teenage years. One thing I wanted so badly was the Tyco Speed Wrench, which seemed to be inspired by the newly formed Nascar Truck series. The Speed Wrench came with - shocker - a wrench and two sets of wheels that allowed the owner to change out the wheels in any combination of their choosing. When it came time to go to the local toy stores and find one, I came up empty. Being a late-teen I decided I wasn't going home empty handed, so I bought what I thought was the next best thing. I present to you the Tyco Psycho

I also purchased the battery and charger as it suggested, which were absolutely required for this thing to even work. The problem was I was never very good at getting it to do any of the tricks I saw in the commercial. It sounded like it was going to break into a million tiny bits every time it was even barely bumped, so I was super cautious to protect my investment. The major downside to that is, you don't get to enjoy the toy! It operates much like a ZTR mower, albeit a little bit worse as the front wheels only roll forward and backward, while each of the rear wheels can be controlled independently to make it turn.

It didn't take long to dirty the thing up, and I began to worry about the longevity of the RC car. This wasn't anything like the RC cars my brother had, which again seemed pretty professional grade. This thing was more of a one and done type, where if you screwed it up, you had to buy a whole new one. Believe me, this thing wasn't cheap, so I decided to just pack it away and keep it for the memories of the cool stuff I did with it, and as a crowning achievement of finally having bought my own RC car as a budding teenager.

Many years later I decided to finally let it go, by which I mean I sold it on ebay, as I did with much of my own childhood. My parents donated most of my childhood to thrift stores, and ebay made it seem like a good idea for me to sell the other stuff. Shame really, as even though this wasn't the RC car I wanted, nor the best RC car in the Tyco line, it was still fun to play with, and that badge of honor for younger me. Sometimes I wonder where my stuff ended up. I hope not in a landfill, but once it left my hand I can't control that. I would like to believe everything that was a part of my youth is now in the hands of collectors, or better yet someone who actually enjoys playing with my childhood toys. Wherever they are now, I thank them all for the memories. And to the Tyco Psycho, thank you for being a quirky little RC car that gave me some good times while they lasted.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

My Rust Driver Clone

At this point it should be quite apparent that I have a problem. I check through pedal layout websites daily and struggle not to add new layouts to my list of builds. Sometimes I simply can't help it. The latest of which is the HAO Rust Driver. I found the layout, I looked up demos of the real thing, it sounded amazing, I added it to my list of circuits to build, I built it. And here we are!

At this point I shouldn't be surprised, but I am, at how such a low component count build produces such an amazing sound. I've built other circuits that replicate a Marshall Plexi, and I like them all, but this little thing surprised me by it's sheer simplicity. You have one potentiometer, unless you use the gain control mod, and a switch to choose between three very usable settings of tone. That's all you need! Plug it in, set it where you want it, and let it roar like a Marshall should. And believe me, this little thing does!

So far this year I've built circuits that weren't originally planned last year. I'm not saying it won't happen again, but I really do have to restrict my builds as I need to focus on finishing the ones I've built, rather than building new ones. That being said, while looking through the numerous scraps of stripboard I have left over from cutting boards, I'm debating creating a simple circuit of my own design and selling a few to finance enclosures for the pedals I've built for myself. I'm not married to the idea, but it is rolling around in my head.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Hail to the King, Baby!

Some of you might remember that in September last year I built myself a King of Tone clone. Since then I've had trouble dialing in a tone that made me happy. I'm glad I built it, I'm overjoyed to have it, but it sounded extremely brittle and harsh no matter how I adjusted the tone control. While searching for good KOT settings I was reminded there are trimmers inside to adjust that sort of thing. Duh! So, I decided tonight I was going to see what I could dial up. When I popped off the back cover I noticed the trimmers were already maxed out, much to my dismay. After a brief pity party I decided to twist them the other way around to see just how brittle this thing got. To my surprise the treble started to disappear. HUZZAH! I'm an idiot!

On the red channel I've set the trimmer completely the opposite way I had it, which gives me a nice usable sweep on the external tone control. It can go from fairly dark to decently bright, offering a bit of treble bite without being ice picky. I also have both dipswitches engaged so it's a nice distortion. On the yellow channel I set the trimmer as close to the middle as possible, because the yellow channel is really just setup to be a basic "Breaker" style tone. Since I decided to fiddle with the guts I'm actually loving this pedal more than I ever have. There are so many options with this circuit. No wonder it's so highly regarded and desired. Sorry Analog Man, I'm still too cheap to afford a real one, and too impatient to wait on the list.

Addendum: I originally had a 4558 in the red side and an LP353 in the yellow side. I purchased some hallowed 4580s to see if it made much of a difference. Final verdict? They're ok. I can't really tell much of a difference. I should have expected this outcome, but sometimes you have to prove it to yourself. I needed opamps, and my supplier had 4580s, so I tried them. I can hear a tiny bit of a difference, but it could just be wishful thinking if anything at all. If nothing else I can say my clone is as close to the original as I could possibly make it.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Super Hard On, Fo-SHO

I originally planned this build for Leap Day, but I decided today was such a nice day that I should go ahead and get it done now. This was such a small circuit I could have done it indoors, if needed, but why pass up a beautiful sunny day and do it indoors on a cruddy one? I know, I know, it won't have that special birthday that I wanted for the circuit, but what's done is done. In any case, I've brought my total February builds up to two.

Now that this is complete I can add it to the 59 Sound I did previously and have a complete 59 Sound pedal clone. I really like the 59 Sound circuit, so I'm glad I can say I now have the complete set. The SHO is completely new to me, but very interesting. I've not had the experience of using a real one, but from what I'm experiencing with my build this is a pure boost pedal. With the control all the way down the signal passes through at about unity, and gets boosted from there. I really like that!

March is upon us at the end of the week, so I'll see what builds I have ready to go and get back out there when days like today arise. I'm sticking to the fewer builds than last year plan, because I simply can't build another 45 circuits in a year. I mean I could, but financial restraints. This year is the wind down year, where I focus more on how to use the circuits I've built than what new ones I want to build. There are currently eight builds planned, and unless something extremely enticing comes along I shouldn't be adding many more builds to the list. Also, some of the builds on the list are simply ideas, and the parts have not been prepared, so maybe not even eight builds this year. I still have a lot of parts left over, so we'll see what happens.

Friday, February 16, 2024

I Would Have Loved An SNES Crystalis Sequel!

Crystalis is one of my all time favorite games, and one of my favorite RPGs on the NES. From its beginning as God Slayer on the Nintendo Famicom, to it's transition to Crystalis, this game is simple yet amazing, and sometimes frustrating. My first introduction was sometime in the later half of the 90s when I finally acquired an NES. I was asking everyone I knew about NES games, and when I asked a kid who worked the local Dairy Queen, he said he would bring some games over for me to test that night. I remember he brought Dragon Warrior and Crystalis. He noted Crystalis was going to be hard to sell because it was his Mom's favorite game, and within the few minutes I played it I totally see why.

Those few moments left such a mark on me that I started checking every FuncoLand I could, since I couldn't afford that copy, waiting impatiently to get my hands on my own copy. Eventually I found a copy, which came with a printout giving an overview of the game, which I still have. I also printed out a walkthrough to help me beat it for the first time. I still have that too, and it's about the size of a book. I've since beat the game a handful of times, and I enjoy every minute of it. On my latest play through I used a guide from a channel on youtube that I'm quite fond of, UCanBeatVideoGames. Currently I use the original cartridge as my "play" cartridge, but I later found a complete in box copy that I only take out to look at, from time to time.

But what if Crystalis had an SNES sequel? For me the SNES is the home of some of the greatest RPGs of all time. That era was just rife with RPG perfection, again and again and again. I'm not sure how popular Crystalis was in its time, nor God Slayer for that matter, but what I do know is a lot of people really love this game. In modern days it isn't unheard of for a game to get a romhack and be completely reskinned, with a new story and all kinds of new elements. That could be nice, but I think Crystalis deserves a 16-bit version. A complete remake would be a bit too much, but if anyone out there is wanting to undertake such a project, I would love to see it!

As I said before, Crystalis was simple, only having 16 max levels. It was also frustrating as you would often need to change out your weapon and it's subitem multiple times in the same cave. I guess that's a part of Nintendo Hard; just something thrown in to add a few extra minutes of gameplay. An SNES sequel with a different story, some of the same gameplay mechanics, but this time caves where all he enemies require the same sword and subitem. The spells in Crystalis were adequate, but maybe a few more would be nice. I love that every weapon and subitem was a story item, so you had to quest to obtain them instead of checking each town's smith. Armor, shields and other items were obtained in each town, as per normal.

There's so much about Crystalis that could have easily transferred into an SNES sequel, and so much that could have been expanded upon. Would it have tarnished the original game's sparkle? Maybe, but maybe not. Regardless, it's highly unlikely to ever happen. I would really like to know more about the Famicom version and its development. If I'm being completely honest, I would love a CIB copy of God Slayer, and the GameBoy Color remake. Just to fill out my collection.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Frigid First February Fabrication

Originally I had planned an SHO clone build for this month, since it's such a small build I could do it indoors whenever I wanted. The more I researched ZVex, the more I was turned on by the 59 Sound. So naturally I started looking for a layout, which was super easy to find thanks to Dirtbox Layouts. Apart from two resistors and the BS170s, I already had everything. To solve the first problem I coupled a few resistors in series to make them the right value, and I used 2N7000s instead of BS170s. I did make one mistake in packing a 10uf instead of a 1uf electrolytic capacitor, which I didn't find out until I was outside soldering.

The day came and the sun was shining bright. The weather apps were all saying today was going to be 62 degrees, so I decided to just go ahead and get it done. I setup my little workstation on the back deck and got to work. The wind was a bit of a nemesis, but the fact I was on the opposite side from where the sun was shining made things a bit worse. I powered through thinking the sun would eventually be shining down upon me, to grace this first February build. Nope. *WOMP WOMP WOMP* After all the links and resistors were installed, just before I stared installing capacitors, the sun ran away and hid behind the clouds. The temps, coupled with the wind, plummeted.

I was this far in, so I continued to power through, until that mistake I made with the electrolytic capacitor reared its ugly head. A simple mistake, but when your fingers are nearly frozen solid it makes removing the part more difficult than it should be. I should have checked the value before installing it, but I was anxious to get this build done and tested. Live and learn! Once all the components were stuck down to the board, it was time to wire up the potentiometers. Over the course of 2023 I actually learned to love this process; I still hate wiring though. When I get to this stage I'm super excited because I know I'm just a few minutes away from a completed circuit and getting to test it out.

Once the potentiometers were installed I put it in the wonky test box, which is really more of a test tin, and quickly disassembled the workstation to get back inside. Normally I wouldn't find these temps this cold, but that wind drives it right into a person, and chills to the bone! I packed all my tools away and sat down to test the circuit. It seems to work exactly as expected. Through the Noisy Cricket it made a hell of a roar, but avid readers will know a circuit isn't done until it's passed the Kali test. That will have to wait a little while though. I'm just glad it worked at all.

Not the prettiest, but my builds usually aren't.

People who are familiar with the 59 Sound might see my pattern. The official 59 Sound is both an SHO and this circuit in one box. Since I already planned to build the SHO, I figured today was warm enough to do a bigger build, thus the 59 Sound took priority and was completed. My plan is to build the SHO clone on the 29th. This way I'll have two February builds in the books, not only that but one done on Leap Day. By the end of the month I should have a complete clone of the 59 Sound. Unless I move to a warmer climate I don't foresee doing any more February builds, but never say never. What matters is this circuit works, sounds good and it is now part of my build history in a big way. My very first February build.

Update: Kali test is complete. Circuit sounds awesome!

Monday, February 5, 2024

My Minecraft Tips

I don't talk very much about Minecraft here, but I do play quite often. Whether it's perpetually sustaining my Java world from 2012 or playing Bedrock with friends, I've learned quite a few things to help me throughout my many Minecraft adventures. I figured since I've built up my own mini empire I would pass on some tips that have helped me throughout the years, in no particular order. As Minecraft is an ever-changing game some of these tips are subject to change. Hopefully not!

Tip #1: Ender Chests

I can not tell you how often an Ender chest has saved my bacon. Since Ender chests are their own contained system, you can use them as mobile storage while you're out adventuring, and not worry about losing your stuff if you die. The key is to take one with you everywhere, and always have one at your home base. I've made multiples as backups for adventures, but also placed one in every single base that I've built. This way no matter what happens while you're out adventuring, your loot will always be safe, and accessible, from the Ender chest. This also helps with transferring items. A few of the follow tips will expand upon this, one of which will also be required.

Tip #2: Tool Loadout

When it comes to my tool loadout I almost always take five tools. One shovel, axe, sword, and two pickaxes. Why two pickaxes? Because one pickaxe is silk touch, and the other is fortune three. Naturally everything has mending and unbreaking three enchantments, as well as efficiency five on everything but the sword. The silk touch pickaxe is used primarily to collect the Ender chest, otherwise it will break down into eight obsidian. There are many other reasons for a silk touch pickaxe, but it's purely up to you as to what enchantments you place on your items.

Tip #3: Shulker Boxes

Shulker boxes can be a bit tricky for the novice to obtain, but once you do you'll be opening a completely new world for yourself. Refer to tip #1, and just fill your Ender chest with shulker boxes. Voila! Each box offers 27 slots, and the Ender chest offers 27 spaces for shulker boxes. You do the maths! Tedious? Sometimes, but if you're planning on being out in the field for extended periods of time, it's very well worth it. This also allows for you to carry shulker boxes full of food, potions, tools, etc. It also allows for a shulker box filled with firework rockets, to use with the next tip. The only limit to this is your own imagination. 

Tip #4: Elytra

Elytra are your friend, and your enemy! This is another item that might be a bit tricky to acquire within the first while of gameplay, but eventually you will obtain a pair. As with everything in Minecraft, acquiring the first one is the hardest part, after that you'll be overrun with the darn things. Trust me! I enchant each pair of Elytra with unbreaking three and mending, but even so they seem to lose durability quite quickly. This is where the enemy part comes in, as if your Elytra lose all of their durability while flying three-hundred plus blocks high, you're going to fall out of the sky. You better hope you're quick with a water bucket, or you're flying over water already. If you happen to catch them before they're out of durability, provided you've enchanted them with mending, do what I do and use your pickaxe (the fortune three one) to collect coal, red stone, or any other resource that yields experience points. It might take a while, but you will eventually refuel (so to speak) your Elytra and be back in the skies. Also, try not to fly into things, as you will take health damage.

Tip #5: Automation

Automation is also your friend! My favorite automated farm is a passive sheep farm that is super simple to make, yields quite a bit of wool, and after I sell the wool off to the villagers, earns emeralds. Nothing is for free though, as you will need to sustain a good stock of iron to make the shears for this particular automated farm. However, there are tons of other ways to automate things, go AFK and come back to glorious amounts of items you'll end up needing, or you can trade for other things you'll need.

Tip #6: Nether Portals

Since each singular block traveled in the Nether equals eight blocks in the overworld, the Nether is a great place to use as a travel hub. Much of my Java world was generated throughout many older versions of the game, causing me to go out further to find new parts of the world with each update. Many online servers use the Nether as a travel hub and make things fancy, but I just build Netherrack bridges through the lava. Then I build portals, or repair broken ones, and screenshot the coords to use later. This cuts down on Elytra usage, and time spent trying to find new parts of the world. If you're a novice, bring fire potions and take your time. If you're experienced, still bring fire potions and take your time. The Nether is an unforgiving place, so I try to spend as little time in there as possible.

Tip #7: Villagers

Villagers are a great source of items you might need, such as enchanted books, or simply emeralds. They are also customizable! You want a villager that buys wool from your AFK wool farm? Find a villager and place down a loom. When they've accepted their fate, check their options. Not what you wanted? Removing and replacing the loom without performing any trades will reset the villager's career choice. Once you've found the initial trades you like from the newly hired villager, perform trades to lock them in and rake in the emeralds. I've read some trades can now only be found in certain regions, but the same trick applies. You may also want to take some time in trying to find the lowest rate on any given trade. It's all RNG when it comes to trades, so a little bit of work could pay off in the end.

Tip #8: Make Backups

This one is twofold. When you play Minecraft, expect things to go wrong. Don't let that ruin your fun, or your immersion, but always understand part of the adventure is anything can happen. I like to keep a few extra sets of armor and tools handy, in case I happen to goof and die. It's no fun trying to get back to your death pile without having the proper equipment. That is, if you can even get back to it at all. Aside from the in-game materials, back up your game saves! Yes, they can get quite large, mine being 20gb, but a good backup of your game save could potentially cut out the need for multiple sets of armor and tools. Whichever you find easiest, however I like to back up both.

Tip #9: Enchantments

I touched upon this with my tool loadout, but armor should also be enchanted. Just like my tools (and Elytra) everything has mending and unbreaking three. I understand enchantments are hard to sort out when you're first starting out, but don't rush and use what you can find. You can combine customized villagers, enchanted books from the enchantment table, and enchanted books you'll find along your adventures to have well enchanted armor in no time. With the aforementioned enchantments my helmet is respiration three, protection four, aqua affinity. My chestplate is protection four. My leggings are swift sneak three and fire protection four. My boots are protection four, feather falling four, depth strider three, and soul speed three. Protection variants are up to you, but with the ability to put one on each piece of equipment you might as well try to have one on at least something. There are a few enchantments I don't like, such as Frost Walker and Thorns, that just seem to be more of a hindrance than a benefit. Again, it's totally up to you as to how you enchant your armor.

These are just a few things I've gathered from my years of playing Minecraft that I figured I would pass along. If you don't play Minecraft, I'll get back to the guitar pedal builds here soon, don't worry. It is February, so I have to do my builds to get this month in the books. I've added a few builds to the schedule, as I tend to do. We'll see how 2024 goes!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Death of my DS

When I was thrifting regularly it was impossible to find an original Nintendo DS in decent shape. It seems as though Nintendo made them out of hopes and dreams, because every one I saw was crushed or broken. I did eventually find one that was in ok condition and it functioned completely. Well, it did, until a few weeks ago when it took a short tumble from where I had it packed away in my closet. It had been living quite comfortably in a padded case for years. When it came tumbling out of my closet, while I was searching through my guitar pedals, I didn't think much about it. There was no noise or any other sign that would have told me something was amiss.

I've was playing Mario Kart DS on my 3DS, that unsurprisingly also with a broken hinge, when it started having trouble reading the cartridge. I decided to get a second opinion, which just so happened to be my fully functioning original Nintendo DS. As soon as I grabbed the case I could hear something rattling around inside, and my heart skipped a beat. That last part could have been a symptom of my anxiety disorder, I can't tell anymore. Regardless, when I opened the case, I saw the top screen was shifted, and many little silver pieces strewn about the case. After the initial shock I decided to go ahead and test the cartridge anyway, but SURPRISE! Nintendo designed the original DS to implode when the already brittle shell falls apart.

There is a certain resistance needed from the top screen to tell the system to turn on, without that it simply won't. In the event of a bump or tumble, the top screen breaks loose, severing the screen cable and thus renders the whole system useless. That is unless you modify it by adding a resistor to create a DS Boy Advance like I did with the previous DS I had, although I bought it with the shell already having been shattered. I actually like the DS Boy Advance, but I don't need two! I want a fully functional original DS. Sure, all the parts are there and I could buy a replacement shell, a top ribbon cable (which I actually might still have one from the one I converted to a DS Boy Advance) and get it back up and running, but that's just another Trigger's Broom scenario. Yes, I'm using that gag again.

I know the DS is twenty years old now, but no other console has been this fragile. I guess I'll just have to order the parts from over seas to fix it up. It would have been nice if they actually built a handheld console that would have lasted, but that's the way it goes. Not like they didn't have twenty years of experience with previous handhelds that were built like absolute tanks. Nintendo, do better. 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Nintendo Wii Appreciation

Many years ago I picked up a Nintendo Wii for super cheap at a Goodwill Outlet store and set to work putting it all together. When I found it the front face was missing, as well as the Gamecube controller/memory card doors. Throughout my many times hunting at the Goodwill Outlet stores I had picked up everything else I needed to get the system to work, so it didn't take long to put it all together. I even happened to find a few games, which really helped me test the system completely when I got it running.

Shortly afterward I softmodded it for emulation, mainly using it for retro consoles. When it came to Gamecube and Wii games I used the actual Gamecube and Wii discs. I knew about softmods that allowed you to play backups of Wii and Gamecube games, but I never really saw too much use in that, until more recently. I do mean more recently, as in a few days ago. I own a few Gamecube discs that are in very poor condition, Star Wars: Bounty Hunt for example is a completely lost cause it seems. To experience this game I had to try "other" means. Look, I own the disc but it's too scratched for the Wii or even a Gamecube to read, so it falls a bit into a gray area here.

Anyway, I decided if one disc was too damaged to read, I better try to minimize my losses and go full emulation, since it's available. Doing so has renewed my interest in my Nintendo Wii. Not that I ever fully stopped using my Wii, as I use it quite often for emulating retro consoles. I just hadn't had much interest in the Wii and/or Gamecube side of the console in quite some time. In 2020 I spent most of the year playing my real N64, in 2021 it was my real Super Nintendo, in 2023 I spent most of the year building pedal circuits, and it seems in 2024 I may just be spending a lot of time playing Nintendo Wii games.

Now that I'm playing much more Nintendo Wii, I'm finding that a lot of games with potential were killed by poor controls. Whether they where forced to use Wii motion controls, or just too lazy to implement compatiblity with the Gamecube controller, I'm not sure, but the Wii controls SUUUUUUUUUUCK on so many games. Many years ago I bought Excite Truck so that myself and my then girlfriend could play it together, but that never happened, sadly. Regardless, I finally got around to giving the game a try and I have to say, while I like the idea of turning the controller horizontal, the turning accuracy is junk! Even on a Wii Motion Plus controller! It's horrible.

My main focus is to save wear and tear on my discs, and make backups of them to play. However, I'm currently working with a 32gb USB drive, and that doesn't go very far when it comes to Wii games. Should I go the HDD route? Maybe, but I really don't know how far this will go. If I get super into it and want to backup every game I own, I might, but for now the select few games I've got backups for are keeping me entertained enough. If you have a Wii that's sitting in a corner or closet collecting dust, or know someone who does, I would highly suggest softmodding it. It runs emulators really well and it's a tiny little console with so much potential - for fun!

Monday, January 1, 2024

Causing a Little Fuss: Bazz Fuss 4th Anniversary Edition

Believe it or not, when I first started building pedal circuits I wasn't too concerned with keeping track of when they were built. Eventually I did decide to keep track of build dates, so I used my own social media posts to get as close as I possibly could for the ones I hadn't kept track of before. For the past few years I assumed my first build was on the second of January 2020. After doing some research I found a reddit post where I asked for help troubleshooting my first build, which turned out to be on the first of January 2020. There were quite a few Bazz Fuss builds that were never taken into account at all, most of which have since been harvested for parts to build something else. I did say most, as I've recently come across one of the last surviving Bazz Fuss builds that I forgot about and never completed.

Bass Fuzz on a US Quarter for size reference.

My very first Bazz Fuss was slapped together from parts I had laying around. It's sputtery, velcrowy and it sounds like shit in any other setting than full bore. Because it was my very first build I'm leaving it the way it is, for better or worse. My plan was to finish off this other Bazz Fuss to celebrate the fourth anniversary and make it more of a useful circuit than my very first build. This will give it an actual use, and a date of completion. Since this circuit was built previously, I can't give it a birthdate but a completion date is still important to the circuit. All I needed to do was install the volume pot, wire it into my test box, and, since it has a socket, see which transistor sounded best. 

The problem being, no matter what I do it sounds like shit, if it makes noise at all. I will assume this circuit sounded ok previously or it would have been harvest for parts long ago. I used some really nasty solder back then, but I made sure to reflow it all when I was installing the volume pot. It could be a bum volume pot, it could be a bad component on the board, although I doubt the latter, or it could be my test box's power input needs replaced. Apart from the Screaming Tree/Screaming Bird clone, the last few circuits I've tested in it sounded like shit. I'll start with giving the test box a new power input, if that doesn't work then I'll know it's the circuit itself.

Sadly I can't give this circuit a birthday, nor can I give it the completion date I was hoping for. It's a super simple circuit, so I'm confused as to why I'm getting the results I'm getting from it. I may just keep it around as a novelty. A memento, as one of the circuits I built back then and never did anything with. I would prefer it to be working though, that's the best outcome, but if I tear it down and replace everything would it be the same circuit? That would be very much a Trigger's broom scenario. Regardless, here we are in 2024! It's time to get a few circuits made, house them all up, and focus on making more music with them. I had a blast recording my first demo in 2022. Hopefully I can make more this year, or in 2025.