I'm reposting this after "The Great Post Purge of 2009" lost many, many threads. Many of you guys already know this stuff, but maybe it will help some of the new guys (and girls) out !
...please take a few moments and read this post. It will help you in your first build (and subsequent ones as well !), and give you a much greater chance for success.
A bit about me, first. I've been doing this for a while now. I'm mostly known for my layouts and some of my fuzz and booster designs. Over the years I've learned a few things that truly have helped me enjoy building guitar effects...some are "tricks", and some are simply "golden rules". I'll outline a few of these things really quickly in the hope that it will help you...and I can guarantee this...if you heed this advice, you WILL enjoy this hobby more.
*************************************************************************************************1) PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
- This is absolutely a "Golden Rule" for building effects. When you hurry, you make mistakes. Those mistakes cost you lots of time in trying to "debug" your pedal, as well as adding some frustration to the whole project. BE PATIENT !2) PLAN ACCORDINGLY
- Regardless of the effect you are trying to build, you should take the time to download the schematic, search the internet (this forum !) for build reports, tips, and possible layouts. Download and read as much info as you can find. Take the time to UNDERSTAND the schematic, what it's doing, what each parts' function is, etc...if you don't know, then ask ! This forum is a GREAT resource, and there are many bright people here that are willing to help...all you have to do is ASK ! THE ONLY "STUPID QUESTION" IS THE ONE THAT YOU DON'T ASK !3) LAY IT OUT
- While researching you may have come across one or more layouts for the effect you are trying to build. Take the time to make sure that it's a "verified" layout, which means that the effect has been built successfully from that particular layout. If you can't find a layout for your effect, then take the time to make one yourself. There is a nice thread on creating layouts HERE !4) MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE
- Now that you have your schematic, take the time to make a list of what resistors, capacitors, transistors, IC's, diodes, etc, etc that are required for that effect. Also take the time to list out all the parts you need for your enclosure, such as the enclosure, mono jack, stereo jack, power jack, LED, footswitch, etc.. Go over the list a few times to make sure that you haven't forgotten anything.5) ORDER THE PARTS
- It's much easier to keep track of things if you order all, or most of the parts from one supplier. Sometimes a few items may cost a biit more, but in the long run, the convenience of having them all shipped from one or two places will pay off. You'll save $$$ on shipping, and there's less chance for errors. I've personally had great experiences ordering from http://www.pedalpartsplus.com
, and http://www.banzaieffects.com
.6) AGAIN, PATIENCE
- Some parts may arrive before others. WAIT ! Do not start on the effect until you have received ALL the parts required to build it. I've seen many, many builds fail or get "put aside" because the person building it got impatient and started before they got all the parts.7) EASY ENCLOSURE LAYOUT
- Here's an easy way to layout your enclosures : Get some "workable" spray adhesive, graph paper, a pen, and a exacto knife. Tear off a piece of graph paper and lay it on a flat surface.Now, spray the adhesive on the outside top of the enclosure. once you have a light coat of the adhesive on it, flip it over (bottom side up) and CAREFULLY lay it on the graph paper so that the edges of the enclosure match up with the grid lines. Most enclosures will end up fitting right in the lines ! Now (CAREFULLY) flip the enclosure over...the graph paper should be sticking to it. Gently rub the graph paper so that it is firmly and evenly stuck to the enclosures top. Now gently turn the whole thing so that the graph paper is facing downward and lay it on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. Take the exacto knife and carefully cut the paper along the edges of the enclosure...the enclosure works as your "guide". Once you have the paper cut, you can filp the enclosure over and you should have a nice "grid" laid out on the top of your box ! Now you can take the parts like the battery, switch, pots, etc and easily mark where you'd like them to go...the graph paper gives you a nice even grid to mark your drilling points on ! Once you've marked where you want everything to go, use a SMALL drill bit to drill through the enclosure at those places. Afterwards, the paper will peel up pretty easily, and glue residue can be removed with warm water and dish soap ! You can do the same thing for the sides of the enclosure, or you can use the graph paper on top to "eyeball" it and you should be able to mark everything properly.8 ) MEASURE TWICE, SOLDER ONCE
- Now that you have all your parts, and your enclosure is drilled, decorated, and ready to go, it's time to start assembling your circuit ! Don't assume that the values on your parts are correct. Double check them. Manufacturers and vendors sometimes make mistakes. Use a digital multi-meter (DMM) to measure the values of each resistor BEFORE you solder it in place. Do the same for the capacitors. Use sockets for transistors. I can't stress that enough...sockets will help you by allowing you to swap transistors in and out of the circuit, so that you can "tailor" the sound for your playing style and your amp and guitar. I would advise getting a DMM that reads "hfe" as well. Hfe, in simplest terms, is a measure of the gain that a transistor has. I measure the hfe of each transistor before I put it in its socket...that way if I like the sound, I know how to duplicate it properly !
9) YES, YOU GUESSED IT...PATIENCE
- Now that your circuit board is built, you can install all the "hardware" into your enclosure....switches, jacks, LED's, etc.. I find it MUCH easier to wire all this stuff in BEFORE I wire in the circuit board. Everything stays much neater. If you cut the wires to the proper lengths, you can avoid having the inside of your enclosure look like "spaghetti" !10) BACK TO THE BOARD
- Attach any necessary wires (input, output, 9V, ground, pots, etc) to the circuit board. If you do this first, it makes it MUCH easier to wire in the board, and, once again, things stay much cleaner and more tidy.11) DOUBLE CHECK IT
- Now that you have your stompbox all wired up, take a moment to visually check and make sure that your solder joints are good, you have any transistors in their sockets and oriented correctly, and that you have a fresh battery installed. Also look and make sure that the circuit board isn't "grounding out" by touching the pots, enclosure, switches, etc..
12) FIRE IT UP
- Turn all your pedals volume controls down. Plug in your guitar and amp. Make sure that the pedal is switched "off", and turn on your amp. You should have a nice clean bypassed signal. If you don't, check to make sure that your cables are good, everything is plugged in, and that the guitar is connected to the input jack of the pedal, and the amp connected to the output jack of the pedal. OK, everything is good "bypassed", and you have a nice clean sound coming out of your amp ? Cool...time to turn your effect pedal on ! HIT THE SWITCH ! WAIT...YOU HAVE NO SOUND ? THAT'S BECAUSE YOU TURNED THE CONTROLS DOWN ON THE PEDAL ! Smiley OK...now turn up the controls slowly. With a boost pedal, turn up the volume. With a fuzz pedal, I usually turn the fuzz control most / all the way up, and then slowly turn up the volume. If you took your time, checked everything twice, and were careful, you SHOULD have a working pedal !
13) PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK
- OK, your pedal works...smile, play around with it for a day or two, and then be sure to submit a "BUILD REPORT" here on the forum. In your build report, be sure to include what gear you're using the pedal with, what kind of music you play, what troubles (if any) you had building it, your experience level of building, what you like about the pedal, and what you don't. Basically, let everyone know all the things that YOU would have liked to have known BEFORE you built your pedal.
14) IN CASE IT DIDN'T WORK
- Get all the necessary information and photos , and start a thread about it. People here are generally able to help, but they need information to do so. Be sure to include voltage readings, a link to the schematic and layout that you used, and make sure to list any part substitutions that you may have used.
I sincerely hope this helps you. It's stuff that I've learned over the years, much of it "the hard way". Some 400 - 500 pedal builds later, here I am....passing on the info to you !
PS...be sure to read THIS before starting your build !