How to Make a Distortion Pedal for an Electric Guitar

Written by simon foden Google
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How to Make a Distortion Pedal for an Electric Guitar
You can use a distortion pedal to boost your guitar's signal and colour your tone. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Using a distortion pedal allows you emulate crunchy, heavy tones of your favourite rock and metal guitarists. Distortion is an audio effect that adds harmonics to your guitar's signal. These extra harmonics cause the signal to become compressed to the point of distortion. A distortion pedal contains a signal-processing chip, which adds the harmonics before the signal reaches the amplifier. Building your own distortion pedal allows for a greater scope of customisation. You also have the benefit of knowing exactly which parts are where, which is valuable information should you need to repair the device.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pedal chassis
  • Blank circuit board
  • Capacitors
  • Distortion op-amp chip
  • Diodes
  • Potentiometers
  • Resistors
  • Dials
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • 4-40 gauge screws
  • Wire cutters
  • Power wire

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  1. 1

    Acquire your parts. Either purchase the chassis, circuit board and board-mount components individually or purchase the entire parts inventory as part of a kit, which include parts that are compatible and made to measure. Buying separate parts allows you to choose a preferred capacitor and preferred op-amp chip.

  2. 2

    Populate the circuit board. Insert each capacitor, resistor, op-amp chip, potentiometer, diode and inductor into the correct turret on the board. Push each part in firmly enough that the connector pins poke through to the base. Place the board face up, once it's fully populated.

  3. 3

    Solder the connector pins to the metal trace strip. Press the connector pins flat with your fingers. Put some solder on the tip of a soldering iron, and gently press it against the connector pin and metal trace strip that runs along the base of the board that connects each board-mounted component.

  4. 4

    Install the circuit board. Screw it into the base of the pedal chassis with 4-40 gauge screws and a small Phillips screwdriver.

  5. 5

    Cut two 2-inch pieces of power wire. Strip a 1/2 inch of insulation from the end of each so that the metal is exposed.

  6. 6

    Fit the chassis-mount parts. Slot a jack into the pre-drilled, 1/4-inch hole on each side of the pedal chassis. Glue the battery snap to the empty part of the chassis base that is not concealed by the circuit board.

  7. 7

    Solder the red wire connected to the battery snap to the positive eyelet on the circuit board. Solder the black wire connected to the battery snap to the negative eyelet. Solder a power wire to the output terminal on the inside of the input jack, which is located on the right of the pedal chassis. Solder a power wire to the output terminal of the output jack on the left of the chassis. Connect the input jack wire to the eyelet directly in front of the nearest resistor. Solder the output jack wire to the eyelet directly behind the nearest resistor.

  8. 8

    Position the top half of the chassis over the base so that the pre-drilled holes line up with the potentiometer poles. Screw down the chassis top. Fit a dial onto each potentiometer pole.

Tips and warnings

  • Colour code the schematic, circuit board and board-mount components. Use coloured pens or coloured-electrical tape to highlight the component as it appears on the schematic and its location on the board, according to the schematic and the actual component.
  • The schematic illustrates the layout of the parts and the method of connection. Parts kits typically come with a wiring diagram and schematic. If you separately purchase your parts, use a generic schematic as a guide.
  • Solder in a well-ventilated area.

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