Guitar pedals are fantastic for expanding and customising your guitar sound. There are many types of pedals, including distortion, chorus, delay and wah. Building your own guitar pedals is a great way to get unique effects without spending a fortune. Making your own guitar effects pedals is rewarding in many ways. You get the satisfaction of constructing your own unique unit, you learn and develop electrical skills and you learn about how guitar effects work. You can build your own pedal using a guitar pedal kit and some basic tools.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Guitar pedal kit
- Printed circuit board
- Scrap metal
- Wire strippers
- Soldering iron
- 9-volt battery
- Guitar cables
Decide which type of pedal you'd like to build. Guitar pedals all work in a similar way: The guitar signal passes through an internal processor, which manipulates the signal before sending it to the amplifier. The type of sound produced depends on the type of processor in the pedal. Some effects are more complicated to build. If you're inexperienced at building your own guitar pedals, start with a basic effect like distortion.
Order your components from a reputable source. Many companies sell guitar pedal kits. The kits contain all of the necessary internal parts and normally come with a schematic and assembly instructions. Companies like Build Your Own Clone (see References) provide a cheap way to emulate some of the most popular effects.
Establish a suitable, well-lit work space. You'll need a work bench and power access for your soldering iron.
Read through the schematic and familiarise yourself with the layout of the effect circuit. The schematic is important because it shows exactly how to assemble the components.
Assemble the parts on the perfboard. Using the perfboard is smart because it enables you test the circuit without soldering any parts together. If you make a mistake it is easily undone. Power the perfboard with a 9-volt battery and plug in your guitar to test the circuit. Once you're happy that the circuit is correctly assembled, you can begin soldering.
Strip the insulation away from the end of the wires so that the metal is exposed and ready for soldering. Solder the wires to the relevant terminals on the individual components, in the same order as you had them on the perfboard. You can mount your circuit on a printed circuit board or load it directly into the pedal chassis.
Gently place the completed circuit into the bottom half of the pedal chassis and solder the input and out jacks to the circuit. Screw on the top half of the pedal chassis, power the unit with a 9-volt battery and plug in your guitar.
Test the unit.
Tips and warnings
- Practice soldering on a piece of scrap metal before attempting to solder your wires to the printed circuit board.
- Remember to unplug the guitar cables when your pedal is not in use to preserve battery life.
- Only solder in a well-ventilated area.
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