DIY Sustain Guitar Pedal

Sustain is an audio phenomenon referring to the period a note resonates before decaying. In most applications, the effect of sustain is desirable, and typically the more sustain, the better. When playing a guitar, sustain is achieved through a combination of technique and equipment set-up. There are effects you can use to increase the amount of sustain you get from your set-up. A compression sustainer or optical compressor for example, will boost the quiet notes and allow them to ring out for longer. Building your own guitar sustain pedal enables you to save money and gives you more scope for customisation.

Source your parts. There are two ways to do this; use a self-assembly kit or purchase the board-mount components and chassis-mount components separately. The former approach is typically quicker because the parts are made to measure, the chassis is predrilled and has the advantage of guaranteeing parts' compatibility. The latter approach further extends your scope for customisation, but there is no guarantee that the parts will be compatible.

Place each board-mounted component, such as diodes, resistors, potentiometers and capacitors, into the relevant turret on the blank circuit board. Typically the name of the component will appear above or next to the turret for ease of assembly. Push each component into the turret so that the connector pins protrude through to the base. If you are not using a kit, refer to a generic schematic for board assembly guidance.

Place the populate turret board upside down and gently press the connector pins against the metal trace strip that runs along the base.

Put a small amount of solder onto the tip of your soldering iron. Press the iron against the connector pin and trace strip simultaneously to fuse the two together. Repeat this process for each board-mounted component.

Place the fully connected circuit into the base of the pedal chassis. With a small Phillips screwdriver and 4-40 gauge screws, fasten the board to the chassis.

Mount the two 1/4-inch jacks into the predrilled holes on either side of the chassis. Typically the jack assembly includes a pair of washers. Slot one on the inside and one on the outside, over the jack. Tighten with a 3/4-inch wrench.

Cut two pieces of wire. Trim 1/8 inch of the insulation from each end.

Solder the first piece of wire to the output terminal on the inside of the input jack. As you look down on the pedal, the input jack is on the right of the chassis. Solder the second piece of wire to the output terminal on the output jack.

Solder the other end of the input jack wire to the eyelet directly in front the nearest resistor on the board. Solder the loose end of the output jack wire to the eyelet directly behind the final resistor on the board.

Place the battery snap on the blank part of the chassis base. Solder the red wire to the positive terminal and the black wire to the negative terminal. Fit a 9-volt battery.

Screw down the chassis lid. Slot the dials onto the front, over the protruding potentiometer poles.


Only solder in a well-ventilated area.

Things You'll Need

  • Pedal chassis
  • Blank circuit board
  • Resistors
  • Diodes
  • Capacitors
  • Transistors
  • Potentiometers
  • Battery snap
  • 3/4-inch wrench
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • 4-40 gauge screws (circuit board screws)
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • 9-volt battery
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About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for