How to make your own guitar effect pedals, tool selection How to make your own guitar effect pedals, tool selection

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How to make your own guitar effect pedals, tool selection

Self-made Guitar Effect Pedals

My self-made effect pedalsThis is a list page of the effect pedals that I made. You can see articles on how I made them for each board type (universal board, through hole / surface mount printed board) and enclosure size (normal, mini).

Find an article about your favorite effect pedal.


Contens

My guitar effect pedal production experience
How to make your own effect pedals
About the production of circuit boards
Purchase of parts
Required tools

The secret weapon "digital oscilloscope"
My work table
My latest pedal board


My guitar effect pedal production experience

I have been playing guitar for 40 years. I spend more time at home because of COVID-19, and I made some effect pedals myself in the last year. I enjoy making analog effect pedal board with my own effect pedals. Here, I will introduce the effect pedals I made and the tools for making them.


A full lineup of self-made effect pedals


Self-made pedals using surface mount components

How to make your own effect pedals

From collecting information on circuits and board trace

To make an effect pedal, you need circuit diagram and board trace information. Of course, you can wire from the circuit diagram alone to the universal board, or you can make your own printed circuit board. However, unless you are a veteran, the difficulty is high, so beginners should use a ready-made printed circuit board.

I use the following sites to collect information for making my own effect pedals.

TONEPAD FX PROJECTS: http://www.tonepad.com/projects.asp?projectType=fx

It is a long-established site created in 2001. It is a community of effect pedal DIY, and information is exchanged. The circuit diagram written from the circuit board of the actual product s and the printed circuit board trace diagram for self-made are posted. The listed difficulty level is a guide for beginners to make.
Printed circuit boards are on sale and can be shipped overseas (the FAQ page states that PCBs can be shipped anywhere worldwide for $ 4).

Guitar FX Layouts: http://tagboardeffects.blogspot.com/

This site started around 2010. There is a production article using a special universal board called "stripboard" or "bello board". "Stripboard" creates a trace by cutting a horizontal row of trace with a drill. Compared to manual wiring (Point to point) on a general universal board, the circuit can be assembled more easily and neatly.

Easy effect pedal kits

If you want to make the first one easily, I recommend the effect pedal kits that has all the necessary parts . You can find many kits on amazon. At first, I recommend distortion or overdrive pedal, which is easy to produce.

About the production of circuit boards

Printed circuit board (PCB)

PCBs can also be purchased from internet sites such as "TONEPAD FX PROJECTS". You can also find many PCBs for sale on Amazon.

You can find it easily by searching for "(effect pedal name) + PCB" on Google and displaying the "image" list.

Making with a universal board

By the way, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can only make an effect pedal using a PCB. You can make it using an inexpensive universal board. However, I think a universal board is difficult to use for the first time, so I recommend you to try from the second or third work.

There are two main types of universal boards used in effect pedal production.

Universal board (dot pattern)

It is the most versatile board with holes (hole diameter 0.9-1.0 mm) at a pitch of 2.54 mm, and the holes have independent lands (copper foil). There are two types of materials: "paper phenol", which is soft and easy to process, and "glass epoxy", which is a durable and hard material. Either can be used to create an effect pedal.
How to make it with a universal board: Insert the parts into the land, solder them, and attach tinned copper wires according to the trace diagram. Tinned wire is a tin-plated wiring material with a thickness of 0.6 to 0.8 mm. You can also use a resistor reed you cut. You can see this in the Centaur Clone Self-made Report.

エフェクター自作 ドットパターン 万能基板で制作

Stripboard (vero)

'Stripboard' is a universal circuit board that is not so popular. The production method is: A horizontal row of trace is drilled, and jumpers are used in the vertical direction to compose the trace. The advantage is that it does not require backside wiring like a dot pattern universal board, and it is relatively easy and clean to make. The "Guitar FX Layouts" has a lot of production examples using this "stripboard".

エフェクター自作 ストリップボードで制作

Printed circuit board design / outsourced manufacturing

You can also make your own printed circuit board. There is a method of drawing a trace on copper foil and etching (melting the copper foil other than the trace with a chemical) to create a printed circuit board. This method has been used by many people for a long time, so I think it is easy to obtain information.

The introduction here is a method of designing a double-sided printed circuit board with CAD software and sending the data to the printed circuit board manufacturer to order manufacturing. I think the cost is a big concern, but the Chinese manufacturer "Fusion PCB" manufactures 10 PCBs up to 10 cm square for $ 5. It's $ 25 including DHL shipping $ 20.

I designed a PCB using the open source CAD software "KiCAD" and first made an analog delay using BBD. Board design requires some experience (I worked for an electrical design company about 25 years ago). However, there are many books on how to use CAD and how to design, so you can refer to it and make your own.

When ordering from FusionPCB, you can choose the resist color (green, red, blue, etc.), but this color choice seems to affect delivery times. I think it depends on the manufacturing situation of the factory at that time, but "green" is the most common color and there are many projects. If you are not particular about color, choosing "green" will give you the fastest delivery time. The FusionPCB page states that the manufacturing time is 3-14 business days (with a big difference).

In my experience of making three pieces, it took 4 business days for "green", 6 business days for "blue", and 12 business days for "red" from ordering to completion of production. It took 5 business days for shipping the board from Shenzhen to my home in Tokyo.

I recommend paying via PayPal, where you don't have to send your credit card information.

In addition to Fusion PCB, there is also a board manufacturing service in Shenzhen, China called "PCB gogo". The ordering method is the same as Fusion PCB, but this manufacturer has a "limited express course" that accelerates delivery. The "24-hour express" option for the green resist is just $ 5. Next, I would like to order from this manufacturer.

アナログディレイ 基板設計 KiCAD
KiCAD screen shot

FusionPCBで製造したプリント基板
My own PCBs manufactured with Fusion PCBs

Designing boards using surface-mounted chip components

As for me, my self-made nerd got excited and tried to clone the high gain distortion Suhr Riot using surface-mounted chip components. It is made by mounting chip resistors, capacitors, and operational amplifiers on both sides of a small 3.1 cm x 3.8 cm PCB designed by myself. It's really maniac, but you get excited!

Purchase of parts

Through hall components (THD)

For purchasing electronic components, I recommend a shop specializing in effect pedal components. You can buy resistors and capacitors in units of one. In particular, pre-painted aluminum die-cast enclosures can be purchased at effect pedal parts specialty shops.

I am particular about painted enclosures, and recently I bought them at "Garrett Audio" (a shop specializing in effect pedal parts in Japan). GarrettAudio is very polite, packing the ordered parts by part number. The resistance value is written on the bag by hand, so I don't make a mistake. I am grateful to them.

エフェクタ自作 パーツの購入

Surface mount components (SMD)

I have made four PCBs using KiCAD, so I think it's easy to make a PCB even with surface mount components. However, I had no experience in obtaining surface mount components. I searched for Japanese online shops and all shops sell surface mount components, but they sell only in units of 20, 50 or 100.. Also, depending on the shop, they have not all constants of resistors or capacitors. Therefore, I searched for a shop that could be purchased with the least number of units and purchased resistors, photoresists, ICs, and other effect pedal components.

For the constants of resistors and capacitors that are not sold, I made a constant by combining multiple parts.

I chose "2012" (2.0 mm x 1.2 mm) as the size of the surface mount components (resistors, capacitors) . There is also a smaller size "1608" (1.6mm x 0.8mm), but I think it is difficult to attach it by hand soldering.

For manual soldering of surface mount components, see the Riot clone article I first made with surface mount components.

Painted enclosure

Most effect pedal enclosures are made of die-cast aluminum. As a manufacturer, "HAMMOND" is popular. Silver unpainted enclosures are sold at regular parts stores, but baking-painted enclosures are not. Painted enclosures are a bit expensive, but they look cool.

The most commonly used enclosure sizes for effect pedals I've used are:

HAMMOND 1590B: 60 x 112 x 31 mm (MXR size, almost the same)
HAMMOND 1590BS: 60 × 112 × 42mm (MXR size, higher height)
HAMMOND 1590N1: 66 × 121 × 39mm (slightly larger than MXR)
HAMMOND 1590A: 39 x 93 x 31 mm (recently popular mini size)

エフェクタ自作 歴代作品
Black is 1590BS, all others are 1590N1


A new green painted enclosure

Required tools

Soldering Iron

Needless to say, the soldering iron is an indispensable tool. If you look at sites such as Amazon, it says "suitable for electronic work" or "suitable for board production", but the key points when choosing a soldering iron are the type of heater, wattage, and shape of the iron tip. Since the soldering iron will be used for a long time, it is recommended to choose a good one.

I am using a ceramic heater 30W soldering iron.

Type of heater

Nichrome heater
It is a soldering iron with a simple structure using nichrome wire and is inexpensive. It takes a relatively long time (2-3 minutes) for the temperature to rise sufficiently.

Ceramic heater
It has a structure that heats the iron tip with a ceramic heater, and tends to be more expensive than a nichrome heater. It takes a short time for the temperature to rise sufficiently, and empirically, it can be used within 1 minute. I think that the silver tip of the iron is short and suitable for detailed work.

エフェクタ自作 ハンダコテ
Red: Nichrome heater, White: Ceramic heater

Wattage

I recommend a wattage of 30W, preferably 40W. To make an effect pedal, you need to solder it to the phone jack in addition to the board parts. A 20W soldering iron for ICs is on sale for electronic work. However, the temperature does not rise and the solder does not melt when using 20W, especially for parts with large metal parts such as phone jacks.

On the other hand, if the wattage is higher, warming the part with a soldering iron for a long time may damage the part. If you get used to the soldering iron, you will be able to handle 40W, 60W and more.

Some soldering irons have a temperature control function, but they are expensive and are not necessary. There are also special battery-powered soldering irons, but I recommend not buying them.

Shape of soldering iron tip

We recommend that you use a sharp-edged soldering iron tip. Some have a flat tip, but they are not suitable for effect pedal production. Also, I think the shape of the iron tip should be straight and thin. For precision circuit boards, there is a soldering iron tip with an extremely fine tip, but it is difficult to handle because the temperature drops immediately when the solder is melted. Especially for parts with large metal such as phone jacks, the solder hardly melts.

エフェクタ自作 ハンダコテ コテ先
The left is recommended, the right is difficult to use because the temperature drops quickly

Solder iron stand

A soldering iron stand is also an essential tool. The soldering iron stand is equipped with sponge (soaked in water) that is convenient for removing dust such as tar on the tip of the soldering iron. Also, it is better to have a certain weight (about 500g or more) so that it will not fall when the iron is placed (inserted back). Making an effect pedal is a repetition of "soldering parts and returning the soldering iron to the soldering iron stand". I recommend choosing a stable soldering iron.

The iron stand differs depending on the type of heater mentioned above. The iron of the nichrome heater has a screw at the base of the tip, and it can only be inserted with a thick iron holder. There is no screw at the tip of the iron of the ceramic heater, and it is thin. The iron stand is "ceramic heater only", so be careful when buying a nichrome heater iron.

エフェクタ自作 ハンダコテ台

Solder wire, solder wick, solder sucker

Solder wire is used much more than expected, so I recommend buying it on a reel. There are different types depending on the thickness and metal content, but the easiest to use is "1.0 mm thick, 60% tin / 40% lead, with tar" solder. If you buy 100g, you can use it for a while. You can buy it for about $ 10.

The solder wick is used to suck the solder to remove the parts if you accidentally attach the parts. You may not need it at first. But you can buy it for $ 3.

There is also a mechanical solder sucker (blue bar in the photo below), which may be for advanced users. This is a tool that pneumatically absorbs the solder melted with the tip of the iron. It's good for removing a lot of solder, but I don't think it's necessary at first.

エフェクタ自作 ハンダ吸い取り

Wire strippers, nippers, needle-nose pliers

A "wire stripper" is a special tool for stripping wires. You can strip the wire with nippers, but I recommend buying it as normal nippers often fail because they cut the wire core. There are several types, so select the one that corresponds to the thickness of the wire to be used. I am using the one that corresponds to the wire of AWG24 thickness.

"Nippers" are mainly used to cut excess leads and wires of parts soldered to the board. I recommend a small one that is easy to handle.

Needle-nose pliers are mainly used to bend the leads of parts. Choose a small needle-nose pliers that is easy to handle with small electronic components.

エフェクタ自作 ワイヤーストリッパ

Digital multimeter

A digital multimeter is also an essential tool. It is used only for checking continuity and measuring DC voltage, so there is no need for a multifunctional one. I still use the digital multimeter "P-10" that I bought in Akihabara more than 10 years ago for about $ 10. It looks cheap, but its small size makes it very convenient to use.

Nowadays, you can buy a digital multimeter with the necessary functions for about $ 20. The digital multimeter of the auto range (the dial has only symbols such as V, A, Ω) is convenient because it can be used just by selecting the mode. In addition, the specifications of the digital multimeter have a "count number" that indicates the maximum display value. It's hard to explain, but it's kind of precision. 4000 counts are the most common, but if you just want to make an effect pedal, you can use 2000 counts.

エフェクタ自作 マルチテスター

Electric drill, metal (ironwork) drill bit

It is used for drilling holes in aluminum enclosures. This is a must-have tool. A lathe drill is the best, but I don't think it can be placed in a normal home, so please purchase an electric drill that can be used as a screwdriver and for drilling holes. Most electric drills these days are rechargeable, but this charging is quite troublesome. If you only use it indoors, I recommend an AC-powered drill. It is ready to use, powerful and easy to handle. My first one was rechargeable, but it was troublesome to charge it before using it, so I replaced the second one with an AC power supply type.

For the drill bit (drill blade), select one for metal (for ironwork). Do not use woodworking drill bits as they are easily broken and dangerous. It is convenient to have a thickness of 1.5 mm, 3 mm, or 6 mm. The holes in the pods and jacks are large, such as 10mm and 13mm. Do not try to drill these large holes at once with a drill. Once you have drilled a hole to about 6 mm, it is sure to widen the hole according to the part with the taper reamer described later.

An important point when drilling holes in an enclosure is not to shift the center position. If you suddenly try to make a hole with a thick drill, the center position will shift. It is a good idea to first make a small hole such as 1.5 mm, then widen the hole with a 3 mm bit according to its center position, and then enlarge the hole with a 6 mm bit in the same way.

As a further note, when using a hand drill, use it as if you were shaving with a light force without pressing the bit of the drill. The 1.5mm bit will break easily if you push it with force. Even when opening with a thick bit such as 6 mm, do not press the drill body strongly. When using a 6mm bit, you should lightly shave a 3mm hole and expand it to 6mm. If you apply force, the enclosure will bite into the groove of the 6 mm drill and the enclosure will rotate together, which is extremely dangerous. Please work with work gloves. Be careful not to get injured.


$25 AC power hand drill bought from Amazon

Taper reamer

The taper reamer is an essential item for drilling holes of various sizes. After making a hole of about 6 mm with a drill, use a taper reamer to widen the hole. Select a manual taper reamer. Insert it into the 6 mm hole drilled and turn it to widen the hole. After expanding it a little, try inserting the actual parts, and if it doesn't fit, expand it little by little. The hole size is different, such as 10 mm for the phone jack, 12 mm for the foot switch, and 13 mm for the AC adapter jack.

The aluminum enclosure is made of soft metal, so it's fairly easy to open holes. Expand it little by little so that the hole is not too large.

For how to use the taper reamer, refer to the effect pedal production article.

エフェクタ自作 テーパーリーマー

Socket wrench

This is mainly used to tighten nuts on switches and phone jacks. It's convenient, but you may not need it at first. Needle-nose pliers can be used as a substitute, but be aware that the tip of the pliers may scratch the surface of the enclosure.

I'm using "Fernandes SWR 1800".

エフェクタ自作 ソケットレンチ

Screwdriver

A Phillips screwdriver is only used to close the back cover of the enclosure, so you can use whatever you have. However, you will need a small flat-blade screwdriver to tighten the pot knob.

エフェクタ自作 100均ドライバ

Superglue

I use superglue to fix the ON / OFF indicator LED from the back side. "Jelly type" is suitable. I inserted the 3mm LED directly into the 3mm hole that I drilled, and fixed the LED and enclosure with superglue from the back.

エフェクタ自作 瞬間接着剤 LED固定

Wiring wire (flexible type)

There are two types of wires used for wiring: the "solid type", which is made of a single wire with a thick core, and the "flexible type", which is made of a large number of twisted wires. The solid type retains its shape when bent, so the wiring is finished cleanly, but if the same part is bent several times, the core wire will break. For effect pedals, the board is often moved after wiring, so I recommend the "flexible type" that can be bent freely. The thickness is determined in units called "AWG". I recommend "AWG24" with a core wire of about 0.5 mm. I'm using a wire made in China that I bought from Amazon.

エフェクタ自作 AQG24 フレキシブルワイヤー

It is convenient to have a small cable tie. I use it to bundle the wires from the board to the pots and jacks for a clean finish.

The secret weapon "digital oscilloscope"

I bought a $45 digital oscilloscope from Amazon. Since it can be driven by + 9V, it is used with a 9V battery connected. (Note: Be sure that its DC jack is center positive inversely with effect pedals!.) You can use it for troubleshooting when there is no sound or for identifying the noise source. There is only 1 channel of input, and the measurable frequency is up to 200KHz. Although it has low specs for an oscilloscope, it has sufficient performance to measure audio equipment such as effect pedals.

Since it is an oscilloscope made in China, the same product is sold under many brands. If you want to buy one, I recommend the one with a probe (BNC probe for oscilloscope, not crocodile clip).

Finally, I got a full-fledged "Rigol digital oscilloscope"!

I liked the above small oscilloscope and used it, but I wanted a 2CH oscilloscope to see the phases of the two signals. Recently, I got a used "Rigol" digital oscilloscope on a used website. "Rigol" is a Chinese measuring instrument manufacturer, but recently it has become popular because it makes high-performance products at low prices. This oscilloscope has 100MHz / 2CH specifications. It is a model 10 years ago, but it has enough specifications for making effectors. With this, I think I can investigate the cause of any problem.

Actually, I had been working for an audio equipment manufacturer more than 30 years ago. At that time, I was developing using a cathode ray tube oscilloscope. I think it was made by Panasonic. Compared to the analog oscilloscopes of the time, this Rigol digital oscilloscope has the same basic functions, but it is super convenient to be able to memorize the measured waveforms. Depending on the amount of memory, I can see the waveform back from the trigger. And it's light, only 12 cm deep, dramatically smaller in size and easier to install.

Since it is usually used in a corporate laboratory, the fan noise is intensely noisy in a quiet home room, but I like it because it is much easier to use than the small oscilloscope I bought earlier. It seems that it also has an FFT function and a MATH function (which can calculate the waveforms of CH1 and CH2 and display them as waveforms), so I would like to try it.

My work table

While making effect pedals, I am listening to my favorite internet broadcast "Tampa Bay Smooth Jazz". Be sure that it is safer to lay something on the table so that the solder does not hang down and burn the table.

エフェクタ自作 作業テーブル

My latest pedal board

I replaced most of the pedals that I could make by myself. I replaced the phaser, octaver, compressor, and clean booster with my own work, and added a noise gate made in China that had better performance than my own work. For miniaturization, Jan Ray and BB-PREAMP were remade using surface mount components.

The final output of this pedalboard contains the self-made analog cabinet simulator so that the direct signal from this pedal board can be recorded through audio interface Steinburg UR22mkII.