Sunday, 5 June 2011

Building for Dutch Uncles (two custom commisions)

Some friends of mine from when I was still gigging (always intend to get back to it of course) have started making a name for themselves. With a self titled debut album released thru a German Label, now a second album "Cadenza" just out on Memphis Industries DUTCH UNCLES look set for a bright future. You can check out the title track here: Cadenza by Dutch Uncles (c) 2011

I've been to meet up with guitarists Pete and Sped recently, to talk pedals and discuss some custom work for them. They were both immediately taken with some of the Zvex style pedals I have made, and I agreed to make them one each as a starter. Pete went for a prehistoric-inspired fuzz, called the Dr Schbooghead, and Sped was more taken with vexs most famous noisemaker. He has given this the name Mr Wooding.

I set about crafting these yesterday afternoon/ evening and finished today. Both sound amazing. I am waiting on some artwork for them from the guys, to give them the totally custom style.

The Dr Schbooghead has the inpedance control from the Mastotron fuzz, while the Mr Wooding has a switchable (internal) input cap. I think I went with 47uF in the end after some testing, to tame some highs. I also used BC558b PNPs in this, rather than AC128s. I think the sound is similar and both pleasing, the former more cost effective and less random.

Sped preferred a larger footprint, with the knobs out of kicking distance, so I obliged. Pete liked the small pedalboard friendly size, but a portrait layout. I opted for a 2 by 3 rows of knobs.

Like my last build I used pot pcb tags through vero - this makes stuff really quick to wire up - love it!

Here are the articles, before finishing.

Mr Woodings

Dr Schbooghead

Hopefully these will prove inspiring for the guys as they tour their second album and write the third.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Impromptu Woolly Mammoth

I made a Woolly Mammoth a while back, and its a serious chunk of bass fuzz. Works astoundingly well on guitar too - fat doesnt even start to describe it (!)

Ive still got the original I made, it looks a bit like this:

Its Mammoth in size too!
One thing that bugged me was the lack of ability to place this anywhere in your signal chain. To sound good, it had to be at the front. So, with the help of Marks Awesome Layout I have managed to make a 5 knob version, incorporating the Push/Relax control from the Zvex Mastotron (Vexter series). According to the man himself,  "This knob introduces source impedance to the signal going into the Mastotron™. When fully up, the signal goes in raw... when turned down, source impedance is added as needed to “soften” the input for active pickups".

Great! Hopefully it also allows you to place it anywhere in your signal chain.

Anyhow, in addition to this additional modification, I didnt bother with the subs switch, but I did challenge myself to squeeze this into a vex size case. This one to be precise (less than £3!) : RAPID UK

I did some other cool things building this pedal. First was to use vero board for wiring the pots. This allows less ungainly issues with offboard wiring (just use simple jumpers) and provides rigidity and easy soldering of wires (no tack soldering required!). Second was to position the led away from the daughter board. Ive done this before, but it adds to the authenticity of this "copy" (clone / rip off / whatever!)

Here follows some pics of the build. I took quite a few to show a couple of the different techniques.

Drilled enclosure. Not the straightest line of pot holes Ive ever done :( ;)

Speaking of pots, this is my arrangement for the pots.

Handy Jumpers for less wiring ! Note the 100 ohm resistor for the additional Input Impedance control.

Makes it light work to install pots into the drilled holes too (double bonus...I like this a lot!)

Next up is a little detail on something that I have done since nearly day one. That is the joy of screened cable. This is really useful for high gain effects, and I first used it in the Fuzz Factory I made, where there was oscillation bleeding into the clean tone. This is done by stripping the back the outter (in this case grey) cable, revelaing the two cores. One core is used for signal, and at the jack end, you can mesh the red core with the shield. The inner shielding only needs to be connected at one end. The other core, in white, is used for connecting the grounds. Running these through the daugher boards is really useful and cuts down on extraneous offboard wiring. The pic below details the connection to the daughter board. A bit of heatshrink neatens things up a bit.

Then its the usual fun of boxing up. This was a bit of a squeeze; I used a 8mm jack for the Boss compatible power supply connection, and Neutrik 1/4'' jacks for the ins and outs. You can hopefully see the signal and ground connections to the jacks coming from the footswitch board. This keeps your signal nice when the effect is bypassed. Some people go so far as to do all the signal wiring like this, but for me its too much.

Nearing the end now, this is what stuff looked like without the decals I love doing.

Using small green knobs to complement the colour. Not sure why but the decal came out much greener than my big Mammoth. The big one is more of a bluey green that I really like. Here is a shot for comparison.

Here is some final shots showing the detail of the finished article. It sounds identical to the big box with the input inpedance knob fully clockwise (all the way up. only difference is the Wool knob. Like before I used a 1k (original is a 2k) but in this instance I only had a log pot, so the taper is different, as you'd expect. Still totally usable though. 

The whole endeavour took around 4.5 hours give or take. Damn, Im getting fast at this.

As always questions or comments welcome.

Big Cheese (CheeseSource) build progress 1

In my previous post I stated my intentions to make my version of a Lovetone Big Cheese. Lets get things out in the open - Ive always had a big ole soft spot for Lovetone. I am fortunate to still own an DoppelGanger v4 certainly one of the coolest phasers ever made, and I did have the ?Flange With No Name? which I regret selling, but wasnt ultimately really useable for me. Anyway, if they were still sold today chances are I might own more.

These pedals are notoriously complex and hard to build. Im going to attempt to make the simplest designs, the overdrive and fuzz pedals, and box them together to emulate the CheeseSource dual pedal.

Im going to be building a vero of the Doug Hammond Tone Source, which I will detail in a later blog.
This update is to provide the following images of the perfboard (pad-per-hole) Big Cheese workalike that I have built. I had a few issues (seen in previous post) but its up and running now. I am in talks with a well known PCB maker to get some PCBs made, but for now, I will use this bad boy.

Let me know if you want in on any PCBs!

Big Cheese perf build:

Now I am not sure if this is good or bad construction, but it works and doesnt seem noisy. Given the choice Id have done this on vero, or PCB, but this made a nice change for me, and was my first perf board build. If Id drawn out the PCB properly in the first place, I would have had this working first time, so thats a pretty positive outcome.

Obviously right now, the wires are longer than needed and not soldered well at all to the offboard parts, but were just hooked up for testing purposes.

Let me know what you think!?!