My DIY guitar pedal board odyssey

Being a total Busy Dad, the greatest mental barrier to playing my electric guitar was the time it would take to get all my pedals out, connect them together and power them up. Then put them all away again when the rockin’ arena must return to an office.

The solution – build a pedal board, so I can just plug in a couple of things and go! My budget didn’t extend to buying a Pedal Train or what have you, and I liked the idea of doing it myself and putting my non-existant wood working skills to the test. Here’s how I went:

These are my workings, sketching out a few designs and measurements, and a list of materials (some of which I’m yet to buy / aren’t needed).

This is pretty close to what I ended up with for the frame.

Planning out where everything will go. The pedals ended up on the board in reverse order to this, but this was important for making sure everything would fit. There’s a 2cm-ish gap between the slats, plenty for running power cords and connectors through.

This is a piece of rimu scavenged from my dad’s garage, with everything drawn out for cutting. He was an expert wood worker, so no pressure.

Cutting. The sides were done with a borrowed skill saw, I managed to blow the fuse in the garage the first time I used it. For the sides, I had to use a hand saw, that was probably fail #1. Stopping and starting and trying to stay on the line meant I ended up with some saw marks that still haven’t quite come out.

Glueing the supports for the slats. This is just 2cm square wood from Mitre 10, I ended up nailing these down too for strength. Check out that rusty saw! I am a complete amateur.

Glueing the frame – those are special woodworking vices, and in the hands of professionals they’re tremendous. In the hands of muppets, not so much – fail #2 is not making absolutely sure everything sat flat on the floor. I was able to fix it, but it could have been neater.

I used normal PVA wood glue, and ended up putting metal braces in the corners as well, just because I don’t trust myself and wanted to make sure it was solid as.

With the slats in place – they are 90mm radiata, which were cut to size, glued down, nailed down and sanded. Then I covered the whole thing in wood stain, twice.

The velcro – I opted for the fuzzy side on the board, and the hook side on the pedals.

The finished board. The chain is: KLD OD (808 Tube Screamer clone) – Big Muff Pi Sovtek Civil War (brought this in Sydney in the deepest darkest early 90s as a 21st present to myself) – Yamaha FL-10M Flanger – TC Electronic Flashback – Boss RC-2 Looper. That’s a Liverpool / Beatles mints tin to keep my picks in.

The Big Muff kind of messes things up with how MASSIVE it is, but it’s my fav, it’s not going anywhere. Because the ideal number of pedals is always N+1 (the number you have now plus one), there’s room for expansion. I reckon I can get another three standard size pedals on there easily if I bunch everything up, more if I go down the mini pedal path.

Underneath. Have tried to keep things halfway tidy. Note the metal bracing on the sides, and the glued-on match stick to make sure it all sits level on the ground (see fail #2)!

Things I may yet do include putting handles on there somewhere, and drilling a hole in the front for the power cord, but no hurry on those.

Shred time! I learned heaps, am stoked with how it turned out, and am playing more, now I can just plug it in in seconds and go.

Worryingly, I’m thinking of what else I can make. I can see how people start to obsess over power tools. I’d really like to attempt a rotating speaker. Might have to build up to that.

For nerds, I play an Ibanez Talman TC825 (love this!) and a Vox Cambridge Reverb 30 (love this too!). Honestly, it all gets played though headphones mostly, as most of my rockin’ takes place in the dead of night when the kids are asleep. Bet Jimmy Page never had this issue.

This guy’s photos of his build really helped. There are loads of articles, photos and videos out there, really recommend watching a whole lot and deciding which is closest to what you want to build / your DIY ability.

I got the Caline CP05 power supply from Ali Express. It does the job, is a little noisy but not too bad. It also has cool blue lights which light it all up from underneath like a boy racer car.

Velcro is expensive – this was $30 from Mitre 10 and I still have a little left over.

Hack pack

Couple of notes on music apps:

Garageband is really fun and powerful app – I use it on my iPad to record my electric guitar using the Tascam IXZ dongle and headphones, so as not to wake the kids.

Here’s me butchering George Harrison’s Something in Garageband:

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The backing guitar uses the Americana Tremolo amp, while the ‘lead’ is on the Orange amp using some delay and compression.

You can use Garageband to make bedroom demos like this, using your instruments or a microphone, or the vast array of smart instruments and loops included.

Other guitar apps I like are:

Jamup – loads of amps and pedals to play with

Guitar Tuna – always have a tuner with you (also Pitch Lab)

Ultimate Guitar tabs – industry standard for finding tabs on the net, now in app form!

And here’s a good one for the bus – Beatwave – for all yer DJ / producer needs.

A sample – don’t let my incompetence put you off.

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25 Albums

This meme is naming 25 albums that had a profound effect on you, the ones you listened to again and again, and have worn out copies in a number of formats.

Being a big fan of music, lists and contemplating my own naval, here’s mine, in rough chronological order of when I became obsessed with them:

Abbey Road – The Beatles
Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
Louder than Bombs – The Smiths
LA Woman – The Doors
Dolittle – The Pixies
Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
Bug – Dinosaur Jr
Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Candy Apple Grey – Husker Du
Melt – Straitjacket Fits
Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth
Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
Parklife – Blur
Robot World – Bailter Space
40 oz to Freedom – Sublime
The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Underworld – The Orb
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
Velvet Underground and Nico
Mutations – Beck
Selected Ambient Works Part II – Aphex Twin
Revolver – The Beatles
Bressa Creeting Cake- Bressa Creeting Cake
Blue – Joni Mitchell
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Nilsson
Dayglo Spheres – SJD

Where the grass is green

Chuck Klosterman reviews Chinese Democracy:

Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn.

It’s like if Jeff Lynne tried to make Out Of The Blue sound more like Fun House, except with jazz drumming and a girl singer from Motown.

Somewhere in Los Angles, there’s gotta be 400 hours of DAT tape with nothing on it except multiple versions of the “Sorry” vocal. So why is this the one we finally hear? What finally made him decide, “You know, I’ve weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I’m going with the Mexican vampire accent.”