How To Make Handmade Guitar Pedals

Every guitarist wants their very own signature sound, and there's no better way to find it than by knowing how to make handmade guitar pedals. Forget all of those factory made $500 boutique stompboxes that everyone and their brother has access to! Making your own handmade guitar pedals is the best way to fully customize your tone, and you can even do it yourself for less cash than it would cost to buy a factory made pedal. Here's what you need to get the job done:

  • Soldering iron
  • Solder resin
  • Blank copper board
  • A laser printer
  • Glossy paper
  • An iron (like the one you use on your clothes)
  • Ammoniumpersufate etchant
  • Drill and 1.0 or smaller heads
  • Pedal specific parts (such as input jacks, resistors, transistors, potentiometers, etc.)
  • Schematics or printable PCB circuits
  1. Find a circuit schematic. The first step in making handmade guitar pedals is finding a circuit schematic that fits the pedal you want to make. Many printable circuits are available on the web, so go ahead and do a quick search to see what you find. Once you have your circuit, print it with the laser printer onto your plain glossy paper.
  2. Transfer the circuit layout to the copper board. To begin the transfer, place the glossy paper ink side down on the copper board and grab your iron. Using the hottest setting, hold the iron down on top of the glossy paper for about a minute. After a minute has passed, begin moving the iron over the paper and copper board as if you were ironing a shirt, making sure that the paper and copper board stay together and don't move.
  3. Carefully separate the paper from the copper board. After approximately 10 minutes of ironing, pull the glossy paper off the copper board. If it doesn't come off right away, place the entire thing in cold water and gently peel the paper off. Be sure to look it over to check the quality of the transfer, as you're going to have to repeat these steps again if you find that a lead is not fully closed somewhere.
  4. Etch the copper to the board and drill the holes. To get rid of the copper not needed for your circuit, it's necessary to place the copper board in ammoniumpersufate etchant. There's no set time indicating how long the etchant will take to eat away the copper, so use your own judgement to decide when to take it out. Once you have a full circuit board with no unnecessary copper around it, take your drill and drill the holes needed to hold the components indicated on the schematic.
  5. Assemble and solder the components. Here's where making handmade guitar pedals gets fun! Going over your schematic, place each part needed for your effect in the circuit board and solder it. A transistor here, a resistor there, it's all on the schematic. This is the most time consuming step, but once you're done the effect pedal will be nearly complete.
  6. Put the board in a case. You can either buy a metal case for your pedal or make your own. Wood cases are particularly attractive and easy to make. The only limitation here is to make sure all of the components fit in the case without grounding out.

If making handmade guitar pedals sounds involved to you, don't worry, it is! A lot of time and research is required to construct the perfect pedal, and even more time is required to build and wire it. If this isn't appealing, you can always buy a ready-made pedal kit that will let you build guitar pedals by hand without doing any extra research or coming up with your own circuit board.

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