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CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION...........................................001 What is a guitar pedal?...................................003 2. TYPES OF PEDALS......................................009 3. HISTORY AND NOW....................................025 Contemporary use..........................................027 Band profile: 65DOS.......................................029 Band profile: Ratatat.......................................031 Genre: Shoegaze.............................................033 4. DIY/CLONES................................................037 Why build your own?.......................................039

5. THE SCIENCE..............................................043 Circuit board diagram.....................................045 Wiring + parts..................................................047 Schematics......................................................051 6. THE INSIDE (MY BUILD).............................057 7. THE ART.......................................................088 Swirl painting..................................................092 8. THE OUTSIDE (MY BUILD)..........................095 9. FINAL ASSEMBLY.......................................115 10. CONCLUSION............................................121


INTRODUCTION I have always been interested in making things myself; I like to know how something works and how it was built. There is something very satisfying about using or working with something that you helped build, it adds a story to the object and makes it much more personal. This book is about handmade or ‘DIY’ effects pedals, otherwise known as ‘stomp boxes.’ This is a subject in which I am fairly new too, although I have been playing bass and using effects pedals personally for around 4 years, I have never explored handmade effects, nor have I made anything needing circuitry.

This book will be a personal journey into the world of DIY effects pedals. I will look into the history of the effects pedal, its contemporary use and talk about some of my favorite bands which heavily use effects on their instruments. I also intend to paint and build my own effects pedal, and document the process, hopefully helping other newcomers to this great scene. RIGHT: An unpainted, handbuilt effects pedal.


WHAT IS AN EFFECTS PEDAL? An effects pedal is basically a small box shaped unit that musicians use to manipulate the sound of their instruments. The player can switch the pedal on or off by pressing a small button on the pedal with their feet, this leaves their hands free to play. Most ‘stomp boxes’ typically house a single effect, however some digital pedals hold a vast array of digital effects. The more simple effects pedals have one footswitch, one to three potentiometers (Knobs) for controlling the effect, gain or tone and a single LED display to indicate whether the effect is on. The more complex pedals can have multiple footswitches, eight to ten knobs, additional switches and alphanumeric displays.

RIGHT: My setup at home, including the BOSS Turbo Distortion (Left) and the BOSS Loop Staion (Right) pedals.




This section simply covers the bits of the pedal you can see, on the opposite page is an illustration of a basic pedal, this model has one knob which controls tone, one button and one LED.


Inputs are usually on the right hand side of a pedal, this side should plug into your guitar.

Outputs are, by default, usually on the left hand side, this side should plug into your amp. 3. LED LIGHT Light indicates the effect pedal is turned on and manipulating the sound. 4. FOOTSWITCH 5. POTENTIOMETER (KNOB) Pedal knobs come in many different designs. 6. ALIMINIUM CASING 7. 9V POWER



TYPES OF PEDALS There are many different types of effects and pedals, this section will cover the main types of effects, and examples of pedals which house those effects. All the following effects are made by professional companies, however any one could be replicated and hand built with enough know-how and the right schematics.

RIGHT: This picture shows the wide range of pedals available on the market today, they come in many different styles, each with its own unique personality and feel, but nothing feels more satisfying than using something you built yourself.


DISTORTION Distortion effects are arguably the most popular effect, and have been widely used in many types of music for a ‘raw’. A distortion effect creates a ‘gritty’ or ‘fuzzy’ sound by ‘clipping’ the instruments audio signal which distorts the shape of the sound wave and adds overtones. Also called ‘gain’ effects, as distortion used to be created by increasing the electrical power supply (gain) to tube amplifiers.

DISTORTION / OVERDRIVE: As mentioned before, distortion is created by clipping or reshaping an audio signal’s wave form (in this case, a guitar) so it has flattened peaks, therefore creating different sounds. Overdrive units differ from distortion as they produce a ‘clean’ sound at quieter levels and a distorted sound at louder levels, as opposed to a constant level of distortion. FUZZ: A fuzz pedal (commonly known as a ‘fuzzbox’) is a type of overdrive pedal which compresses the shape of the soundwave, nearly to the point of a squarewave (a right angles type of soundwave) resulting in a heavily distorted ‘fuzzy’ sound.

ABOVE + RIGHT: The BOSS Turbo Distortion, a distortion pedal which RRP’s at £65.


DYNAMICS Also called volume or amplitude effects, these types of effects modify the volume of an instrument, these types of instrument were also the first to be introduced to guitarists.

BOOST/VOLUME: These simply amplify the volume of an instrument by increasing the amplitude of its audio signal. Often used for solo’s or to prevent loss of volume when using a lot of pedals at once. COMPRESSOR: compressors make loud sounds quieter and quiet sounds louder, by decreasing or ‘compressing’ the dynamic range of an audio signal. Used mainly to keep a steady volume when playing. NOISE GATE: Noise gates eliminate any unwanted sounds, such as ‘hissing,’ ‘humming’ and static, by greatly diminishing the volume of sounds that fall below a set threshold. These pedals increase the dynamic range of the sound as opposed to compressors. The MXR Dyna compressor, with an RRP of £68


The BOSS Noise Suppressor NS-2, RRP £79

The Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 boost pedal, RRP £35

FILTER Filter effects alter the frequency content of an audio signal that passes through them by boosting or weakening specific frequencies.

EQUALIZER: An equalizer is a set of linear filters that strengthen or weaken specific regions, for example, one is able to adjust the bass, treble and high frequencies independently to achieve the desired sound. WAH-WAH: A very distinct sound, a wah-wah creates vowel-like sounds by altering the frequency spectrum produced by an instrument, i.e. how loud it is at each separate frequency, in what is know as a spectral glide. These types of pedals are operated by a foot treadle that opens and closes a potentiometer. This effect is associated with funk and psychedelic rock guitarists. RIGHT: The BOSS Equalizer GE-7, RRP ÂŁ80


MODULATION Modulation effects combine multiple audio signals in order to create new sounds with unusual tonal properties. Some modulation effects mix (modulate) an instruments audio signal with a signal generated by the pedal called a carrier wave. Other modulation effects split an instruments audio signal in two, altering one portion of the sound and mixing it with the unaltered portion. CHORUS: Chorus pedals are designed to mimic the sound of choirs and string orchestras by mixing sounds with slight differences in pitch. They work by splitting the instrument-toamplifier audio signal, adding a slight delay, frequency variations or ‘vibrato’ to a section of the signal, whilst leaving the other section untouched.

RIGHT: The TC Electronic pedal can add chorus and flange effects to the sound of a guitar, pedals which have more than one effect are often alot more expensive. RRP £270

FLANGER: A flanger creates a ‘spaceship’ or ‘jet plane’ kind of sound, simulating a studio effect produced by recording a track on two syncronised tapes, and periodically slowing one tape by pressing the edge of its reel (the flange). Flanger units add a variably delayed version of the audio signal to the original signal, creating the iconic sound. PHASER: A phaser or ‘Phase-shifter’ creates a slight rippling effect, amplifying some aspects of the tone while diminishing others. It does this by splitting the audio signal in two and altering the phase of one portion.

RIGHT: The Electro-Harmonix Small Stone EH4800 Phase shiter (Phaser), RRP £50


TREMOLO: A tremolo effect produces a slight, rapid variation in the volume of a note or chord. This effect should not be confused with the ‘Tremolo bar’ a device on a guitar bridge which allows the player to manually bend the pitch of the instrument. VIBRATO: A vibrato pedal produces slight, rapid variations in pitch, mimicking the fractional semitone variations produced naturally by opera singers and violinists when prolonging a single note. Vibrato effects often allow the player to control the rate of the variations as well as the difference in pitch (e.g. depth).

RIGHT: The Electro-Harmonix Small Stone EH4800 Phase shiter (Phaser), RRP £50

TIME BASED Time based effects are pretty self explanatory, they deal with delays and echos, some can also store and repeat sounds which have been played into them. DELAY/ECHO: These pedals produce an echo effect by adding a duplicate instrument-toamplifier electrical signal to the original signal at a slight time-delay. The effect can either be a single echo called a ‘slap’ or ‘slapback,’ or multiple echoes. REVERB: Reverb units simulate sounds produced in an echo chamber by creating a large number of echoes that gradually fade or ‘decay’.

RIGHT: The Electro-Harmonics Holy Grail, a reverb pedal, RRP £78


ABOVE: This is the Line 6 DL4 delay modeller pedal, this is quite a sophisticated pedal, and has a price tag to match, RRP ÂŁ200


LOOPER PEDAL: A looper pedal or ‘phrase looper’ allows a performer to record and later replay a phrase or passage from a song. The phrase can be recorded live or pre-recorded. Some pedals (like the BOSS RC-2, featured) can layer multiple tracks onto each other, effectively letting the guitarists build up different melodies and create a whole song live, just by themselves. Many loopers also have pre recorded drum beats stored using electric memory, which can be used in conjunction with the recorded phrases of the guitar.

LEFT + RIGHT: This is my BOSS RC-2 loop pedal, I find this a great little piece of equipment for writing your own music, you are able to build up melodies quickly and easily, these types of pedals are far too complicated for me to try and build. RRP £130


HISTORY OF THE GUITAR PEDAL The pedals you’ve seen in this book so far, and the ones you will see all use transistors, before the invention of transistors, manufacturers and hobbyists had to use vacuum tubes (Pictured), which are very bulky and fragile. The invention of the transistor changed the way people built electronic devices, from computers to radios, it also meant people could cram a lot more electronics into small places, and so the effects pedal as we know it today was born.



1954 - The creation of the silicone transistor, invented by Gordon Teal. this paved the way for electronic products to become how they are today.


1962 - The first transistorized effects pedal, called the Maestro Fuzz pedal, was released in 1962, eight years after the invention of the silicone transistor.


1967 – Roder Mayor issued the first octave effect, the Octavia.

026 1968 – Univox began marketing its UniVibe pedal, which quickly became popular with guitarist Jimi Hendrix.


1967 - Warwick Electronics manufactured the first wah-wah pedal, the Clyde McCoy.

1970’s – By the mid 70’s there were a variety of solid state effects pedals available to the public, including flangers, chorus pedals, ring modulators and phase shifters (phasers).


80’s – By this time musicians favored digitized rack mounts over analogue effects pedals, so much so that musicians would often record their tracks ‘dry’, meaning

unaltered, then add digital effects later in post-production. This saw a fall in effect pedal popularity.


90’s – Artists such as Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr. helped re-ignite interest in effects pedals, promoting a ‘lo-fi’ way to playing instruments, as opposed to the heavily digitized 80’s.


CONTEMPORARY USE Effects pedals are a great way to get recording studio sounds straight from a bedroom, giving guitar players amazing versatility with their practicing and their live performances. They are compact and can be mixed and matched to create new and unusual sounds using a pedal board (a collection of pedals attached to one unit for ease of use and transportation) Effects pedals are widely used in most genres of music where a live guitarist/bassist or keyboard player wants a change from the sound they can get from their amps. In the next few pages I will talk about some the bands who I think use effects pedals to make great, interesting music, I will also look into

‘Shoegazing’ as a genre. Named so, due to the musicians who used to stare at their pedals, apparently deep in thought whilst playing live. RIGHT: A friends pedal board and pedal collection, including (Clockwise from the left); a BOSS Turbo Overdrive, Electro-Harmonics Q tron, and handmade fuzz pedal, an EBS multi comp and the E-H Big Muff.


65DAYSOFSTATIC 65daysofstatic (65days) have been one of my favorite contemporary bands for a long time; playing mostly instrumental post-rock they use (primarily) guitar riffs, with a heavy delay setting to speak for them. 65days are originally from Sheffield, compromising of Paul Wolinski, Joe Shrewsbury, Rob Jones and Simon Wright. The band have released five studio albums: • The Fall of Math 2004 • One Time for All Time 2006 • The Destruction of Small Ideas 2007 • We Were Exploding Anyway 2010 • Silent Running 2011 Initially, the band interspersed heavy, progressive, guitar-driven instrumental sections with live drums and off-beat sampled drums akin to those of Aphex Twin, however they have since changed direction to include more electronic sounds, with a keyboard and more digitized drums.

RIGHT: 65days use a lot of gear to make the sound they want, and a lot of pedals, Joe Shrewsbury, a guitarist for the band has been know to use a variety of handmade pedals when performing live and in the studio.






Ratatat are a duo from New York, USA, consisting of Mike Stroud (Guitar) and Evan Mast (Bass, Synth). They create electronic music with live instruments and synthesizers, and of course, a lot of pedals. Since their creation in 2001, they have released six studio albums, including: Ratatat 2004 Ratatat Remixes Vol.1 2004 Classics 2006 Ratatat remixes Vol. 2 2007 LP3 2008 LP4 2010 Ratatat’s sound is very guitar driven. They are an instrumental band so the emphasis is entirely on the instruments, which they pull off perfectly, with simple yet effective layered guitar parts,

GENRE: SHOEGAZE Shoegazing is a subgenre of alternative rock, emerging from here in the UK in the late 1980’s. The British press named this style shoegazing because the musicians in these bands stood relatively still when they played live performances, and as this genre is very effects pedal heavy, they would often stare at their pedals. This genre is known for its significant use of guitar effects, typically distortion, droning riffs and a “wall of sound” from noisy guitars. This genre often used vocals, however they were not the main focus point of the song, and were often muted and droning, blending with the instruments themselves. Shoegazing also became known as “The Scene That Celebrates Itself”, this was after Steve Sutherland (Journalist) saw how much the different bands were helping each other out, rather than engaging in traditional rivalries.

The shoegazing genre was not popular for long however, the genre started to be perceived by critics as over-privileged, self indulgent and middle-class, which was in sharp contrast to the Grunge scene which was booming at the time. Britpop was also very popular at the time and offered listeners lyrics about working class life, which also contrasted with the ‘vocals as an instrument’ approach of the shoegazers.

Some shoegaze bands to check out: • • • •

Slowdive Ride Moose Pale Saints





WHAT IS A CLONE? Clones are essentially do-it-yourself versions of pedals available on the market. It is important to say now that not all DIY pedals or pedal kits are clones, the one I make later in this book is a unique design. Clones are designed to imitate the particular sound a certain pedal, clones have a mixed reputation with guitar players, as some argue that using the same schematics (in some cases they are stolen) is fraudulent, and would much prefere to design their own schematics and sounds. That being said there are a lot of clone websites out there, the most popular site being Build Your Own Clone (B.Y.O.C). this site offers

clones of popular effects pedals, including the ‘Large Beaver’ a clone of Electro-Harmonics ‘Big Muff’ which sells for £50 under the RRP of the original pedal, plus the use has the excitement of building it themselves.

RIGHT: The BOSS Distortion DS-1, next to its clone.


WHY DIY? Although it is easier, less time consuming and more practical to go buy a guitar pedal off the shelf, it’s never as satisfying. I cant see anything wrong with sitting at a workbench for an hour a day and working my way through a DIY project; every little thing is a victory, from installing the first transistor to putting the gloss on the paint job, every bit is as enjoyable as the last, as you know have put time and effort into creating it. For my build I bought a DIY kit from a website, which cost me £40, I did this instead of sourcing my own parts as I have very little experience of electronics and would have no idea where to start. If I had sourced my own parts

the pedal would have cost drastically less money. Building you own pedal may seem a bit daunting if you’ve never done anything like it before, however that was one of the main attractions for me, I went into this build knowing very little about electronics, I had never soldered before and didn’t really know what I was doing to be honest, however I worked through it bit by bit and eventually I got through it, and I’m very pleased with the result. I felt great satisfaction in building and painting my pedal with my own hands, I now have an object which means something to be personally, as opposed to an off the shelf model anyone can buy.



THE SCIENCE This section will cover the basic bits you need to know in order to create your own pedal, the parts in the circuit board and how everything is wired together inside the pedal.


Direct Current The electrons flow in one direction only.


Alternating Current The electrons flow in both directions in a cyclic manner - first one way, then the other.

Not much actual knowledge of circuits or schematics etc. is needed if your just building from a kit, however if you were to do it from scratch it’s a different story, this information is basic and intended for beginners.


Lets start off with the terms you’ll encounter whilst building your pedal, I recommend getting familiar with all these, if only to make sure your connecting the right parts.


Unit is Volts, Symbol is V or U. Voltage is the "pressure" of electricity. A 9V battery has a voltage of 9V DC.


Unit is Amperes (Amps), Symbol is I Current is the flow of electricity (electrons).



Capable of operating without an external power source. Typical passive components are resistors and capacitors. Requiring a source of power to operate. Includes transistors (all types), and LED’s


Unit is Hertz, Symbol is Hz. The number of times the signal completes a complete cycle in one second is the frequency.

Unit is Ohms, Symbol is R or Ω Resistance is a measure of how easily electrons will flow through the device.

044 CIRCUIT BOARD This is essentially the brains of the pedal, these are some quick explanations, images and electrical symbols of the different parts on the circuit board.

RESISTOR: A resistor is a passive two-terminal electrical component that implements electrical resistance as a circuit element.

CAPACITOR: A capacitor (originally known as condenser) is a passive two-terminal electrical component used to store energy in an electric field.

DIODE: A diode is a two-terminal electronic component with asymmetric transfer characteristic, with low resistance to current flow in one direction, and high resistance in the other.

TRANSISTOR: A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and power.

PERFBOARD: Perfboard is what everything sits on, made out of plastic, with one side coated in copper, it has lots of little holes drilled in a grid, to make placing the electrical components on them organized and easier.









a C1 R4





R1 Q1






This is a re-drawn diagram of the one included with my kit, this shows the layout in which i need to build by circuit board. It is very important to get this bit right, making sure all the different parts are in their correct place on the circuit board, and that they are facing the right way, or the circuit wont work.



KEY PART / PART TYPE RESISTORS R1: 100K R2: 1M R3: 100K R4: 100K P1


Ground Output


WIRING + OFF CIRCUIT PARTS This is how all the different components of the pedal board are connected, using the circuit board as a center, all the other internal compnents (jack sockets etc.) are wired carefully together. This section covers the parts that you’ll need to wire together internally.

JACK SOCKETS: These are where you would plug your leads to your guitar (input) and to the amp (output. You can pick these up for 50p.

DC (POWER) CONNECTION: This is what enables electricity into the connection, this model is 9V and so an appropriate lead is needed.


POTENTIOMETER: As previously mentioned, this is what is used to change the sound your pedal makes, these are usually covered with a knob.

LED’S: Used for indicating if the pedal is active or passive, i.e. is it on. these can be bought in many different colours.

3PDT FOOTSWITCH: this is what turns the pedal on or off. these switches are operated by the feet when playing an intsrument.

WIRING THE FOOTSWITCH: This diagram shows how i will wire the footswitch, again, it is very important to make sure everything is soldered correctly and wired to the correct places, or it just wont work.


From effect output


LED 4k7 From input jack

To effect input


To output jack

SCHEMATICS A schematic diagram is often used to describe the design of DIY pedals. Original schematics were done by hand, using standardized templates or pre-printed adhesive symbols, but today Electrical CAD programs are available. Schematics are essentially a map for the guitar pedal.

ABOVE: A relatively simple schematic for a basic fuzz pedal.


ABOVE: The schematics for the BOSS CE-2, an analogue chorus pedal from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

My pedal did not come with schematics, as it was designed for the beginner. Instead I was given an illustration of where the wires would go, which I re-did into this one here. This is essential to my build and I checked back to it frequently.






THE INSIDES (MY BUILD) For me this is the most exciting part of the book, as previously mentioned this is the first time I have done anything like this, and I’ve never soldered before, however I was very excited to start building. Before I started I made sure I had everything I would need for the build and had it organized, so I could fully concentrate on the soldering the correct placement of the parts. My setup was not ideal but I had everything I needed to start soldering the circuit board.

1: Wire clippers

7: Cutting mat

2: Soldering iron

8: Perfboard

3: sponge

9: Circuit parts

4: Metal ruler

10: Lamp

5: Wire 6: solder









2 8 7

SOLDERING TIPS Before I gave this a shot I did a lot of research on how to solder properly, I’d heard a lot about whole circuit boards being ruined by bad technique so I was very nervous at the start. Also soldering can be very dangerous if done incorrectly, heres a few safety tips: • Never touch the element or tip of the soldering iron, they reach around 400ºC and will burn you.

Preparing the soldering iron: • Place the soldering iron in its stand and plug in. the iron will take a few minutes to reach its operating temperature. • Dampen the sponge, remember that the sponge should be damp, not dripping wet, • as it is only used to clean your soldering iron.

• Always return the soldering iron to its stand when not in use.

• Check if the soldering iron is ready to use by seeing if it melts the solder.

• Work in a well ventilated area, the smoke formed from soldering can be quite irritating, avoid this by working with your head to one side, not directly over your work.

• Melt a little solder on the tip of the iron, this is called ‘tinning’ and it will help the heat flow from the iron’s tip to the joint. It only needs to be done when you plug in the iron, and occasionally while soldering if you clean the tip.

• Wash your hands after using solder, solder contains lead which is very poisonous.


Good joint

Bad joint (Dry joint)

(Volcano shaped)

Shiny solder

PCB or stripboard

Component lead

Copper tracks


Dull solder


1 - RESISTORS The first thing I started soldering, after setting up my work station, was the resistors. Following the diagram I placed the first resistor into the correct place, checking it twice. This was to be my first time soldering so I tried to keep a steady hand. Soldering the first resistor was alot easier than I had anticipated, I had seen so many videos on the internet of soldering going wrong that I expected it to happen to me, however I found that as long as you heat up the compnents first, the solder just jumps into place, settling like the volcano on the previous page.


Here you can see two resistors which have been soldered. I had to be very careful not to let the solder cross the copper strips.

2 - CAPACITORS There were four resistors on this particular circuit board, and after finishing those with little problems I was very confident when soldering the capacitors. One issue which I did have was the length of the capacitors lead, it was very short, which meant I had to solder with very little room on the circuit board, however this wasn’t too much of a problem. At this point in the builld I was taking great care to make sure no solder crossed onto the adjacent copper strips, as this would ruin the circuit.


3 - FINISHING THE CIRCUIT BOARD After the Resistors and capacitors there was only the transistor left to solder. This was no harder than the other components and I did it easily, these pictures show the circuit board without the transistor on. Upon finishing the circuit board I was really getting into it and enjoyin myself. The next steps were wiring the different internal components together.



4 - OFF BOARD WIRING After finishing the circuit board I now had the job of wiring all the other components together. I started with the Potentiometer, this was because it had the most connections with the circuit board, and I was using that as the center of the circuit. Using pliers I stripped the plastic coating of the wire, about a centimeter on each end, then soldered the wire to the correct parts. This was also not very difficult, and I felt very comfortable soldering now, probably about 40 minutes into the build.


TIP: Hold parts down with bluetack, to prevent movement when soldering.


5 - MISTAKE! My first mistake came when soldering the DC power, however I didn’t realise my mistake until I tried to put the electronics into the pedal box. The problem was, this component had to be inserted from the outside of the pedal, this could not be done as it was attached with wires to the rest of the insides. I rectified this issue when I found out about it.



6 - JACKS When assembling the innards of my pedal, I didn’t stick to a rigid plan, (for example, solder all the jacks, then the LED, then the footswitch etc.) instead I decided to build the circuit around the circuit board, meaning I would pick which component had the most connections to the circuit I’d already built. At this point in the build I decided to solder the input jack, this was exciting as the circuit was starting to take shape.


7 - SLOWLY BUT SURELY At this point I had been building for about an hour and a half, although it only felt about 20 minutes. I was taking my time and making sure every aspect of the build was checked and double-checked. My circuit was coming along nicely and I had started installing the footswitch, one of the more complex parts of the pedal. I decided to solder the centre point of the footswitch first, connecting the output jack, as it was the hardest to get too.


8 - FINISHED INSIDES After about 2 hours of soldering, I had finished the insides of my pedal, I was surprised at how easily I took to soldering and found it very enjoyable throughout.



THE ART In my research into custom pedals, I found some great artists who decorate them beautifully; these are some short profiles on some of my favourite pedal painters. HANNAH HAUGBERG Hannah works for ZVEX pedals, a Minnesota based custom pedal company, she designs and hand paints a wide variety of the pedals ZVEX sells. She is also the in-house graphic designer there.

“A lot of my early pedals were patterns I'd been sketching for years, but lately I've started to refine by illustration style and have really enjoyed watching it evolve and take shape.�


A selection of hand painted effects pedals by Hannah Haugberg

NOEL YOUNG Noel Young is a freelance illustrator/designer, he has been painting pedals since 2008 and has produced some amazing work. RIGHT: A selection of Noel Youngs handpainted effects pedals


SWIRL PAINTING One method of decorating pedals I came across was swirl painting, which is achieved by dipping the object you want painted into a bath of water with paint on the top. As the object is lowered into the water, the paint is pushed onto it, creating the effect. Swirl painting has been a popular way to decorate guitars and pedals with guitarists, since Steve Vai released a custom guitar with Ibanez, the Universe, featuring the effect (pictured).

I like the unperdictable nature of the swirl effect.



THE OUTSIDE (MY BUILD) Upon discovering the swirl technique, and seeing the beautiful patterns it produced, I knew I wanted to paint my pedal in the same way. I wanted to try something I had never done before with paint and this was the perfect opportunity, it also seemed fitting as every other part of the build was new to me so why should the painting process not be? I was looking forward to this bit for the entire build, I had seen videos on the internet of the process and it looked really interesting and bespoke.

1. Automobile Primer 2. Enamel paints 3. Automobile Black gloss (Undercoat) 4. Toilet roll (Painting is messy) 5. Sand paper 6. Pedal enclosure You will also need a bucket of water and some newspaper.


4 1

3 2



1- PREPARING THE CASE Before coating the pedal with primer, I first sanded the case and washed it using soap. this is important to help the paint stick to the case, and to reduce chances of imperfection on the paint job itself.



This is my set up for priming the enclosure, as you can see none of the sides are touching the floor, this is very important for a clean finish. TIP: Keep a steady hand and around 30cm away from the object that you are spraypainting.


I used two coats of primer, and waited at least an hour to apply coats.


3 - BASE COAT Next I applyed the Black gloss undercoat, this will provide the main colour for the body of my pedal.

4 - SWIRL I was very excited by this point, the insides were finished and this is the final part of my build. To swirl my pedal I first set up my work station, having everything I would need within reach, this is essential because if you take too long when swirling the paint dries and you are unable to manipulate it.


5 - MISTAKE! This attempt didn’t work out correctly. I left the paints too long and they dried on the surface of the water before i had the chance to swirl it.


6 - FINAL RESULT After several failed attempts, I managed to get a swirl pattern I was happy with, so I decided to dip the pedal...


When lowering the case into the water, I had to be very slow and careful, as any odd movement at this stage would spoil the pattern.

110 After the pedal was completely submerged, I cleaned the top of the water with newspaper and pulled the pedal out. I think I didn’t leave enough time for the paint to set before dipping the pedal, as it started to drip when I hung it up to dry, however I think this adds to the effect.


FINAL ASSEMBLY With all parts of my pedal complete, it is time to put it all together to see if it works. This was also a very exciting time of the build, however I was also very nervous, as if it didn’t work I wouldn’t know where to start repairing it. I placed a strip of duct tape on the inside of the base to stop contact with the circuit, as this would cause a short.

These pictures show the pedal with the complete circuitry inside, ready to be screwed together.




CONCLUSION After completing my build I felt a great level of achievement, I had made something which worked and had enjoyed myself throughout. That is the difference between making something yourself and buying one new, because you see the build from start to finish it becomes much more personal. I also now have a brand new pedal, which sounds great, looks good and was cheaper than if I had bought a new one. After reading this book I hope you also see how DIY guitar pedals, and the DIY philosophy in general, can be rewarding and educational, as well as fun.


BIBLEOGRAPHY (2005) Beavis Audio Research. [online] Available at: techpages/SchematicToReality/ [Accessed: 15 April ]. (n.d.) Tips on building Your Own Guitar Effect Pedal. [online] Available at: http:// [Accessed: 10 April 2012]. (2011) Hand made guitar effect pedal kits from the UK | DIY Pedal Kits. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18 April 2012]. (1997) How to do Swirl-Paint. [online] Available at: Folders/swirlpaint/swirlpnt.htm [Accessed: 10 April 2012]. Hunter, D. (2004) Guitar Effects Pedals: The Practical Handbook. Backbeat Books. (2009) I PAINT PEDALS (dot) com. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 10 April 2012]. (n.d.) [online] Available at: http://noelyoungstudio. com/ [Accessed: 15 April 2012]. (n.d.) ZVex Custom Store. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 2 April 2012]. Unknown. (2012) Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 April]. Wamplar, B. (2007) How to Modify Guitar Pedals: A Complete How-to Package for the Electronics Newbie on how to Modify Guitar and Bass Effects Pedals. CreateSpace.



Manipulating Sound  

A personal journey into DIY guitar pedals.

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