Thinking about trying my first amp build. Completely new to this, any tips?

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Hi everyone,

As some of you may know I've been in the market for a blackface amp of some sort, and was thinking about going for a Princeton. I also considered getting one made by one of the great uk builders about.

But then I thought, I have a fair bit of time coming up later this month where I'll be able to really give it a go, maybe I should jump in and take a chance on building one. As a complete beginner though, a Princeton looks pretty complicated which was putting me off!

I was then speaking to a friend of mine who has an MSC in physics, who was excited to help out on the project so that we would do it together, which has pushed me to thinking this may actually be viable. 

We are currently looking to get a Modulus Princeton Reverb Kit and go from there. The circuit on their website looks pretty low resolution, so I have found this one (below) which I was thinking of using - is this sensible?

That said, I myself am still a complete beginner, and would try much appreciate any tips or advice that you have?

I have a couple of questions to get started also...

1) I currently only have a soldering iron, what other tools will I actually need?
2) what is the best solder to actually use for a project like this?
3) Once completed, I think it would probably be a good idea to get a tech to give it a look over just incase there are any obvious issues. What should I expect to pay for such a service - if such a thing even exists!

Many thanks in advance for any thoughts or comments you may have!

 


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Comments

  • WezVWezV Frets: 8567
    edited August 12
    i notice stew-mac have started doing some amp kits

    May not be what you are after, but the benefit of this is some really detailed instructions that take you through the process - designed for someone new to it.

    Worth a read
    https://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/i-10730/10730.doc.0718.pdf


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  • teradaterada Frets: 527
    @WezV Thank you so much that is incredible. I'll start by giving that guide a proper read - Brilliant!
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 8567
    and of course ampmaker have a similar guide

    http://www.ampmaker.com/wf-55-construction-manual-842-0.html
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  • teradaterada Frets: 527
    Thanks again. I can see from the stewmac document that they have a reference at the bottom to a 65 Princeton. Having a guide of that quality would be super handy. I've emailed them to see if they are actually selling the Princeton kit as I can't find it on their website.
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 8567
    They only released the first 2 a few weeks ago, but it looks like they have plans for more.

    Doesn’t look like they have uk spec transformers yet, but I would expect them to add more options at some point
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  • RiftAmpsRiftAmps Frets: 1211
    First things first, good for you for wanting to build your own amp! It’s an addictive game that’s immensely rewarding.

    However, I wouldn’t take on an A1164 as a first build...lots to go wrong and extremely difficult for a novice to troubleshoot any build mistakes. Home brew guys bring me their builds all the time to check over when they’re not working right and they’ve always “triple checked everything and can’t find the problem”. 

    Start with a 5E3 or similar instead, much easier to build and less sensitive to lead dress issues and the like. The Modulus kits are excellent and Michael offers great support should you need it.

    To answer your questions...

    1) Wire snips, needle nose pliers, socket set with 8mm, 9mm, 10mm or 3/8”, and 1/4” sockets, multimeter, drill, Phillips+ Pozi+flathead screwdrivers, and test leads as a minimum. I’d also build a lightbulb current limiter if you have time.

    2) 60/40 solder is fine for a home build. Silver line AS15 100g is plenty.

    3) About an hours labour at whatever rate they charge. Two hours at most if you’ve really messed up. 


    Good luck!
    Rift Amplification
    Handwired Guitar Amplifiers
    Brackley, Northamptonshire
    www.riftamps.co.uk
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  • KeefyKeefy Frets: 79
    RiftAmps said:


    Start with a 5E3 or similar instead, much easier to build and less sensitive to lead dress issues and the like. The Modulus kits are excellent and Michael offers great support should you need it.


    This. Also worth trying your hand at some pedal kits first. You are almost certain to do something wrong, but the results won't kill you or fry an expensive transformer!
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  • Jimbro66Jimbro66 Frets: 663
    One thing not yet mentioned but I’m sure you are aware of from your research @terada is that valve amps use very high voltages that are stored even after the amp has been turned off. They can be VERY ouchy if you accidentally come into contact with them  :o  Maybe get some tips from the pros on reducing the risks? Not a problem during build but as soon as you fire it up.....

    Anyway, good luck, it will be fun and very rewarding when use the amp for the first time with a big grin on your face  :)
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  • teradaterada Frets: 527
    RiftAmps said:
    First things first, good for you for wanting to build your own amp! It’s an addictive game that’s immensely rewarding.

    However, I wouldn’t take on an A1164 as a first build...lots to go wrong and extremely difficult for a novice to troubleshoot any build mistakes. Home brew guys bring me their builds all the time to check over when they’re not working right and they’ve always “triple checked everything and can’t find the problem”. 

    Start with a 5E3 or similar instead, much easier to build and less sensitive to lead dress issues and the like. The Modulus kits are excellent and Michael offers great support should you need it.

    To answer your questions...

    1) Wire snips, needle nose pliers, socket set with 8mm, 9mm, 10mm or 3/8”, and 1/4” sockets, multimeter, drill, Phillips+ Pozi+flathead screwdrivers, and test leads as a minimum. I’d also build a lightbulb current limiter if you have time.

    2) 60/40 solder is fine for a home build. Silver line AS15 100g is plenty.

    3) About an hours labour at whatever rate they charge. Two hours at most if you’ve really messed up. 


    Good luck!
    @RiftAmps Thanks for the advice! I must admit that the Princeton does look massively intimidating to me, but it didn't seem to phase my build partner, who has done electronics as part of their physics masters. Would it be that hard that even someone with a bit of experience would be really out of depth?

    That said I'm quite up for a nice tweed deluxe build as a primer! That way at least I might get a chance to learn at a slower pace. And at the end of the day I'd end up with 2 amps, which is no bad thing!

    When you note an hour or twos labour, is that for the A1164 or the 5E3? Perhaps it would be the same for both?


    Keefy said:
    RiftAmps said:


    Start with a 5E3 or similar instead, much easier to build and less sensitive to lead dress issues and the like. The Modulus kits are excellent and Michael offers great support should you need it.


    This. Also worth trying your hand at some pedal kits first. You are almost certain to do something wrong, but the results won't kill you or fry an expensive transformer!
    Jimbro66 said:
    One thing not yet mentioned but I’m sure you are aware of from your research @terada is that valve amps use very high voltages that are stored even after the amp has been turned off. They can be VERY ouchy if you accidentally come into contact with them  :o  Maybe get some tips from the pros on reducing the risks? Not a problem during build but as soon as you fire it up.....

    Anyway, good luck, it will be fun and very rewarding when use the amp for the first time with a big grin on your face  :)
    @Keefy & @Jimbro66 Thanks for the tip, I was aware that the capacitors being dangerous even when unplugged - I'll likely be asking a few more questions on here when I get to that stage!

    I'm definitely up for making some pedals too, but as I have the benefit of someone to help out that knows what they are doing, I want to give it a go while they are still available. Hopefully I'll do some pedals myself once the build is complete. 
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  • GagarynGagaryn Frets: 1192
    I built a tweed Princeton - 5F2A a few years ago. I bought a kit from Weber but then replaced most of the parts - they are not great quality.

    My advice would be download the schematic and bill of materials from the Weber site for the amp of your choice - they have loads and buy your own bits. Pretty straightforward really, I didn't run into any problems with that build and it works and sounds great.

    I would start with something simple like before progressing to anything more complicated. Troubleshooting is the hard bit as I discovered recently with a phono hifi amp I built - has parasitic oscillation which I can't cure!
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  • RiftAmpsRiftAmps Frets: 1211
    terada said:
    @RiftAmps Thanks for the advice! I must admit that the Princeton does look massively intimidating to me, but it didn't seem to phase my build partner, who has done electronics as part of their physics masters. Would it be that hard that even someone with a bit of experience would be really out of depth?

    To follow a step-by-step layout? Anyone can do that (and they should!)

    To diagnose a problem with no-experience in vacuum-tube audio circuits? Pretty difficult.

    Here's a picture of a Tweed Bandmaster clone home-build that was brought into me for intermittently blowing fuses. Can you find the problem with your current level of knowledge? Can your friend?



    I'm not trying to dampen your enthusiasm, I really want you to have a go but there's a reason most people start with 5E3s (easy to diagnose and work on).

    From experience, every kit-built amp ends up having a few problems. Randall Smith used to walk around his Mesa factory and tell his employees "There are 1000 separate jobs in a guitar amp build, so even if you're 99% accurate that's still 10 things to fix"

    When you note an hour or twos labour, is that for the A1164 or the 5E3? Perhaps it would be the same for both?

    That depends on how many problems you've 'built in' to the amp!

    :)

    Rift Amplification
    Handwired Guitar Amplifiers
    Brackley, Northamptonshire
    www.riftamps.co.uk
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  • thermionicthermionic Frets: 4697
    For a beginner I would suggest an Ampmaker kit, as the instructions are very good. I have thought about doing the Modulus blackface Princeton, but it is a step up in terms of both cost and complexity (reverb and tremolo circuits). Their tweed Champ or Princeton kits would be a better bet I think.
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  • teradaterada Frets: 527
    RiftAmps said:
    terada said:
    @RiftAmps Thanks for the advice! I must admit that the Princeton does look massively intimidating to me, but it didn't seem to phase my build partner, who has done electronics as part of their physics masters. Would it be that hard that even someone with a bit of experience would be really out of depth?

    To follow a step-by-step layout? Anyone can do that (and they should!)

    To diagnose a problem with no-experience in vacuum-tube audio circuits? Pretty difficult.

    Here's a picture of a Tweed Bandmaster clone home-build that was brought into me for intermittently blowing fuses. Can you find the problem with your current level of knowledge? Can your friend?



    I'm not trying to dampen your enthusiasm, I really want you to have a go but there's a reason most people start with 5E3s (easy to diagnose and work on).

    From experience, every kit-built amp ends up having a few problems. Randall Smith used to walk around his Mesa factory and tell his employees "There are 1000 separate jobs in a guitar amp build, so even if you're 99% accurate that's still 10 things to fix"

    When you note an hour or twos labour, is that for the A1164 or the 5E3? Perhaps it would be the same for both?

    That depends on how many problems you've 'built in' to the amp!

    :)

    Thanks @RiftAmps for this. Really puts things into perspective! I definitely can't  :o, my friend might be able to, but I very much doubt that any modern physics course would touch valves so - count me in as converted!

    Having a look at the modulus kit, what is the value of adding the orange drop 715P, F&T caps and CTS pots?

    How do these kits fair quality wise with regard to components?
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