Project Madness (noob plays with electronics)

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Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
edited November 29 in Making & Modding
Hi folks

Having succumbed to a moment of madness yesterday I've picked up a PCB for a pedal from a post on this forum.  My GAS fund was wiped out by 'real life' recently so instead of looking longingly at a guitar I can't afford I'm going to divert my attention to playing with hot solder and tiny components.  I did think about building a guitar from a kit but my work space for that would be the garage which has no power and it's almost December so that's not really going to be fun.

I've a feeling that I've totally over estimated both my knowledge and ability but that's probably what's going to make this interesting.  Either I will crash and burn giving you all some entertainment on the way or I'll get something working eventually and if that happens then the rest of you really have no excuse not to try it at some point.

I do have a basic understanding of electronics but nothing more than could be achieved from a few hours of research.  I can follow a schematic even if I don't understand it and I can identify components but that's about it.  I've not soldered anything meaningful for about 30 years and never on an actual PCB.  Oh and my hands are not as steady as they were 30 years ago and my eyesight isn't as good but hey, I do enjoy a challenge!

The plan will be to update this thread as things progress, good or bad. 

The next step is to investigate a couple of things I'm not sure about.  Those being the addition of a foot switch in relation to the actual board and how to bypass the board when the pedal is 'off' which I think are actually connected questions.

EDIT:  Isn't the internet wonderful.  I've already solved the 'switch and bypass' questions in about 15 minutes.  So now to build up a list of components and to source them.
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    I've now source 99% of the components (forgot all about the toggle switch Doh!) so now we wait for several packages to arrive before anything can happen.

    I've actually ordered a few more components than strictly necessary either due to getting packs being only slightly more expensive than single components or because I wanted spares of the more heat sensitive ones!

    I've not got a case or knobs yet as I intend to see how viable 3D printing will be.

    Total so far running at £26.67 which isn't too bad.
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  • GagarynGagaryn Frets: 1469
    Buy one of these - makes things easier. It's like having young mans eyes again!

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07229CF7X/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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  • randellarandella Frets: 1926
    Rule no.1: never, ever work when you're tired.

    Have fun - the very first pedal I built was for my CDT GCSE coursework in the early 90's from circuits printed in a nasty-looking paperback book.  Treble boost, drive, and tremolo all in a case that was like an elongated Marshall Guv'nor.

    The most fun bit of schoolwork I ever did, and I got a special award for it too (don't tell Jim where I got the idea for the design :) )
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Well the first of 3 deliveries has turned up.  So I now have the vast majority of the components required.  Obviously I've forgotten some such as a toggle switch and a battery holder / dc input connection but hey.  In the grand scheme of things this isn't a big issue.

    I also have access to a 'helping hand' thing which has a huge magnifier on it so that might help me actually see what I'm doing.

    As this is much more a learning experience than anything else I'm very tempted to split the build into two parts.  First build the 'connection' side of things with the power supply, jack sockets and foot switch as a discrete component which just exposes +ve, Gnd, Input and Output as connectors.  Then build the actual 'pedal' as a separate box with the same connections exposed.  Whilst the result will not be very compact it means I'll have the more mechanical side of things as an aid to testing any future builds without the need to keep sourcing those parts for each pedal.

    So now I wait for the other two deliveries to turn up whilst investigating how on earth to create a proper 3d model for printing the boxes and the knobs.


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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    First circuit board also turned up this morning and I've spent lunchtime creating a 3D printed knob (ooh er missus, titter ye not!).  It works fine but is a little loose however I'm sure I can fix that next week.

    By Monday I should have all the parts I ordered and be ready to start putting some things together.  At this stage I'm still filled with enthusiasm.  I'll leave ordering the missing parts for a while just in case I need replacements for anything I blow up during the soldering process!
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Got home after a guitar lesson, which always puts me in a good mood, to find the last of the ordered stuff has arrived. So hopefully Monday should see some actual progress. 

    Also need to make sure I practice cos this lesson I've got something that's played at 145bpm which is way above this old blokes thinking speed!
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  • robertyroberty Frets: 666
    Good luck mate. I'm hardly an expert but I've built about six kits now.

    I started by modding some DS1s, you can pick them up used for cheap and it'll get you used to desoldering and soldering components. You can get them sounding nice with soft LED clipping and a flatter EQ. It's cool to hear how different component values affect the sound 

    @randella is right, the only times I've screwed up royally is when I've tried to finish too much in one session and kept going even though I'm knackered
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Everything has arrived (that I ordered) so here we are before I've had a chance to mess anything up.



    Now I'm not sure if it's my IT background or just the fear of failure but I've decided that I'm going to build all of this in as many discrete parts as possible.  That way I can just keep swapping stuff about as I experiment.

    (Notice the green 3d printed knob that was Fridays partial success!)

    Now I've not held a soldering iron in about 30 years so I decided to start with things that are not particularly heat sensitive.  So I did a little on the connections for the foot switch.



    Not very neat, but at least I've done something.  I've checked most of the joints and they seem to be ok despite looking a mess.  Really need some important electrical parts like blue-tac (to hold stuff whilst I solder) and masking tape (to label up the connecting wires).

    Slightly anti climatic but hey, gotta start somewhere right!
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    The rest of my spare time today has been trying to find a suitable box to print so I have something to mount everything to.  I didn't really find what I wanted already out there on the web and attempts to alter a 3D model didn't end in success.  I'm not sure I want to spend too much time on this however as just getting a proper metal box for the finished article seems like a better idea.

    However I've queued up a print of something close for tonight.  It will not be the final version but should allow me to keep building things and have something to attach them to.  Assuming of course what gets printed is not a complete disaster.

    I've also ordered the parts I forgot so add another £5.04 to the running total.  That makes £31.71 spent so far.  To be fair that is now 4 different orders so I'm paying a lot of postage unnecessarily.  Just getting a full kit from one place would have been cheaper but it's all part of the experiment.
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Box printing was a miserable failure.  Something went wrong with the print and it lifted from the printer bed causing some very artistic warping but not something that is usable as a box.

    At this stage I'm giving up on the idea of 3d printing the box as it's just not worth the time I'm pouring into it.  Especially when the proper answer is an easily available metal box. 

    For the purposes of this experimental build I've stolen a small plastic box from the kitchen to hack about with and just be able to mount things for testing.
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Little bit of progress this lunchtime.



    From what I can tell the switch seems to be operating but until I get the power to it and an LED attached it's not finished.
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Minds immeasurably superior to mine figured out what was wrong with the printer so this morning we are here:





    Now obviously my desire to have everything in modules that plug in and out means I have far too little space in the standard sized enclosure but I knew that was going to happen.  Hopefully the last few missing electronic bits will arrive today and I have a couple of hours set aside tomorrow and Friday for more development.

    There is no hole next to the foot switch for the LED to poke through which I would like so maybe I need to attack the prototype with a drill........

    Slow progress but given that I'm new to all of this I'm calling it 'so far so good' at this point.
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Right, the first part seems to be a success.  All I've really achieved is the more mechanical side of a pedal.  I have a footswitch that accepts power and either allows the signal to bypass if the power is not on or provides power and jack in/out signals to connectors when it is.



    All wrapped up in a tidy 3D printed box which, to be fair, seems strong enough to happily cope with reasonable use.



    I couldn't be bothered to reprint the box with an LED hole so I just hacked away until I had one.  As you can see from the pic it's not exactly round or neat but just getting it in the right place was good enough.

    If nothing else I have achieved a box that can easily be used to test actual effects builds which is something.

    It's not all good news however as a small soldering accident on the main effects pcb has left the IC socket looking more than a little dodgy.  I'm not sure if it's damaged enough to stop it from working but time will tell.
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Managed to get the resistors and capacitors on the main board this morning.



    Starting to worry because whilst that side of the board doesn't look too bad the underside isn't the neatest in the world.  Trying to keep the board stable during soldering is proving a problem.  The 'helping hand' is pretty useless as it either doesn't grip very well or is unstable itself.  I'll carry on but I'll not be surprised if things don't actually work. 

    On reflection sourcing all the components myself might have been a bit ambitious for a first build.  It's not been any cheaper because of needing to do multiple orders and it's added a level of uncertainty to the assembly.  I also think a build needing fewer components might have been a better starting place as well.

    Probably not going to get any more assembly time this week so tune in next week for another thrilling instalment.
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  • Adam_MDAdam_MD Frets: 2999
    edited December 7
    Use some blu tac to hold the board.  Best pedal making tip I ever got.   Big old blob of it and put the board facedown it’ll be super stable.  

    You can can also use small bits to hold bigger components in place like board mounted toggle switches or your diodes unless your socketing them.  
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    Adam_MD said:
    Use some blu tac to hold the board.  Best pedal making tip I ever got.   Big old blob of it and put the board facedown it’ll be super stable.  

    You can can also use small bits to hold bigger components in place like board mounted toggle switches or your diodes unless your socketing them.  
    I've been using Blu Tac to hold the components in place but I think using a lot more to make the board stable is the way forward. I'll try that next time.  Thanks
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  • Gagaryn said:
    Buy one of these - makes things easier. It's like having young mans eyes again!

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07229CF7X/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Where do you put your leg??
    Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life
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  • Paul7926Paul7926 Frets: 150
    edited December 10
    Right, the effects board is now assembled.  All I need to do is wire up the 4 pots and that will be everything.  I have to say that I'm really tired this morning so I sort of gave up rather than finishing everything because I was making too many mistakes.  I'm really not sure about some of the soldering to be honest but I knew it was going to be a learning experience.  Pin 1 on the IC connector looks very damaged so I'll be surprised if this actually functions.


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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 19337
    I am the juice of four limes.
    Trading Feedback

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