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GAS antidote: amp building

Travst

Member
Messages
7,894
I studied up on some forums like 18watt.com for a few months, read Dave Hunter's book on tube amps, and then ordered up the parts for an 18-watt of my own. I also practiced a bit by doing some mods on a couple of my other amps, such as adding a push/pull gain mod on my BF Vibrochamp and doing some of Steve A's Crate mods on a V50.

I made a couple of mistakes on the amp, but a buddy looked it over and fixed them easily. I've found that it's very satisfying to do this sort of work and I don't feel the GAS as easily. My next project is a 1.5 watt Firefly in an old Epiphone Tube 10 chassis.
 

GAD

Wubbalubbadubdub
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
14,636
not only that, but during the time you'd be building it, you could be PLAYING--a much more attractive proposition, IMHO
That doesn't bother me as much because I love to build. There's a certain zen for me that comes with a project like this...

GAD
 

rmconner80

Cantankerous Luddite
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,923
Are you nuts?
Building amps just gives me MORE gas.....I've built several for myself and others and I NEED to build MORE! What else can I build...hahhahahha:mob

Yeah me too. I have a list of like 5 amps to build. I can't do it cause it would cost me $5000!! And I've already got a closet full of amps I built.
 

MKB

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,209
I've been building amps since 1981, and it is indeed a fine hobby. When you learn what you are doing, you can save a TON of money by using old parts out of scrapped amps and equipment. Your local hamfest will become your best friend.

Another side benefit of building amps is that you will learn how to fix them. And nothing is quite as cool as buying a blown amp on ebay for pennies on the dollar, replacing a $0.05 component, and have it come alive. Play it for awhile, then sell at a huge profit. I LOVE buying dead amps on ebay!

I sometimes build or modify an amp or stompbox to copy a boutique item, as we don't have any stores around here that carries such items, and it is easier finding schematics then finding the boutique items to play. But when I try the clone out and like what it does, I won't buy the boutique item as I already have a clone. Very hypocritical...
 

siore

Member
Messages
326
Anyone bending their own chassis to shape? Or using oddball materials? There's this one guy I know who uses a piece of plywood and some nails for a turret board. :cool:
 

WesKuhnley

Member
Messages
2,241
Anyone bending their own chassis to shape? Or using oddball materials? There's this one guy I know who uses a piece of plywood and some nails for a turret board. :cool:
Wood is a terrible insulator. Your friend will have issues with any circuit made on a piece of wood, now or later on down the line.
 

MKB

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,209
Anyone bending their own chassis to shape? Or using oddball materials? There's this one guy I know who uses a piece of plywood and some nails for a turret board. :cool:
I've bent my own chassis several times, but it is an extreme pain in the a-- if you don't have the right tools (at least a good sheet metal brake/bender). But if I had access to the tools I'd make my own chassis every time. You can get exactly what you want, out of the correct material, and it's way cheaper than buying a prebent chassis.

I recall seeing the interior of some boutique amps (Two Rocks maybe?) that had funny colored formica as circuit board material. That might work OK, but you have to be careful because if the darker or black material is colored with carbon, you will have a semi-conductive PCB, which is a BAD thing.

The most ninja thing I've done in amp building is to rewind the secondary of a power transformer to get a custom voltage winding. It's not as hard as you might think, provided you can find a unpotted transformer to disassemble, and use the correct calculations.

You can also make a fairly accurate looking Plexi amp control panel using 1/16" plexiglass, printing your text onto gold card stock with a copier, then gluing the card stock onto the plexi using spray adhesive. I've also used gold string from a fabric shop placed into heat shrink tubing to make very convincing looking Marshall gold piping.
 

theHoss

Member
Messages
1,248
I had a similar experience. I wanted to learn more about amps and their inner workings. I was lucky enough to have a builder here on TGP take me under his wing. I purchased a Mojo Tweed Deluxe and built it while hanging out with him. He gave me a quick soldering lesson and the rest was up to me. Obviously he would answer questions if I had them. Once is was finished I was blown away at how good it sounded. It took pedals perfectly, easy setup, and super portable. I think I might have gotten lucky that it met my needs as perfectly as it did, but my amp GAS has ended....at least temporarily........

The build took me about 4-5 days of hanging out at my buddy's shop. It was a great experience. I would highly recommend it.
 

Drifting

Member
Messages
1,050
:BOUNCE
The Allen Accomplice head is $1,499. The 2x12 is $1,899!
The Allen Classic 10 is $799.

The Metro 100 Watt Plexi is $1,099

I can buy real boutique amps on the used market for these prices.

I understand that they use really good parts, and I understand that R&D must be paid for, not to mention paying someone to source the parts for us, but man.. This doesn't look like $1000 worth of "stuff" to me:



I guess what it really shows me is the value of amps like Dr. Z.

Please understand I'm not bashing these companies or anyone who builds. Like I said I really would love to build a kit, but financially it doesn't seem to make sense to me.

GAD
You have to include the instructions that are well thought out enough for an electronics novice to use, they must have taken a long time to put to together.

1000$ for a real deal plexi is a great deal by me.
 

Fifthstone

Member
Messages
2,983
Excellent post. I built a 5F1 with a little help and it's a great amp. I tend to get a little freaked out about the whole grounding thing. I've read about star grounds, ground busses, etc. and start getting nervous. I've been working on a 5E5A build for the longest time and just stop myself once I've done a dry fit of the board components. I know I just need to bite the bullet and do it, but keep thinking I'm going to screw something up.

But the idea of being able to hand pick components and pull it all together is thrilling. But I think if I ever got really good at it, the GAS to build more would be even more relentless than the gas to buy new gear.
 

epluribus

Member
Messages
9,170
For an alternative way to learn to build, snag an inexpensive single-ended tube amp, preferably an old non-PCB one, and mod the daylights out of it. By the time you're done, you'll have nothing left but (most) of the chassis. :)

--Ray
 

skipm45

Member
Messages
297
About 20 years ago I was walking down the street and I heard a loud noise followed by a blinding flash of light. That was my head popping out of my ass...and I finally started to build/refurb/mod amps/effects/guitars. I've bought many amps since then but I love creating new sounds on my workbench.
Right now I'm waiting for my chassis blank to come in for the 5E3 Fender Deluxe tweed that I'm building right now. The board is finished and I'm anxious to mount the pots, sockets, etc and get this thing up and going. The beauty is that YOU choose the cab materials, the individual components; transformers, caps, resistors, pots, on and on. And GAS is relieved in a MUCH cheaper way than buying an amp. $3K seems to be an un-outrageous sum of money for an amp today! If I spend $700 on my Deluxe it will be because it is holding great transformers and a Celestion Blue, not because it is the "amp-of-the-month" according to what other people said. I can make changes and mods to the amp all day long, because I built it and I understand it. And you'll find that the more you learn about electronics and the physics of sound, you'll look at playing the guitar differently too.
It's like when I took my first calculus class in college. My prof told me that I would never look at the world in the same way again, after I learned calculus. He was right. Build an amp! Learn to solder, it's not rocket science! Just be careful and use your head for more than keeping your ears seperated! You'll love it and you will find great help in many places.
If I can help anyone get started, feel free to pm me. Building is a lost art in our throw away society and there's only one way to keep it alive. Good luck and God bless.

5E3 board:
+1 PremiumPlus
I was "struck by lightning" a few years ago after modding my own amps to find "the tone" .

I have no desire to buy someone else's amp now, since I feel like I can build anything I want at a fraction of the cost of a purchased boutique amp, and have a lot more rewarding experience in the process. Yes, a premium kit is expensive, but that is a gateway to learning and building your own from a barebones kit (like a weber) or a bunch of purchased parts.

BTW PremiumPlus, that's a beautiful turret board you built.

Skip
www.skipzcircuits.com
 

shark_bite

Member
Messages
5,189
I've gotten into amp modding and building in the past couple years. I've enjoyed some quality time down in my workshop building, troubleshooting and modding my amps. And these things get used every weekend on gigs as well. I've learned a ton about what makes amps sound the way they do and how to get them working the way I want.

After my latest, most radical foray into the art, I've discovered another benefit of this hobby: I don't have GAS pains for amps anymore. Finishing a radical mod, plugging in, and playing for the first time gives me the same rush I get when UPS delivers a new amp. My last rush only cost $20 in parts and about 6 hours of my time. I've now got an amp as satisfying as any I've owned.
Easy for you to say - you built fantastic sounding amps and your playing isn't lacking because of it, at least, not lacking enough that anyone else would notice or care.
 

PremiumPlus

Member
Messages
1,086
+1 PremiumPlus
I was "struck by lightning" a few years ago after modding my own amps to find "the tone" .

I have no desire to buy someone else's amp now, since I feel like I can build anything I want at a fraction of the cost of a purchased boutique amp, and have a lot more rewarding experience in the process. Yes, a premium kit is expensive, but that is a gateway to learning and building your own from a barebones kit (like a weber) or a bunch of purchased parts.

BTW PremiumPlus, that's a beautiful turret board you built.

Skip
[URL="http://www.skipzcircuits.com"]www.skipzcircuits.com[/URL]
Thanks Skip! I'm waiting for the chassis to get here, I can't wait to wire it in and see what it sounds like. Should be any day now...
 

billm408

Member
Messages
3,015
One of those things I'd like to do but just don't trust myself- I'm soldering challenged!

Local amp builder Val King is starting an "amp building workshop" now so I'm thinking I'm going to take the plunge as long as I can have someone who knows what the hell they're doing guiding me through the process.
 

Travst

Member
Messages
7,894
No need to be soldering challenged. There are some really good Youtube videos on the subject if you haven't checked them out already.
 

Mickey Shane

apolitical
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,362
I've built 2. A 5B3 12W and a 5F6a 45W. The next one will be 100W. I'd like to do my take on one of those 6 preamp tube Peavey designs. Gain-city!

The Deluxe I built out of scrounged materials, on an old amp chassis of unknown origin. I also hand built and tolexed the cab. That one didn't cost me too much.

For the Bassman, I located and purchased top quality parts, the cab, and the speakers. I bought the chassis and iron used from TPGer Mr. Coffee. That was really my only good deal. I think I ended up spending around $1,200. So I ended up with a Vicky styled hand-wired amp for a few hundred more than a Fender R.I.

I did shock the bejeezus out of myself troubleshooting the Bassman. I touched a really hot side of the standby switch with my right hand that made me throw a full spool of solder across the room with my left hand (across the chest?). I sat there for a few moments trying to decide if I was still alive or not. Obviously, I was OK, except for my newfound fear of electricity. <BE CAREFUL!>

I know better. It's just that I was getting too excited about getting it to work properly.
That will never happen again. Always take your time.
 

Richard Guy

Member
Messages
1,182
For those that want to get started, there are plenty of resources available.

For absolute beginners, there's the Guytronix Gilmore, a 1/2 watt deal with 2 tubes, 2 pots and a total of about 25 solder joints. Directions included. The process is easy but the end result is an amp that is not very useful.

Allen and Metro are two kit suppliers that provide premium grade kits with full instructions. All you need is the ability to follow directions and work carefully. The end result is a top-of the line amp that is ready to gig.

Ceriatone and Weber have a variety of offerings. AFAIK, they do not provide step-by-step instructions, but supply layouts.

The next step is to source your own parts. You save a lot of dough, but need to do more work to get the parts you need together.
Dear Wil,

Thanks for your mention of the Gilmore Jr. Those who would like to see reams of Customer feed-back about the usefullness and killer tone please visit my web site. I answer out of product pride, no slams. To each their own.
 

VJF

Member
Messages
1,547
I'm getting ready to build my first amp - a Mission Amps 5E3 and can't wait to start!

I really think I would love to do this full time.
 




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