Start with a kit. BYOC or one of the other similar sites. Don’t be shy about asking questions, especially on sites like DIYstompboxes. It’s a fun hobby, you’ll gain confidence about your other equipment, and you can build pedals easily equal to the best. Don’t use lead free solder—it is more difficult to learn with, and you can set up a small fan to waft the fumes away.
I have built many volume boosts, fuzzes, and several types of utility pedals such as voltage drains, momentary feedback loops, etc.
I do not know much of anything about circuits, I cannot read an actual schematic, and I only know minimally what each component sort of does but I dont have any inkling of a clue as to why any component goes where it does in a circuit!
I just follow turret board builds I found on Pintrest, if I dont have an exact components value I just grab something as close to the value that I can scrounge up.
I've been very pleased with some builds, while some I got very upset and could never get to work. Trial & error. I imagine even professional builders go through the motions. Give it a shot, the worst is that you come back here to ask for some help.....best of luck!!!
Seems like it’s about learning a relatively simple skill—soldering—and then attention to simple detail, and then developing the dexterity to work in a tiny, cramped area, and not being intimidated by learning a new ‘language.’
Seriously—join the reddit DIYPedals community. So much inspiration, information, advice, and a super friendly community that will pretty immediately talk you through any question.
I say, go ahead and dive in, it's a lot of fun and very satisfying to play something you built yourself. But I also suggest getting a book on basic analog electronics to learn what those transistors and other components do. You will learn how to not just build stuff, but also how to modify circuits to your tastes. It also will help tremendously when you have to troubleshoot something that doesn't work right.
I recommend kits to start, basic circuits like boosts and fuzzes. I have built several kits from Fuzz Dog and they are really good, plus his customer service is excellent, and you get matched transistors for things like fuzz. Join the DIYstompoxes forum too, lots of great people who can help when you need it. It's great fun, good luck!
I see a lot of tips to get an 'old board' to practice desoldering components before building a kit. With over 20 years experiance I find old boards often a bear to work with. The type of flow (bath) solder they use is terrible to pull out with solder-wick or a vac plunger. Use good 60/40 lead solder and buy it fresh. Five year old solder is bad and should be tossed. And don't get frustrated messing with manufactured boards, the kit's hole-through style is much more forgiving.
Soldering the board is not hard. Anyone can do it with a little practice and the proper tools.
More difficult is the mechanical part of building the box and fitting the pcb into it. You have to drill several holes of different sizes and install the hardware that connects to the board without shorting them out while getting a solid fit of the parts.
A single knob booster pedal is a good place to start, and you can find a kit with the holes already drilled in the box.
If you get stalled, go to the DIYstompboxes forum and ask the nice people for help, and they will be glad to give you advice on how to get your project working.