Recommend a good starter DIY kit

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,423
My local amp repair guy is packing up and moving out of state. High rents are driving him out. There is a small number of techs still around, but everyone is old and retiring. That number is only going down.

So I need to get good at repairing stuff on my own. Any good recommendations?

I figured, find a good general electronics book, a good tube amp book, and start with a good kit... but I'm wondering what specifically can meet those needs?

(I know how to solder and know basic circuit electronics and basic electromagnetic physics -- I'm looking more for orientation specifically around tube amps and other audio applications)
 

coldengray

Member
Messages
1,797
There are some great books out there, I would start with Dave Hunter's Amplifier handbook:



Also Rob Robinette has built an incredible site that is full of educational material:

https://robrobinette.com/Amp_Stuff.htm

Bruce Egnater does a really cool class where you build an amp one day and spend another day on educational learning. He also does an advanced class with just learning. I did the amp build class and learned a ton, I'm planning on doing the advanced class this year.

Finally, for your first build start with a Boothill Amps 5F1 Champ kit - cheap but good. TONS of support in the Shock Brothers DIY Amps section of TDPRI.

Once you conquer the Champ, build a 5E3 Deluxe. Once you do that, build a JTM45. Once you do that, move on to something from Fender with Reverb. After that, go nuts!
 

Rick Lee

Member
Messages
11,381
I dove right in and started with the Metro instructions for a '69 100w Plexi, got Merren trannies and most of the other parts from Valvestorm. That model's instructions are the best ones of the Metro kits. I got all the way to hooking up the power source and decided to take it to my local pro and pay him to let me watch him do the rest, testing and correct my mistakes. I learned a lot that way. I did the same with a 50w JMP build a few mos. later. Now I'm just knowledgeable enough to be dangerous. I throw him a lot of business, so he takes my calls when I get into trouble and walks me through it. I wish I had taken the time to learn more about good soldering before I dove into these projects, as cold joints kept popping up and making the amps unreliable. They're all sorted now and I gig with them. I would love to do the Egnater Seminar build class one day.
 

Hulakatt

Has done terrible things for a klondike bar
Gold Supporting Member
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15,176
The tweed Champs are great kits from a simplicity standpoint but working in that tiny, cramped chassis is a pain! Building in a Marshall style head chassis is far easier with more elbow room ;)

The other question you should be asking is what amp do you want to have after you finished building? BTW, BF style Fenders and D*mbles are fairly complicated and probably aren't best for your first build and higher gain amps can be pretty finicky with wire runs and lead dress.

The Dave Hunter book is pretty awesome. I've slowly been building the project amp (2 Stroke) in the final chapter of that book. It's been the World's Slowest Build.
 

coldengray

Member
Messages
1,797
The tweed Champs are great kits from a simplicity standpoint but working in that tiny, cramped chassis is a pain! Building in a Marshall style head chassis is far easier with more elbow room ;)

I actually just finished a Champ kit for a friend and man, it was like building a ship in a bottle compared to a Marshall!
 

IceTre

Member
Messages
895
I recommend the Mission Amps Tweedy Deluxe kit. I built one. The instructions are good, and the owner, Bruce Collins, is a nice guy, and helpful. Plus, the amp sounds great!
 

gkoelling

Member
Messages
17,820
I've had an interest in the 5F2A kit from Mojotone but my hands are so shot I couldn't handle it.

How do the Mojo kits compare with others?
 

coldengray

Member
Messages
1,797
I've had an interest in the 5F2A kit from Mojotone but my hands are so shot I couldn't handle it.

How do the Mojo kits compare with others?

I just finished a Mojo Champ kit for a friend. Mojo kits are ok...the chassis is nice, chrome and very vintage. They send fiberboard with eyelets which isn't as easy as double turrets, or as nice as a modern board...when you start getting 4 components and wire in one eyelet it can get tricky. They send the cheaper Orange Drops, an RCA jack for the speaker connection (wtf?) and overall it's clear they are keeping their costs low wherever possible. The iron is Heyboer which is nice but no center tap for the heaters so you have to do the ol' 100ohm resistors trick which looks messy. Wiring is pushback cloth, most resistors are carbon comps. I would get your cabinet elsewhere, I'm not a fan of Mojo Tweed cabinets. Victoria uses them.
 

keithb7

Member
Messages
1,422
I started about 6 years ago with Dave Hunter's book mentioned above. Then I read Basic Electricity, and Basic Electronics by Neville Nooger and Van Valkenburgh. Then I built a BYOC pedal, a classic phaser. Then I re-read Dave's book again. Then I started with my first amp, a 5E3 from Trinity. It turned out great. Then I built a 5F2A, also an awesome amp. Then came a 5F1, more fun again. Then I re-read more in the Basic Electronics book I mentioned. I had more questions as I built amps, I was grasping things. I then started repairing amps for local musicians. I posted my services free. Parts at actual cost. If they wanted to tip me they could, if they were happy. I got lots of work. I learned more again. My technique got better. More reading, more studying, more doing. I started buying dead vintage Fender amps. I serviced them all. I think about 12 or so vintage Fenders. Some real great amps like '66 DR. 1959 High Power Tweed Twin, 1959 Deluxe, 1964 Bandmaster, 1971 Super Reverb, 1973 Twin Reverb, 1976 Twin Reverb, 1963 Blonde Twin....On and on. I found lots of great amps to fix and sell again. I found some great sources for on-line help when I needed it. I could not have gotten this far without the generous help from others on the internet. I recently built my own 6G2 Princeton. I think to date I am up to about 8 or 9 full amp builds. Maybe 30 or 40 amp repairs or servicing. A few pedals. I am pretty comfortable now servicing my own amps fully. Whatever they need. Over the past 6 years I acquired a tube tester, an oscilloscope, digital signal generator, an ESR cap tester, light bulb limiter, multi-meter, soldering iron, etc. All the stuff I need. It's still just a hobby. I build an amp, then sell it. If I get bored I advertise amp repair services. The pocket change is nice. It's a great hobby. I have no interest in giving up my day job. Today, I'm even building my own pine cabs. My wife is the woodworker. She builds the cabs, I build the amps. One at a time when we feel the desire to build another one. I knew absolutely nothing 6 years ago. I could not even tell you what the differences were between the seemingly long list of Fender Blackface amps. Good luck OP with your journey. My trip ha been awesome and extremely rewarding. I have lots to learn, but I am enjoying every bit of it.
 

neteraser

Member
Messages
1,993
I have lots to learn, but I am enjoying every bit of it.
Wow, that was a great story!!! Thanks for sharing!

Also good luck to the OP! I'd recommend starting from trying to understand Fender Champ's schematics, then Fender Bassman and Marshall 1959. Look for information in books and on the web, including asking for the advice on this forum. On a basic level, it's all not so hard. There was also a couple of videos on YT explaining how a single triode works and then another video about how the Push Pull output stage works. GOOD LUCK!
 

gkoelling

Member
Messages
17,820
I just finished a Mojo Champ kit for a friend. Mojo kits are ok...the chassis is nice, chrome and very vintage. They send fiberboard with eyelets which isn't as easy as double turrets, or as nice as a modern board...when you start getting 4 components and wire in one eyelet it can get tricky. They send the cheaper Orange Drops, an RCA jack for the speaker connection (wtf?) and overall it's clear they are keeping their costs low wherever possible. The iron is Heyboer which is nice but no center tap for the heaters so you have to do the ol' 100ohm resistors trick which looks messy. Wiring is pushback cloth, most resistors are carbon comps. I would get your cabinet elsewhere, I'm not a fan of Mojo Tweed cabinets. Victoria uses them.

Thanks for your input.

What's wrong with Mojo cabs?
 

coldengray

Member
Messages
1,797
Thanks for your input.

What's wrong with Mojo cabs?

They aren't bad, but they aren't great. I've compared one side by side with a boutique builders work and it was pretty clear who made the better cabinet. Just my opinion of course.
 

rockometeramp

Member
Messages
432
Compared one? A lot of companies use MOJO cabs, considering they've built thousands upon thousands, getting one that isn't perfect compared to a boutique builder shouldn't be a deterrent.

Tweed cabs are made with 3/4" finger jointed pine, mojo uses a 1/4" finger joint, then you have a 3/8" Baltic birch baffle with 1/4" birch ledgers, and 1/4" birch back panels. How different is someone going to make one?

A MOJO cab is going to be perfectly fine, if there's any potential problem area, and this includes anybody's cab, it's tolex or tweed not being perfect or coming loose. If you have a problem with a MOJO cab, send it back.

But back to original question, blackface amps are easier due to chassis space, tweed chassis are very narrow, and especially cramped on a champ.
 

keithb7

Member
Messages
1,422
Blackface amps may have a bigger chassis, but the reverb and vibrato equipped models are not as easy to build as any tweed model. Tons of wiring going on in there.
Re Pine cabs: Just because they are 3/4" finger jointed pine and 3/8 baltic birch that does not mean they can't be screwed up and built to
a less than ideal standard. I cannot comment on the Mojotone cabs as I have never used one. Today, building cabs at home, I have come
to realize the skill, patience and good tooling required to build a quality cab.
 

coldengray

Member
Messages
1,797
Compared one? A lot of companies use MOJO cabs, considering they've built thousands upon thousands, getting one that isn't perfect compared to a boutique builder shouldn't be a deterrent.

Tweed cabs are made with 3/4" finger jointed pine, mojo uses a 1/4" finger joint, then you have a 3/8" Baltic birch baffle with 1/4" birch ledgers, and 1/4" birch back panels. How different is someone going to make one?

A MOJO cab is going to be perfectly fine, if there's any potential problem area, and this includes anybody's cab, it's tolex or tweed not being perfect or coming loose. If you have a problem with a MOJO cab, send it back.

So I guess you work for Mojotone?

On Mojotone Tweeds the baffle is painted to hide the poor wood quality and it impacts the tone. The pine is knotty. The lacquer job is passable at best and they don't tint for a vintage look. I didnt compare one that had any problems or Tweed issues. It was just ok, made with low cost in mind.

I know they build other types, brilliant cabs for tons of well know builders but their tweed cabinet is weak, in my opinion. Order a premium Mather Tweed cabinet and be prepared to be blown away by the artistry. I've seen plenty of Mojo Tweeds and plenty of other builders. Mather is the best of them all. Of course that comes with a price, but this is TGP!!
 
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Shiny_Beast

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
11,619
Pre-amp stages are fairly forgiving to dumb mistakes, output sections not so much. Read through some of the DIY forum threads, lot's of great info that may save you time and grief.
 




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