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January 19, 2017
4 min read
When you turn on the tube, you aren’t going to sit there and veg out. You’re going to rock out.
Because, silly kids, tubes aren’t for TVs! They’re for electric guitar amplification!
And what better way to feel good about your sweet vibes than to build your own personalized guitar amp? To know that those beautiful notes are possible because of your own handy work.
This is what it’s all about. Getting your riffs to sound phenomenal and exactly the way you want them. Let’s dive in and find out exactly how to blast out those chords in exactly the right way.
A quick warning: This project involves electricity. Make sure you learn safety measures on how to work with electricity before attempting this project.
What are tubes? They’re tiny vacuums. Spaces where all the air has been sucked out and there is negative pressure.
This keeps combustion from happening when electricity is applied to filaments within the bulb. This is essentially how the original light bulb worked.
The tubes you are are going to use during this build is called tetrodes and triodes. A tetrode has four electrodes inside, each doing something different to direct the electric current.
This is where the amplification happens.
Triodes are used in the preamplification section of the personalized guitar amp. They use three electrodes that do various things with the electricity inside.
To build an amp from scratch, you’re going to need a map. There are plenty of free schematics out there for you to use.
The best way to learn how to build these things is to grab a bunch of schematics and study them. Find the similarities between schematics.
Another way to learn is to get an old tube amp and tear it apart. Look at circuits. See how they flow.
When looking for a good schematic, start with something someone else has built. Don’t try to mix and match when you first start out.
Getting the parts you are going to need for the personalized guitar amp can be a treasure hunt. But it doesn’t have to be super expensive to build a personalized guitar amp.
But you’re going to need some money to build this. It’s not going to be as cheap as going down to the junkyard to grab parts off an old jalopy.
Picking an enclosure, the best enclosure, takes a little bit of consideration.
You need to consider ventilation when looking for a good enclosure. You probably want something with a vent out the top.
You also want to find something with thinner panels as you’re going to mount stuff on the walls of the case.
Don’t go too cheap on this either. You want plenty of room to work. In essence, don’t make building harder than it has to be.
So, if you have enough space, get as big of a block as you can. It doesn’t have to be as small and slick as a Bose speaker.
Depending on heavy your transformers are, you might need a steel enclosure.
No, not the toys you played with as a kid. Audio output transformers.
This is the most expensive part you’ll buy. And the quality of the transformer will affect the performance of your personalized guitar amp.
You can actually find some older transformers for bargain prices. These are actually sometimes better than newer parts.
I guess the “they don’t make them like they used to” still applies to guitar gear.
When picking transformers, pay attention to values and ratings in the schematic. You want to observe the safety specifications.
You can find most other things you need online. You can even find some non-critical parts at your local Radio Shack.
Again, finding parts can be a treasure hunt. If you stick to schematics with common parts, it shouldn’t be too hard to find or order the parts necessary.
If you want rare parts in your personalized guitar amp, you’re could be searching for months to years for your parts.
This is where the creativity really comes in. You should look at photos of amps other people have done to get a feel for how amp chassis should look.
Now, once you’ve picked your layout, you want to review to make sure it’s logical. Components should be wired from input to output.
Seems common sense, but a lot of people don’t use common sense in their daily lives.
A logical flow in your layout means placing consecutive components next to each other whenever you can manage. Your wiring should be short, simple, and neat. Consecutive placement will ensure this.
Before you drill your chassis. Place the components on the iron in a practical and creative way.
After you have the layout the way you want it, mark it out with pencil or marker. You want to mark out all the holes.
Metalwork is a big part of personalized guitar amp creation.
You’ll need a good drill powerful enough to drill through metal. And some WD-40 to keep that drill bit from burning up.
After you’ve drilled for all your components, you have free creative reign to add finish to the chassis.
This means you get to paint it however you like.
Make sure you apply primer if you’re going to paint. And then wait a few days after you paint it up before wiring stuff in.
Here is where you need to pay close attention to the schematics. You will need confidence that it’s all going to work out in the end even if you get frustrated.
As much as you can, wire directly between components. If you did your layout well, then wiring should be simple.
Do exactly what the schematic says in regards to wiring. There are only schematics, no creative experimentation is allowed in this step.
Deciding to create a personalized guitar amp yourself is a big step in a very awesome direction. You won’t regret it or ever turn back once you do.
If you’ve built an amp before, let us know about your favorite schematics in the comments below. And, as always, don’t stop rockin’!
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