Top view, showing the raised top tier and tidy
This design accommodates one Wah-wah pedal (or other similarly proportioned expression pedal) and up to eight standard Boss sized stomp boxes. The design is scalable so you can make is big or as small as you like, depending on how many pedals you want your board to accommodate.
With the exception of the wah pedal, the pedals are mounted in two rows, with the top tier being slightly higher than the bottom tier. This means you can engage the top tier of pedals without worrying about touching and moving the control dials of the lower row of pedals. It also means there is space underneath the top tier to run cable routes, and to house a power supply. The intention is to have the cables routed as tidily as possible underneath the boards, out of harms way.
Plenty of room for more pedals.
You will need the following items to build the board:
- 6mm MDF. Available from hardware stores. Get a big enough piece to make the all the parts in the plan.
- Saw. For sawing out the sections.
- Plane. To plane down the edges of your saw marks and make the nice and smooth.
- Sandpaper. To sand off any rough edges.
- Wood glue. To glue wood.
- Large (19mm) hole drill bit. To drill holes for cable routes.
- Paint. I used black gloss. You can use whatever you like, but I think black sets off the attractive colours of the pedals rather nicely.
- Other woodworking paraphernalia. Set square, pencil, ruler etc.
- Patch cables. Get the best ones you can afford. The quality of your signal is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Cheap £2 patch cables will hiss like an angry hissing snakey thing. You need shielded, soldered ones. If you're handy with a soldering iron you can make your own if you buy all the bits at Maplin (UK) or Radio Shack (US).
- Power supply. There are various options available. You can of course choose to power your pedals with batteries, but this means you will be continually replacing them, and probably having to remove your pedals from the board to do so. A normal Boss 200mA AC power adapter will power 2 or three pedals with the right cables. If you need more than 200mA you will need a more powerful AC adapter such as the Dinosaur DPS-108 (around £40) or the VoodooLabs Pedal Power2. This is probably the best one available, because each of the 8 power outputs are separate circuits, which means you won't get ground loops which means you won't get humming or hissing. It costs £160 though. Ouch. You can also get a supply for up to five pedals from Maplin Electronics for £19.99. (Thanks to Kevin O'Shea who kindly mailed me with this advice.) I use a "Power Bank" effects pedal power supply that feeds five pedals, and cost me about £20 off ebay. It works fine. The 5 power leads that came with it were too short though, so I had to buy longer ones.
- Velcro. Hook and loop sides. You will need this to secure your pedals to the board. I used stuff that came in a roll that already had glue on the blank side, like sticky tape. This was was easy to use. (HOwever, I hae since found that the Velcro is stonger than the glue on the back of the velcros tape. This means that when you pull the pedal off the board, you the two sides of the Velcro stick together, the glue rips off instead. I am currently experimenting with Sticky Tabs!)
End view. Note the cable coming out of
the wah, going into a hole. It reappears
at the other end, going into the DS-1.
- Print out the plan first. This has got all the measurements you will need on it. Please note however, it is not to scale.
- Cut out all the pieces from your big board of mdf. Plane and sand down the rough edges to make it all nice.
- Glue the upright pieces on to the base piece. Hold them in place while they dry with small squares of wood. Don't try to rush it and do anything else until the glues is set hard.
- Glue on the two top pieces. Let the glue dry.
- Get your effects pedals, and lay them out on the board where you want them to be. The order is important, but there does not seem to be a general consensus about what order is best. Experiment, and see what you like. You can also read my article about what I consider to be the best order in which to place effects pedals.
- Work out and mark where your cable routes are going to be. On my board, I did not drill any holes in the bottom tier, partly because there is no room underneath it to run any cables, but also because there is a convenient gap between the top and bottom tiers, which means you can tuck the patch cables from your bottom tier neatly underneath the top tier. On the top tier I drilled holes so that 90 degree jacks pointing straight down would go directly down through the board. You can see this clearly on the second photo on this page.
- Drill holes for your cable routes. Smooth down the rough edges with file and sandpaper.
- Paint the board. If you are using gloss paint, you will need several coats to get a nice finish. Don't rush it, and let the paint dry between coats, or you will cock it up.
Cut out and stick appropriate sized pieces of velcro to the bottom of your pedals. Stick the corresponding bits of velcro in the right places on the pedal board.
- Install your power supply in the gap underneath the second tier. This should also be velcroed down.
- Put all your cables though the cable routes, including your power cables, and stick your pedals down with velcro.
- Plug in, switch on and rock!
All finished and ready to go.
It is easy to imagine how you could change the proportions of this pedal board to accommodate any number of pedals. You could make it longer or shorter, or even add more tiers if you like. Here are some other ideas I had to take it further:
- Build a box or flight case to keep the board and your pedals safe while it is travelling.
- Fit a neon blue strip underneath the top tier. You could use the kind that super-sad nerds buy to adorn the inside of the very nerdy transparent PC cases. You could even line the inside with mirror board to bounce the blue light everywhere! This would look cool, and would mean you would never lose your pedals on a dark stage. Alternatively you could fit a thin swan neck type lamp to illuminate your pedals.
My collection of pedals
Here is a list of my pedals. I will not review them here, but instead I have provided links to Harmony Central, which has lots of very useful reviews from a variety of people who own the pedals.
In order of appearance in the effects chain: (And yes I know it's different in the pictures on this page.)
- Toadworks Death Rattle II (Overdrive / distortion and separate boost.)
- Boss DS-1 (Distortion.)
- Cry Baby (Wah wah.)
- MXR Commande Stereo Chorus
- Boss DD-6 Digital Delay
- Danelectro Tuna Melt (Tremolo.)
Thanks to Alex "Slippers" du Pré the sire of the firstborn son, and provider of great craftsmanship, counsel, tools and facilities.