DIY Mods

seismic luke-1x12TR speaker cab to amp cab

Seismic Speaker Cab Becomes Amp Cab For Laney Tube Combo

Laney Cub 12R gets a new home

amp cab conversion

conversion done

Ever since I found out the Laney was basically made of cardboard (read about it here) it’s been buggin the shit out of me. So I fixed it. It would take too long to build a custom amp cab from scratch so I decided to convert an existing one to fit the Laney. And I found a perfect cab to use: Seismic Luke-1x12TR. These are solid built cabs made from 1/2″ birch plywood. It was too deep for an amp cab so I reduced the depth by 6″ and it was as close to perfect as you can get. I was originally going to keep the factory orange Tolex but in the process of peeling it back to make the cuts it got a bit stretchy from the heat gun so it was all goofy looking. No problem. I had some snakeskin left from the Laney recover and removing the rest from the Laney was a breeze since the thing was cardboard it just pulled right off. After some clever cutting and fitting it was done. It turned out to be a little heavier than the original by about 2 pounds and it feels rock solid. The original Laney steel mesh back was a tricky fit because of the angled offset around the power cord and extension speaker jack, but I got it in there with a solid panel on the lower half and about 4″ of mesh above that. And I managed to keep my transformer cooling fans undisturbed. I rear-loaded the Celestion V-Type and I love it! I still have some fitting to do on the solid half panel but it’s minor. Now when I look at it I don’t see a cardboard shoe box, instead I see an honest to goodness for real amplifier. The thing is that it never sounded bad, in fact it sounded awesome but it sounds even better now. Warmer and fuller. But just knowing what was under the tolex created a mental thing that I just couldn’t get past no matter how hard I tried. The new box stands a little taller too and it just looks good. Actually the Seismic came with a Celestion G12L which I might use in the Laney amp cab as an extension speaker, I’m just not sure if the cardboard thing will bother me in that application too. We’ll see. All in all it was $80 and two days well spent.

amp cab back

diy modding stomp box layourt

DIY Modding First Time Tips

So you want to get into diy modding your own gear

You’ve probably seen the forum conversations of dudes talking about modding their own gear or even building some themselves (like stomp boxes) and you think you’d like to get into some of that diy modding stuff too but don’t know how to get started. If you’re experienced in electronics then you don’t really need this article because you already know how to get going. But if you DON”T have knowledge or experience this post might help.

First, let’s define diy modding as it relates to music gear. It’s simple, Do-It-Yourself modifications to a piece of your gear. It applies to repairs as well. Another term you’ll hear a lot is “hot rodding”. It’s all basically the same thing: making modifications to your gear to change the behavior or function hopefully for the better.

diy modding solder station

Aoyue 469

Ok, before you jump in there are a few things to be aware of. First, you can learn to do these things as long as you can learn to use the tools properly. Soldering irons are the single most used tool in the diy modding world when it comes to music gear. You absolutely must be able to competently solder. If you need to learn there are a shitload of good websites that will help you and videos on youtube will give you a visual. You could teach yourself while doing some actual modding but you’ll end up with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t work because of cold solder joints, solder bridges, and of course burnt components. Save yourself the heartache and learn to solder first.

 strip board or vero board for diy modding

Vero board or strip board

If you know nothing about electronic circuits and components you can still mod or build by simply paying attention on the DIY sites and reading the comments because you will learn a ton of useful info there. And of course you can use google to find information. You should learn how to read capacitor and resistor codes etc. There are a bunch of places with PDF downloadable capacitor charts and resistor color charts so you should get one or two. And you don’t have to read a schematic because most of these pedal builds are laid out for Vero board (or stripboard). And the layouts show you everything you need to know.

Once that’s out of the way you need a first project, preferably one that you can afford to screw up. Because no matter how well prepared you are there is a good chance your first build will fail. But that’s ok because it’s all part of the learning process so I suggest a simple stomp box, one with not a million components. The EarthQuaker Devices Speaker Cranker is a great first build. (I’ll link to it at the end of the article) It has minimal components and the layout is easy to follow. I came up with a neat trick to help a first time modder avoid some of the more aggravating things that come with learning this stuff and there’s a link to the article at the end of this one.

On the other hand, you may decide to start with your guitar and maybe change or rewire the pickups or volume and tone pots or the switch, and this is a good place to start. but until you get really good with a soldering iron just make sure to cover the guitar around the area your working on so you don’t drop any hot solder on it. Hot solder goes right through the finish.

As far as your amp goes you should hold off on that until you get really good at soldering and you have taken the time to learn about working around high voltages because tube amps have it and it can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll leave a link to some good info on amps and how to safely work on them.

picks used for diy modding

Dental Picks are worth their weight in gold

The last thing is tools. You’re going to need them. I recommend a decent solder station or at the very least a decent iron. I like a station because they have adjustable temps and usually a solder dispenser. A great first solder station is the The Aoyue 469 soldering Station. It’s a complete unit for about $35.  Of course there are various hand tools also like small wire cutters, pliers, drill and drill bits, dental pick etc. I suggest you grab a couple sets of locking forceps. These things are a lifesaver when soldering in a tight space. Keeps you from burning your fingers with the iron. That really hurts.

So if you’re good with all that’s been said you should give it a go. It’s fun, it’s challenging and it will give you a real sense of accomplishment every time you plug in a newly built stomp box, crank up the guitar, slam a power chord and Holy Shit the freakin’ thing works! And that NEVER gets old.

Links:

Amplifier tech  Aiken

Guitar FX Layouts Speaker Cranker Layout

Previous Article with tips for first timers

Soldering Stations  Aoyue   Weller

Download a capacitor chart   Capacitor and resistor charts

animated celestion v type

Cub 12R Gets a New Celestion V Type

Heard some demo clips of the Celestion V Type 8Ω speaker and really like what I heard. In the demos it sounded like a good cross section of a Vintage 30 and a Greenback and maybe something

celestion v type loudspeaker

else as well. So at the price they are going for on Amazon I grabbed one.  $97.00 and got it same day delivery for free (if you’re going to buy online it’s the only way to go). Yanked out the old and tossed in the new. It sounds good. Not quite great but good. It just sounds a tad stiff but that should soften up after it’s broken in. I’ll update after that happens. It has a pretty even response across the entire spectrum and the breakup is smooth and the Celestion V Type

celestion v type installed in laney cub 12r

has just enough high end chime for my taste. It really seems to like my EQD Crimson Drive overdrive too. And the mids are juicy enough to produce a sweet “honey” element that I really dig. Power rating is 70 watts and Sensitivity is 98dB so it’s not as loud as it’s kin which bothers me not in the slightest. All in all it’s just a really good speaker that works across multiple styles and is a perfect fit for the Laney. I’d give it 8 out of 10 stars but that may change after break-in. As always YMMV.

Laney Cub 12R Hot Transformer Solution

Laney Cub 12R diy mod

click for larger view

I had some doubts about this little combo since I discovered the cab is made of compressed cardboard or some shit which was a shocker (read about it here). But I love the tones I’m getting out of it so I’m hanging in to improve the quality as much as I can. So after recovering the cab I added external voltage test points and drilled a hole directly above the bias trim pot so I can bias without pulling the chassis (I use a bias probe to read current). I made a wooden trim pot adjustment tool for it which works perfectly. It was at that time I noticed how hot the thing was getting. I read about the transformer heat issue some dudes were having but this was worse. The entire chassis was too hot to touch. I now have it running at 298 volts on the plate and biased at 22.3 mA which is pretty moderate so that left just the transformers as the heat source. I checked the temp on one of them and it was running at 120+ degrees F. The other one I just put my hand next to it and it was cookin too. After a little thought I had an idea. First I took some computer RAM heatsinks and used Arctic Alumina Thermal Adhesive and attached them to both transformers. I had some older Pentium processor 12v cooling fans with 1-5/8″ dia blades which turned out to be the perfect size. I attached one to each side of the rear cover and positioned them so each was pointed directly at a transformer. Wired them in parallel and made a switch box with a 12v power jack and hooked it all up. A 12v wall wart plugs into the switch box to complete the setup. These little fans move alot of air and they’re silent. So does it work? You bet your ass it does. The trannys are running at 85 F and

the chassis stays cool to the touch. That’s a hell of a reduction. It creates a flow that runs across the heat sinks, then exhausts out the unused 1/4″ jacks on the back side. The way the fans are situated some of the air deflects off the transformers and flows around the tubes to cool them down a bit as well. All in all the design just freakin’ works, on this amp at least. The only thing I’m still unsure of is just how hot are these transformers supposed to get normally. and am I just treating a symptom of a bigger problem. I’m still looking for that answer and I know it’s out there somewhere.
How hot do your transformers get? Leave an answer in the comments below. Click here to find out what these are made of!

UPDATE: Since I originally published this article I went back and changed the fans to some slightly smaller diameter 5 volt units because they don’t stick out the back side.

 

 

bias adjust knob placement

Bias Adjust Non-Locking But Secure Pot

silicone-washer for bias adjust

I used orange so it would show up better in the pics. They’re available in black

If you ever thought about installing an external bias adjustment pot but wanted to use a regular pot instead of a locking style I have the solution. This will let you use a standard linear taper pot that is secure and won’t move on incidental contact. In fact it takes a bit of force to move the bias adjust knob at all if you execute it right. Of course an external bias adjust will require either a bias right type of gizmo to connect your DMM or you will have to install external bias test points (which I won’t go into here). Once you have a test point you need to get the size of the trim pot being used for the bias adjustment and get a linear taper pot the same size. Mine was a 50K. A pot with a solid shaft works best. Next you need a knob that uses a set screw (the type you find on a stomp box is the perfect size). To make it more secure file a flat spot on the shaft for the set screw to lock onto. And finally the secret ingredient: a rubber washer that’s 1.125″ (1-1/8″) in diameter with a 0.1875″ (3/16″) hole in the center and is 0.125″ (1/8″) thick. A slightly larger center hole is ok because we’re going to enlarge it a little bit anyway. Once you determine the location of your adjuster drill the hole for the pot. On the rubber washer bias adjust trim potchamfer the hole in the center so the metal washer and the nut will set down into it and pinch part of it to the chassis. Then place the knob on the shaft and hold pressure down on it as you tighten the set screw. You want the knob to be pressed into the rubber. This creates a friction point and it will hold that knob in place. Incidental contact won’t move it, it takes a bit of force to make it move. Mines been this way for several months now and it works great. If I ever come up on a 50K locking pot I may switch it out. Maybe, depends on how much the locking pot costs. My way cost about 7 bucks if you had to go buy the washer, pot, and knob. But I’ll bet, like me, you’ve got some if not all of these parts already. If you know another method to accomplish this share it in the comments below.

bias adjust pot installationbias adjust assembly

candy apple red telecaster

Sharp Frets Easy Fix

sharp fret repair

Sometimes a good deal comes with some not so great extras. Like the Telecaster I just got. It’s a Squier, but it’s a beauty. The Candy Apple Red finish is flawless, and the electronics are acceptable, but it had sharp frets poking out from the fretboard. They weren’t horrible but annoying enough that they had to be dressed down. Considering what I paid for it I figured I’d take a shot at fixing it. I mean, hell I’ve done just about everything else to a guitar but always avoided fret work so it’s high time I gave it a go. First, I watched half a dozen youtube videos on the subject then gathered up my tools and went to work. This turned out to be a relatively simple task although it was a bit tedious and time consuming. All you need is some masking tape, a jewelers file, some sandpaper and something rigid to back the sandpaper that allows it to span 5 or 6 frets at a time, and something to hold the strings out of the way unless you just remove them (which is the smart thing to do). I masked off the sides of the neck only leaving the fret ends exposed then

sharp fret fix

using a flat steel object (I used the back cover of an old stomp box) I dressed down the fret ends. Just hold the sandpaper at a slight angle that approximates the bevel of the frets and slowly go back and forth being careful not to alter the angle too much. You can hear it when you’re on the frets as opposed to the wood. Stop every few passes and check the ends with your fingers. Once you get that part smooth just place some tape on each side of a fret and using the jewelers file slowly round the rest of the fret end. Go slow and easy and check often so you don’t overdo it (it helps if you first grind and sand the edges of the file smooth so it doesn’t cut into the wood if you slip) If you can control the sandpaper and the file so as to maintain the proper angle you’ll be done in no time. And for the sake of your own sanity check out some of those videos on youtube before you dive in on this one.

sharp fret solution

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

jewelers file

guitar mono output jack

New Design 1/4″ Output Jack PureTone

pure tone multi contact output jackFinally, a fresh take on a tried and true, but old, design. The 1/4″ output jack. Until now the best available was from Switchcraft and the design hasn’t changed much for several decades. But there’s a new kid on the block that could potentially knock Switchcraft out of the top spot, and that company is PureTone. The product is called the “Multi-Contact 1/4″ Output Jack”. According to the literature their new audio jacks provide 100% greater surface area at all contact points which creates a more stable connection and this improves high and low frequencies for a more balanced sound and eliminates frequency spikes. It has dual tension grounds and dual positive tips which eliminate the notorious crackle sound. Whoever thought this up was a genius IMHO. As far as improving the tone I can’t say mainly because I don’t play clean so the differences would have to be pretty big for me to notice. Putting that aside for a moment the solid connection factor and the increase in contact area is definitely real and the design would certainly eliminate the crackle. The build is robust and the materials are top level which is obvious when you get your hands on one. The insulators are made out of a material I can’t identify, but they say the voltage rating is 500 volts so these would be great in an amp. They’re just solidly built and about as precision as anything I’ve seen. I ordered the 3 pack and I already installed them on all my guitars. I can really feel the difference when I plug in. It just feels solid and secure. It doesn’t make the guitar cable hard to unplug or anything it just feels right. Everything about this jack screams quality. You can get them from Amazon or direct from PureTone. I imagine they’ll start showing up in guitar stores before too long. Next time you need a replacement jack give em a try. These are going to give Switchcraft a run for their money. Good job PureTone.

If you try them and you detect a difference in tone or anything leave a comment below, I’d love to get your take on these.

Guitar Tone Capacitor Comparison Test

guitar tone capacitorsTrying to decide which capacitor to use for tone caps is not as easy as it really should be. I mean all the different types and values and it seems everyone has their favorite, and of course the tone is subjective to the listener

Joyo Ultimate Drive Just Got Better

My craigslist $30 Joyo Ultimate Drive just got even better! It was a great sounding overdrive right out of the box for sure. It’s been compared to a Freakish Blues Alpha Drive, or more precisely they are the same drive with a few different component values. I found a mod that is supposed to make the Joyo sound more like the Alpha so I figured what the hell let’s give it a go. If you know the Alpha Drive then you know it cost right at $160 and the Joyo Ultimate runs approx. $40. The key difference is that the Joyo has more volume on tap with a fatter bottom end and the Alpha has a tighter bottom end and more chimey highs. They use the same PCB so the Alpha Drives appear to be re-branded Joyo’s. With $1.50 worth of components I went in. This is about as simple a mod you’re likely to find so it’s a good first mod for a beginner. You have to pull the board out of the housing to get at the top to remove one component while the other 3 can be done from the back side. Here’s the mod.

1. Remove the 1uf electrolytic capacitor located at C9.
2. Flip the board over (see image below)
3. Insert a 0.1uf polyester cap in C9. I prefer box caps.
4. Solder a 330k resistor across Drive pot lugs 1 & 3.
5. Solder a 1k7 resistor across Tone pot lugs 1 & 3.
6. Solder a 470k resistor across Volume pot lugs 1 & 3.

Button it all back up and test drive it.
The difference is startling. It tightens up the bottom end and makes the tone knob much more responsive and adds a bit more in the high end. Before the change the Joyo was border line muddy but was controllable with the tone knob and backing off on  the volume knob. With the mod it gives the tone and volume ability to go full on without losing any clarity. And it loses none of the pre-mod volume boost. So what I considered to be a great overdrive right out of the box is now a truly awesome dirt box. Now here comes the disclaimer: all results were achieved using humbuckers. I have no idea how single coils would perform so as always YMMV.

joyo ultimate drive diy mods

click for larger image

What’s the easiest mod you’ve ever done? Leave an answer in the comments below

Les Paul Project Guitar

Les Paul Project Guitar Becomes Keeper

Over the years I’ve had a few Les Pauls that were fairly heavy (in the 9.5 to 10 lb range) but they never gave me any grief like I hear some dudes talking about. You know, back problems, hip problems etc. from playing a Les Paul. I couldn’t relate because lately I’ve been playing weight relieved models (7.5 to 8.0 lb) Until last week. Now I know what those dudes are talking about.

refinish 1 and 2I started looking for an Epiphone Les Paul that I could mod and refinish just for a project and i found a decent 1993 Korean made Epi L.P. for a decent price. It had been de-glossed so a refinish was in order and most Epi LPs have questionable electronics which need replacing, perfect for my needs. I bought it based on the picture in the ad figuring anything that could be wrong with it won’t matter since it was going to get a total rebuild. It has a nice vintage burst on a flame maple top that begged for a glossy finish. However, after putting it all back together I had another idea: what if I changed the yellow part of the burst to a translucent red? So I tore it all back down and without any sanding I used Dupli-color anodized red spray paint. The same stuff I used on some pedal builds. Laid on 4 coats of the Dupli-color and 4 coats of Urethane over that. Worked better than I could have wanted. I’ve now gone through the electrics and rewired the whole thing (the pickups are Duncan 59’s so I left them alone. Well, I may have swapped the magnet in the bridge pickup from an alnicoV to an alnico4 just to see what it would do), and added new Gibson/Grover tuners  and replaced the bridge and stop tailpiece with new ones. Got all the work done and it came out great. Up to this point I hadn’t put a strap on it nor slung it over my shoulder. I did so the other day and played for about half an hour. Holy shit! This thing is freakin’ heavy! It weighs in at 11.5 lbs. By

Les Paul Project Guitar

Les Paul Project Guitar

the end of the half hour my shoulder and back were starting to feel it. There are two factors that affect weight which are obvious on this axe: It’s non weight relieved or chambered (like the newer ones) and it has this fantastically fat neck. I mean FAT! Baseball bat fat! Never knew Epi made them this way. Add it all up and you get 11.5 lbs of great tone and sustain which I didn’t expect from an Epiphone. Seriously, this one is better than my Gibson (whoa! did I say that out loud?). I’ve heard that some of the Korean made units were good players and I reckon it’s true. The neck is taking some getting used. Not because it’s fat, I like that, but because it has a 15″ radius fretboard which is pretty damn flat compared to the 12″ radius I’m used to. As for the weight, I’ll live with it.  Counting the materials used and the price of the guitar I have less than $375 in the whole thing. All-in-all it turned out to be a great purchase. The only thing left to do is figure out my next guitar project. Maybe an exotic wood 2×12 speaker cabinet for my new Blackstar  HT-1RH tube amp head. (which will be the subject of my next post, but you already figured that, right?) Right now I’m gonna go play.

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