Pedalboard Chronicles PT. 2

Friday, April 24, 2015

‎PedalboardChronicles - Entry 2

See Entry 1 here: vertexeffects.com/blog/vertex-pedalboard-chronicles-1

In Entry 2, I will continue chronicling my pedalboard building proces. You will find detailed information about how to build your own DIY pedalboard as well as where to get the proper materials for you pedalboard project.
Feel free to email me questions anytime at mason@vertexeffects.com
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In Entry 1 I wrote about how to pre-plan your pedalboard for the best possible fit and finish of your final product.
This Entry will focus on the process of preparing your pedals for mounting on a pedalboard and how to ensure stability and reliability of your pedalboard for many years to come.

STEP 1 – Remove Back-Plates
Remove all back-plates (the plate that is screwed-in to the enclosure of your pedal to protect the PCB, jacks, switches, batteries etc.).

STEP 2 – Remove Batteries
Remove all batteries from your pedals.
You don’t want to leave batteries in your pedals if you’re planning to power them using a DC power supply. There can be issue with leakage and/or corrosion, which can damage your pedal over time, and is not worth the risk.

STEP 3 – Cleaning Contacts
Once the bottom-plates are off, start by cleaning all the contacts on each pedal. All input, output, and DC power jacks should be sprayed with contact cleaner. I recommend only using Deoxit Contact Cleaner. I typically use DeOxit D5 like this (amazon.com/CAIG-DeOxit-Cleaning-Solution-Spray/dp/B0002BBV4G)

However, there are higher concentrations of DeOxit which may be necessary for older pedals with more corroded contacts.  After all the contact are sprayed with DeOxit, use a loose 1/4” male connector (you can also use a guitar cable), to go in/out of the jacks several times to work the contact cleaner into the jack. Repeat this process for about 10 repetitions to ensure that all contacts are thoroughly cleaned.

Repeat this same process for the DC power jacks as well, but use a 2.1mm or 2.5mm barrel connector to work the contact cleaner into the jack (2.1mm is most common), but you can also use any pre-made (molded) power cables to do this that would come with your power supply.

STEP 4 – Tighten All Jacks & Switches
After all the contacts are cleaned, tighten down all of the jacks and footswitches on each pedal. Often failures on pedalboards are the result of shorts or bad contacts because of a loose jack. For this reason, it is wise to tighten down (but don’t over-tighten or strip) all jacks and footswitches to make sure they are secure. It is best to have the jacks and PCB exposed when you do this so you can see if you’re putting any stress on your PCB when you tighten the jacks, and you can also clamp your jacks or footswitches as you tighten them so they don’t move.

STEP 5 – Tape Off Battery Clips
Then tape off all battery clips (for pedals that have them) with electrical tape to prevent the possibility of a “short” occurring as a result of the battery clip touching something inside of the pedal. This has been known to happen and is often is difficult to diagnose. You can buy 3M Electrical Tape here (amazon.com/3M-194NA-200-Inch-Super-Electrical/dp/B002YDZA1K)

STEP 6 – Clean All Pedal Surface
After all the pedals are cleaned, the battery clips are taped off, and the jacks and footswitches are tightened, re-assemble the pedals and make sure that all bottom-plates are clean and the pedals themselves are clean before applying Velcro and mounting them to a pedalboard.

Before applying Velcro you must clean the pedals thoroughly to ensure a good adhesion of the Velcro. I recommend using a non-abrasive micro-fiber cloth and a heavily diluted alcohol to remove dirt from pedals and Goo Gone for any adhesive residue on pedals.

***TIP: Many pedals have bottom plates that can be flipped over to expose a perfectly clean and adhesive free surface to mount Velcro on. See for example a Vertex Modded Boss Volume Pedal (pictured), where I simply flip over the bottom plate to expose a pristine surface for Velcro to stick to. Many Boss stomp boxes are like this along with many other manufacturers.

STEP 7 – Velcro Types & Applications
Once the pedals are clean, get out the Velcro. I use 3M Dual Lock Velcro on all of my pedalboard builds. It is the strongest, longest lasting and most reliable solution that I have found for the purpose of building pedalboards, and is the industry standard.

I use two different densities of Dual Lock: a less-dense version on the pedals themselves (link and picture below), and a denser version on the mounting surface (the pedalboard itself, I will link in Entry 3). For the pedals I use Dual Lock model # SJ3550, 1” wide, Black (itapestore.com/3mduallock-sj35501x1yard.aspx)

STEP 8 – Velcro Placement
When applying Velcro to a pedal, it’s best not to have the Velcro come all the way to the edge. Notice that my Velcro doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the pedal. I leave about 1/2” inch of space from the bottom and top of the pedal and about 1/4” in from the left and right sides of the pedal. This is so the Velcro is not exposed when it is mounted to the pedalboard. Although it won’t impact the function of the Velcro if you go all the way to the edge of the pedal with Velcro, it can be unsightly to see it peeking through your otherwise neat pedalboard.

Also, it’s good to note that you don’t need to use very much Dual Lock for it to be effective. Typically two small strips will do, and on larger or wider pedals (with horizontal orientations), I cut 4 smaller squares of Dual Lock for the best results.

STEP 9 – Test Your Pedals
After the Velcro is applied it is VERY important to test all of your pedals and make sure that they are working properly. This step has saved me countless hours of troubleshooting, as catching a problem with a pedal before it goes on the pedalboard is much easier to isolate. Once it’s integrated onto a pedalboard, trying to isolate a problem is much more difficult as there are several other variables that are introduced with instrument cables, power cables, power supplies, and other pedals. The bottom line is test the pedals up front and save yourself time down the road.

My test rig (pictured) allows me to listen to two pedals at once and toggle between them and switch in/out a reference pedal to check for switch popping, ground noise or hum, cracking, and more. I test all pedals two ways: 1) through headphones with a wider dynamic range so I can hear frequencies that most guitar amps won’t pick up, and 2) through a guitar tube amplifier (higher gain amps are usually better to reveal problems in pedals). This provides me a 360-degree evaluation of each pedal prior to putting on your pedalboard.

Want more Pedalboard Chronicles?  See the next entry here:

Pedalboard Chornicles Pt. 3 - www.vertexeffects.com/blog/vertex-pedalboard-chronicles-3