Pedalboard Chronicles PT. 3

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pedalboard Chronicles - ENTRY # 3

See ENTRY 1 here: vertexeffects.com/blog/vertex-pedalboard-chronicles-1
See ENTRY 2 here: vertexeffects.com/blog/vertex-pedalboard-chronicles-2

ENTRY 3 will focus on where to get your pedalboard, how to mount your pedals in an aesthetic and organized way, how to dress and assemble power cabling, and where to get all the materials needed for a great DIY pedalboard build.
Ask questions at facebook.com/vertexeffectsinc or mason@vertexeffects.com
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STEP 1 – Choosing a pedalboard

I recommend getting pedalboards, flight cases, and pedal risers from the following companies:

GOMC - http://gomc.tv
Brady Cases - http://www.bradycases.com
Kent Custom Cases - http://kentcustom.com
Nashville Pedalboard Company - http://ow.ly/JijIT
A&S Case Company - http://www.ascase.com

I build on flat pedalboard platforms. I find them to be the easiest to modify or make changes to, the lightest in weight, easiest to travel with, and easiest to troubleshoot. This has been the standard for most professionals in this industry for the last 30 years and I’ve yet to find anything that is more suitable.

I recommend using a laminate top (Formica or Filon) as Dual Lock sticks best to these surfaces, as does any other Velcro. I also recommend having an ABS bottom (but not an ABS top as this is a petroleum-based laminate and will make any Velcro difficult to stick to by comparison). The material in-between your pedalboard isn’t so important, and can be plywood, hexigrip, polypropylene, or some other composite. The only thing that will be impacted by the material that your pedalboard is laminated to is the weight.

I use 3/8” pedalboard material, and 1/2" extrusions (u-channel) around the exterior of the pedalboard and 1/2” rubber feet.
I use wire pull handles on all my pedalboards (which can be purchased in a variety of colors and finishes). 4” is the standard, but if a larger handle is required it can be found here:

Pedalboard Handles - http://ow.ly/JiiXo

For pedal risers, I use 1/2" increments with each successive row of pedals, so for Row # 1 (no lifts, mounted straight to pedalboard surface), Row # 2 (1/2” lifts), Row # 3 (1” lifts), etc. The least expensive way is to have your pedalboard maker do these for you with your pedalboard as you can use the same material and have them paint the edges black where the laminate isn’t covering it center material. Alternatively, you could buy plywood and cut and paint it yourself. Make sure you’ve sanded it well so you can get good adhesion of the paint and of the Velcro when you apply it.

STEP 2 – Clean the pedalboard surface

Once you have your chosen pedalboard surface, for the best adhesion of 3M Dual Lock Velcro (or any other Velcro), it is important to clean your pedalboard surface with a non-abrasive towel and cleaner. Often pedalboard surfaces will have a residue, especially those with ABS laminate, which is petroleum-based, and you may want to use something like Goo-Gone to remove any of it, and then go over it again with a gentle household cleaner to remove any oil residue. Be sure the surface is dry before you apply any Velcro to the surface.

STEP 3 – Place pedals on pedalboard

***(start with the corners)***

After the pedalboard surface is clean, start with the pedals on the furthest edges of the pedalboard (top left corner, bottom left corner, top right corner, and bottom right corner) so that you can space the pedals out most evenly.

By using this method, I found it to be an easy way to keep the spacing between pedals as uniform as possible (that is, starting from the outside corners and working toward the middle). As each pedal goes down on the pedalboard, use a pencil to outline each pedal very lightly so you know exactly how much space it will occupy and can apply the Dual Lock Velcro to the pedalboard surface in the correct position.

***(first row of pedals)***

After all the pedals in the corners are outlined, start on the front row of pedals and continue the outlining process as dictated above.

***(second row of pedals and beyond)***

Once the first row is outlined, use 1-inch Blue Painter’s Tape and tape a straight line so you can align the pedals in the second row. Make sure that the bottom-edge of the tape is lined up with the deepest pedal in the first row so you have enough space for dressing cable in between the first and second row of pedals. If you have more than two rows of pedals, you can repeat this same process again after you’ve outlining the second row.

***(check the clearance of your power supply and pedals)***

Before you start to outline the second row of pedals, make sure to place a power cable into the power supply (this GLAB power supply has the power cable exiting out of the right side, but something like a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power would have the cables exiting toward the front row of pedals). This ensures that you’ve left adequate clearance space for your power cables to reach the supply without a problem. You may also want to insert 1/4" connectors into all of your pedals if you want to make sure you’ve spaced them out enough, (we already did this before in the previous #PedalboardChronicles , so the space was already accounted for). However, if you already have a pre-made platform that wasn’t custom made for you, this may be a wise step to include in your process.

STEP 4 – Adding 3M Dual Lock to pedalboard surface

When all the outlining is complete, remove all the pedals from the board and you’re left with the outline of all the pedals on the pedalboard in very light pencil. It’s difficult to see in pictures, but to the naked eye it’s plenty sufficient for putting down the Dual Lock Velcro neatly in exactly the right places.

On the pedalboard surface, it’s best to use a different densities and types of Dual Lock Velcro from what goes on the pedals. Use 3M Dual Lock SJ3551 which can be purchase from iTapeStore.com:

3M Dual Lock SJ3551 - http://ow.ly/JiiZ9

Apply the Dual Lock Velcro to the outlined areas on the pedalboard surface and leave about 1/4" of space between the edges of each outline. The Velcro is not visible (and looks best) once the pedals are mounted, if the Velcro isn’t placed too close to the edge of the outline for each pedal.

STEP 5 – Mounting pedals and risers to pedalboard

Then mount all the pedals to the pedalboard, and any pedal risers that may be needed for the second row. The risers are used to raise pedals up higher than the first row for easy access without disturbing the settings of any pedals in front of them. Try to get away with the lowest possible risers for the second row and beyond to keep the weight and overall size down (especially if the pedalboard is going into a case – the height of a pedalboard is a major factor in the overall case size). Start with 1/2" riser for the second row, but never exceed 1” if at all possible (generally 1/2" is sufficient).

Treat any pedal risers the same way you would a pedal mounting to the pedalboard, using 3M Dual Lock SJ3550 on the bottom of the riser, and SJ3551 on the top of the riser where the pedal will be mounted. Follow the links below for where you can purchase both types of 3M Dual Lock:

3M Dual Lock SJ3550 - http://ow.ly/Jij3L

3M Dual Lock SJ3551 - http://ow.ly/JiiZ9

STEP 6 – Power cable dressing

Once all the pedals are mounted to the board, then begin working on dressing and assembling the power cables.
I recommend purchasing your power cables from Voodoo Lab:
Power Cables - http://ow.ly/Jijbb

Generally, the blunt cut 36” cables with a right angle molded end on one side are best. This is enough length to do pretty much anything on a pedalboard, and can always be shortened to the exact length needed. If I need to make longer custom power cables, use Mogami 2528, and strip away one side of the pair for a coax cable and solder a 2.1mm or 2.5mm connector on both sides:

Mogami 2528 - http://ow.ly/Jij9j

For the 2.1mm and 2.5mm barrel connectors that are used for making DIY power cables or terminating a blunt-cut or existing power cable with a molded end (like those from Voodoo Lab), use Kobiconn:

Kobiconn Power Connectors - http://ow.ly/Jij7A

***(start by plugging power cable into each pedal)***

Start your cable dressing process by plugging in a power cable with the molded end into every pedal on the pedalboard. It’s best to use molded power cables whenever possible as it only requires that one end be soldered. Generally, the quality or thickness of the power cables (even if molded) isn’t important for the voltages that are used in pedals. Using the molded end of the power cable on the pedals themselves is best, as the pedals take more abuse and are less protected than the power supply in most cases, and the molded ends are generally more robust and hold up better for this application than the hand-soldered ends with the Kobiconn connectors linked above.

***(mounting bases to organize cables)***

Once all the power cables are inserted into the pedals, start organizing the power cables to flow together torward the power supply. Use adhesive tie-down base mounts from Go2Marine:
Mounting Bases - http://ow.ly/Jijf8

I’ve gone through all the brands, and these are the absolute best “Marine Grade” versions that I’ve found. They also come in larger sizes listed in the link (above) if needed, however, I almost always use the 0.75” size for pedalboards.

***(placing the mounting bases on the pedalboard)***

Place the tie downs against the edge of pedals as a guide to keep the power cable straight and to follow the flow of the pedals as a pathway to the power supply. Use a long-neck needle-nose plier to hold the tie-downs and make sure they’re perfectly straight. As each tie-down is mounted, use small zip ties to secure and bundle the power cables in place as you go. You can get small black zip ties at most hardware stores:

Small Black Zip Ties - http://ow.ly/JijgS

As the zip ties are tightened around the cable bundles, use a cutting tool that has a straight edge to it so that it will cut all of the zip tie ends as flush with the pedalboard as possible. This way, there is nothing that can get caught or would cut someone that was working with the pedalboard.

***(dressing power cables in second row)***

After the fist row is of pedals have their power cables dressed (always start with the first row and work my way back), flip the pedalboard around and work on the back row and repeat the same process. Continue using the pedals as aligning tools to place mounting bases and organize the cables flowing in the direction of the power supply, zip tying the cables to the tie-downs as you go to each successive pedal.

***(note)***

If you will be paralleling more than one pedal off of one power output on your power supply, or if you have more pedals than outputs on your power supply and will require that multiple pedals share one output, it will be critical for you to use a piece of painters tape on the end of each power cable that will be going to the power supply, indicating which pedal it is connected to. This is so you know what which pedals you’re paralleling off the same power output. Some pedals will not like sharing power and will create noise, or not work as a result. I only recommend sharing power with low-current analog pedals, such as distortion, overdrive, and boost pedals. Generally, I would not parallel digital pedals, or anything with a clock in it (i.e. modulation effects). Refer to your pedal manuals to find the current draw the pedals you’re thinking of combining, and be sure that you’re not requiring the supply to provide more current (mA) than what your combined pedals will draw.

STEP 7 – Power cable assembly

Once the power cable dressing process is complete, you can begin the assembly process of the power cables, cutting each cable to the exact length needed to reach the power supply with no extra slack. This makes for the most aesthetic and neat pedalboard.

When assembling power cables, place the un-terminated (unsoldered) power connectors (usually 2.1mm on most power supplies) in the power supply to most accurately see how the power cables will lay and fit into the power supply when fully assembled.
Make sure you have enough slack in the power cable where it’s not going to be pulling or have any tension on it, as this would cause the cable to fail over time.

Then place the power cable firmly against the connector and mark the power cable carefully where the center conductor of the cable meets the tip solder tab (knowing that that will be the longest point of the cable). With the power cable marked at it’s longest point, you’ll know exactly where to cut the power cable so it is the perfect length. Once it’s marked, use wire strippers to expose the shielding and center conductor, and begin soldering the cable to the power connector.

Once the power cable is fully assembled and soldered to the 2.1mm or 2.5mm barrel power connector, use a zip tie around the connector housing to ensure that the it stays intact. Repeat this process and solder each power cable as you go to ensure the best possible fit and dressing leading right up to the power supply.

STEP 8 – Label your power supply

Once all of the power cables are assembled, label the corresponding power output that connects to each pedal. This will make troubleshooting very easy should you have a problem with power getting to a pedal or from the power supply.