A few months ago the blog took a look at all the things you should be thinking about if you’re putting a pedalboard together (missed it? Check this out). With the previous blog in mind, this time around it’s about putting the theory into practice and coming up with a board.
There are two very distinct parts to putting together a pedalboard; planning and action. Each one is equally as important as the other for the end result to be any good.
What follows is what I came up with to suit my needs…and I hope that it will come in handy if you decide to do something similar. That’s not to say that this is the best or only way to do it though. Pedalboards are very, very personal and what works for one might not cut it for another but that’s the beauty of them.
What & Where?
This is THE most important part of the whole process as it informs everything else. My board was to include my effects pedals (9 in total), the footswitch for my amp and my power supply.
Given the number of pedals I decided that they would be arranged in 2 rows (unless I wanted a board the length of a guitar case that is). The front row would include the pedals I used the most often and the back row those that were used least or always left on.
Having tried a few configurations this was the final choice…
Previously I’d manufactured a board myself with lots of assistance from my dad (i.e. he did most of the work…I just kind of made the decisions and supervised). This time around I decided to opt for a pre-manufactured board. Having established the size of board I needed I did some research (mostly via the power of the inter-web) and arrived at a Warwick Rockcase. If my calculations were correct (i.e. I’d left enough space for cables etc.) the model I’d selected was perfect; there was space enough for everything I needed, the price was reasonable and it looked tough enough to take the abuse it was going to get out on the road whilst protecting my beloved pedals.
All of my pedals are pretty much the same size and I’m not one for changing them on the fly. That said I do like to fiddle every now and then so a semi-permanent fixing was what I needed. I know you’re all probably screaming ‘Velcro!’ but it isn’t really my thing (don’t ask me why). Cable ties on the other hand are definitely my thing (I know weird) but they can look a bit haphazard…and if you do like to change pedals you have to remove or replace them every time so they’re not really that ‘semi-permanent’. If I did use cable ties I knew it would also mean that I’d need to drill holes in the ‘perfect’ case I’d just purchased…something I didn’t really want to do. After a bit of head scratching the solution presented itself: I’d make a false bottom to sit inside the case which would allow me to anchor the cable ties to something. As a bonus this idea would also mean that I could create a shelf for the second row of pedals because I’d also be able to attach that to the faux board thus giving me better access to the second row of pedals.
I’m very, very, very OCD about the cables I use! If they’re not good quality and black I won’t use them (I’m sure Orange’s anti-tangle thingy is great but it’s not for me). Having gone through my fair share of leads through the years I opted for custom ones measured to size and made from Van Damme cable with right-angled Neutrik Silver Connectors (not the best for saving space but quality and reliability are a given).
Venues never seem to know where to properly locate power sockets i.e. where they make sense, and 99.9% of the time needing power at the front of the stage usually means running a long power cable from the back. I’ve been using Pedaltrain’s Volto for several years now & it means the plug socket is no longer a necessity so that’s what would bring life to my board.
So planning complete and decisions made, I took the plunge…
Making the faux pedalboard
Wood can be expensive and adds weight so I went with a piece of 3mm hardboard that I found in the garage as it was strong enough for my needs but still light.
After some very careful measuring I cut out the main board and shelf.
As I was using cable ties to secure the pedals, this meant drilling lots of holes in the relevant places. Every pedal is different so I had to decide where best to locate the cable ties so the pedals would be secure but I was still able to access all of their buttons, knobs etc. I like a degree of security which is why I opted for cable ties but I also like a clean looking board and to be able to swap pedals so I did this; 2 holes 15mm apart either side of the pedal allowing the cable tie to be looped over the jack plug socket (as shown below).
I decided to secure the shelf to the board with more cable ties so needed holes for this as well.
When I’d positioned all of the pedals and drilled all the corresponding holes I took a few minutes to put everything together to make sure there were no mistakes. At this point it wasn’t necessary to cable tie everything but it was important to make sure all the drill holes were big enough to allow the cable ties to pass cleanly through. If there were any problems now was the time to fix it!
Happy that everything was correct it was time to think about finishing the board off. Have I mentioned I’ve got OCD? I thought so! As a result of this there was only ever going to be one choice for me when it came to the colour of the board; black. However for those of you who like a bit of colour…well the world’s your paint pot.
The board and shelf were sanded by hand to ensure any scraggy bits were removed and the surface was as clean as it could be, before having one coat of undercoat / primer applied. This was followed by two coats of black top coat. I then allowed adequate time for everything to dry properly.
With the paint dry, the next thing to do was assemble the shelf. To avoid adding weight and complications (i.e. screws, fixings etc.) I opted for some rubber doorstops purchased from a local hardware store. I simply glued the feet to the underside of the shelf in the relevant places; I used 10 feet and positioned them at the top and bottom of the shelf directly under each pedal on the shelf for maximum support when I step on a pedal.
Cheap and just the right height to make a difference…
The Last Leg
Once everything had gone off it was time to put everything together. Placing the pedals into position, I secured the cable ties being careful not to over tighten them (I wanted the pedals to be secure but didn’t want to strangle the life out of them). I fed the cable ties through from underneath the board as I think it gives a much cleaner finish (i.e. the locking mechanism is out of sight under the board).
I then plugged everything up and was ready to rock!
I use the effects loop of my amp so all in all I’ve got 4 cables making their way back to my amp. For tidiness and safety (after all we all know that cables are a musician’s favourite trip hazard) I decided to plait the cables together (well I came up with the idea and my better half did the work; if you saw my haircut you’d understand).
To avoid any confusion when setting up re which plug is what, they all carry coloured stickers that correspond to ones on the sockets on the rear panel of my amp.
Finally I created a small cover for the Volto showing my band’s logo (laminated for extra protection).
So there you have it…that’s my pedalboard and I love it. It does everything I need it to do and so far it has never let me down (other than the Volto going flat on me in rehearsal once or twice…but that’s my fault and why I carry a spare power supply). Hopefully some of what I’ve done will inspire you to develop your own boards. If you don’t get it right first time or you grow tired of what you’ve done don’t panic…it just means that you have more information to work with and the next version of your board should be even better (plus you get to have fun playing round with it again).
And there you have it…
It’s a thing of beauty; whichever way you look at it…
Wood for Faux base Free
Feet for shelf (Rubber Doorstops) 30p each from local hardware store
Cable ties £2.50 for 100 from Amazon
Paint (primer & topcoat) £4 each from local hardware store