Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How To: make a vintage suitcase pedal board

This post is written by guest blogger Nicole Ayers. Nicole is a multi-talented musician who works at the Cincinnati House of Prayer. Thanks, Nicole for sharing this awesome tutorial!

If you’re an aspiring musician like me, it’s impossible to remain content playing just one instrument.  Most people begin learning the acoustic guitar (if you learn it in high school, that’s instant street cred for you my friend), but after a while, you’ll find the romance with your instrument begins to fade.  It’s now time to make another instrument sing.  

A natural thought comes to mind for the acoustic player, “Why not play the electric guitar?  How hard can it really be?”  

Somehow you get your hands on an electric guitar and quickly learn it needs to be amplified.  (“Ohhh, that’s what an amp is for.” )  So you go to Guitar Center and drop some cash on an amp.  In zeal, you pick up your new solid wood friend, play some chords, and realize:

It just doesn’t sound that good.  

This is a coming of age moment for you.  The electric guitar really is a different instrument.  Not only do you need to learn new chord shapes and scales, to get the sounds you want, you have to spend EVEN MORE MONEY.

Guitar pedals.  They are a must have.  But just because you have to drop additional cash on pedals, doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot on a pedal board.

The secret: build a suitcase pedal board.

Most thrift stores will have a vintage hardshell suitcase ($2) and voila - a pedal board that is both economical and super hipster.
Read on for Nicole's full How-To after the jump!

If I had known I’d blog about this, I would have kept inventory of materials, costs, and procedures, but alas - I did not.  I’ll do my best to explain how I pulled it off (and by “I”, I mean mostly my dad).  

step one: remove the lid
Step one: Remove lid (you will need to remove the hinges on the back and replace with latches that will allow the lid to be completely removable and reattatchable).  

Step two:  This is important... the suitcase lid will now become your base.  This is because the lid has less depth, and it’s important that your pedals aren’t elevated too high.  (It would be awkward and unnatural to step on them.)  Because the lid may not lay perfectly flat on the ground, find four small “feet” to screw into your new base.  (We stole some feet off of an old electronic collecting dust in the basement).  Keep in mind that you don’t want to the feet to be very tall for the same purpose of keeping its height minimal.  

step six: install power strip

Step three:  Clean out inner lining to reveal a clean, smooth surface.  Spray paint black.

Step four:  Find some scrap 2x4’s, measure and cut them to fit, spray paint them, then screw them into the base when dry.  

Step five:  Measure, cut, and paint the additional wood that will be the platform for your pedals.  Make sure to leave some space in between them, so that there is room to run cables.  I suggest attaching these with a commercial grade velcro for more flexibility.

Step six: Install a power strip underneath the platform.  All of your pedals can be plugged into this strip.

Step seven:  Organize your pedal chain.  This where you decide what pedals go where and how the cables go.  If you have not researched pedal chains, it’s very important that you do.  Placement totally matters.

Step eight:  Securely velcro pedals to the platform.  

Step nine:  Reattach new lid with the new latches on back and you have yourself one easily transportable (and super cool) pedal board!

(Additional thoughts: if there’s room, you could install memory foam into the lid to help keep pedals in place if you have a velcro malfunction.  Also just for fun, my dad installed LED lights underneath my platform for a cool visual effect.  Christmas lights could be cool.  Or perhaps a micro-light show?)

My pedal chain:
Boss Volume Pedal
Pitchblack Tuner
MXR Dyna Comp
Doss DS-1 Distortion
Boss DD-20 Delay
Line 6 DL4 Delay (I mostly use this one for Looping because I like the DD-20 delay much better)

My electric:
1974 Gibson L6-s (It was my grandpa’s.)
The final (and easily transportable) product! In this pic you can really see the little feet attached to the bottom.

1 comment:

  1. so great!! I love it! and I also love Nicole.