Dog Is Blue Fuzz Pedals Are Here (Video Demo)

I’ve been teasing this for a while, but the first batch of the limited run of custom Dog Is Blue fuzz pedals is finally ready! The design is basically a more efficiently laid out version of the kickass little Bazz Fuss circuit that is all ballsy, synthy and nasty fuzz. Check out the video above for a quick demo of the prototype (the only one with the power jack mysteriously on the front…) and there are in-progress photos below.

The first four will be available off the stage at tomorrow night’s show at The Silver Dollar for the Music Maul CD release for a measly $40, so get them before they are gone!

Dog Is Blue Fuzz PedalDog Is Blue Fuzz Pedal

DIY Effects: Homemade Blackstone Mosfet Overdive Pedal

DIY Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive pedal in a chocolate tin

It’s been a while since I had any time to build a pedal. In fact, I probably shouldn’t have taken the time to build this one…but I couldn’t resist. A friend of mine recently picked up a secondhand Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive and was raving about it. After some digging online I had to give it a try.

Without getting too technical, it’s basically a “dual channel” overdrive that allows you to toggle between 2 different gain settings in one pedal—pretty useful if you want to dial in a crunchy rhythm sound then punch up the gain for a solo. All told, I’ve been having a ton of fun with this one and recommend checking it out. Of course, for the sake of masochistic exhaustiveness, I’m going to build a similar project by the fine fellas at runoffgroove.com called the Double D (both use the same chip for a similar dual channel idea…) to compare.

That said, this is one of the rare builds where I’d almost have preferred just buying the thing. For one, it’s not just another repackaged Tubescreamer, and also the real deal is about half the size of mine and looks great. Check it out for yourself at the Blackstone Appliances page.

Oh, and I found the awesome tin at Goodwill for $0.99. Those of you who follow us on Twitter know about the excellent records and things I’m always picking up there (got a ton of great stuff today, including The Art of Noise, This Mortal Coil, The The, The Boomtown Rats and more…).

Another Homemade Amp: Tiny Happy Giant!

DIY Tiny Giant guitar amplifier

Getting ready for our upcoming tour of eastern Canada has me taking stock of what we need for the trip. My homemade Fender 5F2-A amp isn’t loud enough for most shows, so I’m working on a bigger tube amp (based on an Ampeg Jet), but it won’t be ready in time.

Enter the Tiny Giant, an amplifier design from Musicpcb.com (whose projects I fully endorse). Based around the use of laptop power supply, as there are a gazillion of them floating around without a functioning laptop to give power to, the Tiny Giant bypasses the danger of high-voltage and allows for a very compact, yet powerful amp.

This happy little dude is capable of putting out 20 watts of crystal clear clean volume (depending on the speaker) and cost me about $40 to build (including getting the power supply off eBay). We’ll be taking it on tour as a backup along with a homemade speaker cabinet I made out of an old reel-to-reel box—the pair sounds awesome!

In fact, lately I’ve been playing it through a 1/2-sized Jay Turser I got for $60 (pictured below with the homemade cabinet), so that’s an entire rig that sounds great for only about $100!

Check out the build thread at DIYstompboxes.com for more info. I’m going to try to mod mine to include a jack to supply power to a couple pedals for added portability…

DIY Tiny Giant guitar amplifier

Crazy New Pedal: Fuzz, Echo, Wah, Chorus Woo!

Crazy Alphabet Cookie Tin Homemade Guitar Pedal: Fuzz, Wah, Echo, Chorus in one!

Laura (re: half the band) was away for the last two weeks of January working on her tan. Of course, we all know that when the cat’s away the mouse will…uh…build a ridiculous guitar pedal.

In this case, I had a few quirky circuit boards kicking around and decided to cram as much as I could into a single alphabet-themed cookie tin. All in all, I’m not sure how useful this will be on stage, as it’s pretty unwieldy, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

The breakdown is as follows: the first switch (and 2 yellow knobs) operate an auto wah—the Dr. Quack circuit (a better version of the EHX Dr. Q). The second switch (and 4 red knobs) controls a crazy fuzz/echo circuit based on the “Noise Ensemble” (I added a few extra knobs). Finally, the third switch (and 2 green knobs) works the modified “Little Angle” chorus (I’m still tweaking this one to taste*).

All told, it’s a crazy mess of sonic destruction that is both versatile and absolutely insane. For a sound sample of me going through some of the various possibilities click the little red play button below:

UPDATE: after band practice last night I tweaked this monster even further, adding a toggle switch in place of one of the red knobs so that I could make room for a knob to control just how crazy the chorus can get—the answer: real crazy.

Crazy Alphabet Cookie Tin Homemade Guitar Pedal: Fuzz, Wah, Echo, Chorus in one!
Crazy Alphabet Cookie Tin Homemade Guitar Pedal: Fuzz, Wah, Echo, Chorus in one!
Crazy Alphabet Cookie Tin Homemade Guitar Pedal: Fuzz, Wah, Echo, Chorus in one!

No Will Power: Another Vintage Saturn Guitar

Two Vintage Japanese Solid-body Saturn Guitars

It’s no secret that I have zero will power when it comes to buying new gear. In fact, some might even say the band exists simply because I had to justify owning so many instruments. Case in point, if you follow the band on Twitter you likely saw me agonizing over the decision of whether or not to buy yet another vintage Japanese Saturn electric guitar. Surprise, surprise—I bought it (it’s the small one on the left). What can I say? I love these wacky axes.

Some say they were built in Japan by Kawai, others say Guyatone, but everyone seems to agree that Saturns first appeared in a 1968 Eaton’s department store catalogue. Personally, I don’t know how I’ve ended up with three of these (all different, mind you), as I’d never even heard of them before I saw the first one on Craigslist last year. However, I was instantly enamoured with their wonky shapes and mystique.

They also get a pretty bad rap, as they were cheap entry level imports for kids who couldn’t afford a Fender or Gibson. In my humble opinion, that negativity isn’t entirely deserved, as with a good setup these bad boys play very well (I wouldn’t have three if they were garbage…). Guys like Hound Dog Taylor and Ry Cooder championed this notion with cheap Japanese guitars of their own (just check out the cover of Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers for a multi-pickup beast).

Of course, I don’t have a lot of “high end” axes kicking around to compare these to, as I’m still a kid who can’t afford a Gibson or Fender, but there’s a reason the rest of my electric guitars have ended up on Craigslist. Actually, price is another beautiful thing about these mysterious relics—I paid a total $350 for all three of them (not including setups and a little work here and there by my amazing guitar tech*)! As for how they sound, I’m by no means a “tone aficionado,” but I know what I like and these are fine by me (especially through my homemade Fender Princeton).

They also get a lot of comments when we play live and suit the rest of our homemade gear very well.

Hmm…it just occurred to me that this entire post is pretty much self-aggrandizing piece of effort-justification so that I don’t feel bad about buying another piece of gear…yep.

Oh well. Guitars is purty.

Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar

*The hollowbody needed the most work (it as also the cheapest), as a bridge inside had collapsed, but now it plays very well and might just be my favourite of the bunch.

‘Tis the Season: Crazy Snowman Pedal

DIY Mid-fi Clari(not) in a snowman tin

It’s cold and sporadically snowy in Toronto, which means it’s time to throw some wild noise-making device into a festive watch tin for seasonal sonic destruction!*

This little bad-boy is my homemade take on the Mid-Fi Electronics Clari(not)—an insane echo/fuzz box that can go from subtle tape warble to all out elephant farts. Doug from Mid-Fi was kind enough to post the schematic online, so folks have been able to tweak it to their tastes. All I did was add a toggle that turns the fuzz on or off (making the yellow eye light up too).

We did another new demo on the weekend and used this to thicken up my electric guitar a little. I’ll try to post that soon.

Suffice to say, this is yet another in the long line of semi-musical noise boxes that I build to annoy Laura. Look closely and you’ll see it on my pedal-board at shows.

*…er, something like that. I actually built this in the summer, but we’ll keep that between you and me.

Homemade Amp!

5F2-A Fender Princeton DIY tube amp
At our show last week I mentioned having dropped my newly homemade amp off the stage. Thankfully the damage was minimal and after a quick fix she’s up and running without issue.

Falling 3 feet isn’t really on the same level as the old Traynor tests (supposedly they used to drop their amps out a second story window), but the fact that my little guy only suffered a broken fuse holder is pretty reassuring.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the amp in question. It’s a modified Fender Princeton 5F2-A made mostly out of old radio parts (the box itself is from an old portable turntable). At about 5 loud watts with great crunch it’s the perfect amp for smaller shows and recording—we’ll be posting some new demos made with it soon!

For all you gear-nerds like myself, the modifications include a solid state rectifier, switch to toggle the negative feedback in or out and an easily disconnected speaker so I can hook it up to something larger. If you want to build amps too, I suggest doing some reading/asking questions at Ax84.com. I couldn’t have finished this without the help of the forum over there.

Now I just have to stop dropping it!

DIY Fender 5F2-A tube amp

DIY Fender 5F2-A tube amp

DIY Fender 5F2-A tube amp