Introduction: Passive Overdrive Pedal - That's Right, NO Batteries!

Picture of Passive Overdrive Pedal - That's Right, NO Batteries!

This is my first instructable, so please be kind. I found an instructable a while ago that spoke of a passive overdrive - black ice. This can be bought for extortionate prices, but somebody found out that it was only really worth about £1.20 (that's about $2!) The company were making a 1400% profit!

It has got better, however, with a slightly more complex circuit and various ways to wire it. I don't know how they do it (I don't know a great deal about electronics), but I have found a way to make it into a pedal with true bypass. Yes, TRUE BYPASS! (the ones on the black ice website don't have true bypass)

I wired the original black ice, but you can use JoeBeau's rectifier with a different way of wiring it. I have got a theory on how to wire it like this, but I haven't tried it, so please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.

I got help from:

this guy
this website
Let's get started!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials


- soldering iron and solder
- drill
- wire cutters, pliers etc - whatever you can use to help (e.g, I used a screwdriver to bend the leads and from the diodes around lugs)
- marker pen (for decoration!)


- project box
- DPDT switch
- 250k pot (I'm not sure whether I used linear or audio taper and I can't be bothered to check - it doesn't really matter)
- 2 x 1/4 inch output jacks
- 2 or 4 x 1N5818 Schottky diodes (I forgot to thank this guy for which diode to use - I wasn't going to keep buying diodes until I found a good one!)
- some wire

Step 2: The "Schematic"

Picture of The "Schematic"

There is a proper schematic diagram and a simpler one that I can get my head around. Use whichever suits you.
For the wire, I used white for hot wires and black for ground. I think this is the convention.

Diagram shows pot from the side opposite the turning part.

Normally circuit diagrams only use one colour for the wire, but I thought it would be helpful to put one colour for hot and one for ground.

The last one is only a theory on how to wire the full wave rectifier onto it - it may not work. If someone finds it doesn't, please put it in the comments. Check them before you try it.

Step 3: Prepare Project Box

Picture of Prepare Project Box

Drill the holes you need

Step 4: Prepare Diodes

Picture of Prepare Diodes

You can use JoeBeau's help for this, but here are my pictures and diagrams.

Step 5: Prepare Potentiometer

Picture of Prepare Potentiometer

If you want the gain to increase as you turn it clockwise (like a  normal person), attach the diodes to lug 3.

Step 6: Prepare DPDT Switch

Picture of Prepare DPDT Switch

I found this incredibly difficult because the lugs were very small on mine. But I digress. The middle lugs are for the hot wires to the jacks. The bottom are connected to each other. The top two are also connected to each other, but the left one is also to be connected to lug 2 on the pot.

You can flip the top and bottom (i.e. the pot can go on the bottom two and the wire on the top), but the middle ones must be the same.

Step 7: Attach Jacks

Picture of Attach Jacks

Attach the jacks to the switch. I use the left one for input and the right for output to be safe, but I don't think it matters.
Solder a ground lead to connect the jacks to each other.
This picture above will help you determine which lead goes where if you are a complete novice to this, like I was a while ago. The tip connection is hot, the sleeve is ground. The tip lug is usually the furthest from the tip, confusingly.

Step 8: Add Potentiometer

Picture of Add Potentiometer

Put the potentiometer to one of the top lugs. This is what I got at the end. It looks messy now, but it cleans up a little when in the box.

Step 9: Put in Box

Picture of Put in Box


Step 10: Decorate!

Picture of Decorate!

This is what the marker is for.

Step 11: Done

Picture of Done

Feel free to experiment with different diodes etc and if you find a wiring that's better or a diode with a particular sound , please describe it or explain it in the comments for future viewers of this to benefit.

I heard that you can get a distortion by only using only one diode and that you can smooth out the tone with a capacitor. You can also use germanium diodes like the ones used in pedals like Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. You might find that mixing different types of diodes produces a different sound. I found that my overdrive was more like a fuzz, but this could be different with different diodes and wiring methods. Feel free to experiment and add results in the comments.

I tried it with LEDs, but it didn't work for me - it might be because my pickups are too weak.


RedC13 (author)2017-11-29

Hi! i tried with 2 red leds, and 2 1N270 Germanium Diode DO-7
it didn't worked, i know that leds are diode too, but it simply don't sound at all, and with the germanium diode there's not change, maybe less volume but not overdrive sound, what's wrong ?

Anargopunk (author)2017-03-08

If anyone is intrested in a cheaper alternative which sounds exactly the same whithout POT and a cheaper switch, here it is:

OskarF5 (author)2016-07-11

You got one thing wrong: you have to use all the 3 lugs on the pot. The free one must be connected do the ground. Without this yous pot will act like an ON/OFF switch and just a gentle turn will cut the circuit, if your pot has high values.

DavidT327 (author)2016-05-25

"I'm not sure whether I used linear or audio taper and I can't be bothered to check - it doesn't really matter" it does make a difference

FuzzyOwl (author)2016-03-07

I don't see the diodes turning to on state below their voltage levels.

FuzzyOwl (author)FuzzyOwl2016-03-07

In other words if the voltage drop is below the diodes "on" voltage it would not conduct.

Use of very sensitive diodes with extreme low end voltage ratings like the ones used as detectors in crystal radio.

This won't work with every day common rectifier diodes.

NightHunter300 (author)2016-02-11

When you use 4 diodes, does it make a more aggressive sound than when you only use 2? Just wondering. I like a harder wound when it comes to rock & metal.

I meant sound, not wound.

Stratbob (author)2015-12-23

would like to build WITHOUT the potentiometer.....can someone provide me with a simple diagram/schematic for the circuit with just input & output jacks, diodes and on-off switch? Thanks!

les_bert made it! (author)2015-06-26

I have little trouble to get the componets, so i made it with the stuff to have, i don't use a switch and only one shottky, but if a put de pot before de shottky, doesn't work, so I try without de pot, and works but without the regulation of distortion, the pots wroks double, change a litle bit de tone and de distortion, this the schem to I use.
1 pot B220k, one 1N5817, 2 jacks, cable and soldering.

THANKS is so funny made this easy things.

les_bert (author)les_bert2015-06-29

This circuit have a problem, only work on my guitar to have only one coil and only one pot (volumen); when I try with other guitar with volumen and tone pots, doesn't work ....... weird.

will this work for metal?

SzabolcsK (author)2015-04-27

For all of you guys, this not an overdrive!! Overdrive pedal is a pedal which boosts your signal to overdrive the amplifier. This one is a simple diode clipping circuit. Some overdrive pedals include the diode clipping stage too, but without the boost it's not an overdrive.

marrymay (author)2015-01-26

It's so excellent! Like this so much!! I read a post about tube overdrive pedal, those pedals are just awesome and I want to build one tube overdrive pedal without batteries!! haha...

marrymay (author)2015-01-26

It's so excellent! Like this so much!! I read a post about tube overdrive pedal, those pedals are just awesome and I want to build one tube overdrive pedal without batteries!! haha...

MagicMan808 (author)2014-08-29

I'll be building one soon! Excited! :)

Tagduino (author)2014-05-26

I tried this using two 1n4742a 12v Zener diodes, and as far as I can tell, it doesn't change the sound much. So I tried disconnecting the diodes. And the signal still passed through without a change in the sound. Just wondering if anyone might know what's going on:P

rmacdonald5 (author)2013-09-16

Could I potentially run a 9v in this mix?

tomithy1235 (author)2013-09-07

So has anyone figured out if the full wave rectifier (as said above) works?

I think I'll try it and see if it does, but I can't decide. Is it just more distortion?

deadlyraven (author)2013-07-20

can you add another schematic image, some people dont understand electronics very well... like me.. jojo.. please :( ??

JoeBeau (author)2012-10-27

Hey, very nice job. It's pretty funny that you did this, because I ended up doing the same thing for one of my friends.

You'll find very quickly that some things are just cheaper to build than buy; I just finished a Fuzz-Face pedal (original circuit as used by Jimi Hendrix) using pre-world war 2 transistors for 50 bucks, which is third of the mass-produced model

burnok100 (author)2012-09-19

so Punk Rock !!!! thanks for the scheme-matics...!

badams2 (author)2012-08-19

Needs video for demonstration of sound!

amandaghassaei (author)2012-08-09

cool idea! I don't really understand what an overdrive pedal is supposed to do. can you explain?

JJ Grunge (author)amandaghassaei2012-08-09

An overdrive is a type of distortion - it changes the signal by clipping the waves and produces a more gritty sound. Overdrive is the mildest type of distortion. This sound is integral to the various genres of rock.

amandaghassaei (author)JJ Grunge2012-08-09

is the rectifier used to do the clipping? won't this double the frequency of the wave?

JJ Grunge (author)amandaghassaei2012-08-10

I don't know for sure, and I got that method from JoeBeau's Instructable anyway.

I don't think so because a speaker has an electromagnet which has a changing polarity according to the AC signal. If there is no negative, the speaker won't move in that direction and so you would get a doubled frequency that is half the volume if anything.

I think that the circuit bleeds out certain parts of the signal to the ground lead, therefore clipping it - similar to a tone pot on a guitar.

I'm not certain about this - it's just my theory.

6stygos (author)JJ Grunge2012-08-19

Cool overdrive and a nice instructable, your theory is right on the spot, schottky barrier diodes have the property to limit voltage, or to pass through voltages higher than the limit, depending on either it is forward or backward biased. I'm goingto build one of these probably tomorrow and I'm looking into it.

randofo (author)2012-08-09

This is a nice simple trick. How does it sound?

JJ Grunge (author)randofo2012-08-09

It's a warmer sort of overdrive. It isn't very aggressive, but it's noticeable.

Radioactive_Legos (author)2012-08-09

I LOVE your crappy graphics! I have a GT-8 effects processor, but I might have to build this just for the heck of it :D

About This Instructable




Bio: I never learned how to solder properly, everything I make turns out to look shabby, but it works. Usually.
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