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Picture of Tube Screamer clone
I never really considered building my own guitar pedals. I always thought that it was best if I left it to someone else to build the tools which would build my tone.
When I first got into guitars, I played accoustic and the funny thing was that even though I had been playing for about 2 years, I still knew nothing about gutiars.
My first distortion pedal was the FAB Metal pedal. It was cheap. Thats really all I can say about it. The next pedal I got was the classic Boss DS-1. WIth the DS-1, I began to wonder about it and finally came accross a website which show me how to mod the pedal. At this point, I decided that I create my own tone and that is exactly what I will be doing in this instructable.
 
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Step 1: Getting the parts

Picture of Getting the parts
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I found the plans for this project at tonepad.com, the link can be found here:
http://www.tonepad.com/project.asp?id=1

I downloaded the PDF file, there are two options. The first is that you etch your own PCB or you buy a pre-printed board from them. Personally, I prefer saving a bit of money and DIYing it. If you do not have supplies or experience I suggest you find instructions about etching circuit boards first.

The method that I chose is using found here on Instructables.com. It is at this link:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!--A-better-etc/?ALLSTEPS

I chose this because it is "reusable" (yeah, i know, I'm cheap). i won't write out the process of etching since it can be found at the link. I will however post pictures of how mine went.

I ordered all the parts from Small Bear Electronics. They are quite reasonably priced without the large shipping costs incurred from mouser. Definitely recommend.

Recently, i read an article about the parts which make up the tube screamer. There is much discussion whether certain parts are better then others. Some claim and swear that by using all NOS(New Old Stock) which means manufactured back when and never used. This is because they it will replicate the exact sound they had back then. I feel that it's great but considering that resistors are still resistors. Caps are still caps and ICs are still built the same.
Consider this, if a precision resistor does the same job as a carbon resistor, just better then why not? After all, one only benefits from less noise. (which is good...right?)
As for the ICs, i hear that people are willing to pay up $45 for a NOS JRC4558D. But consider this, if it was made on the same production line, using the same materials, with no change to the original. What difference does it make?
Then again that is IF those conditions are the same.
Caps(capacitors)...umm...go for the better ones?
which ones are better? here is a list(again with much discussion of order)
1/2.Polystyrene
1/2.Polypropylene(Film and foil before Metallized)
3.Polyester
For the actual audio chain stay away from ceramic and Electrolytics. These caps are still good, just not in audio.

***UPDATE***
Recently I recieved this comment from Spinergy(located on the bottom of the page) and I realized that it coved what I missed. Thanks

When it comes to caps in the signal path, if the original used electrolytics that's what I'd stick with here if you really so want to dupe the original sound. In an application like this better resistors will make no real difference. The new cleaner IC's will make a small but probably unnoticeable difference. Poly caps in place of electros is where the biggest change will occur. Electrolytic caps are the last thing you'd want in the signal path of your Hifi amp or speaker crossovers, but for something like this their inherently dirty distorted nature is a key part of the original circuit's voice. This is after all part of an instrument making music, not playback gear trying to faithfully reproduce a recording.

While using NOS parts is usually fine if they're cheap and readily available, I'd never go NOS on electrolytic caps. Unlike resistors, IC's, or film caps which are truly "solid state" and will store practically forever without degradation, electro caps are subject to chemical breakdown of the electrolytic paste which makes them tick. Their tolerance isn't great to start, and after 20-30 years their values can be all over the place. Not to mention they can just outright die from old age.

If you want a smoother sound vs. duplicating the original tone then poly caps are certainly the right choice. Electrolytic caps introduce distortion because their internal resistance vs. frequency is nonlinear making them act like a randomly adjusted graphic equalizer. The higher the frequency, the greater the distortion. Poly caps, on the other hand, are very linear and introduce essentially zero distortion.

Which to use in an effects pedal? No right or wrong, better or worse, it's all up to personal choice. They are a tuning element just like choosing your strings, pickups, etc.


Step 2: Quick run through of the etching process

Yes, I know, on the last page I said I would skip the etching but I changed my mine.

Here are the steps:
1. Cut board to the correct size and thoroughly clean it.
2. Use a method of getting the design on to the board. (I tryed this blue press N' peel. It didn't really work at all, I guess I used too much heat with the iron. I ended up using the toner transfer method and filled in blank spots with a Sharpie)
3. Etch away!
4. Clean the toner/Press N'Peel/Whatever off the board.
5. Drill holes.
6. Clean the board

Step 3: Putting the components on to the board

Picture of Putting the components on to the board
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Now that the board is clean, you can start soldering the components. Make sure to double if not triple check where each component goes before soldering. This will save lots a of frustration in the long run so you don't need to de-solder parts.

As far as soldering goes, be extra careful with transistors, semiconductors and diodes; as they can be damaged by heat. I recommend that you use heat sink clips if you are new to soldering or do not have as much experience.

In the pictures, you can see that I placed the chip into a holder. What this does is it prevents the chip from being accidently damaged during soldering as well the chip can be replaced. Putting different chips in the holder a different sound to be achieved.

For a soldering, look for an iron with a lower wattage and finer tip.

Step 4: Working on the enclosure

Picture of Working on the enclosure
For this step, I took a blank enclosure drilled holes in it and painted it. This was my first time doing it and I needed to return the drill very quickly, thus the crappy drilling job. I was also focusing on the actual drilling so I did not have time to take pictures until after i finished the final coat of paint.

Pretty self explanitory, make sure that you measure the exact locations of the holes. Then take a punch and give the hole a bit of a "head start". Next, just take a metal cutting bit. Use the highest speed, a bit of oil and drill away.

Before painting, dry fit all the components to ensure that they all fit.

I didn't bother with de-burring the edges because only the component would be touching it.

For painting:
1. Cleant the casing.
2. Spray primer on to the casing. It is best to use light coats and spray lots of them. Just make sure that you let the previous coat dry before spraying the next. If you do not the result will be a very thick goopy and possible runny paint job. If you do mess up on this step, you can always sand down the primer so that it is all even, the finish doesn't matter since
3. Spray the final coat in the same way the primer was applied.





Step 5: Inside the enclosure

Picture of Inside the enclosure
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When wiring the board to the components, there is a guide on tonepad.com that shows you the different ways of doing it. What I did was I took a plan and then modified it so that it would work for what I needed.
I think that it is better to make sure that you just have enough wire but making sure that it is not too short. Too much wire will just cause it to look messy. Other then that measure seven times and cut once.

Step 6: Testing...

For testing double, if not triple check the connections. Make sure that everything is at it's correct polarity.
Start by plugging it in and seeing if the bypass(off position) works. Next plug it in and make sure the LED lights up, if not unplug and check again.
Really, there could be a billion things that might happen but it is up to you to figure it out, for the most part it's probably just an instruction error. or it might be a part error.

Enjoy the pedal!!!
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is very small the PCB when i print the pdf...please help me

Hello...i have a question...i print the circuit in 100% size or with zoom?Thank you...

irishjim681 year ago

Resistors should be 1/4 watt, which is common for this type of project. Capacitors should be rated at approximately twice the supply voltage of the circuit. Since this is designed to run from a 9v battery, you should get capacitors rated for 16vdc

Great instructable seems very thorough after reading through it and I plan on building once the parts come in. My only question is what exactly does the smaller switch on your pedal do ?
gbenett3 years ago
i'm sorry but where's the schematics?
seby98 gbenett3 years ago
they can be obtained from the link (tonepad.com) i think
pfred23 years ago
I lucked out and found 3 vintage JRC4558Ds on a PCB I scrapped for parts once. They are that much better. I've no idea just what they were up to in the factory back then and I'm not usually one to tout the undefinable but in the case of a vintage JRC I have to say there is definitely something going on there! I put them up against about 5 other different 4558s I've collected over the years and even I can hear the difference.
ssid1234 years ago
Hey, did you use one of the off board wiring diagrams from tonepad to put the led and switch in? If so, which one, I'm a bit lost on how to put in the led with a true bypass switch, thanks.
harald255 years ago
I thought I could just bring the partlist from tonepad to my local hardware store, and get the people there to tell me what parts is what.
But the guy in the store told me he needed to know how many watts and volts each component is supposed to take.
So, could anyone here tell me how to find out, or just tell me exactly what parts I need?

I'm not really that good at this, so I hoped this would be a good project to start out with.
jonboytang (author)  harald255 years ago
From what i remember, all the resisters are 1/4 W and the caps need to be no higher than 9V. it would also help them if you brought a colour picture of the my finished board with all the components on it. Best of luck
Ok, thanks!
Btw.. I also see that there is different kind og resistors.
Like "metal film" resistors, "carbon film" resistors etc.
Does it matter what I pick here, and is there different kinds of the other components too?

I feel like I'm asking a lot of stupid questions here, but I hope you have time to answer me anyways. =)
MrkTrussell5 years ago
"At this point, I decided that I create my own tone and that is exactly what I will be doing in this instructable." Not trying to be mean at all, but I think "building my own pedal" would make more sense than "create my own tone" because you only put it together. You didn't create the Tube Screamer.
jonboytang (author)  MrkTrussell5 years ago
picky, picky, picky.... one thing you forgot to realize is that even though i didn"t create the tube screamer, the parts that i used will affect the out come out the sound. so, by changing a cap or maybe a resistor, it allows me to modify the TONE. :P
Can't find the pots anywhere! not even at small bear. Mousers got em but I aint paying $15 bucks each. That's $45 bucks only on pots! Can i use other ones? I managed to pick up the 100k lin. from my local electronics store but they only had 50k instead of 20k and no 500k log. Also if i can avoid it i dont want to order online since i am in Canada and I will have to go down pass the border to pick it up. If there is any alternatives please let me know!
Plurp6 years ago
How much would all the parts cost together?
jonboytang (author)  Plurp6 years ago
In the end my cost about 10 in electronics and an extra 10 for the case...ish it's been a while and i can't remember exactly..
Your instructable is top shelf my friend!! I too would also jump at the option of listening to your final product. best regards
itsachen6 years ago
hey wherdu get ur 3PDT switch? i cant find a cheap source...
You might want to try this place:

http://pedalpartsplus.com/

Almost as cheap as eBay.
Thanks for the heads up for the parts place.
WOAH! You were right! Thanks so much LividMonkey jonboytang too, for making this awesome instructable
jonboytang (author)  itsachen6 years ago
I get my stuff at http://www.smallbearelec.com/StoreFront.bok
as well as
The source by circuit city
vodo6 years ago
ware did you get the case. (link)
freerunnin16 years ago
is that acid in a glass? lol
Spinergy6 years ago
Re: New vs. NOS parts When it comes to caps in the signal path, if the original used electrolytics that's what I'd stick with here if you really so want to dupe the original sound. In an application like this better resistors will make no real difference. The new cleaner IC's will make a small but probably unnoticeable difference. Poly caps in place of electros is where the biggest change will occur. Electrolytic caps are the last thing you'd want in the signal path of your Hifi amp or speaker crossovers, but for something like this their inherently dirty distorted nature is a key part of the original circuit's voice. This is after all part of an instrument making music, not playback gear trying to faithfully reproduce a recording. While using NOS parts is usually fine if they're cheap and readily available, I'd never go NOS on electrolytic caps. Unlike resistors, IC's, or film caps which are truly "solid state" and will store practically forever without degradation, electro caps are subject to chemical breakdown of the electrolytic paste which makes them tick. Their tolerance isn't great to start, and after 20-30 years their values can be all over the place. Not to mention they can just outright die from old age.
jonboytang (author)  Spinergy6 years ago
very true, I guess that was one thing that I had failed to realize. However finding out where these caps are placed may be harder since the schematic that i got was only the distortion part of the amp. The main reason that I chose the poly cap in the first place was not to replicate the sound of the tube screamer exactly but since i have done previous mods on pedals before, they say that the sound becomes smoother, which was what i was looking for rather than so much a clone. May i paste your comment into the instructable?
If you want a smoother sound vs. duplicating the original tone then poly caps are certainly the right choice. Electrolytic caps introduce distortion because their internal resistance vs. frequency is nonlinear making them act like a randomly adjusted graphic equalizer. The higher the frequency, the greater the distortion. Poly caps, on the other hand, are very linear and introduce essentially zero distortion. Which to use in an effects pedal? No right or wrong, better or worse, it's all up to personal choice. They are a tuning element just like choosing your strings, pickups, etc. Paste away.
Really nice first instructable, the pedal looks great 5/5! You made the process look so simple and the documentation and text was very clear. One question that comes to mind, don't you have to insulate metal cases with all DYI pedals?
No insulation required. But you do have to be sensible making sure that you don't have the board short out against the enclosure.
ahhh. . . . got it. . . .
Davvik6 years ago
Could you put up a schematic? Instead of a PCB design, because I would like to do this all point to point, instead of etching a PCB
Windaloo Davvik6 years ago
You'll find the schematic as pdf on the site he mentioned in step 1:
http://www.tonepad.com/project.asp?id=1
Davvik Windaloo6 years ago
Woops, sorry, I guess that should teach me to read more closely before asking questions. I read it too quickly I guess, might have missed that. BUt thanks a lot.
robso6 years ago
Sweet! I wonder if this'll work as a distortion-pedal for BASSguitars also. Any opinions?
jonboytang (author)  robso6 years ago
Yeah, for sure it would work, distortion would work for any instrument because all distortion is is sound waves getting clipped. What I would change if I made this for a bass is some of the components so that it allowed for more a bass boost rather then a mid range boost.
Thx for replying! I'll have to read up on what components to use instead. Big Up!
bumpus6 years ago
Excellent explanation! I might suggest doing an instructable dedicated to dealing with the etching process, and explain the materials used and such. :D 4.5/5
jonboytang (author)  bumpus6 years ago
The materials can be found on the schematic and purchased at small bear electronics. I'll update that section.
acer73 bumpus6 years ago
There are already many other instuctables explaining etching processes.
bumpus acer736 years ago
I am aware, but new-comers to the site may not know that, so its most helpful to either explain the whole process, or link readers to one, like what jonboytang did.
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