'Amplify' : Radio Hack.




Introduction: 'Amplify' : Radio Hack.

‘Amplify’ is a revolutionary device that allows you to turn your guitar amplifier, into a radio in seconds! Whether you’re a guitar nut, roadie, or just fancy a change from your typical radio to get the traffic reports, Amplify is perfect. It’s small enough to throw in your bag, and elegant in its own retro way so as not to spoil the classic look of your beloved guitar amp.

This is a radio hack i did as part of a 2nd year Product Design coursework project, at Dundee University. The brief instructed us to use the inner workings from a standard handheld radio, and incorparate them into a brand new design of our own.

This Instructable will guide you through all you need to know in order to build this guitar amp radio which i have entitled 'Amplify'.

The photos above show the logo, a 3d render and my initial sketch model.

Step 1: What You Need...

1 - 1 x radio circuit board
2 - Aluminium Sheet
3 - 2 x Brushed Aluminium control knobs
4 - Styrene plastic sheet
5 - Selection of small allan keys
6 - 1 x standard light fitting
7 - 1 x minijack to minijack lead
8 - 1 x 3.5mm to 6.3mm audio jack adapter
9 - 1 x Letraset letter transfer set
10 - 1 x Cut Vinyl Sticker
11 - 1 x 5mm black cable
12 - 4 x Rivets
13 - 1x AA battery pack.

Step 2: Exploded Diagram

This is my exploded diagram for my radio. This should give you a clear idea of how the unit goes together. It differs slightly to the finished product, this is only due to last minute changes in the building process. 

Step 3: Removing the Circuitry From a Handheld Radio

Removing the circuitry from the radio is fairly simple. There are small phillips head screws which can be removed with a screwdriver to open the casing. Some components may be slightly more difficult than others to undo from the casing, but generally they all clip out fairly easily.

Step 4: Soldering Up the Circuit

Once you have your removed circuit, it's time to solder it up to suit the design. I found that desoldering the circuit components that you need, and soldering them back up again on long wire extentions, as shown, works well. For this particular radio, there is no need for the speaker, so completely remove that. The LED, Tuner, and Volume Switch, all need to be extended. 

Step 5: Laser Cutting

The next step of the process is making the faceplate and backplate. I used a laser cutter which made it easy but very precise. Cutting plastic on a laser cutter involves drawing a cad view of the component, feeding that into a computer programme and setting the controls for a laser beam.

The shape for the faceplate is a 100mm by 100mm square with rounded corners, the holes are 20mm in diameter and sit anywhere on the theoretical diagonal line between two corners. The backplate is again 100 x 100, the centre hole is dependant on the specific light fitting you have chosen. the battery door is dependant on the specific battery pack you have chosen.

If you don't have access to a laser cutter then other methods such as bandsaws, sanders and rotary tools will do the job.

Below is an image of me holding my newly laser cut panels, between some test aluminium strips, so you can begin to see the radio taking shape.

Step 6: Cutting the Aluminium

To cut the aluminium side panels, i took a sheet of aluminium about 2mm thick, measured and sliced it in a metalwork guillotine. The strips are roughly 200 long and 45 wide, but it's really a case of seeing how it fits round your face and backplates and cutting to size.

Step 7: Bending the Aluminium

To bend the metal sides to shape, you should make a wooden moulding piece by drawing round the faceplate onto wood, layering it up and sanding it smooth. Find your centre points as shown, and carefully bend it round with your hands. At this stage you may want to drill a hole in the centre front of one of these panels for the LED to fit through.

Step 8: Riveting

To bond the metal side panels together, stick a small rectangular slice of aluminium over each join line, and hold in place with two rivets, one on each side. Remember to use the same sized rivets as your pilot holes. Smooth off the edges with a dremmel or some sandpaper.

Step 9: Making Battery Door

To make the battery door, take the piece you cut out for the battery door and glue small magnets to the underside at the very side centres as shown.

Cut small pieces of metal and stick them with glue onto the inside of the backplate, above where the magnets would go. Make sure you shape these small metal pieces so the door sits flush with the face. 

Find any small suitable piece of black plastic which could act as a handle, and glue it in place. I've used the piece shown in the photo which i found in my garage. I'm not sure what its original purpose was but it seems to work well for a battery door handle.

Wait until the glue dries and place the door in tits space. If all goes well it should click in nicely as shown.

Step 10: Making Base Cone

To Make the base cone, i found it best to use a light fitting, you should be able to find a similar fitting in all DIY shops.

First, drill through the centre of the fitting to make a through passage. This is for the audio lead to fit through.  Place the jack adapter facing out the bottom, and secure in place by packing with something solid, i chose 'NO MORE NAILS'. Be careful not to get any filler in the connection point. Leave this to dry.

Place the black part of the cone through the centre hole from the inside of the faceplate. If the hole is not perfect, you can widen it with a dremmel sanding piece as shown below. Glue the lip of this piece in place.

This can now be screwed tight in place, but leave off until the next step so the audio lead can be plugged in.

Give the White part a splash of black enamel paint. Two coats should do.

If you cannot gain access to a similar light fitting to this, you should be able to sculpt the piece from a wine cork as shown below.

Step 11: Fitting Components

Fit the backplate by using Araldite two part glue to glue it down onto the top edge of the small rectangle holding the two side panels together. some other supports may also be glued in, i used some thick cable.

Wrap the circuit board in masking tape and glue it down to the inside of the baseplate with hot melt glue. The tape is to keep the circuitry safe from glue damage. 

plug the audio lead into the headphone input. Push the other side down through the hole in the centre, into the light fitting, and plug into the jack adaptor inside. You can then screw the light fitting together.

The LED is simply mounted in place through the hole with some superglue.

Step 12: Securing of Knobs

This is a tricky one. The way i found best is the following:

Glue washers to the surrounding body of the volume and tuning switches, making sure not to drip glue into the centre so the shaft can still twist. Once this is dry, the top edge of the washers, should be glued to the underside of the faceplate with the twist control centred in the hole.

Fix appropriately sized allen key shafts down the hole in the center of the twist dials as shown, and secure with Araldite.
You may need to pad these metal shafts out with some electrical tape in order for the knob to sit on straight.

Secure on the knob by placing down over the shaft and twisting the grub screw tight into position.

Step 13: Beading

The rubber beading along the edge on the top and bottom of the unit, really tidy the aesthetics up. it covers any gaps, and gives a finished look.

I used an old phone charger cable, but most flexible black cables will do.

It is fixed in place by being cut to size and superglued into the corner. This can be held to dry by masking tape. 

Step 14: Decal

The decal is very important to this design as it's what gives Amplify its classic retro look.

The vinyl stickers with the amplify logo i got done at a professional sign makers. This only cost £6 and looks amazing. You should not attempt to cut your own self adhesive vinyl on a laser cutter as this produces unattractive melted edges and the fumes can be toxic.

The design i chose was a line coming from the logo, following the bottom edge around the side panels and circling the LED at the end. You can obviously design your own decal. It is recommended you bring an illustrator file on a flash drive, containing a black line outline of the cut you desire.

The vinyl stickers are applied by peeling off the back paper, sticking it in place, giving it a thorough rub in, and finally peeling off the clear plastic film.

I feel the black sticker on the black face plate is a big addition to the overall look of the design, it's not too in your face yet still manages to catch the eye.

The Lettering on the control Knobs are best done with Letraset letter transfers. These can be purchased in most art shops, and is applied much the same way as the vinyl stickers.

Step 15: Final Outcome!

This is my final product! 'Amplify' I'm very pleased with the way it has turned out.

This concept, is one that to my knowledge does not already exist as a product, but would be simple to do using any handheld radio. I think it would do well as a product and feel that ‘Amplify’ is a brilliant concept. Finished product aside, it is no doubt that this assignment has been the most useful section of my course so far. Building it has taught me many new processes, including laser cutting, riveting, guillotining and basic electronics. I feel this project was a success. I managed to get ‘Amplify’ built, working and looking better than i would ever have expected.

Have a go and see how yours turn out. It would be great to receive any feedback or suggestions anyone may have.



'Rock Out....to the Radio!' 
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    Mr J mad
    Mr J mad

    6 weeks ago

    It is nice


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I have been seeing this for over 30 years, so I would not call it revolutionary. Your version is very nicely done.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Amazing. Looks like it was brought from the store. very well done


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Cheers man, love the good feedback. I think it's the vinyl sticker that does it.


    10 years ago on Step 15

    That is actually pretty damn cool. I envision if it ever became mass produced, even as a version 2.0, you could make t he audio plug pivot so it could be folded away for even easier storage. Nice work!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    thanks man! yeah thats a good idea, would save having a big spike attached when its not being used. cheers.