Custom Hardwood Effects Pedalboard

Introduction: Custom Hardwood Effects Pedalboard

About: Zeppelin Design Labs combines the talents of two engineers: Brach, an expert audio products designer; and Glen, a veteran project manager. Our team also includes three lava lamps, two plasma balls and a rhodo…

While there is no shortage of pedal boards in the world (or on Instructables), each design bears the mark of its maker; each brings its own unique take to a common problem: How to organize and display foot pedals and other accessories for convenience, durability and beauty. This Instructable describes how we recently went about designing and building a custom pedal board for a client. Attached is a detailed list of the materials, supplies and tools we used.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

The client is a Chicago balloon twister and kid’s musician. He’s an artist, not a technician. He obtained a wireless receiver setup, tried to arrange his own board, realized he needed our help, and brought us this (1a). He also brought us this neat old case (1b, 1c) and asked us to make a new board that would fit in the case and organize all his gear.

It was going to be a close fit. For the initial design, we took a practical approach: we stuffed all the gear into the case along with a piece of ½” plywood and rearranged it until it fit. We found we could fit the receiver, the power strip, and all the power supplies under the board. The mixer went on top, with room to add a tuner and an effects pedal or two. The board is about 12 ½” deep x 16” wide, leaving an inch or less clearance all around. It’s 2” tall at the front, 4” tall at the back, resulting in a 9° pitch.

We went with a “slat” design to provide two continuous ¾” wide slots across the width of the board for maximum flexibility and ease of construction. We made the frame of solid ½” walnut split from a 1” thick board because we happened to have a piece available.

Step 2: Lay Out & Cut the Parts

We went with the simplest-of-all-possible butt joints. We cut the four sides from a plank of walnut, and the slats from a scrap of ½” plywood (2a). See our Instructable “Simple, Easy, Cheap Method for Cutting Angled Parts on a Table Saw”.

The fit was so tight we had to design around the ribs in the case (2b).

Frequent dry-fitting the parts along the way is essential for catching arithmetic errors (2c). An error in the length of the slats would mess up the joints at the corners. We double-checked the slat width, taking carpet-covering thickness into account, to make sure we would wind up with two ¾” wide slots.

We split the frame parts from a 1” thick block of walnut, so the inner side of each piece needed some heavy sanding with 60 grit paper (2d).

Step 3: Wrap the Deck Boards

We bought a piece of runner carpet from the building supply center. (3a) Most larger stores have several types to choose from, sold by linear foot. Bring a piece of Velcro with you to the store to test the tenacity of each before making your choice. Pick a carpet with good Velcro adhesion, a tight, durable nap, and a backing flexible enough to wrap around your boards.

Trim the carpet from the back with a razor blade or sharp utility knife.

Cut the carpet big enough that the flaps will overlap about 1”. Use a good-quality contact cement to bond the board to the carpet. (3b) Extra points if you use a small router to round off the edges of the boards.

Wrap the carpet as tightly as you can around the boards. (3c) Press and rub down the carpet tightly! Now slice through the overlap, peel off the extra pieces, and create a nice, neat butt joint.

Use a staple gun along the seam. (3d) Use two rows of staples, one on either side of the seam; do not try to span the seam with a single row of staples. It is our opinion that both glue and staples are essential for a quality result.

Step 4: Cut the Hole in the Frame for IEC Jack

Lay out the IEC jack location. (4a)

Drill the corners with ¼” bit and cut out the hole with a jig saw. (4b)

Clean up the hole with a flat file or rasp if necessary until you achieve a neat fit. (4c)

Trace the holes for the mounting screws and drill 5/64” pilot holes. (4d)

Step 5: Pick Up Some Angle Braces From the Hardware Store, or Fabricate Your Own

We have access to a sheet metal shop, so we made custom corner braces. (5) The parts list suggests some common-size corner braces you can use to assemble the pedal board. For that long brace along the front, just use a few shorter ones installed end-to-end. Our board pitches up at 9°, so we bent that long brace at 81°. You may want to set your braces down on the garage floor and tap them with a hammer to open them up a little until their angle better matches your board.

Step 6: Attach Braces to Sides; Assemble the Frame.

We attached the corner braces first to the side pieces, flush to their ends, using #6x1/2” pan head sheet metal screws driven into 5/64” pilots. (6a)

Next we attached the support braces for the boards to the sides and front (not shown). Use the actual, carpeted boards to accurately space the brackets down from the top edge of the frame parts.

Last, we assembled the sides to the front and back. Note we held the long, front-edge bracket 1” in from the corners, so they wouldn’t conflict with the other braces. (6b)

Step 7: Sand and Finish the Frame

Fill gaps at the corners with wood dough as needed. Sand the exterior four times: 60, 120, 240 & 320 grit. If you take your time, walnut will polish to a velvet smoothness.

Apply a few LIGHT COATS of MinWax clear polyurethane, hand-buffing with 320 grit sandpaper between coats. (7)

Step 8: Install the Boards

Attach the two boards from below, using more #6x1/2” pan-head screws. (8) The bottom board goes tight against the front of the frame; carefully space the top board to create two equal, straight slots. Drive the screws just barely snug at first, then make the rounds gradually tightening them down.

Step 9: Install the IEC Jack & Builder’s Badge

Install the IEC jack with a pair of #6x1/2” flat head sheet metal screws (9a)

Apply your company’s slick aluminum logo badge on the front with #4x1/2” pan-head sheet metal screws driven into 1/16” pilots. (9b)

Step 10: Install the Power Strip and Other Underside Gear

We lopped the cable off the power strip and carefully soldered it into the IEC jack. (10a) We carefully insulated all exposed contacts with heat shrink tubing.

We attached the power strip to the frame with a few cable clamps. The transmitter and its power box are stuck in place with Velcro. (10b) Note how we strapped the mixer’s power supply to the power strip with a cable tie.

This layout required careful planning and forethought. Note there is still room to plug in a few more accessories, and space in front of the receiver to tuck in some more cables.

Step 11: Install the Above-board Gear

All that remained was to install the mixer with Velcro to the top of the board. (11) We made some custom cables with 90° jacks. The client can easily add a tuner and an effects unit.

That’s it! Swag for a balloon artist, you say? Hey, it’s good work if you can get it.

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