Create Your Own Guitar Effects Pedal




This is a general instructable about how to build your own pedal clones. It's not hard to do, just take care that you read up on some info beforehand. There's numerous schematics and layouts on tonepad. If it's the first build you're doing it's best to start with the easier stuff, like a simple fuzz or overdrive. In this instructable I'll be building an Electro Harmonix Pulsar clone, and a TychoBrahe Octavia clone.


Step 1: Equipment Needed:

Necessary equipent:''
Soldering Iron with a small tip.
Thin solder
Blank copper PCB board
Iron (preferably an older one, as it might get a bit dirty and scratched)
etchant (I used Ammoniumpersufate)
Drill with a 1.0 or smaller head (I used a Column Drill of some old east german fashion to prevent breaking to many heads, it might be good to see if it's possible to gain acces to a similar drill.)
Acces to a laser printer
Glossy photo paper.
Some plastic or glass trays to perform the etching ceremony in. (do not use any metal object during the etching process, the etching fluid burns through any sort of metal.)
One stereo and one mono jack input
A 3DPT footswitch button, it is advised to get one of these, even though they're expensive, they save you from making a millenium bypass or something similar, unless ofcourse, you can't stand a good true bypass)
Thin wire.
A case to put the end result in.

Other parts:
The specific parts you need to depend on what pedal you want to make. D'OH
In this case I decided to make a two in one pedal. One side is a clone of the EHX Pulsar tremolo pedal. The other side is an octave up pedal, based on the Octavia. I got both the schematics, layouts and directly printable PCB etching drawing from This is a very helpfull site, tons of layouts and schematics and some helpfull tutorials. Other good sites to check are: and (...)
Lots of components can be gotten from electronics shops, but most shops don'st stock the more effect pedal specific parts, so it is advised to buy everything online. I used the store, but it's based in holland, americans and other could use smallbearelectronics and the like.

Step 2: How to Get Started:

Print the layout on the glossy photo paper. I used Canon Glossy Photo paper for this. Don't go too expensive, just cheap glossy paper. Make sure to print it on a laser printer. Print the layout 2 or 3 times on the same sheet, so you have an extra print if something goes wrong. Now you can start to clean the copper board. Use a sponge and some fat removing cleaning fluid. Make sure you clean the copper thoroughly, and don't touch it with your fingers (or anything else that could put fat on the copper), that might give you some troubles while ironing the layout on. After you've cleaned and dried the copperboard you can start heating up the iron. Use the hottest setting your iron has. Place the layout on the copperboard (yesss with the toner facing the board 0.o), and place the hot iron on. Apply a little pressure, and make sure the paper doesn't move anymore after this. Keep the iron in place for about a minute. Then carefully start moving the iron around over the paper, still making sure the paper doesn't move. The whole process usually takes me about 10 minutes. If you think the toner is transfered onto the copperboard, take of the iron, and feel if the paper is attached to the copper or not. If it comes loose really easy, just take it off, if you really need to pull it, put the whole board in a bit of cold water and carefully peel the wet paper off.

If everything went well the circuit should be on the copperboard, without any gaps in the copper leads. If this is not the case, use some aceton or nail polish remover to clean the copperboard and start again. If the transfer of the toner went well, it's time to get to the etching.

Step 3: The Etching:

There's a few different fluids you can use to etch the copper of the board, and reveal the circuit. I used Ammoniumpersulfate. You should check the descriptions that come with the product you're using to etch. The Ammoniumpersulfate I used had to be used at a temperature between 80 and 50 degrees celcius. Use plastic or glass containers only. I used a small tray to put the etchant in, and perform the etching in, and a larger one filled with hot water to keep the etchant hot, and to make sure that if some of the etchant was spilled it wouldn't to any damage. The duration of this process depends on the etchant you're using. If all of the copper is dissapeared you can carefully take the board out, and use water to clean all the etchant off. Store the etchant in a plastic or glass bottle to use it another time, or to dump it at a chemical disposal point. DON'T THROW IT IN THE SINK, unless you feel like sponsoring the local plumber. Also, be sure to wear latex gloves the whole time.

Be patient and careful during this step. Not to scare you off, but you're working with aggressive fluids here, and messing things up can really cost you.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes:

If the board is all clean, and you've got rid of the etchant you're ready to drill the holes in the board. This can be pretty much a pain in the ass, especially if you haven't got acces to a column drill, the drill heads are so thin you can break it really easy, so you really have to make sure to drill straight down, and don't try to correct the direction while drilling.

Most people use 0.8 mm drills, but I advise using a 1.0 mm drill. The 0.8 mm might be a bit small for some components.

Step 5: Soldering the Components

Once you've finished drilling all the holes we're getting to the fun part: SOLDERING. For some reason I really enjoy locking myself in my room with a nice beer, soldering iron and an interesting project. The soldering is pretty easy, just put all the pieces on their places and solder them onto the board. Try to do this as tidy as you can. Use a soldering iron with a small point, and thin solder. Don't make too many big blobs all around the board, it only makes things look bad, and might have consequences for the way things work. Use thin, flexible wire for the pots.

Step 6: Offboard Wiring:

The term offboard wiring is used for everything that's not placed on the circuit board. Technically, pots are also part of the offboard wiring. The wiring diagram depends on the type of switch your using.

When the on board soldering is ready, it's time for the offboard part, the stompswitch and inputs. In my optimism of almost being done with a project I really have to be carefull not to make mistakes near the end, it's easy to get so anxious to try your project that it's not unlikely that you'll make a little wiring mistake, and spend hours of troubleshooting. Tonepad has really good offboard wiring layouts, and once you get the principle it's easy to think them out yourself. If you start soldering wires onto the 3DPT switch, remember to start with the middle connection, that saves you a lot of forking solder through small spaces etc. Various schematics can be found on

Step 7: Casing the Thing

Test the whole thing before you start putting it in the case. Make all the wires as short as possible to prevent the inside of the pedal to look like a plate of spaghetti. I wasn't sure about what case I was gonna use, so mine has a lot of spare wire inside.

If you're ready to put it in the case, find some drills that match the width of the pot shafts, and stompswitch. If you have installed status LED's get some LED holders, and another right sized drill.

Step 8: TroubleShooting:

If there's something wrong, there's a couple of things you can try:

Check your offboard wiring, sometimes it's easy to mix input and ground. If that happens, you will hear some noise out of your amp when the pedal is engaged, but no guitar signal coming through.

If all the wiring is correct, check for bad solder joints, both in the offboard wiring and on the board. The solder joints should be clean and silvery.

Next thing is checking if there's any current coming through. Get a multimeter, and check if the circuit is complete, and if heat sensitive parts like transistors and op-amps aren't fried.



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    28 Discussions


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

    "I got both the schematics, layouts and directly printable PCB etching drawing from", this was where i believe he got his schematic, should probably be a parts list there too. I personally like General Guitar Gadgets. they have kits you can buy or you can do like i did with some of mine and use Digikey Mouser or Small Bear Electronics to buy the parts and put it on perf board.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I built the General Gadgets tremolo pedal in 2010, which I believe cost $60 then. Their cost was very close to what the individual parts would have cost from other sources, and they sell the circuit board and the parts separately, if desired. It works really well. Their correspondence concerning questions I had about the circuit were prompt, courteous and showed a deep understanding of the circuit. I was impressed with the company. The paperwork which accompanied the kit, about 6-8 pages, was thorough and with large pictures. There was a parts list, schematic, pictorial of the layout, and photos of how it should look. I had compared it to competing kits, and liked it best. No, I have no connection to them.


    9 years ago on Step 7

    Ok....i have a that case made of wood? O.o What about the ground? I tought that the case must be made of metal for the sake of the ground....???

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    He has the metal case covered with masking tape so that he could write the description, mark the hole centers and any other marking, and so while doing all the handling, drilling, etc, he wouldn't scratch up the case. It's a good idea for anytime you will be doing a lot of drilling and otherwise using metal in close proximity to metal that you don't want to or can't afford to be scratched.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 7

    it can be made of wood, you could use aluminum or copper tape to coat the inside. this is usually done so outside interference like radio signals will be picked up. as for the grounding, thats usually all done on the soldering and properly running your ground to all mounted components IE: the pots and plugs.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Pedal Power 2 Plus is hand made in the U.S.A., comes complete with cables, detachable AC power cord, a 5-year warranty, and simply makes you sound better!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    You can get a 3PDT stomp box switch off eBay for 2 dollars including transport :)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    for those of you who just want to make stripboard based guitar stuff check the guitar section of this blog


    8 years ago on Step 8

    wat is the electronic part list ??? where is circuit diagram????plz upload....


    8 years ago on Step 7

    No no no. When you have something with high voltages, all outer metalparts which COULD have contact with the high voltage cables and contacts have to be grounded for safety, so you don't have 230 Volts on the outside of the case. If all your high voltage stuff is inside, you don't even need that extra-ground. Here in Germany we have three cables, one is +, one null (the normal ground) and one called "Erde" or what you could mean with ground. Don't know how it is elsewhere. Found out they don't take grounding too serious in Danmark for example. Buuuut, if you don't have high voltage, you don't need a metal case nor ground on it.
    ooops, you wrote your comment a year ago... well, someone else could read it. :D


    10 years ago on Step 2

    Why does it have to be a laser printer? Just curious, somewhat because I don't have one.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    the actual reason it has to be a laser printer is because laser printers do not use ink, instead, they use powdered plastic, which a galvanometer aimed laser melts it on to a piece of paper. this plastic when transferred to a pcb, will resist the chemicals used to etch copper.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    it has something to do with the type of inks used in them i think certain amount carbon i think so if u iron the design onto your board it will stick easier then wont etch away at least thats what the tell me at school


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    In my electronics class I use a permanent marker and precise hand movements instead of ironing on toner from a piece of paper so you don't need a printer at all if you're good with your hands.