My wife once mentioned to me that she thought a guitar amp and speaker in a suitcase would be a cool idea so last Christmas I decided to take a shot at it.
Step 1: Decide What You Are Going to Build
I had an 8” 4Ω speaker not being used so I decided to base the build around it. The classic 5F1 circuit is very simple with a short parts list that can be readily sourced. The 5W output means you can crank it up to get a raw and raunchy sound without disturbing the neighbors. One knob, as simple as it gets.
To save time I chose a prepackaged kit from Boot Hill Amps but you can definitely source everything yourself if inclined. Fair warning if you can’t cut and bend your own sheet metal chassis you will not save any money.
The schematic and layout are readily found on the web. The Weber version is favored by many builders.
One other criteria I had was that I wanted no exposed knobs or speaker grill visible when the case was closed.
Step 2: The Case Work
Here is the case I found, I needed to remove the handle so it could be relocated later.
More butchery followed.
The open panels were cut with a fine saw so they could be reattached.
Step 3: Electrical Work
As mentioned before this is a very simple circuit with very few parts. But yes, those big capacitors on the left can hold a lethal charge so know how to safely work with them when troubleshooting. It is easier to troubleshoot and test with the chassis out of the case.
Dave at Boot Hill Amps stands by his kits and will help with troubleshooting any issues.
Step 4: Putting It All Together
I made an internal framework that would hold the amp chassis
and speaker as a unit that would then slide into the case. This was very time consuming with many test fits and trimming. The handle was moved to the top of the case which is now vertically oriented. On the bottom the feet are screwed into the base of the framework. I actually made a step by step disassembly manual because you can’t take it apart out of sequence without damaging something. Fortunately almost all electrical work can be done in place.
I always liked the phrase “cheesy little amp” from Frank Zappa’s song Joe’s Garage so I had some nameplates made for this amp and another I had previously made for myself.
Step 5: Final Thoughts
I was on a real time crunch with this project so the planning phase was done on the fly which is fun but it means sourcing trim for panel edges and other cosmetic touches were left out.
The iconic Fender Champ amplifier from the 50’s used this circuit and it still sounds good. Clapton, Joe Walsh, Billy Gibbons among many others have used this type of amp for recording over the years.
Additionally I received a million "Husband of the Year" bonus points.