Behind The Iron With C. Isaac Nelson (Pt. 1)


Some general guidelines for building an effects pedal kit for the first time: For the N00bs!

First off­—it always helps to make sure the kit that you are going to build has instructions that you understand. Most kit makers have good instructions and wiring diagrams to make everything as easy as possible.  Beware ever buying a kit with no instructions. There’s nothing worse than spilling out a random bag of parts, a bread board, and an enclosure only to think “Hey, I have no idea where any of this stuff goes!” You may be thinking “Well Isaac, that’s just common sense.” But believe you me; it happens.

Secondly—make sure you have some decent tools.  Don’t try building a kit with some dull scissors and blow torch—it will not turn out well! You don’t have to get anything fancy, but good tools make every job easier. When it comes to soldering irons, I recommend Weller or Hakko. I try to avoid the RadioShack “plug directly into the wall” style. If this is all you have, you can still make it work, but you may end up with a fried pad or two (or a hole in your desk.) Here’s a list of tools that aren’t to expensive that will make your life easier:

• The aforementioned soldering iron (The brands Weller and Hakko are both good).

Wire strippers and wire cutters (Excelite is a good brand for these tools).

• A screwdriver, almost any regular Phillips head screwdriver will do (We are talking about the tool here, not the alcoholic beverage, although that doesn’t hurt).

• A digital multi-meter (Again, you don’t need this if you do everything perfectly the first time, which some of you do. I, on the other hand, like to make things interesting and regularly make mistakes on my builds. A multi-meter is a tremendously useful tool in trouble shooting problems in effects pedals. There are good ones available for not very much money at RadioShack, Harbor Freight, or on the web. I will go over what you need in a multi-meter in a future post because they can do a lot).

• An adjustable wrench is very handy. That, or a socket set. Don’t scratch your new shiny enclosure (that you got at Mammoth Electronics of course!) by tightening your input jack with some needle nose pliers.


Tools Of The Trade


*Look for the next installment of ‘Behind The Iron…’ in the next few days!*

2 thoughts on “Behind The Iron With C. Isaac Nelson (Pt. 1)

  1. nate says:

    i also highly recommend dental picks. great for moving around wires, clearing out the holes in the breadboard, scraping off errant solder, etc. And a “helping hands” is a life saver.

  2. JC says:

    Great tips! The first thing I reach for are my reading glasses. That’s in part because I am old but in part because they magnify the tiny little parts. They also double as safety glasses which can’t hurt!

    I’d also recommend a solder sucker (solder removal tool) for when you screw something up (and you will).

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