Chelsea's Roost : Home of Steve Smith Tuition

The Amps Page

Build Your Own Amps!

It's not too difficult to make your own amps.

Picture of an Amp

My first amp was made using another DeCecco tin. Pretty rough, but it works.

The Electronics

I buy a mono 2.5 W amplifier kit from Mindsets (part number PAC 2000), and adapt it a bit, wire it to a jack socket and a speaker, and Bob's your uncle. It runs off a 9V PP3 battery (not supplied with the kit, although you do get the battery clip with the kit).

Incidentally, if you've never been to the Midsets site, they sell a lot of really interesting stuff. You should go and have a look.

The kit costs about £7. It needs soldering, but it's not too hard. In the kit you get a component that acts as a switch in the circuit. That's not very useful if you want to control the power from the outside of the box, so you will probably need to buy a toggle switch (eBay again) that you can connect to the printed circuit board with wires. In the DeCecco tin amp (above) I used the switch from an old defunct PC.

The kit also has a 50k potentiometer component that is supposed to be soldered to the board, that controls the gain of the amp. But again, if you want to have a knob on the outside of the box that controls the gain, you'll need to buy a 50k potentiometer (from eBay, probably), and connect that to the printed circuit board with wires.

The Gain Control

The gain control is quite neat. On a scale from 0-10, the low numbers give a clean sound, and the higher numbers give you some distortion. This is pretty clever for such a simple circuit.

The Speaker

For this amplifier kit you need an 8 ohm speaker that can handle 2.5 W of power. I bought mine from Amazon. They are 5W 8 ohm Aluminum Round Internal Magnet Speakers. They cost about £3 each.

Using Cigar Boxes

Moving on from a tin, which is difficult to cut and is pretty flimsy, I thought about using cigar and other wooden boxes.

One of the problems I'm having at the moment is to find a source of boxes. If you use a cigar box it has to be large enough inside to accommodate the speaker and the electronics, and the PP3 battery. The one I used above measured 15 cm (wide) by 12 cm (deep) by 8.5 cm (high). That's about perfect. But I picked up that cigar box in Gettysburg when on holiday there in 2009, and I don't go there very often! I think I picked it up for nothing.

The other box in the gallery above cost about £3. It's made of balsa wood so it's very soft. You have to handle it with care as it will pick up any ding. There's no point telling you where I got it, as the company don't sell them anymore.

So if you know of a source of cheap boxes of the right sort of size, please let me know.


Picture of a Pre Amp

I've also started making my own pre-amps. This is pretty easy also. I use the mono pre-amp kits from Mindsets again (part number MAP 436), which costs about £2.50. This also runs off a 9V PP3 battery (not supplied in the kit). The kits are very simple, and if you have a rudimentary knowledge of soldering you should be OK.

I'm probably the world's worst solderer, and if I can do it, anyone can.

As in the amplifier kit, there is a gain knob component that you will need to replace with a 10k potentiometer if you want to control the gain of the pre-amp from a knob on the guitar.

Pictured here is the finished product. All you need to do when connecting this within a guitar is to have the pickup going to the pre-amp input, and the output going to the jack socket.

The reason I started making pre-amps was that the thin pickups I'd made had a lower output to normal pickups, so I thought I might put a pre-amp in the guitar to boost the signal before it goes out to the amp.

I can't really comment on how well this works as yet as I haven't really used it in earnest. When I do, I'll let you know.


Check them out!