Do It Yourself

DIY: Make Your Own Pedalboard and Patch Cables

  • By Nicholas Kula @tonereport
  • June 10, 2016
  • 0 Comments

Let me ask you a question: How many pedals do you think are out there?

It's a lot. And for us children of the circuit, we want to buzz from flower to flower, pollinating them all. For many of us, we will try anything once. Yes, even a Rocktek Distortion. We will try them all, just to say we have tried them. When we see a pedal with a ridiculous price tag, we want to try it to see how it stacks up. We are a culture of tryers. However, for all this trying that goes on, there is far less buying. Personally, had I bought every pedal I tried, I'd probably be homeless, but I'd be splashing around in pedals like Scrooge McDuck. To that end, were are selective about the devices we buy, and we buy them after extensive testing and research. 

And why do we buy them? We go through this rigorous selection process because they fit our rigs, our styles, our sounds. There's nothing more gratifying than taking a pedal home and integrating it into our setups. We spend house noodling and tinkering, placing it before other pedals and after even more…it’s just plain satisfying. It's also fun. Rewarding. At its core, it's satisfying because we plug it in, slap some strings, sound comes out and we smile. 

On the flip side, purchases that do none of these things are a pain to buy, especially when they cost money. When a string breaks and more are purchased, it's an easy pill to swallow because they're cheap and facilitate noisemaking. There are certain items that make no sound and barely catalyze new frontiers in sonic spelunking. I'm talking about pedalboards. 

Many players managed to make their ways without pedalboards, including some guy named Jimi. That said, none of us are Jimi and most reading this don't have armies of roadies and other folks that get everything ready. We have to do it ourselves, and having an entire self-contained unit is one step toward a migraine-free load-in—a boon anytime we can lessen it. 

However, pedalboard sticker shock is very real. Many folks like the idea but balk at the cost. The same goes for patch cables. Oftentimes, patch cables are sold at fixed lengths, dashing the dream of a tidy board against the rocks of reality. And “the good ones” cost lots of money. 

Thankfully, putting this together yourself isn't too difficult, even if you don't have a garage full of woodworking or metallurgic tools. We’re going to be borrowing from our lovely friends at Ikea, and their wondrous ÄPPLARÖ shelving unit. We’re also going to be making our own patch cables.

DISCLAIMER: Unlike my pedal building articles, this one carries few caveats. However, we will be using a soldering iron to construct the cables, and we ask that you be familiar with its standard operating procedures before continuing. Neither I, nor Tone Report Weekly assume any responsibilities for any personal or property damage that may occur as a result of misuse of the tools listed in this article. Irons are hot, don’t touch them.

That said, are you excited? We’re going to make an entire pedalboard, and when all is said and done, you will be up and running. Exciting, isn’t it?

Here is what you’ll need for the pedalboard:

1x Ikea ÄPPLARÖ shelf (it comes with brackets and screws)

1x roll of Velcro/Dual-Lock/adhesive fastener

1x roll of [the other side] of the aforementioned

4x large rubber feet (optional)

Tools:

Offset screwdriver

Measuring tape

Utility knife (to cut the Velcro; normally you don’t want to use scissors, but if you have an old crappy pair, you can use them)

Fine-grit sandpaper

Ok, let’s put this together!

Step 1
When you open your ÄPPLARÖ package, you’ll discover the brackets and screws are in a separate packaging. Though it will be tempting to tear into it and start mounting, we need to prepare it a bit. Take the raw wood out, note which side has the mounting holes, and sand the opposite side. You don’t really need to put any elbow grease into it, just enough to smooth out the wood so that adhesive will stick to it. Remember, the original purpose of the piece is a shelf where things sit instead of bond. Make sure to wipe the board off after sanding.

Step 2
Use your offset screwdriver to slowly insert the screws. Using a standard screwdriver forces us to approach at an angle, and the wood can be cracked this way.

Step 3
Measure the width of the pedalboard and decide how you wish to attach Velcro. I opted to go with the flow of the wood and not cross the seams with a piece of Velcro for maximum adhesion. Measure the width of the slats as well.

Step 4
Use a utility knife (or those old gross scissors) to slowly cut the Velcro. The glue from the Velcro will smear all over the blades of the scissors, as well as become lodged in the center mechanism. Peel the Velcro and stick it to the board. Attach the rubber feet if you want them. Let the glue set for a couple hours before you start adding pedals and tearing them off.

Now time for the part everyone dreads: the cables. I should pre-empt this section by saying that your time spent doing this will be much easier if you buy cable ends with tip AND sleeve lugs. Many cheaper cable ends only contain a lug for the tip. I bought this one-lug type for this piece to illustrate the hardest path to success.

Before you order cable and ends, place your pedals on the board, or, if you’re ordering the board and cable parts simultaneously, get a decent idea by putting the pedals on your floor. Use a piece of string to measure the distance between the pedals and add the distances up, then add one or two feet to the total.

You will need:

Cable. There are tons of options, get one with a relatively thin diameter. I get all mine from http://btpa.com, along with the ends.

Cable plugs. This depends on personal taste and how many pedals you have. I got pancake type. As noted above, make sure your ends have both tip and sleeve lugs, it will be much easier.

Polyolefin heat shrink tubing (optional)

Tools:

Soldering iron

Third hand tool (alligator clips and magnifying glass)

Wire strippers

Multimeter (to test)

Dremel or sandpaper (if using plugs with only a tip lug)

Heat gun/hair dryer (if using heat shrink)

Step 1
Cut the cable into the pieces you measured earlier, but add an inch of cable to each length.

Step 2
Strip a half-inch of insulation from the cable, and a quarter-inch up, strip the black shielding.  This leaves the white shielding, and you’ll want to strip back another eighth-inch, exposing the conductor. Shear off half the shielding, then twist the remaining shield wire into a rope shape.

Step 3
Thread the core wire into the tip lug, and thread the shield wire into the shield lug. If you’re using the same plugs I am, you must use the Dremel or sandpaper to scratch up the plug shielding, because solder won’t stick to smooth metal. Using the helping hand tool, grip the wire against the plug and solder.

Step 4
If using heatshrink like I am, slide some over the plug, then slide another piece on (for the other side). Solder the second side just like the first, then heat the heatshrink so that it fits around the plug.

Step 5
Use the multimeter on the continuity setting and test tip-to-tip (it will beep), sleeve-to-sleeve (it will beep) and finally tip-to-sleeve (it shouldn’t beep). If it does, desolder and try again.

You’re done! Affix the other side of the Velcro to your pedals and mount them! If you want to mount a power supply, you should pick up some 3M Dual-Lock Velcro and mount it underneath—it’s profoundly strong and the supply will never come off. In keeping with the budget theme, I opted to use a 1Spot—it works!

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