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First Amp Experiment – Lil’ Muddy

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This little 5W amp really does pack a punch and looks fairly good all things considered. It took me about a week to build in fits and starts over a few weeks.

I learned a lot building this amp since it was the first I’ve ever tried! There were pitfalls with the case and with the amp kit I bought so I’ll lay these out for you to give you a helping hand.

I chose Tone Monster as my kit to experiment with (will be building my own amps from scratch in the near future).

Finding A Case

So my first lesson in building my own amp is actually two fold:

  1. Choosing a suitable case
  2. Using the right tools

The problem came as I went out into the world looking at things around me in a brand new light! Specifically, could I cram amp parts into it. Mailbox? Yes, but not that cool. Lunchbox? Obviously but it has been done often.

Ended up in Ikea and saw this set of boxes that looked leather and stitchy and cool an thought how that would make a very good looking amp for the discerning gentleman…

The issue came when I tried to drill a hole in it and the fake leather got all caught up in the drill bit, the cardboard core flaked and fuzzed everywhere and I was left wondering how I was going to make this work. But I would not give up! I spent $14.99 on this and it was going to be an amp!!!!

So I tried all sorts of tools, cutters, trimmers and other things that had no intention of being used for these purposes. For instance, you can see the metal plate on the “side/front” which I had to use because after cutting out the holes for the control knobs, I realized that the material was too thick so I couldn’t adequately thread the nut on and tighten it so the potentiometer  wouldn’t spin round and round inside the case. Bad for wiring and volume control…

Eventually I cut out a square big enough to accommodate the hardware and screwed in a piece of aluminum I cut down from a stick I bought at the local hardware store.

Thinking back, I would have bought a few tools to make this easier. A good knife to cut through the outer fake leather, a high speed saw to cut the cardboard cleanly and some good pre-planning for the cuts.

Speakers and Wires and Tribulations

Next lesson: wiring is fragile!

With all this messing around with improper hole sizes, I was moving the guts of the amp around and in and out frequently which caused wires to break off of the amp circuit on two occasions necessitating soldering which was fun but not fun given my level of frustration by that point.

Second problem also came to light with the fraying cardboard and very stretchy bits of fake leather. The speaker is an odd size in comparison to many others such as car door speakers so in order to mount the speaker, I had to put screws through the surface of the box. But finding an exact match for a speaker cover was exceedingly difficult so in the end I found one that was a little too big with a plastic ring and the metal grill that slotted into the ring. A little Dremel work to cut notches into the plastic of the grill holder and everything fit in nicely.

All in all this was a very good learning experience which I never plan to repeat… lol

So to recap:

  1. Chose a material for the enclosure that is easy to modify and not too thick
  2. Be careful with the amp rig, it’s fragile
  3. Make your plans ahead of time
  4. Get the right tools

Did I apply those lessons on the next build? Of course not! what’s the point of this if not to learn by trying something completely different and equally difficult! Why not faux diamond plate metal??

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