Drive the Blues away

Next up for the clone kit treatment is the Blues Bro kit, again from MEK in Germany. The Blues Bro is based on the Boss Blues Driver kit, but a comparison of the two schematics shows that this one is a somewhat simplified version, component wise (while I may still be on kits I do try to dig up the original schematics to learn a bit about the workings of the pedals the clones are based on).

Blues Bro Kit

This time round I decided to stump up for the pre-drilled enclosure. That and three knobs is all you need to go with the kit. Next time I think I’ll forego the pre-drilled enclosure, but might go for a powder coated one, so all my pedals won’t have a sloppy paint job (see further down). Like previous kits from MEK the instructions are downloaded from the site, and are very clear and simple to follow.

PCB Assembly

Component count isn’t huge in this one, so it went together handy enough. The four holes to the right of the pcb socket are where the diodes would usually go, but for this build I decided to modify the kit slightly. These two diodes act as clipping diodes which distort the guitar signal to give you the overdriven sound.The diodes supplied with the kit are of different values, which gives asymmetrical clipping, as in the original Blues Driver. I wanted to have a switchable option between this and symmetrical clipping, which gives a smoother overdriven Tube Screamer sound. I was also reading about led clipping, so decided to install two red LEDs as my symmetrical clipping option. LEDs, being diodes too, are often used in this way. What they bring to the party is that it takes more voltage before they start clipping – so in layman’s terms backing off the pedal’s drive pot will clean up the overdrive, and the pedal can almost be used as a clean boost.

Pots and switches installed

Back to the build, and the pre-drilled box did mean that all components fitted neatly, if a little snugly. Next up was the wiring.

If you look closely at the top of the enclosure ( right hand side of picture) you will see the LEDs soldered to the top of the switch. Also, the grey/yellow wires (terminated with a little insulation tape) are the original Fat switch wires that came with the kit. These are used to beef up the sound. I just need to pop in a second switch before they become operational.

Finished pedal

And there we have it – the finished pedal. I didn’t time myself, but no more than a couple of hours over two evenings to complete it. Finished off the enclosure with some blackboard paint, for no other reason than that’s what I had handy. Sure I could always decorate it with chalk, but I do like the matt black effect.

So there we have it, another pedal to add to the collection. And yet again another pedal build blog post with no sound clip to complete it. Maybe next time, but I really do like this pedal. Since I had to “borrow” a couple of components from my Der Screamer (a long story) this has become my main overdrive pedal. I love the light overdrive I can get with the LEDs, and I can also tweak the tone and drive to get a half decent beefed up sound on my single coils.

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Der Screamer…now with added Boost

In my previous post about Der Screamer I mentioned how I planned on adding a second drive pot and switch. I did this and it worked well enough, switching from a low to higher gain setting.

For the next modification I removed this extra drive pot and instead installed a booster pedal. This time I bought the kit (along with a new soldering iron and a few bits’n’bobs) from MEK, again in Germany. Promptly delivered, and although the downloadable instructions are half in German the images were self explanatory.

A booster being somewhat a beginners project with it’s low component count this went together handy enough.

The next stage was to wire the booster in series with the TS. A quick search on diystompboxes.com gave me the wiring details for this part.

I decided to put the booster first in the chain, and permanently wire them together. I was going to have the order switch-able either by a switch or by means of a patch cable but space was a premium in the enclosure, especially since I was using the previously drilled switch and pot holes.Also, somewhat illogically the booster side is on the left as you look at the pedal, but on the right in the chain, but it works for me.

Space is so tight in fact that the battery clip is now somewhat redundant as there is no room to fit a battery in.

Anyway, after one quick solder short repair the pedal fired into action. I only ran it through headphones as it was late by the time I finished, but the pedal worked a treat. I need to give it a good test, but there should be plenty of tonal options with the booster on it’s own, or driving the TS.

Next up:

Paint and decal

BluesBro bd-2 clone kit from MEK

Alnicomagnet mod for my VHT Special 6 amp.

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Life’s a beach

Our new favourite beach is tucked away on the road into Ardmore – ideal for body-boarding when the tide is in, or exploring rock pools when the tide is out.

Last bank holiday Monday we managed to nip over there for a couple of hours – a brief sprinkle of rain the only interruption – until we left when the heavier showers returned. Time enough to cook some sausages, a quick dip in the sea, plenty of rock pool exploring and a well earned cup of tea for the ‘grown-ups’.

We had just missed the annual barbecue which was held on the beach the night before. All that remained was the smouldering embers from the fire, and an old piano on the slipway. Judging from the bleary-eyed campers a good night was had by all. Must try and make it next year.

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Sean Kelly Tour

It seemed like a great idea at the time, but all of a sudden the clock is ticking – the Sean Kelly Tour is coming round fast. This is the sixth year of the event, and the numbers seem to be growing every year. It is great to see the cycle coming to Dungarvan every year ( the start and finish for all three routes) and there’s always a great buzz around the town.

 

Photo courtesy of itsafeeling.com

Not counting the 10Km family cycle last year this will be my first time entering the event. There is a 50km, 100km and 160km route – and my aim is to do the 100km route.

Unfortunately my training hasn’t really being going to plan – I dug the bike out of the shed two weeks ago, and to my shock the last ride I registered on Mapmyride was in March – so time to get cracking again.

Here is the challenge that I will be facing. Now to try and get a few more miles in the saddle…

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Der Screamer

I guess it might take a while for me to find my feet in this blog, but I envisage posts about family life, hobbies and anything else that captures my interest.

This post falls under hobbies.

While my guitar playing will never set the world alight, I seem to spend as much time tinkering with the guitar as actually playing it.

This has eventually led me to making my own effects pedals. I can use the plural now as I have just completed my second pedal – Der Screamer, a Tube Screamer clone.

The Tube Screamer, be it the TS-808 or TS-9, has a reputation as being the ultimate overdrive pedal – so usually has a price tag to match (especially 80s models). Thankfully there are plenty of kits being offered – with just a bit of soldering required. I got my kit from Musikding in Germany. My first time using them, and am very pleased with them. Everything arrived within a week (standard postage) and with the information sheets on the website the pedal was a doddle to put together. This being my second pedal I was already familiar with the input/output and switching side of the build.

 

Below is the finished pedal – unpainted for now. Left to right is Drive, Tone and Level pots, with a switch for symmetrical or asymmetrical clipping. I have built it as stock to the TS-808 specifications – but I also got the extra couple of components to fit a second drive pot and switch, to go from lower to higher gain within the one pedal. I’ll have to update when I get around to doing that, but so far I’m happy just playing with the settings available.

 

9vDC connection on top

The gut shot. A rat’s nest of wires, but it works! Plenty of space for battery across the bottom, and second drive pot and switch down the side.

 

I tried to have an understanding of the working of the pedal instead of just bunging in all the components so the Tube Screamer page on the geofex.com site was a great resource.

Also, check out DIY Stompboxes for a wealth of information.

 

 

 

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An introduction

So, a new blog is born. Just what the internet needed.

 

It was on my mind to start a blog at the start of the summer, keeping a diary of all our family’s adventures through the long sunny days. Instead the summer never quite arrived, and the blog was never kept. Until now.

Living in Ireland we have two choices – complain about the weather, or put a coat on and get on with it.

This is me getting on with it.

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