Don’t Panic: MJ Builds a Pedal From MOD KITS DIY

Don’t Panic: MJ Builds a Pedal From MOD KITS DIY

Marc Johnson for

When The Tone King first asked if I wanted do a vid showing me building a MOD KITS DIY pedal for 30 pedals in 30 days, I told him that, given my lack of engineering skills, he might end up with a video titled “how to turn a perfectly good pedal into a smoldering pile of ash.” “Don’t Panic.” He assured me in his heavy Jersey accent. He made the point that it was my inexperience in building pedals that made me the best candidate to show how “anyone can build a MOD KITS DIY pedal.”

After some consideration, I requested the Trill Tremolo. I wanted an effect that wouldn’t be subtle, something that would really come through when I put it on video. It wasn’t until I received the Trill Tremolo that I remembered from the article that I wrote back in august (The MOD Squad) that the easiest pedal to build was The Piledriver. Instead of picking the easiest pedal, I chose the one with a six-hour build time.

Panic attacks became fervent.

After explaining the situation to Alan from my local hardware store, I picked up a Weller battery powered soldering iron. For some reason, my panic subsided, and I started to get excited about the prospect of building this pedal. When I got home, I started to get to work.

Day 1

Work Time: Approximately 3.25 Hours

Unpacking the contents of the MOD KITS DIY pedal, my excitement increased. The number of pieces, while plenty, weren’t as overwhelming as I thought they might be. Although it would’ve been smarter to unpack all of the pieces and lay them out before I started working, I was to anxious and got right to it. Everything was going great until I had to solder.

It turns out that solder needs heat to melt so that it can hold a connection between two points. Heat that my newly purchased Weller battery powered soldering iron wasn’t willing to provide. Moments of frustration built while I held the soldering iron over a particular point waiting patiently for the solder to melt and cover the connection. While I did make some headway on the first day, it ended with me frustrated because I did not have the proper tools for the job.

Day 2

Work Time: Approximately 2.25 hours.

My workdays weren’t consecutive. In fact, I was so frustrated from my first outing that I didn’t pick it up again for another three days. After talking it over with my coworker Jimmy, who is a damn good guitar tech, he revealed to me what my problem was. “You’re a moron. You need a real soldering iron.”

In his own way, Jimmy had helped alleviate my fear of inadequacy by pointing out the obvious. You need the right tools for the job. In fact, had I read the directions carefully to begin with, I would’ve realized that my pitiful little soldering iron was not sufficient for this type of work. Without having to ask, Jimmy brought me a spare soldering set that he had lying around (Apparently he just has this stuff lying around).

The second day was brimming with efficiency and renewed confidence. Although I easily got twice as much done as I did the first day, I spent less time doing it. I didn’t want to put it down. Jimmy’s soldering iron worked as if it had been handed down by the gods, and I was finding out what MOD KITS DIY means when they say that anyone can build their own gear.

Day 3

Work Time: Approximately 2.25 Hours

Although I still had quite a few pieces left, the third day was the easiest out of the three. Still stoked over the success over the previous day, I moved like a machine. Could some of my solders been cleaner? Sure. But nothing was grounding out and everything was where it needed to be. A couple of final touches and the pedal was complete.

While I’ll let the video show you what the MOD KITS DIY Trill Tremolo sounds like, I can tell you that it was definitely cool building it. That being said, keep some things in mind if you’re planning to build one:

1 – Get a good soldering gun. And use a wet sponge to wipe off the excess solder.

2 – Take your time and read the directions first. This is much more involved than IKEA furniture, so read the damn instructions!

3 – Lay out all of your parts before you start working. Some of the resistor color codes can be difficult to identify. Lay them out first and then you’ll be less likely to make a mistake.

In the end, The Tone King got his vid for ‘30 Pedals in 30 Days’, and I got the chance to do something that I’ve never done before – Build a pedal! While I tripped up early on by not having the right tool for the job, once I got a real soldering iron, it was smooth sailing from there. It’s definitely a process I would be up for repeating. So, if you want to try your hands at building some of your own gear, you might want to check out MOD KITS DIY. And remember, no matter what you do, keep the King’s words in mind. Don’t Panic!

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Filed Under: FeaturedPedals

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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