As a guitarist one of the things you eventually get into is effects pedals. For many years I used the programmable multi effects units and never needed a board. I upgraded to start building a collection of the good reliable and hard working Boss Pedals. For a while I only ever used two, and so setting them up with a tuner never took long. However, I decided that it was time to make a more permanent setup. So here’s a bit of a guide as to how I did it.
The first thing I did was have a look at all the different types of pedalboard out there. Holeyboard was one design I liked in terms of attaching pedals to the board. These designs I also liked in terms of their style and finish. I also saw the DIY boards made from IKEA Gorm shelves. So I decided to make something that was a mix of these.
2. Get all that you’ll need
Here’s the things I used:
- lengths of wood – enough for 4 lengths of 600mm approx + extras
- moulding – for edges
- wood stain
- wood glue
- wood screws
- cable ties
- drill with drill bits and screwdriver heads
- countersink drill bit
- measuring tape / ruler
The first thing to do with layout was to actually list down the pedals I wanted to put on the board. Then get them written down in order. Ordering your pedals has got some freedom to it, in that everyone’s preferences are different, and you should make your pedals in an order that you like and that you want. As a general guideline however, I found these pages helpful.
After that I drew them in the general layout with the general shape and layout I wanted for my board. I find by drawing it out, I had a better understanding of the spacings I’d need and an idea for the board itself.
Get all your pedals laid out in the order you want. Then work out how long the pedalboard needs to be to fit all your pedals on. Don’t forget to include space for your patch cables to fit as well.
To help with this, there is this website – Pedalboard Planner, which has set sized pedal boards with the matching pedal size laid on top. Very cool tool.
During this process I also took into account some pedal expansion, where I may wish to add on some more pedals at a later stage. On the top row, I can compact the three pedals and fit four along the top. Likewise the bottom row can be moved closer to each other, and allow room (hopefully) for a wah-wah pedal as well.
4. Make the cuts
Once you’ve measured up, it’s time to cut the wood. Make sure you’ve measured twice , so you only have to cut once! When hand-sawing, let the saw do the work, and keep 90 degrees to the wood so you have a cut straight.
5. Spacing Check
It was about now that once I’d made all the cuts I’d better check that there was enough space for the pedals and a little riser for the back pedals as well.
Better to be safe than sorry, and gave me an idea as to how spaced the wood lengths need to be.
Using the off cut from the riser, I found centre, then made a mark 10mm either side of it to create an even angle. This would allow the riser to tilt slightly forward when assembled. I made sure I checked the height of the risers (plus the top of it) to make sure that it cleared the height of the pedals in front. After all, the purpose for having the riser is so that you don’t accidentally knock the knobs on the front pedals of course.
After playing around I decided to have these risers on the edges of the board, rather than ‘indented’ as per the photo above. Either option works, just comes down to personal preference.
This is essentially an optional step as you could make a pedalboard without this; but I think you’ll agree it looks a lot better with it.
Measure (twice; three times a charm) and cut this on 45 degree angles, so that they meet flush in the corners. The measurements should be taken from the inside of the 90 degree right angle of the wood. It’s difficult to then get the cuts right, but take your time and it will all come together. Double, triple check before you cut.
Using some off cuts from an earlier project, I cut my back bracing runners to length and laid them on the back of my 4 lengths that would make up the board. These add strength to the board and keeps the spaces nice and even. It also takes the pressure off the mouldings to hold the boards You’ll notice that I have used some scrap pieces of wood that are all the same width to create spacer guides. This ensures that all the boards are evenly spaced and will stay that way as you do the work. Once in place, I drilled some pilot holes for the screws; one in the centre (approx) of each board. Do this for both runners.
At this stage I also counter-sunk these drill holes, though this is optional. You do want the screws to be flush with the wood, and spending a little extra time with a counter sink was better than risking splitting the wood and having to start all over again.
8. Glue (But not really…)
This is where I made my first mistake of getting too far ahead of myself. In the photos you can see that I glue and then attach the bracing to the boards using the woodscrews. However, once I’d done this, I realised that actually – it was going to be easier to stain all the wood BEFORE I constructed it. Just meant I wasn’t going to have to push and prod at the corners and gaps with a paintbrush.
But keep this in mind – AFTER you stain it, and you’re ready to put it together, glue the wood before you use the screws. It will mean a stronger bond and will help it last longer, especially with all the stamping that you’ll put it through!
9. Attach the moulding
Once you have glues on the bracing, it’s time to glue on the moulding to the edges. (Once again, stain the wood before you do this!)
Make sure you line up the 45 degree cuts that you’ve made with the corners of your board. It will also be important to drill into the edge of the wooden boards. I found that to drill into the bottom of the moulding would mean my woodscrews would come out the top. So I put a woodscrew into the sides of the boards. I even got darker bronze coloured screws to make it look pimping.
As part of the bracing support and the moulding for the horizontal mouldings, it will be necessary to make a couple of cuts in the wood to wrap around the runners.
10. Base board done
So that should be it for the base board now. Here’s what mine looks like, with the top shown above, and the bottom shown below. (And now magically the staining I “did earlier” has finally come out in the photos!)
And the bottom of the base with the bracing runners.
11. Back row riser
You can now add the top of the riser to the sides supports ready to go onto the base board. Attach initially with wood glue, and then drill four pilot holes with countersinking. Tighten up the woodscrews and you’re ready to go!
If you are going to polyurethane or varnish your board, now would be the time I suggest that you do it.
12. Place riser on the base board.
Figure out where you want to place the riser. Take into account the placement of your pedals at the outset and stay true to that. Changing plans now may stuff up the placement and spacing of your pedals.
Place the riser on, and using sight and alignment, drill some pilot holes from the baseboard through to the riser. Add some glue, and then fasten the woodscrews from the bottom.
13. Cable tie holes
From here, you could go about adding velcro tape to the board and your pedals and you’d be done. But I like the idea from holeyboard – not in the sense that I’m going to add lots of holes in a repeating pattern to serve most sized pedals, but in the sense that there’s nothing stopping me adding more holes later on if I need them. I placed each pedal in the place that I wanted them on the board, and then using a pencil, made a little mark where the cable ties would be coming from each side of the pedal. When I drilled the holes, I measured the hole that a cable tie (370mm) would fit through (snuggly at 4.8mm) and then drilled them slightly on the ‘inside’ of those pencil marks so that the holes are marginally covered by the pedal, but will still allow for the cable tie to fit through.
14. Insert cable ties
Now it’s time to attach your pedals. Slide in the cable ties from the bottom. The holes should be big enough to allow the length through, but should get stuck at the latch head. For this reason, insert it from the bottom so that the head is on the bottom of the pedal board.
At this stage you probably want to connect up all your pedals with patch cables first, check that the cable ties are in the right spot, check that the pedals are spaced right before tightening up the ties.
As you go, attach the daisy chain and the patch leads. Don’t tighten up the cable ties until you’re 100% happy. And even if you’re not 100% happy, it’s easy enough to replace them anyway! No velcro to peel off, no wear and tear on your pedals, leaving them pristine to sell on to the next musician.
15. Non-slip Rubber Feet
Get a pack of these for a few dollars down at the hardware store. Just stick them on the bottom of the risers – even cover up your woodscrews like I did. And that’s it. Done, a homemade pedal board ready for you to shred out some masterful riffs.
Best of luck!
Don’t forget to share this with fellow musicians when they ask about your pimping new board!