Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Scratch build? New respect for kits...

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by King Fan, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. King Fan

    King Fan Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jan 1, 2013
    Salt Lake City
    Maybe I'm not smart or patient enough to put together my own parts and part list!

    My first build was a 5f2a from a 5F1 board kit, my second was a BF PR from a Mojo kit. In the tweed, I just had to source a few extra parts, and a bigger board, and chassis / cab / speaker. In the PR I 'upgraded' a ton of components, reworked the bias, added shielded cable, and so on, and felt I'd really gone above and beyond the kit. But recently I've been looking back at Mojo's two big parts organizers with their dozens of labeled bins. Why?

    Well, planning a future 6g2, nobody seemed to make a kit, and the otherwise-solid Mojo chassis is punched for an oversize PT and has the power / fuse holes wrong. So why not source a chassis and cook up my own BOM? I had the tubes, I knew what speaker I'd get anyhow, and I knew several custom cab builders who could help me out.


    1. Trying to keep shipping charges to a minimum, I *still* find I'm ordering from AES *and* Mouser even though I'm getting 97% of the parts I need from Doug Hoffman. And that's before I pay for separate shipping on the transformers, speaker, and cab.

    2. Making a list and checking it twice (OK, like 10 times) has been a slog. I think I'm good a lists, Excel, and databases. I went over and over the layout and schematic with a highlighter, etc. But in the end all this took me as long as all the other planning put together, and was a lot less fun.

    3. I figured it'd be fun to use the existing parts I've gathered in my builds and other projects. But the biggest source of frustration has been trying to inventory and check off the parts I already had. They were fairly well organized, I thought: CC resistors in one bin box, MF in another, caps in a third, pilot light parts in one baggie, pots in another. But making sure each one was the right spec became like an infinite game of Concentration. Is this a 6v bulb or a 12v I got by mistake? Why are Sozo, Mallory, and Dijon caps all labeled in different units? (Just grateful I'm not using ODs.) How come labels don't stay stuck to resistors after you measure and label them? And so on and on like a repetitive bad dream.

    4. All that said, I found after I clicked my BOM into Doug Hoffman's shopping cart (which is very useful for this purpose), I still found things I needed in his 'scrolling' picture index. Wha? Some of these had been on my 'all' list but didn't get sorted into the 'need' list, others (a cable clamp) were on my need list but hadn't made it to the order, and several more (bear claws, Doug's nice shrink tubing) had never got on the list at all. So much for my thorough process!

    5. Finally, this morning, after checking and cross checking all 3 parts orders and sending them off, I immediately realized I've been using shielded cable from a prior build and have almost none left. Doug has the kind I like, but had I ordered any? Nope.

    Lots of you can chuckle at this, as I see you out milling clear pine for your cabinets and designing / cutting / drilling your own custom boards. Hey, TDPRI is full of complex, novel circuits built from parts found in dumpsters.

    YMMV. But when I do it again, I'll be giving extra weight to possible options to 'build out' from a pre-existing kit, and I may just resign myself to ordering new 85-cent resistors instead of trying to re-catalog and re-test every one in my parts bin.
    moosie, D'tar and Axis29 like this.

  2. sds1

    sds1 Tele-Holic

    May 4, 2017
    Orlando, FL, USA
    I hope and imagine that sourcing your own parts like this is a skill like anything else that can be developed over time...

    I just finished my first build and for whatever reason skipped kits altogether. Everything you posted here sounds familiar! I think by the time it was done I had placed 6 online orders from 3 different vendors, and maybe 4-5 trips to local stores for silly things like screws and wire nuts. Stuff I didn't know that I needed until I was right in the middle of doing something. This added a significant amount of time to the duration of my build.

    I am sourcing my 2nd build now and had same thoughts today as #3, I am ignoring whatever existing parts I might have because shopping and verifying a BOM across multiple vendors is hard enough without figuring out what you may or may not have on hand already.

    I'm already resigned it's just impossible to get everything from one vendor.

    Anyhow, I do feel like I'm going to make way less trips to the store this time, and therefore incur less shipping and fuel charges.

    I'm really getting a lot of use out of the AES online project tools. For this build I've actually created 4 separate projects and divided the build up like that. Makes it easier to check to see what I might have missed. AES seems to have most everything but wire and circuit board material I must find elsewhere.

    Anyhow, hang in there and I think it gets easier.
    D'tar and King Fan like this.

  3. jtcnj

    jtcnj Tele-Meister

    Feb 2, 2015
    Brick, N.J. USA
    Yes, I know the feeling.

    My first 2, a 5f1/5fsa and 5e3 were like that, especially forgetting cabinet stuff like feet or handles. The 5e3 went better but still, it happens.

    My last build was the Ubuy guitars VHT 18w TMB. I got a populated board, chassis, pre amp and power tubes, and PT.

    I sourced the rest. It went fine with 1 hiccough: Fuses, I forgot slo-blow fuses and my local Radio Shack had just closed!

    I made a list of all the things not included above.
    I went through my parts bins and checked off on the list AND on the layout diagram.
    I always buy extra resistors to have at least 2 or 3 extra.

    good thing since I:
    1. left my cap discharge lead hanging on B+1 and smoked the first power resistor on the 5e3 while trouble shooting recently.
    Luckily, there was no immediately apparent collateral damage.

    2. had a 470Ω 2w on hand (mod added to 5e3 screens) to replace a failed screen resistor on my Silkyn Super 50.
    Still have not found the cause of it going over current.

    Let not your heart be dark, rejoice!!
    If this does not kill you, it will make you they say. I think it just makes me drink more beer.
    D'tar, King Fan and kleydejong like this.

  4. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    I definitely run into trouble sourcing parts all in one go. Hoffman has been good to me, but yeah - there is almost always one or two little dings and dunks that you have to get elsewhere. I have a couple of thoughts.

    1. Maybe I'm a pack rat, but I have started to build up a bit of a reserve. A little while back I bought a big pack of resistors on Amazon all the way from 1 ohm to 10M. 1/4 watt. It really wasn't that expensive. And with capacitors, if I make an order I'll often buy some extra capacitors in common values - 25 uf for a preamp cathode bypass or .022 uf for a coupling cap. Nice to have a reserve in case I do something stupid or something breaks down. But it is also nice if I'm starting a new build I can raid the reserves first.

    2. Speaking of Amazon, they have a pretty handy free shipping thing for prime members. If you buy things other than amp parts, or can use the TV thing as a Netflix replacement it can be a pretty great value.

    3. Build in stages. Most of my builds now involve shooting at a 'stock' tried and true circuit - but then I almost invariably wind up modifying it to my tastes. So then I'll accept that I probably will need a second shipment later on.
    D'tar and King Fan like this.

  5. King Fan

    King Fan Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jan 1, 2013
    Salt Lake City
    Thanks for your encouraging words, friends. Those are excellent points.

    Good point, Doug lets you save different lists, DigiKey and quite a few other places have wish lists or project lists or the equivalent, and dividing the project into stages or 'sectors' is smart.

    I like your idea of building 'up' from a core kit, and agree with the 'reserve' parts idea. Part of this as Kley also mentions is just to have a few extra in case you solder the poor little component in the wrong place and have to cut it out (sigh of experience). But for my 'future builds' reserve, I'm gonna focus harder on *saving* only parts that are:
    1. inexpensive (no sense stocking up on spare PTs)
    2. tedious to order again (those little specialized items that drive you to Mouser or DigiKey instead of Doug or AES).
    3. commonly needed and easy to recognize. A warehouse-labeled bag of 68K or 100K resistors is going to be handy; a small unlabeled bag of oddball values is not.

    Excellent thoughts. In addition to Amazon Prime, that odd little item you need or forgot (3 A-B resistors, or my shielded cable) is probably on eBay and may well offer 'free shipping.' Although I'm sure my econ professor would say "TINSTAFS", eBay prices are often pretty low even allowing for the 'free shipping' markup. And I try to keep track of what shipping costs where. Doug and AES do well by their customers using Priority Mail. Some merchants are outrageous even for UPS ground ($3 in parts, $10 shipping).

    Oh, and I need to go even further than your 'stock first, mod later' wisdom (which is excellent for many reasons beyond BOM simplicity). I'm sure my fetish for just the right part, for tweaky details like isolated input jacks (did you order both long bushing jacks *and* shoulder washers?) needs an intervention.:D
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017

  6. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    Virginia, USA


    If you look at my somewhat recent, but probably eight pages down now, thread on resurrecting my 5f8-a, you'll see it took me weeks to even get all the right parts... several fits and starts, I'd get rolling and suddenly realize I had a 470 Ohm, when I needed a 470k resistor.

    I also think it is a skill that is learned. I am very good with Excel and using notes on my phone when I'm on my way to Home Depot for screws... But, somehow I seemed to lose my head and forget stuff constantly. I have a friend who builds custom amps as a second job. Even he runs out of a part here and there... the other day it was 1 MEG pots. I didn't have any, but another local guy did, so he barely missed a beat.

    I think we can all relate... Some may have forgotten what it was like, but those of us still struggling to figure it out have those as fresh memories!
    D'tar and King Fan like this.

  7. keithb7

    keithb7 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 9, 2010
    Western Canada
    I am laughing a little here at you @King Fan. I've certainly been there. The way you wrote it out made me chuckle.

    Take everything you said, and double the aggravation due to an international location.

    Anyone outside the US gets a good fleecing for freight, customs handling charges, and tax. Not to mention the banks take an extra 3-4% to their good on the dollar exchange rate.

    Here's a recent example:
    On the recent Bassman conversion to hand wired, I ordered parts from AES and Hoffman. The owner wanted yellow cloth covered wire. I tried the cloth wire at AES if you recall. The wire sucked. I already quoted the owner. Time to take one on the chin.

    I had to order the proper cloth yellow wire I needed from Hoffman on a special individual order. All other parts had already arrived.

    The wire was $12 US. Freight was $24.95 US. $37 US was about $48.50 Canadian. It took 14 days to arrive. The Bassman build was on hold the entire time.

    I ate all the costs on the wire. The customer has already been quoted. It was my screw up, by attempting to try the AES wire. To say I licked my wounds was an understatement. I was p i s s e d at myself for two weeks. The two weeks waiting around for the wire seemed like forever. Especially when you're PMS-ing. Lol.

    I bought about a 150 bin organizer for amp parts. 135
    of the bins all seem to have resistors in them. All are measured and sorted numerically by value.
    Yes I did that over a few cold winter nights and a few beers.

    Other bins have e-caps, coupling caps, on and on, ad naseum.

    Good times.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
    mitchfinck, D'tar and King Fan like this.

  8. clintj

    clintj Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2015
    I went through that on my last build. No one makes a Hammond-to-Vox conversion kit, turns out.

    Made a BOM, checked it twice, made two orders. Started a dry run, realized I somehow shorted myself a .022 coupling cap. Got back online, added that to my cart, and decided to inventory my spares bins. Hmm. Maybe I need more hookup wire. Added that. Looked over my parts again, realized I forgot to order knobs of all things. Added that. Placed order.

    Started populating turrets, found that I somehow missed the same 100k resistor twice when counting parts. Check spares, have one on hand. Cool.

    Got wiring further, noticed I was low on shielded cable. Like, not enough on hand to make my last connections low. Another order.

    Assembled my amp, started tuning it. Found that due to my intentional dropping of screen voltage, I needed smaller bias resistors for the EL84s.

    Another order.

    Moral of the story: if it's important enough to order one of, order 5 or 10. There's frequently a discount for quantity, and if you play with amps they'll eventually get used.
    D'tar, robrob, King Fan and 2 others like this.

  9. jsnwhite619

    jsnwhite619 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Sep 10, 2013
    A shortcut may be a Mojo small parts kit for the 5f11 Vibrolux and source out the knobs and few component values that are different? $90 would get you everything you need for the board except the bias board for the Princeton. Screws, pots, cable clamp, etc.
    EDIT: I just went back and realized that you have placed your orders

    That being said, they seem to leave something off of almost every order lately, and when i finally opened my small parts kit for my Champ cab I built a while back, the cathode resistor was missing, and the coupling caps were only 200v rating instead of 600v. I sent them a message on their site last week and never heard back. So, I've kind of resolved myself to scratch builds in the future. A complete kit with no issues has been a rarity for me.

    If you are going to do more than one (like you would stop - haha) AES sometimes offers bulk pricing on lots of things like resistors & caps. You know you'll always need 68k, 100k, 56k, etc., for any of these old ones, so bulk wouldn't be a waste.

    I've also learned that shipping costs are funny to try to figure. Like you mentioned, most of us aren't ordering a case of transformers at once. But if you play with your shopping cart and keep checking your shipping costs, you'll usually find a way to save. Example, if you use ClassicTone and AmpPartsDirect, the shipping for 2 or 4 transformers is only a few dollars difference. If you know you'll be building another amp soon, you can save $15-20 on shipping right there. AES has free shipping after $89, I think, and it doesn't take much work to get to that. If you use Hammond transformers (I almost always have) and throw them in with that order, there's your free shipping right there. They carry Jensen, Eminence, and Celestion speakers, so if you go with any of those, again, get it with that order. Their Project saver is handy too.

    Thanks for that reminder. I have 2 spools in my cart right now that need to come out!
    D'tar and robrob like this.

  10. King Fan

    King Fan Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jan 1, 2013
    Salt Lake City
    Wow, thank you all for the encouraging words, especially the 'misery loves company' variety -- highly effective!

    Y'all also remind me that guys who build a lot have a different solution set from guys who build occasionally. I hear you about stockpiling for future builds, and about ordering enough stuff to bump up to the 'free shipping' point, which is quite low on some sites.

    Having said that, though, who besides me has items (not necessarily cheap) sitting in their 'future' parts box that were ordered for amps it turns out they'll never build, or that were ordered for, but turned out to be unneeded for, an amp they did build?

    No, you get outta my head! :) That same week, maybe even the same day, you posted about your 470 vs. 470K issue, I found the reason my AA764 restoration didn't sound so good was I had a 470K bias resistor where I shoulda had 470.

    Whoa, Keith, you do pay a lot for shipping! But hey, at least you have a health care system... :D

    Seriously, your suggestion of bigger better bin boxes is excellent -- labeling bins is a lot more useful than trying to stick labels to the components themselves. And stockpiling, both for a reserve and for future supply, makes a lot more sense with organized storage -- plus more experience to tell you that 100K and 25uF are a lot more likely to be needed than 3.3K or 10uF.

    Excellent points, Clint. The 'Hammond-to-Vox' kit is probably even rarer than the "5G9-kit-with-chassis" that I may need for my next build.

    Thanks, Jason, finding a 'similar' amp with a parts kit is a great option on many amps -- I always try to suggest this to folks planning a 5F1 build in fact, since a 5F2a with a 10" speaker is about twice as versatile, 1% more complex, and 10X easier to build in its bigger chassis.

    You remind me you can sometimes hunt up somebody else's BOM online. I have one I need to proofread for that theoretical 5G9.

    Better yet, Doug Hoffman has pre-populated parts lists for a number of amps on his site. (What doesn't he have on his site?) You can zero out items you don't want (his parts are sometimes selected to fit better on his sano boards) and click to put the rest in your shopping cart, or you can just use his list for reference -- it gives you a great place to start.
    Axis29 likes this.

  11. jsnwhite619

    jsnwhite619 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Sep 10, 2013
    Just for a follow-up with my comment, I just got an email from Mojo that the caps & resistor are on the way.

    King Fan likes this.

  12. Bill Moore

    Bill Moore Tele-Holic

    Well I'm a hobbyist so I do have a few parts around, (of course it seems never what I actually need)! The E-Bay bulk resistors/caps from China are great, (they even come in individual baggies, but don't have some of the more commonly used amp values). So you order 5 or 10 of the values you need, and use 2, but the next project, you know you have some, but after 15 mins. looking, you order another 10! Before they come in you find the ones you already have!
    I hope to get some better organization someday, instead of the several coffee cans, and fishing lure compartments that I have now! (I do have my spare transformers in a 5 gallon plastic pail!)

  13. D'tar

    D'tar Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 11, 2013
    I have to laugh at this. For some reason I keep thinking of this song and my usual 12 orders for one project. .. If I were more creative and had more time I would rewrite the lyrics, but I have to place another order with AES.....

    The twelfth thing of Christmas that's such a pain to me:
    Singing Christmas carols
    Stale TV specials
    "Batteries Not Included"
    No parking?!?
    Gotta make 'em dinner!
    Five months of bills!
    I'm not sendin' them this year, that's it!
    Shut up, you!
    And finding a Christmas tree
    King Fan likes this.

  14. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    Virginia, USA
    Funny, this is the song that I'm reminded of...

    King Fan, Bill Moore and jsnwhite619 like this.

  15. jtcnj

    jtcnj Tele-Meister

    Feb 2, 2015
    Brick, N.J. USA
    I just started pulling the parts for an NPN silicon Fuzz Face build from a Tayda order i placed about a year and a half ago. I included parts for several variants of Fuzz Face and Dallas Rangemaster.
    I did build a Zevex SHO clone last year.

    wouldn't you know it - I have everything except 330Ω and 8.2kΩ resistors!!

    I managed to scare some up at work and soldering will commence at approx. 3:00pm EDT.
    King Fan likes this.

  16. Wyatt

    Wyatt Tele-Holic

    Nov 3, 2004
    Been there, done that.

    That's why I moved away from boutique and "flavor of the month" parts. If I can't get the part I want as part of a large order, I substitute.

    The real PITA, is when I'm doing restorations, at least with a new amp, I can make BOM, but with a '66 BFSR I recently brought back to left, I must have made a dozen part orders. I still need parts, but it's up and running and I figure I'll wait a year or so before I go back into that chassis.
    King Fan likes this.

  17. King Fan

    King Fan Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jan 1, 2013
    Salt Lake City
    So many nice people stopping by to cheer me up!

    Wyatt, not only am I guilty of 'boutique' and 'trendy', but I'm guilty of 'often changing my mind or failing to decide or both.' I just ordered 3 different values of bias resistor in case my 10K bias pot doesn't get me in the middle of the range. 24K, 27K, 30K. Really. For bypass caps I ordered some Spragues (my usual) *and* some Nichicons (cuz Doug points out in the listing what great quality and value they are). Really.

    Shipping charges aren't the worst thing in the world, I guess. I try to put a value on my time, and at some point spending an extra 30 minutes cataloging $.85 parts and 30 more comparing different online options to avoid a $8 shipping charge is like working for $8.85 an hour -- at a frustrating mindless job.

    Then there's the infinitely worse expense of making a mistake 'cuz you sorted, labeled, or selected wrong. See above about 470 ohms vs. 470K. One reason I had to do some extra ordering this time is I'm trying Dale resistors so I don't have to rely on either the color codes *or* the bacteria-size 'K' next to the resistance reading on my meter.
    Bill Hubbard, sds1 and Bill Moore like this.

  18. sds1

    sds1 Tele-Holic

    May 4, 2017
    Orlando, FL, USA
    Got shopping carts queued and ready to go on AES, Hoffman, eBay, and Amazon for my upcoming Trainwreck Liverpool build. $11.80 total shipping charges (not bad!).

    But will I get all the parts I needed in this one shot? If not, I think I'm darn close this time around. :)

    P.S. AES 11% entire store thru the weekend.
    revellfa and King Fan like this.

  19. tombob

    tombob Tele-Holic

    Jun 25, 2010
    Sonora, TX
    I've ended up with a decent selection of caps/resistors although for scratch building it probably wouldn't be a drop in the bucket for what I really need. I've gathered what I have doing mods and repairs and the only build I've done has been kit (5f6a) and I plan on doing another kit (5e3) next. I've been thinking about doing a scratch build in the future though. I've done quite a bit of looking at blank chassis, turret boards, transformers, etc. and it is a lot more work figuring out where to source all the parts without paying a over abundance of shipping costs. I would really like to build a Route 66 clone with JTM45 iron in the future and since nobody makes a kit doing a scratch build is the only way to go.

  20. keithb7

    keithb7 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 9, 2010
    Western Canada
    The 60 bin cab houses about 200 or so different resistor sizes. I keep about 5 of each value. The bin is a must have in my opinion for all the resistors. I can find what I need in seconds. Also coupling caps of various values. Cathode caps too, to experiment with added gain stages. The orange & black bins are full of hardware, fuse holders, fuses, lamps, pots, switches, knobs and more. You name it. Many parts were pulled from scrapped amps. There's more stuff in a few locations around here. These parts are paid for by people who show up at my house with broken tube amps. The collection continues to grow. Sure is nice to have this stuff handy at home.

    Ignore the Solid State amp. The buyer picks it up tomorrow. :D

    Surely a small inventory by comparison. For a home hack it works out pretty good.


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