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DIY Chassis info - project box, etc.

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by jsnwhite619, Jan 26, 2021.

  1. jsnwhite619

    jsnwhite619 Friend of Leo's

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    For the folks around here who use the Hammond style project box chassis, or straight up DIY and bend it from scratch, what pointers & advice do you have? Required tools? Is it worth it? Faceplate/lettering info? Just looking at what to expect. Those big Hammond boxes are so much cheaper -- it's looking tempting, but I don't want to start something that just ends up being more trouble than it's worth, or I have to invest much for new tools to work with it. My granddad always said, "You'll usually go broke saving money." His words have proven right on several occasions in the past. I've done one out of a 16ga galvanneal blank chassis Mojo used to sell. Only hole in it was for a Princeton or Deluxe sized PT. Everything else for my 5e3 was drilled & punched. It was a damn job, but it was the first time I'd done ANY of this stuff before. Obviously, aluminum would make a much easier job of it.

    So, anyone with good or bad experience here please chime in and add some info for those of us who are curious.
     
  2. ahiddentableau

    ahiddentableau Tele-Meister

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    The only thing I have to say is what you allude to at the end of your post: use aluminium instead of steel unless you have a good reason not to. So much easier to work.
     
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  3. Mongo Park

    Mongo Park Tele-Afflicted

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    Did some drunk monkey welding, angle iron and door hinges. It does thick enough aluminum to stand up to some big iron. Course not for everyone but custom made to size and I haven’t gone beyond this level yet. I bend one and then change my mind and bend another, but then I have one ready made for another project. Course it is more work before you are playing tunes.
     

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  4. pfarrell

    pfarrell TDPRI Member

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    Love the homemade break. Everyone should weld something at least once. Primal.
    Step drills. Perfect for sheet goods and big clean holes, buy good ones. Front Panel Express for custom faceplates. Not crazy expensive considering that they are doing one off jobs. They also provide a free program for design. And yes... aluminum is easier to work with than steel.
     
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  5. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

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    I assume you have a drill press and that's really all you need if you get a blank chassis. As others mentioned, aluminum is much, much easier to drill that galvanized or worse, stainless steel.

    If you want to take it a step further you can do pretty good with the $50 harbor freight sheet metal brake and a riveter to attach side pieces.

    You might be interested in the chassis build thread I did a year or so ago, I had just gotten a box brake and so I was able to bend a four-sided chassis but like I said you can attach sides with a riveter to pretty good effect and get away with using a much simpler metal brake, or even better build one yourself like @Mongo Park did.
     
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  6. jsnwhite619

    jsnwhite619 Friend of Leo's

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    It's the price of plates that kills me. Here's a 5 pound piece of steel that started out as ore from a mine somewhere, it was bent, welded, drilled, cut for transformers....$50-80 every day online. Here's a 2 pieces of sheet steel with ink that you are probably going to ruin and smear when you pull the plastic off of it....$90 for the pair.
     
  7. AlfaNovember

    AlfaNovember TDPRI Member

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    Buy a set of Unibit step drills. Regular hardware store split point twist drill bits make triangular holes in sheet metal. Yes the Unibits are expensive, but they're worth every penny for sheet metal work.
     
  8. jmp81sc

    jmp81sc Tele-Meister

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    A drill press is super handy but not absolutely necessary, a hand held drill will work just fine. Step bits are great, I use Harbor Freight ones for aluminum. Hole punches are even better. I lucked into a nice old school set at a garage sale. I have even used wood spade bits to drill aluminum.

    For face plates, I like really thin aluminum. You can use spray adhesive to attach it to some scrap wood and cut it with a table saw or circular saw, then drill your holes for pots and input jacks, etc. Sand it and use scotch bright pads to get the brushed look, or paint it any color. Water slide decals for labels. You can also use a program like Inkscape or similar to do your graphics then have it printed out at a office supply place on thick card stock, attach with spray adhesive and seal with rattle can acrylic lacquer.

    In southern California there are some metal places that have offcut and scrap piles that are a good source for metal.
     
  9. RollingBender

    RollingBender Tele-Afflicted Vendor Member

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    I only use one tool for making my chassis....
    911442C8-0CFE-434B-B12E-84827DA87B2F.jpeg
    it does an OK job for a guy making them in his garage...
    F27AFB6A-20FF-4420-9E82-2C3BB839C276.jpeg
    ;)
     
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  10. NSB_Chris

    NSB_Chris Tele-Meister

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    In my opinion, making your own chassis from scratch is the only way to go if:
    - projects are just an excuse to buy new tools
    - you deviate from popular existing designs that people are motivated to manufacture pre-drilled parts for
    - you actually want to take the extra time (a whole lot of time!) to do something yourself
    - you are not at all trying to save money!

    I fit all of those categories! I buy some, I drill some premade aluminum boxes, and I build some from sheet metal stock. Helps if you have a metal supplier that sells remnants inexpensively by the pound, which I do.

    The advice to make it out of aluminum is sound advice. I drilled one steel chassis myself and I will never do it again!!!

    Some tools I have purchased or upgraded since I started this:
    - inexpensive metal brake from Harbor Freight. I would love to have one like Nickfl has!
    - good hand metal shears (the ones I already had gummed more than they cut)
    - step drill bits (several to be able to hit odd sizes)
    - hole punch dies (intended for conduit, but they make quick work for octal socket holes)
    - ream tool to be able to clean up or fine tune hole sizes when you need a tight fit
    - bench top drill press
    - home-made tool to swage turrets on the drill press
    - nipper for helping to make square holes etc.
    - small bench top band saw with just enough power to cut 1/8" or so aluminum.
    - de-burring tools
    - center drills to be able to locate holes more accurately
    - good set of round and flat files. Aluminum dust is not good for you, so I don't grind, machine sand or abrasive wheel cut aluminum. With good files you can fix a lot of sins and make things look nice.

    I suspect @RollingBender started a business that required a CNC milling center just so he could make awesome amp chassis! :lol:

    If you make your own amp chassis then you are probably also going to end up wanting to make the cabinets... because "how hard can it be?" Then you have to buy tolex & grill cloth, debate finger joints versus lap joints ... :)

    I suspect that @robrob targets his layouts to existing chassis designs so that people can implement them without going through all the pain. Not a bad approach for your own designs. You have off-the-shelf chassis and cabinet options available to you. Not a bad way to go!
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
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  11. Mongo Park

    Mongo Park Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes the key is thinking this is all part of amp making. Thing is I like others have a workshop with some metal and woodwork tools so it is more an adapting what I got to amp making than a whole new investment, which makes it easier.
    Like mentioned it does give more options to you but if you don’t have the tools it is more of a commitment. My workshop is not heated so amp making is an indoor basement sport. I can still zip out to the shop for a quick burst of metal bending. The cab is made in the summer. For me metal cut to spec sheets are 6-8 dollars. Making the chassis does stretch out the project but I am in no hurry or have no finish date. So the how long does it take to make an amp is like how long is a piece of string. Faceplates is another extension of the chassis. Good news is if you got enough tools to make a cab you can make a guitar as well.
     
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  12. James Knox

    James Knox Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    I’m thinking of building something in a Hammond Box also.

    #watching
     
  13. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Good info here, from simple to complex. Jason will know most of this from his expert woodwork, but for those who haven't drilled a lot, my $.02:

    Simple? Aluminum. Way simpler? Preformed (seeing you asked about Hammond). Way harder? Stainless. Much, much harder.

    Drill press totally preferred, but if you don't have one, your savings will not cover the cost of one until you've done several DIY chassis. If you don't have a drill press, get a good center punch -- again, aluminum is way easier to punch usefully than steel. Personally, I like the "Pilot Point" DeWalt drill bits that reduce walking, and speaking of pilot, drill smaller pilot holes first for bigger holes.

    Step drill yes. One good Unibit should take you up to pilot lamp size. I haven't done tube-size holes in alu; I read somewhere that punches make a mess in aluminum? I have done step drills in galvanized steel up to pilot lamp size, but in steel, punches are much simpler and safer for big holes. Folks often report deals on the 'Bay for used Greenlee punches.

    Speaking of safer, *clamp the work.* On steel even for small holes. With a step drill, clamp *solidly,* even in aluminum. If the bit seizes in the work, on a lucky day you just ruin the hole or wreck your bit or drill. Just as likely, though, the chassis turns into a propeller aimed at your other hand -- and more valuable appendages.

    Lockup and burrs (the metal equivalent of tear-out) often happen when your bit punches through. Again, clamp, and as in woodwork, clamp the work to a sacrificial piece of wood. I use scrap baltic birch ply to back drill holes, but soft pine for step drilling.

    PT cutout? IEC cutout? Nibbler. Easy enough on aluminum. I'm not sure how much you need to spend -- folks report success even with the inexpensive ones.
     
  14. chas.wahl

    chas.wahl Tele-Meister

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    Do my eyes deceive me, or is that thing as big as an SUV? If so, you're kidding yourself if you think you have a garage anymore. How did you get it in there?
     
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  15. RollingBender

    RollingBender Tele-Afflicted Vendor Member

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    10’ wide, 8’ deep and 9-1/2’ tall. 11,000lbs. Correct. It is no longer a garage. I had to remove the garage door header to get it in there.

    Fun tool though....
     
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  16. gusfinley

    gusfinley Tele-Afflicted

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    The advantage of a pre-manufactured guitar amp chassis is that it will fit in premanufactured cabinets. This simplifies woodworking if you do not have the tools to make your own cabinet.

    There are companies that make "blank" chassis in standard amplifier chassis sizes for the DIY amp maker and, of course, will fit in a common guitar amplifier cabinet.

    There used to be some custom chassis "hobbyists" that I used. You could email them a drawing and they would bend you up a chassis in about a week. I am not aware of anyone that currently does this.

    Hammond has missed the mark, in my opinion, by NOT offering standard amplifier sized chassis. Their chassis are 0.04" thin and a spot welded together. I have used them succesfully in small 5W builds, but a "blank" aluminum chassis is a better option with .08" to .09" wall thickness.

    The other consideration is the faceplate. There are some places that will make custom faceplates, but many of the places that used to do this no longer do it. There are ways to make your own, but will varying results depending on the method.

    Things to think about!
     
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  17. Forthefunofit

    Forthefunofit TDPRI Member

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    One vote for build your own here!
    I've always been a DIY'er. Of course, being retired is an added bonus because I have the time to put into designing & building a chassis & cabinet to whatever size suits me. Still a beginner with electronics, but I'm learning every day! (BTW, many thanks to all the regulars on this forum!!)
    Just finished my second build a few weeks ago, a Princeton 5F2A in a chassis made to fit a Blues Jr. cab that I already had. Haven't tried aluminum yet, but I still have enough 18 ga. cold rolled sheet steel ($10 for a 2' x 4' drop pc. from a local fab shop) to build a couple more chassis with. No fancing cutting or bending tools, just an angle grinder with a cutting disc, a dremel tool with a cutting disc for scoring the inside of the bends, & a bench vise with two pcs. of angle iron to clamp the chassis in to make the bends. A benchtop drill press with a couple of step bits for holes up to 7/8" & a holesaw for the larger octal tube bases.

    Always good advise!
     
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