Selling DIY amps?

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by Drew617, Mar 13, 2021.

  1. SerpentRuss

    SerpentRuss Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

    Age:
    58
    Posts:
    106
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2021
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Perhaps the budding amp entrepreneur needs to keep a closet full of $25 electric guitars, First Act Specials purchased at yard sales. You sell the "collector's item" guitar for big money, the amp gets thrown in for free :)
     
    schmee and Drew617 like this.
  2. Drew617

    Drew617 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    464
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2014
    Location:
    North Shore, Mass.
    Sure, I think that's down to reputation in the market. Well-known boutique builders can get paid for their effort because its value may be understood. You (well, I assume) and I aren't known, so our potential buyers are gambling a bit.

    I've enjoyed building and take it for granted that I'll keep doing it for a while as time allows. If I consider that the 10 or more - likely more - hours sunk into a build carry an opportunity cost of at least $100 per, probably also more than that, I'm really not worried about top dollar. In total, the exercise is costly either way. I'm more interested in recovering anything so that it might be reallocated for future builds.

    I always forget that I owned someone else's Mojotone PR clone years ago. I only picked that up because I was looking at used DRRIs at the time and this was priced similarly, maybe $700. I wasn't immersed in the hobby at the time so couldn't really critique his build, nor do I remember much about it. But the amp worked and sounded just fine.
     
    sds1 likes this.
  3. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,687
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2019
    Location:
    Earth
    I build guitars for myself because I only use highest quality parts I can find, and usually USA Fender, Custom Shop pups, etc. etc. If I were to build a tele for someone else, I wouldn't build it any other way than the way I would want it done for myself i.e. no cheap parts, hand built to my specs and details, etc. etc. If I couldn't build it to the quality I would want, I wouldn't build it at all. However, that also means that in order for me to make any $ out of it I'd have to darn near charge custom shop prices, and no one is going to pay me that kind of $ for, at the end of the day, is a partscaster... At the very least, you have to consider your time and effort into building it as sunk cost. Now, if you can somehow make a name for yourself, become famous amp builder etc., that might be another matter. But then again, what's the BCA at the end of the day.... Not saying you shouldn't, just sharing with you some of the things that I've come to the conclusion on when I start to think about building guitars at a pro level.... Just my 2 cents
     
  4. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    I'm much more familiar with Canadian Standards, including having worked in industrial equipment installation and commissioning, and in a past life I worked in the manufacture of electronics equipment.

    That said, Canadian codes are a total rip-off of Amercian ones (thanks for that).

    I suspect you are fully liable for making and selling amps. If someone gets electrocuted from an amp you built, or if their house burns down, they have every right to come after you. Someone commented "Hey, if you don't have anything, what are they going to take". While that's true, that same logic would have a lot of people driving around without car insurance. Most of us do carry $1 million liability though (in Canada, and I hear $2M is more common in the states).

    Again, in Canada, everything that is considered a consumer device has to be CSA certified. I very strongly expect it is the same in the US. Similarly, modification of any electrical device requires CSA re-approval; you can repair in a like-for-like scenario, but when it's modified, stringly speaking, it should go to a CSA approved shop and get re-done. I strongly expect it is the same in the states. Not to say that people FOLLOW these rules, in fact, it's pretty common practice to not follow them.

    I think you can get away with selling an amp here or there I think. But the more your sales volume rises, the more a chance something is going to happen, and the more of a case you'd have against you as someone who was selling consumer products that are not approved to NEC standards.

    Again, I have no real knowledge of your NEC standards in the states, except that every CSA course I've done the instructor spends half the day saying "that's the same as NEC" or "we took that from NEC", or "NEC introduced this a few years ago and we're bringing it in now too".

    I would bet a decent amount of money that selling amps in the states is opening you to a potentially huge liability...

    Yep, this is a downer, since there's so little money in it to begin with.
     
    Drew617 likes this.
  5. Badside

    Badside Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    511
    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2011
    Location:
    Montreal, Qc, Canada
    I have heard that this is why so many electronic devices come with an external wall-wart made by a 3rd party company. This lets them avoid the complications of building and selling something electric. Because the actual thing that plugs into the main is not made by them.

    That's why selling pedals is fairly risk free.

    Tube amp by their nature have a certain level of risk. There's an actual risk of shock and fire.

    But if you want to get lawyers and insurers involved, you'll need to sell quite a few before it turns a profit. Many just decide to ignore this and solder away.
     
    Drew617 likes this.
  6. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    Yeah, exactly.

    I still bet that there are codes that you are *supposed* to follow for low voltage devices. It's not coincidence that most commercially made electronics, including pedals, have certification stickers. These stickers are not cheap -- they're doing it for a reason.

    But a wall-wart will mean your device is operating at a low enough voltage to fall under a different set of regulations. For example, in Canada the "electrical code" CEC22.1 does not apply for low voltage (I think below 35V?) but low voltage devices would have requirements under C22.2 and all the sub-codes that fall under it. And again, we stole all our codes from you!

    Another vote for "certification is mandatory" is that I can see certifications on Fender amps. Again, certification is an expensive process. Companies (especially Fender?) are not spending money on it unnecessarily.

    Further evidence is the following statement:
    "Section 102 on page 8 of the CPSIA requires every manufacturer or importer of all consumer products that are subject to a consumer product safety rule enforced by the CPSC to issue a general certificate of conformity based on testing of the product"

    ... that I found here.

    Sorry, not meaning to be a downer. But I've been thinking about building/selling amps for years; I have a background in industrial electronics and I design, procure, and modify industrial equipment for a living... I've been around this topic for the past 20 years. I've toured CSA's certification lab in Alberta, and in another "certified to certify to CSA standards" shop I asked a worker there (who was also a guitar player) about amp building. His opinion was "Oh yeah, you should, but you might get away with not...".
     
    sax4blues likes this.
  7. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,588
    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Location:
    Florida
    Am important caveat there might be:

    "that are subject to a consumer product safety rule enforced by the CPSC"

    That document then goes on to list a number of specific product and appliance types that are regulated under that act, none of which are guitar amplifiers. Whether or not that is what the specific rule you quoted is referring to is beyond the scope of my competence to conjecture on at this time, but clearly not every single electrical device manufactured for sale must have that certification. If that was the case, they wouldn't have called out a specific caveat of being subject to their rulemaking, they would have just said all devices, full stop.

    Also, a lot of legitimate boutique amp and pedal makers do not get UL or equivalent certification because it's not feasible at their scale. I have not seen anything to indicate that they are breaking the law by doing this, those are insurance certifications and they may be exposing themselves to greater liability in the unlikely event of a incident but I don't think they are violating the law and that's an important distinction to make.

    And of course Fender has UL certification, they're a huge multinational company and it goes without saying they would do something like that. That does not necessarily mean it is mandatory it just means that it's a good idea to cover your ass when you're a billion dollar business and paying $25,000 per product to do so would be a no-brainer.
     
    Drew617 likes this.
  8. SerpentRuss

    SerpentRuss Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

    Age:
    58
    Posts:
    106
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2021
    Location:
    North Carolina
    As someone who has made and sold items on the web, I can tell you that if you make the same, exact item, it becomes somewhat like your day job. In my case, it provided me with about a 20 dollar an hour, tax-free (shh!) income for a couple of years. The more I wanted to make, the more I worked. The aspect of creating the same thing over and over, and the fact that a couple of the steps involved were a total hassle from a PPE aspect, made me eventually give it up. I don't think amp making would be nearly as tedious, but I really don't see myself doing it for anything more than fun and personal enjoyment. So far I have finished one project and have two in progress and none of them are identical.

    I would caution anyone thinking about doing it for profit to go ahead and list the true hobby income on their taxes. Keep receipts for all your parts, supplies, and tools. Chances are high you won't have a lot to declare. If your business really takes off, the easiest place to run afoul of the government is with state sales tax, which will be handled for you if you sell via eBay.
     
  9. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    69
    Posts:
    7,455
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2009
    Location:
    Rocklin Ca.
    I posted the same question about selling amps quiet a while back......... At the end of the day I determined from most the replies I would Sued & Screwed from every direction if something went bad with one of my amps. Actually since that post I'm afraid to leave the house now
    :(
     
  10. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    Fair enough. I'm guilty: I didn't go deep to try and prove anything. I did a 30 second google search rather than an day's long work to verify the list of convoluted codes that say you need this.

    That document I referenced is intended to be a friendly "guide" for a wider audience, which is why I linked it. The real bibles, in the states anyway, will be your NFPA and NEC codes, and they're not free. These are not the kind of documents that list out examples of devices that need certification -- they're more like the kind of documents that make broad sweeping statements.

    I'd bet money, big money, that guitar amplifiers are not excepted. If it plugs into 120V and has potential for either shock or fire, it should have certification.

    Just think about this: Do you think that in this over-regulated world that a company is allowed to produce consumer electrical equipment, that can have fire and electrocution risks, without being tested/certified by a standardization? If you think that's allowed, and I mean no disrespect, then I feel pretty confident that you have very little exposure to electrical standards.

    Sadly, I think the age of small/medium amp manufactuers will come to an end. There will be incidents, and CEC (in Canada) or NFPA (states) will come down hard on amp builders.

    The discrepancy between big manufacturers doing it and small/medium ones not doing it? Yep, as I say, I see it ALL the time in my job, it's a commonly avoided regulation. And everyone avoiding it fears that day that an inspector shows up and asks to poke around. A lot of people get away with it. People also get away with driving without insurance. That said, it is not as big a faux pas to not obtain electrical certification.
     
  11. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    Again, despite my firm belief above, I'm not 100% sure. I'd be very interested in hearing from someone with more knowledge on the certification regulations.
     
  12. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,588
    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Location:
    Florida
    Here's an electrical engineering stack exchange discussion about the subject:

    https://electronics.stackexchange.c...pproval-required-on-all-items-sold-in-the-usa

    To summarize, any devices installed in a building that will be inspected are probably going to need to be certified to pass the electrical inspection and generally any company that wants to get liability insurance is going to be asked to have a certification for their product but no one seems to think that it is a legal requirement that all consumer products be certified by an insurance testing laboratory. It's just that because of liability issues any product you want widely distributed is going to probably need to have some sort of certification to be sold by major retailers or installed in commercial applications especially.

    For the scope of our discussion here, let's remember this wasn't even a question that was asked in terms of a hobby business but basically, the OP makes a couple amps a year, is there any reason he can't sell them so that my house isn't filled with apps and I can recover some of the cost to finance future hobby builds. Everything I've seen implies that while he might face some civil liability in the unlikely event of an accidental injury related to his amplifier build he is not going to have the police knocking on his door because he built an electronic device without sending it for insurance laboratory certification...
     
    sds1, Drew617 and hepular like this.
  13. Sequimite

    Sequimite Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Posts:
    447
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2018
    Location:
    Sequim, WA
    Here's a cautionary tale:

    Our pneumatics and hydraulics company sold parts to a conveyer company in St. Louis which advertised itself as engineering experts (turned out they hadn't a single engineering course among the employees much less degrees). They didn't buy a particular part we recommended, instead ordering a cheaper part. They used these parts in a conveyer system for a factory in Ohio. A couple years down the road the factory had already replaced the cheaper couplings. A year later a coupling which the factory had bought and installed failed causing a worker to be struck. He said he was fine but the next work day he slipped on an oily floor and was injured. He later sued the factory claiming that the fall caused him to become a drug addict, despite the fact that he had drug arrests in previous years. The factory sued the conveyer company and the conveyer company sued us. I laughed when I saw the details of the suit and was enraged when our insurance company paid out several hundred thousand to settle. We were the first in the chain to have good insurance and deep pockets and the insurance company judged that it would cost several hundred thousand dollars to defend the case.
     
  14. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    I can't say I agree with your synopsis. In fact, to quote the most upvoted answer directly:
    ". Assuming this is a mains powered device? There is US Federal law and there are also local laws. If you only sell a few you may get away with not getting a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) approval (there are many NRTLs, UL is just the most well known)."

    ... which is what I've been saying all along.


    I knew we'd get here. Because I've been down this rabbit hole before.

    That other thread, I believe, is confusing a several matters.

    Most of that thread is talking about what most people often talk about the "electrical code". What most people call "the electrical code" is the "installation and mantenance" code. In Canada that's CSA C22.1. In the states, that's NFPA 70.

    Most people call these "the code" but they're actually not 100% correct. The code is a set of codes. But most electricians are only familiar with what's in that inch high book. The full code is a collection of dozens (at least) books. In Canada C22.1 is what electricians know about, but C22.2 is the manual that gets into the manufacture of other devices. I guarantee you that you have the same things in the states. NFPA and CSA codes are pretty harmonized.

    It's also confusing the insurance aspect with electrical testing. UL is integrated with insurance assessments in some cases -- deal with them on a semi-regular basis. UL also does electrical testing to NFPA standards. Different things.
    Frankly most electricians and electrical engineers are pretty unaware of anything beyond the installation and maintenance code. I happen to be an electrical engineer who has had to do a deep dive on this on a few occasions.

    In my opinion we're right on scope of the OP's discussion. If you're building stuff and selling it, you're a business, or you are supposed to be. You're supposed to be paying taxes. You're supposed to be following rule and regulations.

    The OP appeared to have a fastidious attitude and was wondering what one should do, if one is trying to follow the rules. As I've said above, I believe you should pay taxes and should be selling UL listed products. So that said, I think you can get away without the IRS and the NFPA coming after you. He specifically asked what rules/regulations would apply to him and I thought I'd jump in, because I appreciate a fastidious approach and I thought I could help him. If you can prove otherwise, that johnny law says he's exempt because he's just doing it for fun on the side and therefore doesn't have to comply with safety regulations...well, I'd put the onus of proof on you for that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
  15. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    ... here ya go. They are definitely listed under the act

    https://legacy-uploads.ul.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/UL-White-Book.pdf

    This document clearly states that Musical Instruments are a UL category. Just saying... because it was implied above that amplifiers are exempt because they were not listed as one of the examples in my other links.
     
  16. Drew617

    Drew617 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    464
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2014
    Location:
    North Shore, Mass.
    I’m reminded of paranoid Johnny Fever evading the Phone Police... :D

    But yeah, thanks for keeping my use case, scope, whatever in mind. I’m glad to start an interesting conversation. Even if some of the speculation here would never apply to the scenario I presented, it’s all thoughtful enough.

    Not that I’m any closer to go/no go. I think a definitive answer has to come from a qualified attorney, as has been suggested here. Realistically I’m not going to consult one since my purpose here is just to waste less aggressively or casually recover some entertainment budget.

    At the moment I’m not completely discouraged from selling a complete amp, but if I do it’ll probably be a game time decision.
     
  17. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    505
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2013
    Location:
    St. John's, NL, Canada
    I'm sorry if you feel I've taken your topic and thrown it off. I will duck out of this thread, everything I have to say is above.

    I think I was on topic FWIW. Just because you're only selling a few, I don't think that regulations do not apply. I do think it's less likely that you'll have trouble with it though, and in my opinion knock yourself out -- most medium sized builders don't seem to bother with it (but are they carrying liability insurance?). But in your original thread I took you as wondering what you actually are supposed to do, and I'll mantain that any codes/regulations, whehther they apply or not, are not subject to relaxation if you only sell a dozen a year, or just because you consider yourself a "private seller".
     
    Drew617 likes this.
  18. Drew617

    Drew617 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    464
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2014
    Location:
    North Shore, Mass.
    Don’t take my comment the wrong way - I do think it’s all constructive and good conversation. I really didn’t mean to address yours specifically at all.

    As I said, I’m not sure I see a strict yes or no here - I think advice for caution is valid.

    I probably am more concerned for liability than compliance, though they are not strictly independent. I think there’s enough evidence of low volume builders selling without certification that I’d feel comfortably “under the radar” if one exists.

    I do get that applicable requirements won’t apply to me “halfway” or anything. If that liability exists, I’d still have to consider risk as a function of liability and (relatively little) exposure.
     
  19. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,588
    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Location:
    Florida
    it's interesting that you and I got such different takeaways out of that stack exchange discussion. I'm not saying I'm right but I'm not very convinced that you are either and as a couple people have mentioned an attorney would be the right person to answer this question at the end of the day

    Couple of points to consider though:

    Neither UL nor NFPA are government agencies, neither of them are going to "come after" anyone because they are private entities with no regulatory powers. They are both very influential on regulatory matters to be sure but it is entirely dependent upon the government entities who choose or choose not to follow their recommendations. To follow on that point, of course UL has a category for musical instruments there's a market for major companies that want their musical instruments UL listed for liability reasons and UL being a private company in and of itself has a reason to broaden the scope of its services as much as possible and to imply that of course everyone should use their services. None of that is definitively making a case that one is obligated to use their services or follow their guidelines, in fact the only reason to care about UL at all is because either the government or your insurance company tells you you have to.

    The NFPA falls under exactly the same scope with the exception of the fact that their recommendations end up being taken usually word for word as the actual fire code in most jurisdictions in the US and across the world so you can essentially regard their handbooks as the law. That being said the fire code building code etc only has relevance to manufactured items when they need to pass inspections or meet requirements of said codes. This effectively means that things used in a commercial environment must comply and anything used in construction that will be subject to an inspection must comply but I fail to see how state and local fire codes have jurisdiction over consumer electronics.

    In order to make a case that the NFPA guidelines apply to guitar amplifiers you would need to show something from a federal regulatory agency that says they do. The fire marshal doesn't get to make that call, though god knows he would love to...

    Let me throw out another couple of scenarios that I think illustrate why it would be problematic to assume that UL listing is a strict legal requirement.

    What about vintage guitar amplifiers which absolutely do not live up to modern UL NFPA etc standards? Is it illegal to sell those now? I'm not talking about potentially a liability exposure I'm talking about prohibited legally. As in the case of child car seats which cannot be resold after a certain expiration date due to a specific law prohibiting that practice for safety reasons.

    What about guitar amplifier kits from, let's say mojo tone? Are those UL listed? Even if they have the kit inspected it can't possibly still be considered UL certified when assembled by a hobbyist, and you may say that of course that then means it can't be sold on to a third party but isn't it just as much of a problem for that hobbyist to have built it and be using it in their own home? The kit retailer is materially supporting people and making a non-ul listed device in addition to legal liability should they not be in regulatory trouble?

    I would also point out that just because certain activities are regulated at a certain scale or under certain circumstances does not mean they cannot occur outside of those regulations when done on a hobby or cottage level. for instance cottage food laws, food is highly regulated and in my experience generally one of the only things that government thinks is more dangerous than electricity. And yet cottage food laws exist in most parts of the united states that allow small amounts of food products to be made at home and sold without FDA oversight and with exemption to FDA inspection and labeling laws.

    One last point you bring up sales tax. Most states have a certain number of transactions you're allowed to conduct per year without paying any sales tax (maybe only one or two). Furthermore if you do make enough sales that you need to pay tax it does not necessarily mean you need to register for a sales tax number, thay usually have a form you can fill out declaring how much you owe and turn it in with a check at the local office because they understand that they are small operations that don't really qualify as businesses and they make allowances for the existence of those gray areas. Do the same allowances for the existence of small not quite commercial activities exist for consumer goods? Maybe not but I don't think it's valid to say that they absolutely don't without some definitive proof, over and above the fact that private entities with their own agenda like UL and NFPA think they shouldn't.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
    Drew617 likes this.
  20. gusfinley

    gusfinley Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,425
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2014
    Location:
    SLC, UT
    Yeah, this thread got A LITTLE hi-jacked.....

    ... On the other hand, someone could end up with an amp built better than modern production amps, with much better parts than most production amps at a great price and they could love it. No lawyers necessary.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2021
    Drew617 and Nickfl like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.