Building your own pedalboard, even if it’s just you handpicking every pedal that will be on your signal chain, is a thing of beauty. But making your own pedalboard rack out of a piece of wood? Well, that can be quite poetic if you got the proper tools and a little knack for carpentry.
This article will show you some tips and tricks when it comes to circumventing commercial pedalboards like Pedaltrain and building your own. To write this, I’m coming from a mix of personal experience (total pedal freak here, have built and owned numerous boards) and the testimonials we’ve gathered from years of looking at forum discussions and listening to fellow musicians.
Why Make A Pedalboard In The First Place?
Here’s the deal, building your own pedalboard out of a piece of wood might be fun, but if you’re not very experienced with carpentry, then it might be a bit stressful and even downright painful.
So the best piece of advice here is to approach this little project with a clear mindset – put on your guitar headphones, chill with your favorite songs and get ready to build! You’re looking to get a functional thing, so it’s best to sit down and figure out why you want a custom pedalboard in the first place.
Maybe you have been looking at the pedalboards available in the market and they just don’t fit your needs. They’re either too big, too narrow, too small, not inclined enough, or just look ugly and unreliable to you. Maybe you’ve figured out that it will cost you much less to build the pedalboard with materials you probably already have, than shelling out some hard-earned bucks for something industrially made.
Whatever your reason is, I respect it, it’s just good to know it in advance since it will be the motivation that shall guide you through all that sawing and sanding. It’s also good to be sure that all the effort will go towards getting something that’s actually unique or cheaper, not just a homemade version of something you could’ve bought for less money and less time.
Anyway, on to building this thing…
The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out the dimensions of your ideal pedalboard, and then draw out how you will make that from several pieces of wood. Then, actually, get that wood and make sure the pieces are the measures that you need them.
As to which wood is best to get, maple, or anything as sturdy as it, will be best. You need something durable since you’re going to be stomping on it quite a lot. It’s also good if you have wood that looks nice, but there’s always varnish and paint.
It kinda depends on how lucky you get when purchasing the wood, but chances are that you’re going to have to cut it. If you’re good with a saw this might work, but if you want it to look really nice and not as home-made, a circular saw would be best.
Even if you don’t have one at home (who does?) you can probably get someone with a professional woodwork shop to do it for you. It shouldn’t be very expensive and it’s worth outsourcing this part since this is where some people might end up bleeding.
Another important aspect to consider is the inclination because that is going to determine whether you need angled pieces or not. You will also need to make nudges on some of the pieces so that the horizontal strips fit the two vertical pieces that will make the board stand.
This is all something that a carpenter can do for you if he’s well-instructed, or that you might even venture to do yourself.
If design is not your thing, you can find some guides online that walk you through the process and actually provide a free downloadable blueprint, like this video:
Holding It Together
Before you start nailing and gluing parts together, there are two things that are very important to consider:
The first of these is sanding. Having access to the spare parts of your pedalboard before assembly means that you can take the time to smooth out every little corner so that it all looks and feels like proper woodwork. On this point, it’s also recommendable to save some of the wood dust that falls off when sanding (and cutting, for that matter), so you can use it to fill out the holes you might make with nails later.
The second is checking that it all fits nicely. When designed properly, you should be able to put together the board and let it stand by itself just because of how well the parts fit each other.
Of course, this dry fit is not enough to have a functional pedalboard, but if it can stand without any glue or nails, that’s a good signal of its sturdiness. Once you do this, you’ll simply need some glue and nails to put it together for good.
Any wood-specific glue-like Franklin International or Gorilla Wood Glue will do. For the nails, the best choice is probably Brad nails since these have an 18-gauge wire. In other words, they are smaller in diameter and, although they have less holding strength, their reduced size means they will conceal better if you have a small or medium-sized pedalboard on your hands. Since you’re combining them with glue, these little guys should suffice…
… unless! Unless you’re building a massive pedalboard, like, something that holds more than a dozen of them. If you’re ‘that guy’ you’ll probably be better off with Finish nails. These are the other most popular option when it comes to larger woodwork.
Once you have your pedalboard glued and nailed, you can go ahead and use some of that wood dust to fill over the little holes from the nails. Also, it’s recommendable to give it one final sanding especially focused on the top surface so it’s as smooth as possible since that’s where your beloved pedals will go.
At this point, you might be glad to know that you’ll only have to worry about three more things…
The first one is oil. This will be the last finish (redundancies, eh?) when it comes to the wood. There are several types of finishing oils but Danish is a popular and easy-to-get one. All you have to do is rub it on the wood with a cloth and let it dry for at least 24 hours so that the wood really absorbs it.
Now that your custom-built pedalboard is dried up, all woodwork is ready and it’s time for the second of the last touches: getting some velcro strips and attaching them to the top part. The third part? That’s attaching some of the other sides of the velcro and adding in all your pedals!
Best of luck with building your own pedalboard – please make sure to check our recent pieces on solid-state amps, tremolo pedals, germanium vs silicon, distortion, and bass envelope filter pedals!