Building a Custom Pedalboard

Adventures in Wood, Metal and Velcro

For the longest time, my pedalboard has consisted of the nasty gray carpeted top of an old keyboard case. Sure, it was somewhat flat, and Velcro could sort of stick to the carpet. But it has been a mess--pedals all askew, wires going everywhere, and in general a visual wart on the overall feng shui of the Beavis basement. Time for a change methinks! Time for some board customizing!

I wanted to design a pedalboard system that accomplished the following design parameters:

  • I have a lot of pedals, so one big board would probably not be practical. Perhaps a collection of smaller boards...
  • I don't play out with my pedals--when I go out to jam I usually take a delay and one dirtbox. So the design can focus on areas that are not entirely practical for gigging.
  • I want all the wires, adaptors and power stuff nicely packaged under the board--only one cord will come out from the pedal board for mains power.
  • I want some kind of simple lighting solution.

Here is the starting mess:

Board Choices

I had the pleasure of seeing one of Dave Nitefly's PedalTrain boards a while back and was very impressed with its simple design and flexibility. Strong, sturdy and cleverly designed, the PedalTrain boards have aluminum slats for pedals and lots of space between the slats for organizing and hiding wires. The first choice was to decide on what size Pedaltrain to work with.

I already had figured that pedalboard project was going to consist of two boards--one for dirt and one for modulation/delay. I drew up a template of the different PT sizes and laid out my pedals to find the best match. Of course the PT-Pro was the initial choice because it was the biggest PT available, and bigger is always better. But after laying out pedals and thinking through what I wanted to accomplish, the smaller PT-2 seemed like a better match. While the Pro has more space from left to right, the additional depth could be effectively used in my setup. So I ordered two PT-2's from Musicians Friend.

Power! More Power!

Every pedal board needs power. I wanted my new boards to be self contained with only one power cord coming out of the back--everything else, power strip, ac adaptors etc. needs to be entirely contained under the board.

After monkeying with all sorts of cheap adaptors and daisy chain power devices over the years, I decided last year to actually spring for the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2. It was a very tough decision--who wants to pay over 150 bucks for an AC adaptor? Not me dude! But in the end, it solved all the power problems is a compact and flexible way. Since I was moving from one board to two, I would need two PP2 devices.

The first board mod issue to address is that there is not nearly enough clearanceunder a Pedal Train board to accommodate a power strip and a Pedal Power 2. So I was going to need to raise the Pedal Train up off the floor a bit. After some thinking I decided that a nice pair of wood ends would do the job nicely: simple to make, they would not only raise the PT-2 to the correct height, they would allow me to create the angle I wanted for the boards.

Here are some pics of the wood-working part of the project:

Here's the PT-2 on the workbench. I set the power strip and PP2 on the underside to measure the amount of clearance needed.

I purchased a nice piece of red oak to use for the sides.

Lazer Saw! Because I was excessively caffeinated during the woodworking part of this project, my straight-line cutting abilities were seriously impaired by the shakes. To get the cuts right, I clamped a straight-edge to the oak stock and used my circular saw to get straight cuts.

A quick check of the cut pieces to make sure the clearance and angle is correct.

The sides attach to the PT-2 frame with 2" bolts. I drilled holes through the PT-2 sides, three in each end, and aligned the holes with the wood sides.

Here's the top view of the finished cutting and assembly. The wood sides still need to be sanded andfinished at this point.

And the bottom view. You can see the bolts in this view.

Underneath the Covers

Since one of the key goals of the new board design was to have everything self-contained underneath the board, I next turned my attention to the under-guts. The power strip was mounted with 3M double-stick tape, and the Pedal Power 2 was mounted with 3M SuperLock.

Starting on the guts...

And the top view...

Board One--Modulation and Delay

The first board is to hold my modulation and delay pedals. I attached the carpet side of the  velcro that came with the Pedal Train board to the board slats and then attached the hook side to the backs of my pedals.

Let there be Light

Another one of the design goals remained to be met--lights. I wanted  a low-intensity lighting solution that would allow me to see the top of the board better in dim light. I looked at a variety of LED, incandescent and cold-cathode (fluorescent) type lights. In the end, the simplicity and longevity of LEDs seemed to be the best solution.

A few years ago, I bought one of those flexible USB lights for my notebook computer. Marginally useful, but it go me thinking of how good that would be for a pedal board lighting solution.

This would be a good solution because a) it uses LEDs which typically last longer than other types b) the light is flexible which means I can point it wherever I want, and c) I could use the existing USB connector and hook the lights into a powered USB hub to solve the power needs. (You can get powered USB hubs dirt cheap if you google them. You don't care about USB 2.0 or high-speed capability because you are just looking to get the 5vDC power from the hub, not any computer connectivity).

I had a few powered USB hubs in the parts room, so I attached one to the back of each pedal board with 3M SuperLock. I then plugged the USB hub's AC adaptor into the power strip and was ready to go. The lights I used were Dynex models from Best Buy--I really like these ones because the have a heavy-duty steel coil neck that stays where you put it.

USB Hub on the back with two lights plugged in. The hub has four jacks so I could theoretically put up to four lightson each board, but that would be overkill.

Kind of looks like an alien or a bug, doesn't it?

Finishing Up

I then started working on the dirt board. Same details as the first board. I used George L cables through out.

Here's the Dirt Board getting some cabling work

Both Boards Up and Running





Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.