[interview] General Guitar Gadgets: J.D. Sleep

Here's FXDB's interview with J.D. Sleep of General Guitar Gadgets:

General Guitar GadgetsHow did General Guitar Gadgets start?

I started with Craig Anderton's book in 1973. I wasn't very successful at first. Parts were difficult to find back then. In 1992, I took a renewed interest in building pedals when the internet became available to me. That's when things really took off. I noticed that there was a lot of schematics available on the internet, but at that time there were virtually no layouts for PCBs. I started designing layouts for PCBs. As it was a lot of work, I thought surely someone else could benefit from some of my layout work, so I built a simple website just to share the PCB layouts I had done. Later on we started hand etching PCBs from some of the layouts I had done, to sell on the site.

For a while we built pedals and you can still see reviews for some of those pedals on Harmony Central. Now we have lots of PCBs and kits for pedals on the site. But the site is still oriented to be just a site full of free information and we strive to keep the projects such that you could hand etch the PCB and build pedals from the information on the site without buying anything from us. Of course sometimes it makes things easier to buy the PCB or kit. It saves time and usually saves money to buy the kit.

I got a lot of help from a lot of people. The full list is on the site under "About Us" then "Acknowledgments" tabs. I got a lot of help and inspiration especially from R.G. Keen and Alfonso Hermida.

How do you start on a new pedal?

It takes an incredible amount of work to get an idea into a project on the site. We strive to keep things mistake-free and accurate. There are mistakes on the site. If mistakes get pointed out to us, we will fix them as soon as we can, usually immediately.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

When we built pedals, it was ALL in house and all built by me. Even the PCBs were hand-etched and drilled in-house.

All the circuit boards are two layer PCBs, still almost exclusively "through hole" style (not SMT) with plate-through holes.

All enclosures for the kits come "pre-drilled" About 95% of our enclosures are now professionally milled. All enclosures in the kits are "unfinished" at this time. Ready for some fantastic DIY artwork!General Guitar Gadgets Tube Screamer Replica

Is parts selection important?

We have always paid close attention to the quality of the capacitors we include in the kits. Good "though-hole" capacitors are getting more and more difficult to find as more and more are being discontinued in favor of SMT. We still are able to get good quality caps for the time being.

I (generally speaking) have never really liked building or using germanium transistor pedals. I've always been able to find that kind of sound (or at least similar enough) using silicon transistors. Due to the problems sourcing and culling germanium transistors for use in pedals, we don't sell any germanium transistors with the kits we sell at this time. We have silicon transistor alternatives.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The MXR Phase 100 replica. We had a lot of builders that just couldn't get it to work. I've tested and tested and come to the conclusion that it's just a very difficult pedal to build. We still haven't re-released the kit or PCB even though everything seems to be fine with it. There are lots of people who have built it successfully and love it.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Most popular by far: the Ibanez TS 808 replica. Also popular: the BluesBreaker replica and the Brown Sound In a Box 2.

What does the future of General Guitar Gadgets look like?

We quit making pedals because they didn't sell very well. Our focus always has been and always will be on Do-It-Yourself guitar effects. We hope to keep expanding the line of kits and PCBs and add more projects to the site.

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