[interview] Luck Duck Pedals: Luke Orsie

Here's FXDB's interview with Luke Orsie of Luck Duck Pedals:

How did Luck Duck Pedals start?

It started out from me playing guitar in my band ("Tears of Mars", check us out!). For years I would go to the music store looking at, buying/trading, and researching effect pedals. I got so involved with "my sound" that I felt the need to start tweaking circuits and changing the sound of pedals to get "that" sound, and I had always had an interest in electronics as well, but I thought it was way too "over my head" to get a grasp on it.

So I started reading everything I could about effects and electronics, trying intently to get a grasp on the whole electronics thing. One thing led to another, and from testing, experimenting, trial and error, a few transistor explosions, and I eventually ended up being able to build replicas of classic effect pedals, and "clones" of my own. I started posting pictures of some of my pedals that I built online, and telling fellow musicians (members of other bands we would play with, studio engineer friends, etc.) about my new found passion. Pretty soon emails started coming my way, asking me if I could build custom, one-off's, and "clones" of pedals. It's all downhill from there!

When I first started building, I did everything on stripboard (a board with rows of copper strips and holes for components to connect to board), when I move from that to hand etching boards from pcb transfers, it took me to a whole new level because then I wanted to know how these boards were designed, which eventually led to me figuring out a PCB design program (Eagle layout editor), to make my own designs from schematics.

I remember a couple years ago building my first pedal for a customer, and feeling really accomplished and warm inside after handing him that fuzz pedal, and seeing the smile on his face when he looked at the artwork.

Another pivotal moment was when I finished building my breadboard "station" (bypass box with connections to a few small breadboards, for experimenting with circuits). I remember thinking, "wow, no turning back now!" It just felt really cool to have built things from the ground up, from my own hand. Also, when Brittany finished hand-painting the first Fridge Buzz pedal (a Fuzz Factory clone with a bass sub switch and low gain silicon transistors)... It was the first handpainted pedal we had done, and I thought it looked so cool. I just always loved the character you get out of hand-painted pedals... It reminds you, "someone built this thing by hand", which I think is something unique you get with LDP.

My family, friends, girlfriend, and God, have all been direct inspirations. Also, all the numerous DIY webpages, and books that I've read through for references and technical details. Numerous effect pedal companies are always continuing to inspire me as well... to name a few that really stuck out to me when I first started were Z.Vex, Fulltone, and Way Huge. There are so many now though, it's hard to list them all!

Where do the name and logo come from?

"Luck Duck" has been a long running nick-name of mine for years. It came about from my brothers calling me this on account of being so lucky in video-games, sports, etc. So, the name came pretty effortlessly when I was thinking of what to name the effects brand.

The logo was made with the brand name "Luck Duck Pedals" in mind. The duck character in the logo was made because I've always loved cartoons and cartoon characters, and my initial idea behind using a cartoon character was "have serious, huge sounding pedals, but with cute, cartoony style artwork"... and the font in the logo came about from Brittany (being a former graffiti artist) messing around with that art style.

What sets Luck Duck Pedals apart from other builders?

I think LDP is creative and unique in giving people a chance to get great tone with completely hand-built, pedals, that have "not so serious", cartoony looking artwork, to set them apart, at costs that are actually reasonable for "working class" musicians. We also try to keep things simple and effective, and generally gear my designs toward a live band setting.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I usually get inspired by either A: another design or group of designs, or circuit "blocks" that I'm interested in. or B: an idea of a band/artist/sound I have in my head, or from something I've heard in a song, etc.

So far, most the designs I've come up with have been based on other classic designs, or ideas... so they're usually already there, structurally. I usually just take the time to "mod" and "tweak" on the breadboard to get things how I want them, or to implement on other ideas/additions. Then once I figure out what I want I go in and design the board to be etched. From there I usually build a prototype for myself, or friends/family. Then I'll get pictures of the prototype to post online (Facebook, ect.), Then I'll start telling people about it online or at shows or whatever and hopefully get some people to want to buy it.

How do you name your pedals?

The 8-Bit Duck is inspired by Nintendo and the "Lost Arcade", which is a tabletop arcade machine that I built (you can check out pictures of the "lost arcade" on my personal Facebook).

Alot of the duck themed stuff also comes from my love of classic duck cartoon characters (Daffy, Donald, Darkwing, Ducktales, etc.)

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All pedals are done in house, literally!

Each of these finely crafted pedals are all hand drilled, painted, and assembled with a meticulous attention to detail and quality of sound and tone in mind.

All the circuits are carefully hand etched, and assembled by me (Luke), but I'm also working on getting some fabbed pcb boards as well, so you'll probably see some of those in the near future.

The enclosures are also all cleaned, drilled, and powder-coated by me.

All the artwork (hand-painted, or otherwise) is carefully created by my amazing girlfriend, Brittany Howard... who has artistic background and schooling, and has a knack for small details and a steady hand.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Extremely important because in a world with so many effect pedal companies it's the artwork that really sets LDP apart.

Is parts selection important?

Generally, I use metal film resistors and carbon film resistors (metal film where it matters and for values 100k and above), box film capacitors (.001 uf to 1uf), radial electrolytic for large values (1uf and above) and power filtering.

I also use 22awg solid core wiring, diecast aluminum enclosures, and metal switchcraft jacks, clear super-bright LED's, metal bezels (to hold the LED's) and 3pdt, true-bypass switching on all builds.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I love the LDO (Luck Duck Overdrive) because it is such a tonally useful overdrive pedal and is both modern and classic at the same time.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

At this point, the sales of my original pedals are spread pretty evenly... a lot of my sales to this point have been one-off's and "clones", or custom versions of my designs. The 8-Bit Duck (analog, bit crush type effect) has been showing a lot of attention lately though.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

LDP is for anyone who enjoys great tone or wants something unique to set them apart... I would say though, if LDP has a musical style it would be defined as "old school" and/or "indie".

Doyle (formerly from the Misfits), tried out the LDO (Luck Duck Overdrive) and said he really loved the overdrive tone he got from it, I let him use it for studio work and he ended up stealing the pedal from me, so I think he really must have liked it.

What does the future of Luck Duck Pedals look like?

Just pushing forward (design/technical wise, and aesthetically), trying to create and blend ideas to come up with tone tools that are creative, simple, musical, and useful. Staying open minded, and continuing to make great pedals for people.

Are you working on any new products?

We've got a great wah pedal called the "Wah"ddle that is our take on the classic wah circuit. It has a woh/wah switch that allows you to switch between the classic "wah" sound or a deeper "woh" sound. The "Wah"ddle also has an internal bass/gain control that gives you the ability to set the overall bass/gain of the pedal. This is useful for tweaking it to your specific taste/rig/guitar. An additional output buffer circuit can be added to make it "play nicer" with fuzz pedals that come after your wah. The wah circuit has also been tweaked to give you more volume and more of a vocal-like sweep and features a hand-wound "Soul Halo" inductor for perfect wah sweeps.

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