[interview] Montgomery Appliances: David Gill

Here's FXDB's interview with David Gill of Montgomery Appliances:

How did Montgomery Appliances start?

I went looking for someone to rehouse my big-box Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer on the Harmony Central Effects Forum. That led to meeting Dan of Beavis Audio Research who got me into building and helped me figure out a bunch of stuff early on. Dan is probably the guy who really showed me first hand all the cool stuff you can do with building pedals. Killer dude all around.

Aside from Dan of Beavis Audio, I have gotten countless tips from other builders through various outlets. Most good advice I have taken has come indirectly via reading great builders' posts on forums like DIY Stompboxes.

Where do the name and logo come from?

I've grown up and spent most of my life in Montgomery County, Maryland, and so has my family for the last few generations so that was the simple part. I didn't want to have "effects" or "pedals" in my product name because I always thought it was a little generic and also too specific to stompboxes. Appliances sounded classy and technical so I went with that. If I want to branch into amps, guitars, or drums I can still do that under this brand name.

I've always liked the big curvy text and flashy look of 70s stompboxes so I made a simple logo with a bold 70's type face. It's set on a black box so half of it is in reverse (white on black background for you non-typography folks). In practice it lets part of my logo match the color of the pedal so that's fun.

What sets Montgomery Appliances apart from other builders?

I handle of 100% of the process from ordering parts to packing finished pedals and driving them to the post office. It's about as small as you can get while still shipping a good deal of pedals every month.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I start with Hammond enclosures because they are by far the best quality and consistency on the market. Every box gets laid out, drilled, deburred, cleaned, and painted by me, by hand, in my shop. I make all my own decals and design all my own graphics for each new pedal. Those decals go on the boxes, the holes are cut out, and I shoot clear over each pedal.

All my circuits are built on vintage-style stripboard. I like how it works and how it looks. A number of vintage circuits were built on stripboard so I like it as a nod to the classics in that regard. It also allows me to easily modify any pedal or circuit without much trouble. I design all my own layouts for neat and clean construction.

All circuits are assembled in small batches and loaded into enclosures in my shop. I box them all up and ship them out to dealers or customers.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I now strive to have everything look professional and well-made which might not have been the case when I was using rubber stamps or no graphics in the past. I firmly believe that, since most pedal commerce happens on the web nowadays, you have to look well-made and professional to catch peoples' attention. Looks don't trump tone of course but it's all part of the complete package. No one wants a crappy-looking pedal. Otherwise there wouldn't be 3000-page threads on discussion forums for users to show off their pedalboards.

Is parts selection important?

Many of my parts are either new old stock or equivalent to what classic pedal builders were using. All germanium and some silicon transistors are old stock and many caps are as well. New production parts have to be high quality and reliable.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The '77 Flanger was a tough build and parts sourcing for some of the ICs was a big hassle. It also had a ton of parts and wiring and pricey enclosures. All the faceplates were hand stamped with hammer and punches, etc...

Nowadays my biggest struggle is finding germanium transistors that sound great in my pedals.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

My Buzzaround or the Variable Frequency Overdrive (VFOD) are the most popular and I get a lot of mileage out of them myself. The Buzzaround is popular because it's a huge sound in a (now) very small box. The VFOD is a great boost for amps or stacking pedals and works with so much stuff. The EQ knob really helps it work with all gear without any hassles associated with boosters that are too bright or too bassy. Those are the core products and people seem to like them.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I primarily start with what I want to build and hear and then see if other people like it. If I wanted a MKII, I built a MKII and then when other people liked it I built more of them. Now I try to build things that are unique in either size (smaller than other offerings) or features (more unique or utility oriented) so people have a reason to buy Montgomery Appliances for more than just a fancy picture on the top.

What does the future of Montgomery Appliances look like?

Montgomery Appliances is an ongoing project. I'm constantly trying to move toward more professional builds while still retaining the vintage aesthetic customers want to see what they buy a vintage fuzz replica. I'm trying to focus on developing more unique offerings for the guys that already have the Tone Benders and germanium boosts of the pedal world.

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