[interview] Sharptone FX: Johnny Sharp

Here's FXDB's interview with Johnny Sharp of Sharptone FX.

Sharptone FX is run by Johnny Sharp in North Devon, England.

How did Sharptone FX start?

I started developing an interest in electronics as a kid, probably 6 or seven years old. My grandfather who was an ex-RAF bomber pilot and radio engineer ran a radio and television shop after the war from 1948 to 1973. When he retired he brought home huge amounts of old electronics, valves, radios etc and as my grandparents lived next door, I was always playing about with all this old electronic stuff. It grew from there really. Fast forward a few years with an electromechanical engineering qualification and being a guitarist/musician I started up my own brand of effects.This was due to a lot of my music buddies always onto me to build them a AB box or custom overdrive, so I thought, hey I could make a living out of doing this. Officially I started building effects for friends back in the 1990's but it was in 2002 I started Sharptone with a website etc. I design and tweak all the circuits myself and improve old tried and tested ones and make them sound even better.

My grandfather inspired me a lot and so did my dad who was a science teacher, and always giving me batteries and bulbs to play with. He was also a great musician and taught me guitar from an early age. Charlie Watkins of WEM is also someone I've known for many years and he was over the moon with the new WEM Pep Box reissue I make for him. Charlie's life is an inspiration to anyone, and if anyone deserves to be knighted for services to the music business it's him without a doubt. He literally invented the PA system as we know it and the first to produce it on a big scale, the man is a living legend and deserves a lot more recognition than anyone I know in the music biz. Maybe you should do an interview with him? ;-)

Sharptone FXWhere do the name and logo come from?

Sharptone FX comes from my surname 'Sharp' and 'FX' comes from the term 'effects'.

My logo has a red sword running through it and is red and white in color....very British I think.

What sets Sharptone FX apart from other builders?

My pedals are built to be 100% robust, reliable and last a lifetime. They use the best components available and mostly military grade. They are 'affordable' for everyone and not over priced compared to some on the market. They are all unique in build quality and sound.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I sit down at my drawing table and come up with the concept. Design the circuit and layout. Then decide how big the enclosure needs to be to squeeze in all the components and hardware. Then decide on powder coating colors and what kind of graphics it is going to have. Then go about making them one by one. I think it could be a few weeks from concept idea to finished prototype.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I build every single pedal one by one in my workshop by myself.

The circuits are all hand-wired on tagboard and point to point construction. No inferior PCB's are currently used as to maximize signal path to 100%, thus only use PTP and tagboard.WEM Pep Box reissue

Enclosures are imported and all powder coating/screen printing is done by local companies.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I like to think my pedals are striking in looks as much as they are striking in sound and tone.

Is parts selection important?

Yes most important. I source the best quality audiophile components out there, and import them from all over the world.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The WEM Pep Box reissue I am most proud of as it's the only mass produced pedal WEM made, and I make the only official reissue. There are many clones and copies out there that are based on the MK2 'slab' version which are all OK I suppose, but mine is unique as it uses a prototype circuit never put into mass production that original designer, Pepe Rush came up with in 1965. Also because it's one of Charlie's pedals and unique in design and sound. To be making a reissue pedal for Charlie Watkins is a an achievement in itself.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

I don't think I have built a pedal that has been tough to build. I enjoy making pedals so much, everyday is enjoyable and fun.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The WEM Pep Box reissue is one of my most popular pedals and also the Tonemaster MK2 which is based on an original Tone Bender from 1966.

Sharptone FX Tonemaster MkIIWho uses your pedals and for which genres?

I heard through the grapevine that Seasick Steve had a Tonemaster, and Dan Auerbach should have a Pep Box reissue on his pedal board as it's 'his' sound :)

What does the future of Sharptone FX look like?

Sharptone FX is getting better all the time and at present a very successful reputable brand of effect pedal. My plans for the future is for Sharptone effects to grow and develop into a global brand and expand into bigger premises employing workers.

Are you working on any new products?

Yes, I'm currently working on two new designs. The new pedal I'm releasing next year in 2014 is the 'Goldblock' overdrive. A super small transparent overdrive with added boost switch and diode clipping switch options. I've built the prototype and it's sounding damn sweet!!!

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