The Black Cat Custom K-Fuzz was our second Custom Shop pedal. The idea came when we had two customers call in the same week with a request for us to build a Kay Fuzztone replica. I knew our last custom project (the infamous Black Cat MKI Americano) would be a tough act to follow, so I wanted to make sure we came up with something really spectacular. And just like with the MKI Americano, I figured as long as we were doing it we might as well go ahead and make five of them.
The original Kay Fuzztone dates back to the late 1960s. Kay produced a series of pedals using the same cheap, soft plastic treadle-type enclosure. Each pedal was a different color – there was the blue Kay Tremolo, red Wah-Wah, black Bass Boost, and the orange Fuzztone. They were super cheesy and flimsy, but some of the circuits sounded fairly decent.
The orange Kay Fuzztone has recently become extremely popular, mostly due to the fact that it was used by The Edge of U2 for the intro to the song “Elevation.” It’s also apparently a favorite of producer Daniel Lanois. So, not surprisingly, the prices for the original have seen a big increase. One recently sold on eBay for $313.19 and another one went for $511.50!!!
In keeping with the tradition of the MKI Americano, we went all out and over-the-top, doing everything the hard way and making this our most expensive undertaking yet. We needed to use a wah-type enclosure. But it couldn’t be just any wah case, no. I had to insist it was orange, like the original Kay Fuzz, which meant I had to order unpainted, unassembled wah kits ($50 each). Then I had to get them painted. I took them to a place specializing in custom automotive finishing (which added another $35 to the cost of each pedal). The color we chose is called “Molten Orange Candy.” It looks spectacular in person! But we didn’t stop there; I insisted we have something equally spectacular for the tread. I finally found this shiny, yet surprisingly durable gold glitter rubber foam material. This is one seriously pimped out pedal!
It was actually our builder Greg’s idea to install an orange LED in the lower part of the case to create an under-lighting effect, which I got a kick out of (I told him it was like something I would have come up with). To further accentuate the effect, we installed a reflective insert on the underside of the top piece. Sound-wise, it's dead nuts close to the original, except the ride feels much smoother for your foot, as it's a real cast metal case with high quality hardware. The actual circuit is the same as the original Kay Fuzztone, only we used better quality premium parts in ours. Greg etched the boards himself, and his builds are meticulous as usual.
Our short run of 5 pedals sold out within a week, and not surprisingly we started to get requests for more. So we made another batch of five, only this time the paint cost us $50 per pedal, which put our cost up the $100 for just the enclosure alone. So we currently don’t have plans for any future runs, unless we can come up with a less expensive way to offer these enclosures.