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KeithMoonwannabe
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#1
23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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how much to build a guitar amp

I am thinking about building my own tube amp but would likely need an amp tech to assist in building it, since it'll be my first project of this kind.

Anybody out there got a reasonable idea of how much this would cost for labor.

I'm looking to build one of the Weber 18 watt TMB British kits.

The amp will be a 2x10" with AlNiCo Blue Pup and Silver Pup speakers, green tolex, salt and pepper grill cloth, black dogbone handle, white piping.
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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I'd take the kit price and double it if you want to pay someone for their labor.

I believe that to be a fair estimate.
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KeithMoonwannabe
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brooklynhero View Post
I'd take the kit price and double it if you want to pay someone for their labor.

I believe that to be a fair estimate.
I suppose even if that's the case I'm still getting a pretty awesome deal since at that point it'd be the price range of a Fender Reissue only my amp will be totally custom and handwired.
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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just looking at those plans makes me want to build an amp so badly, though I would have no idea where to start. good luck with it!
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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Originally Posted by karp47 View Post
just looking at those plans makes me want to build an amp so badly, though I would have no idea where to start. good luck with it!
me either lol that's why I'd need an amp tech or a really nerdy friend's assistance

but the other day a guy that works on my guitars occasionally was telling me how he ordered up a complete clone/replica to spec of an original brownface fender deluxe so it got me thinking hey what if I just build my own amp
#7
23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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Unless you are a complete idiot, building a guitar amp should not really be all that big a step. An 18 Watter is a perhaps not a beginner's amp, but it isn't all that complex either. If you want to save money, and gain more experience, and get two amps for your money - buy an AX84 kit and built it. Go to AX84.com - The Cooperative Tube Guitar Amp Project and have a read. There is a huge and friendly group there, and no matter what you mess up, they will get you going with a working amp. Lots of resources available there too. Lovely simple amp too. Then you are ready to build your next amp.

If you want to build an 18 Watter, well go to 18 Watt Community Center (registration needed to actually read it.) There are quite a few very very nice 18 Watt kits around. There are a number of variants too - mostly choosing what you do with voicing the two channels. These are the guys that reverse engineered the original Marshall 18 Watter, and also designed the TMB version. (However after a dispute with Ted Webber they are prevented from helping people that bought Webber kits. Webber expects their buyers to use the Webber forums.)

The main issues in building an amp are to be very methodical, and since these are tube amps, very careful. Taking time, and being a bit obsessive with the quality of what you do and double checking everything will very likely get you an amp that works perfectly first time.
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
I am thinking about building my own tube amp but would likely need an amp tech to assist in building it, since it'll be my first project of this kind.

Anybody out there got a reasonable idea of how much this would cost for labor.

I'm looking to build one of the Weber 18 watt TMB British kits.

The amp will be a 2x10" with AlNiCo Blue Pup and Silver Pup speakers, green tolex, salt and pepper grill cloth, black dogbone handle, white piping.
I was doing the same thing 2 months ago. I wanted a Tweed Champ and was looking into kits, liked the Weber but ended up buying a Kendrick. The nice thing is that Kendrick sells the Champ completely assembled for less that $100 more than the raw kit. I did it that way. No worries about RF pickup, or wire routing.

WOW do I love that amp!

Good luck with your amp,
Will
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KeithMoonwannabe
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan View Post
Unless you are a complete idiot, building a guitar amp should not really be all that big a step. An 18 Watter is a perhaps not a beginner's amp, but it isn't all that complex either. If you want to save money, and gain more experience, and get two amps for your money - buy an AX84 kit and built it. Go to AX84.com - The Cooperative Tube Guitar Amp Project and have a read. There is a huge and friendly group there, and no matter what you mess up, they will get you going with a working amp. Lots of resources available there too. Lovely simple amp too. Then you are ready to build your next amp.

If you want to build an 18 Watter, well go to 18 Watt Community Center (registration needed to actually read it.) There are quite a few very very nice 18 Watt kits around. There are a number of variants too - mostly choosing what you do with voicing the two channels. These are the guys that reverse engineered the original Marshall 18 Watter, and also designed the TMB version. (However after a dispute with Ted Webber they are prevented from helping people that bought Webber kits. Webber expects their buyers to use the Webber forums.)

The main issues in building an amp are to be very methodical, and since these are tube amps, very careful. Taking time, and being a bit obsessive with the quality of what you do and double checking everything will very likely get you an amp that works perfectly first time.
yeah I don't think I'm a complete idiot I just have never worked with anything that complex before and I didn't want to hurt/kill myself to save a few bucks but I'll look into it and if it's not so bad I may give it a go. If I screw it up I can still take it to the tech.
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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you are really better off buying one. A good amp cost $300 used or so... transformers and stuff add up quick when buying low quantity
it will add up quick. plus time? is that worth something? unless ofcourse you are doing it for experience? but buliding an old school tube amp is not much of a challenge. Building a triple rec would be a mountainous task but you could never get the parts for a price worth the effort. Building a Marshall or a fender princeton is pretty easy. takes a couple hours of soldering. But again the transformers cost and arm and a leg and they don't sound as good as the oldies.
#11
23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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yeah...

the last amp I built from scratch was a champ-style (the most basic) and ran me $300-400 and for that you might as well buy a used amp if you don't know what your doing. Oh, and it will work right and be quiet unless it was built by someone else that doesn't know what they're doing.

and chances are it won't electrocute you.

...but if you figure out what your actually doing, you should know that you can build guitar amps out of old radios, record players, and organs for significantly cheaper than buying new parts from weber. The benefit is also that the frame is already drilled and has mounted tube sockets.

I converted an old radio into a vox style head for $30 (radio and parts) and I just picked up an organ amp for cheap which will be on the chopping block shortly.

EDIT: when I started getting into amp building, I joined the music electronics forum. VERY helpful and informative. I highly recommend it.
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23rd March 2010
Old 23rd March 2010
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A low cost way to get your feet wet noodling with tube amps would be to buy one of the little 5 watt Epiphone Valve junior and take it apart, that's a lot of guts for a $100 head.

Learn where the high voltage is and don't touch it. Learn how to discharge the filter caps so you don't get shocked even when it's unplugged.

Figure out how to add some tone modifying capacitors or maybe experiment with some of the Boutique transformers available.

Then when you really want to get bold, punch another tube socket into the chassis and start experimenting with additional circuitry wired in point-to-point. Add an extra front end stage for some serious Boogie overdrive.

Find yourself one of the old GrooveTube Amp books and start studying schematics.

Then maybe buy a kit from mojotone and see how you do putting it together. You can do a lot without spending a lot. I like the previous posters idea about converting some old gear. In the 60's I had a RCA tube radio that I made into a tube guitar amp because I could not afford anything. The thing had an electro magnet on the speaker but it made a great grundge sound.

Mojotone Amp Kits

Hope that gives you some ideas. Keep in mind, real tube amps have some serious voltages in them. The stuff won't leap out and take your nose off but it can kill you if you get across it in a bad way (hand to hand, 50 mils kills).

An old tech rule is keep one hand in your pocket so you only have one hand to get shocked. All you need to do is use your head, learn where the big power is and don't touch it when it's hot. Don't be afraid or you'll never get anywhere.

Have fun. Tube amps rule!
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#13
24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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Well I definitely have my heart set on an 18-22 watter.

I'd probably prefer something in the realm of an old school low wattage Marshall or perhaps something like a Fender Deluxe.

Cleanish to light/moderate crunch and very dynamic. I want something that will respond well to pickup/guitar changes as well as the volume knob on my guitar.

Right now i'm using a Valvestate 2000 100 watt 1x12" combo so it leaves a bit to be desired not a terrible amp but nothing spectacular.

That Weber kit is $680 with cab and speakers plus all parts needed. Basically I'd just have to assemble it. So for what it is it seems like a great deal. I know the speakers are definitely great and having a Silver Ten and a Blue Pup will give me a lot of versatility. Heck I'd be tempted to perhaps try a 38 or 45 watt Weber kit and do a 2x12" it's not much more money.

I've thought about getting a used tube amp like a Fender Blues Jr but after owning an AC4tv and a Pro Jr I'm just worried about not getting enough headroom when I play in a band setting. The only times I could cut was with guitar and amp cranked. So I want something that i can still use without worrying about losing my lease on my apt but will handle playing a moderate volume gig with a drummer and bassist.

Cuz I play a lot of blues and classic rock so I do like being able to be heard with some cleaner settings as well as overdriven.

I really appreciate all the great resources you guys have given me I think I'll probably just try to teach myself to do it. To gain experience and just to have a fun little project to work on. And though my time is worth something to me, money is kinda tight and for me to get a completely custom handwired amp definitely would not happen for around $1k let alone $300 less.
#14
24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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You can get a used Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue for just about same price as the Weber kit. The other guitarist in my band has one and it's wonderful... clean when you want... dirty when you want. Plus it has gain settings and a master volume so you can get pretty good breakup and not piss off your neighbors. And real tube-driven reverb. yummy.
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24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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There are people that make Marshall 18 watt repros for pretty cheap. That would probably be cheaper than buying the kit and paying an amp tech for any significant amount of work on it.

The 18 watt circuit (Watkins Dominator, really) with a decent set of transformers, completely kills amps like a Blues Junior or Hot Rod Deluxe in terms of sound quality and touch responsiveness (the 18 watter has an EZ81 rectifier which makes the amp compress quite a bit).

You aren't missing much by not having the crappy reverb in those other amps. I'm not a fan of master volumes, but you can easily add a post phase invertor MV to the 18 watter in exchange for the low gain input jack on the trem channel, without adding any more holes in the chassis.
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24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
There are people that make Marshall 18 watt repros for pretty cheap. That would probably be cheaper than buying the kit and paying an amp tech for any significant amount of work on it.

The 18 watt circuit (Watkins Dominator, really) with a decent set of transformers, completely kills amps like a Blues Junior or Hot Rod Deluxe in terms of sound quality and touch responsiveness (the 18 watter has an EZ81 rectifier which makes the amp compress quite a bit).

You aren't missing much by not having the crappy reverb in those other amps. I'm not a fan of master volumes, but you can easily add a post phase invertor MV to the 18 watter in exchange for the low gain input jack on the trem channel, without adding any more holes in the chassis.
I don't really care for MV or reverb either. Thanks so much for the advice I am checking it out now. That just might be the ticket.
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24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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24th March 2010
Old 24th March 2010
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Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
wow those look amazing
They have a great reputation - lots of threads about their complete amps and kits at The Gear Page.
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25th March 2010
Old 25th March 2010
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25th March 2010
Old 25th March 2010
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31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
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well I'm still researching and deciding. Lots of great options but I've come across a pretty cool pedal the Blackstar HT-Drive.

Which had me thinking because I auditioned it through a Fender Deluxe (vintage blackface, not reissue).

I really messed with that amp with and without that pedal and I think it was the perfect sound I was after.

It had a Weber speaker in it 12F150 50 watt version with light dope.

I have to say I think I might build a Deluxe style amp now.

My thoughts are to do the dark green tolex and a salt and pepper grill cloth. Do the blackface style control panel and instead of the typical silver and black dome knobs I would use the cream/aged white knobs (like those on the vibrolux, vibro king, and tone master).

Because honestly that Blackstar pedal will definitely get me any of the british flavored drive and chunk I could ever contemplate wanting from that type of amp.

But there is just something in that Fender Deluxe clean and slightly overdriven (natural without the pedal) sound that I just can't seem to find with the Marshall style circuit I was looking at. It seems like this combo of amp type and pedal could give me the widest range of tones possible that I could want.

Plus it'd give me the option of having both the TMB circuit and the Vibrato circuit instead of trying to decide between the two, which was a tough decision for me since both are cool and both are different tones.

I think before I try to tackle this project I'll still either just decide to have someone build it for me or go to that amp building school in Chicago and build a Champ kit or something like that. Or if a local tech allowed maybe build an easy kit like a Champ or the like under their supervision so I can get a feel for what I'm doing before I tackle a slightly more complex amp. Since I have minimal experience doing this type of stuff. The plus about me really learning to build tube amps is seeming to spark my interest as future amps could be DIY projects and done much cheaper than wading through dozens of amps by popular brands at the megastores paying an arm and a leg in comparison to buying a kit or parts. Another advantage is I'd know how to optimize and repair myself so I wouldn't really have to worry about taking my amp to a tech for service and having big repair bills or long wait times.

So yeah I'd probably get that same 121F50 Weber speaker unless I can get my hands on a Deluxe and a dealer that sells the Patriot series Emi speakers cuz a texas heat or swamp thang might also be a good match for that Deluxe style amp. As for tubes I'd likely go with JJ's from Eurotubes as the cheap option or get stuff from BOWIE on here that would be a bit better.

As for other specific parts like trannies and such I'm still not sure. Any help people can give would be much appreciated.
#23
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #23
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Allen Amps for Fender Circuits
Metro for Marshall

The Ceriatone kits are great too, leaving you the freedom to
go for as much pre construction as you want.

To save on weight, you may want to buy MM, Hammond or Heyboer transformers and chokes here.

First timers can also enjoy installing the drop in boards or kits from turretboards.com
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