The Boss - Custom Knightfall for Will Roberts of Smithereens
I have a love/hate relationship with Boss pedals. I love the unique visual identity they have, they are as bomb-proof as a pedal can be, and there is a huge range of pedals available. Unfortunately, I have found that their buffers mess with my particular rig. I own and use a Boss TU-2 because I know that when the apocalypse has been and gone it will still work, though I keep it in a separate loop out of my main signal chain lest it taint my sound. Even so, I have no plans to replace it ever.
Will Roberts plays guitar for Sheffield punk trio Smithereens. No messing around here, Will's signal chain is Guitar -> Dirt pedal -> Amp. After using a Knightfall in place of his Boss Hyper Metal, Will asked me to build him a custom Knightfall in a Boss enclosure. He loved the sound of the Knightfall, but missed the huge footswitch of his old Boss pedal.
"The entire time I've been playing guitar in bands my guitar has been set to either 'quiet' or 'livid'. My rig is 'Cheap Guitar, Half-Decent Pick-Up, Distortion Pedal, Cheap/Loud Amp'. This is mainly because I can't look after nice things.
Since Smithereens first rehearsal I have been using a Boss Hyper Metal pedal. I liked that it was black and that it had a big footswitch on it which I couldn't miss whilst lumbering around.
I tried the Knightfall on the recommendation of a friend and found that it had all the menace I wanted from a pedal but with depth and texture. Also it was much more responsive to the way I played the guitar which is pretty important when you only have 2 sounds in your arsenal. I contacted Cog Effects and told them I loved the pedal but that I prefer the Tank-like Boss enclosures expecting that to be the end of it. I was 100% wrong."
The first step of this project was to find a Boss pedal to sacrifice. Fortunately, Will also owns a Boss DS-2, and hadn't used it for some time. We had our donor.
Next, we say goodbye to
everything but the baseplate,
the box and the footpedal.
After a bit of time with the sander, we find ourselves with a naked box! The nooks and crannies on this make sanding interesting. If you are also planning on stripping a Boss enclosure or similar, I would suggest using a small rotary tool as I did, as this will speed things up rapidly, as well as reducing swearing and general feelings of self-loathing.
Once the box and footpedal are bare, we can etch it in the normal way - toner transfer, masking and warm acid. Lovely.
As well as the name on the footpedal, we also needed to etch a replacement control plate, and an additional plate to mount the DC socket onto the back of the pedal.
For the control plate and back plate, we used 1mm aluminium sheet.
Footpedal etched and now ready for cleaning and sanding before painting.
Footpedal painted and clearcoated.
Back plate and control plate painted on the left, and sanded ready for the translucent red on the right. We'll paint the baseplate translucent red as well. You'll never see it, but we just thought it would look nice. Sweet.
Back plate and control plate coloured and ready for clearcoat. Usual low levels of light combined with camera phone picture quality!
Knightfall PCB and relay true bypass stripboard mounted to the baseplate with nuts and bolts. You can't put something in a Boss pedal enclosure and NOT make it as bomb-proof as a stock Boss, can you? Exactly.
Boss pedals use momentary footswitches, so to achieve true bypass we need to make the relay latch. This is done using a 4049 CMOS chip, a capacitor and a couple of resistors - simple but effective. Wires need a tidy before we can add pots and switches.
Back plate and control plate mounted to the box. The nuts for the rotary switch and potentiometers hold the control plate in place, good old nuts and bolts for the back panel. Stock Boss LED removed and replaced with a clear lens and LED underneath. The Lens allows for a crazy bright LED without getting too much glare.
DC socket panel-mounted. Though I design my PCBs to accommodate PCB-mounted DC sockets, I generally trust panel-mounted sockets more and use them wherever possible instead. It's just nice to have options.
Smithereens performing Shark live