Guitar pedalboards already have a somewhat DIY element to them, with no two ‘boards looking - or sounding - the same. Not only do we hand-select the ultimate pedals for our dream tone, but many of us even go as far as handcrafting a wooden board to attach them to, as well as making custom patch cables to link our favourite stompboxes together - but what if we take it one step further and actually build the pedals themselves? Well, if that sounds like something you’d like to get involved with, then this guide to the best DIY guitar pedal kits is most certainly for you.
Now, suppose you fancy having a go at putting together your own overdrive, fuzz or delay for the first time. In that case, you could go online and scroll through a mass of legendary pedal schematics, order all the components, such as transistors, OpAmps and diodes and jump right into making an effects pedal. However, you may want to opt for the far more accessible kit option. This route is not only more cost-effective, but your kit will also come with step-by-step instructions on how to complete your build.
Below you’ll find a few of the kits that we believe would make an excellent project for any stompbox fanatic, as well as some handy advice on what you’ll need to complete a build successfully.
Best DIY guitar pedal kits: Buying in the US
StewMac Screamer Pedal Kit: Buy at Amazon
The humble Tube Screamer is arguably the most popular guitar pedal ever made. Many people have tweaked, fully modified and lovingly recreated this pedal, and now you have a chance to put your own stamp on this classic circuit.
This kit is brought to you by guitar tool specialists, StewMac and includes the famous JRC-4558D chip that gives the Tube Screamer its legendary tone. This kit also includes top-quality components, a robust metal enclosure, a 3PDT breakout board for low noise and a true bypass switch.
StewMac also makes some of the best DIY guitar kits around, if you fancy making an instrument to go with your new pedal.
Zvex Inventobox: Buy at Musician’s Friend
Okay, this one is a little left-field but bear with us. The Zvex Inventobox isn’t a typical DIY pedal kit. Still, it is a ready-made unit that allows you to quickly tweak, redesign or completely rebuild its internal gubbins - all without soldering.
It may sound pricey at a smidge over $400, but this pedal comes loaded with a Zvex Fuzz Factory, tone stack, and Super Hard On module, making it truly worth the price for us. While you can modify and play around with the provided circuits, you can also ditch them entirely and start from scratch if you so desire.
TTONE DIY Tremolo Pedal Kit: Buy at Amazon
Tremolo is a truly expressive effect - and a pretty simple one as well. Basically, tremolo is just changes in volume and there isn’t all that much going on inside the case - making it a great first pedal to tackle.
This TTone DIY Tremolo Pedal Kit available on Amazon is insanely affordable and comes with everything you need to give your guitar tone an injection of retro-inspired trem - all you’ve got to do is put it together.
MOD Kits Thunderdrive: Buy at Walmart
Walmart may not be the first place you think to go for a DIY guitar pedal kit, but the Thunderdrive by MOD Kits seems to be a very accessible project for first time builders. With its simplified control layout and limited number of components, it won’t take you too long to put it together.
Listed as a boost at low gain setting and a full-on distortion well cranked, this pedal is surprisingly versatile, despite its modest price tag.
So if you are in need of a boost to make sure your solos are heard, then why not build your own.
Best DIY guitar pedal kits: Buying in the UK
TweakableParts The Alpinist Delay: Buy at Etsy
Every guitarist loves the warm echos of an analogue delay - and many wouldn’t dare play a solo without one. There’s something about having slightly darker repeats bouncing around behind a lead line that really brings it to life. So, if you’re missing this effect, you could go out and buy one, or you could turn your hand to building your own.
The Alpinist by TweakableParts gives you everything you need to build the ultimate boutique-quality delay at home, with the only tool you’ll need being a soldering iron and, of course, solder wire.
This DIY pedal is based on the Servus! Pedale Yodelmaster and offers a maximum delay time of about 580ms, four notes subdivisions, modulation and tap tempo, all for only £48!
Falkonguitarshop DS-N01 Pedal Kit: Buy at Etsy
This distortion kit is aimed not at beginner builders but at those who have at least one successful project under their belt.
Looking at the format, the three control layout and a name like DS-N01, we’re thinking this is a take on the iconic Boss DS-1 - which is a valuable pedal every guitarist needs in their arsenal.
This kit comes with a hand-polished aluminium enclosure, as well as all the components required to successfully build your very own distortion pedal.
Jeds Peds Fuzz Face: Buy at JedsPeds
The Fuzz Face is arguably the most famous fuzz pedal in the world, as seen at the feet of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix and many other rock icons. However, despite its otherworldly tone and mythical status, it’s actually a rather crude circuit, with not a lot going on inside that famous circular case.
This makes the Fuzz Face the perfect pedal for beginners to tackle and this version from JedsPeds is an excellent option.
The pedal comes in various formats, but we would recommend going for the “full kit & drilling” option, which comes with the PCB, onboard components, pots and toggle switch, as well as a fully drilled enclosure.
Best DIY guitar pedal kits: Buying advice
What tools do I need to build a pedal kit?
If you fancy getting into building your own pedals, the good news is you don’t need too much in the way of tools. You can go a long way with just a good quality soldering iron, a sturdy pair of wire cutters and a multimeter - and if you’re a guitarist, chances are you already have the soldering iron and wire cutters.
Now, obviously, there are a few other tools that will make the job a little easier, such as precision screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, a craft knife and needle-nose pliers. You also can’t go wrong with a third-hand - or helping hand - tool and a good quality workbench mat.
Which pedal should I start with for my first build?
It’s fair to say that most guitarists are stuck in the past. We love vintage style guitars and retro effects pedals, and luckily the latter aren’t all that complicated. If you’ve ever seen inside an original Fuzz Face, you’ll be aware of just how little there is in that circular enclosure.
So, for that reason, we suggest starting with a basic fuzz or even a rudimentary boost pedal. These pedals usually have very little in the way of components and can typically be built very quickly.
Once you've mastered these circuits, you can move on to the more complicated delay and modulation style effects.
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