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Get Fuzzy

February 28, 2014

by Cash
Cocoa, Florida

For the past couple of days, I was working on a neat project, and I thought I'd share it with you.

The fuzz box Schematic from Instructables.com
For those of you who don't know, I play the guitar, and have an electric and an acoustic on the boat.  One day while I was playing I was thinking about a fuzz box.  A fuzz box is a box with electronics that adds fuzz to the guitar's sound.  It sounded cool, so I decided I wanted to make one.  I looked it up online, and found a tutorial.  This was the start of my first electronics projects.

All the parts needed!
First step was to get all of the parts I needed.  I went to Radio Shack's website, and found a store within driving distance.  With further research, I found that they had every part I needed.  The marina we were staying at had a rental car, so we got there easily and got all the parts.

The parts included jacks, switches, knobs,  a circuit board, and electronics like transistors, capacitors, and potentiometers.  The circuit board was where all the electronics went, and I had a schematic to guide me.  It was very confusing at first, but I looked up what the symbols meant, and it started to make sense.  I started laying out the electronics on the board.  It was like a very complicated puzzle.  It was very hard to remember which part was which and where everything fit together on the board. 

If you look at the picture of the circuit board below, you'll see that some of the holes are connected.  The electronics connected by the white don't have to be wired together, because the white paths act as a circuit.  The trick is to fit as many components as possible so they
are connected by the white paths so you don't have to use as much wire while also keeping the components far enough apart so they didn't touch.  I finally finished putting everything on the board where I thought was the right place.  I now had to solder the electronics together.

Soldering the board
A circuit board.
For those of you who have never soldered before, it is the process of heating up a soldering iron to melt solder onto electronics so that the electronics are connected and electrical current can flow between them.  The melting point of solder is very low, so the soldering iron will melt only the solder, which comes in the form of a wire.  To solder the electronics onto the circuit board, hold the soldering iron onto the metal wire of the electronic component, and press the solder on the other side.  The soldering iron will make the wire hot enough to melt and connect the electronics to the board. The nice thing about solder is that it cools seconds after you take the soldering iron away.  I soldered the pieces that didn't need to be connected to anything else, then cut wires, and connected the rest of the pieces.
Drilling the holes for the switches

Apart from the circuit board, which actually makes the sound fuzzy, the fuzz box consists of two knobs, two switches, and two jacks.  There are two audio jacks which provide the input and output that you plug into.  One switch is a power switch, and one turns the fuzz on and off.  The two knobs are volume and the amount of fuzz.

Following the tutorial, I wired up everything else, hoping that it would work.  I plugged it in, and set everything up.  I started on the bypass setting, which added no fuzz, just put the audio straight to the output.  It worked!  Then I set it to the fuzz setting.  Nothing.  Just static.  I had done everything except the buying of the items that night, and I was tired and disappointed and went to bed.
The finished fuzz box!
A couple days later, I was ready to debug it and figure out what went wrong.  I decided to try it one more time.  Upon doing so, I realized something I missed the previous time.  The fuzz/bypass switch was actually a three position switch.  The forward position was fuzz, the background position was bypass, and the middle was nothing.  When I had tested it before, I just set the switch on the middle setting, thinking it was the fuzz.  When I put the switch all the way forward, there was static and crackling but the clean guitar sound became fuzzy!  It now sounded kind of bad, but it worked!
The circuit board

A couple days later, I opened it again to see what was causing the loose connection.  I looked around, and found a couple places where some strands of the wires were not connected to the board.  I also found a place where the whole end of one wire was not connected to anything.  I connected where it should have gone, and tried it.  No fuzz.  I tried flipping both the fuzz and power switches, nothing.  Then, on a hunch, I unattached that end of that wire and tried it.  Fuzz!  I looked at the schematic, and it told me to attach the wire, but apparently that caused it to not work.  I sealed up the box, and tried it.  It worked great for my first electronics project, and I was happy!

The lid of the fuzz box

The inside of the fuzz box

Aunt Lisa said...

So cool! Great project and I appreciate hearing the result!

Cassius Close said...

Thanks! Glad you like it!

Michael Keister said...

This is cool. Reminds me of when I was your age and got into electronics. Very fun! BTW, I'm a friend of your dad.