DIY Guitar Fuzz Pedal


Instructables user and Community Manager [Randy Sarafan] recently put together a tutorial on how to build an ages-old musical standard, the “Fuzz Pedal”. He says that the secret to rocking out is fuzz, so if you can handle both a soldering iron and a guitar, this project is for you.

When you take a close look, the pedal’s components are actually quite simple. The distortion is created by a pair of transistors, which in his case are vanilla NPNs from RadioShack. We have covered other distortion pedal builds before, and they have used germanium transistors to obtain a ‘creamier’ sound – you should be able to swap these cheap ones for uprated models with little trouble.

The handful of components were soldered neatly to a piece of perf board, and placed into a sturdy metal case that looks like it can withstand even the harshest abuse. He’s got schematics and a BOM in his writeup, so all that’s keeping you from a rocking weekend is a little bit of time and a soldering iron – what are you waiting for?

Stick around to see a quick video of [Randy’s] fuzz pedal being built.


20 thoughts on “DIY Guitar Fuzz Pedal

  1. I made a distortion pedal from 2 germanium transistors I pulled from a TV. I matched them for gain also called Hfe with a socket I plugged them into on my multimeter. I found that all the ones I pulled off the board were already closely matched.
    As a sidenote Tom Scholz used a pair of LED’s and an op amp in his distortion circuit for the Rockman X100 effects box.

  2. Matt: If you read the article, you’ll notice they put a piece of wood over the inside of the metal cover for insulation. They video doesn’t make that part clear.

    Also does anyone else find it odd that this video makes extensive use of specifically RadioShack parts?

  3. Not unusual for an entirely Radio Shmack-created piece of hackery. -It used to be entirely common!

    Radio Shmack has been trying to promote hacking and the sales of their parts lately (too little too late if you ask me) and this could be one of the results of this latest promotion.
    The History Channel production level is a good indicator as well. lol

  4. @strider_mt2k

    Wait, you mean the R being perfectly aligned on the solder so you can see it while he’s soldering, was done on purpose?

    Hey, awesome for Radio Shack. This is how you do it. Show people how to build neat stuff with what you are selling.

  5. sounds like it is missing clipping diodes on the output. A similar pedal I did nearly 20 years back had the same sound. barely did anything until you cranked the volume, then it sprung to life. Two clipping diodes just made it do that at lower volumes.

    To get that clipped effect put two diodes, facing opposite but still parallel, from you output path to ground. The idea is to clip the top and bottom off the waveforms, cheap RS silicon diodes have one sound, others sound different. Or if you want a challenge, those R-C frequency guides can be used to only distort certain ranges and harmonics.

  6. The shacks in my town, portland, OR, recently about tripled the size of the diy sections. They are stocking kits from velleman, copper clad pcb and more differdnt protoboard, and a lot more tools and components, not just the drawers. Yeah, a lot of stuff is pretty spendy, but so is milk at a gas station, for example. It’s convenience you are paying for. Not having to pay shipping, and wait for the delivery. I still would like to see the components’ prices more in line with the real world, 3 bucks for 10 resistors IS too much to pay for convenience.
    All in all, though, I am starting to have a bit of hope that this “back to our roots” ad campaign actually will stick, and RS _will_ support us hobbyists well!

  7. This was pretty obviously commissioned by radioshack but I guess it’s a step in the right direction, although he doesn’t explain that buying all those components at radioshack is more expensive than buying a real effects pedal.

  8. @Mattstar: yup, germaniums sound better because of their intrinsic defects (lower gain, lower frequency response, horrible coherency to their specs which makes ten pedals different each other) compared to silicons, but using some tricks and different techniques silicon also can sound fantastic. The Tom Scholtz’s Rockman you named was one of the best solid state distortion units I heard in my entire life, the portable unit was also really good albeit a bit too noisy.
    Much better compared to a germanium fuzz, but honestly they’re entirely different things: a fuzz is more of a solo thing (think Jimi, the sound is very close) while a distortion unit that clips the entire waveform like most dual diode/LED/etc do is more versatile and IMO much better for rhythm guitar.

    On a side note here’s one more reason why RS and other off line vendors have problems these days. They put every single component in one bag? Are they F* insane?!?

  9. lol, saw this on instructables and thought it was kind of poor, surprised to see it here

    yeah, loling at the radioshack parts
    im sure you can do it and it will work but something about this whole thing just isn’t right

    i don’t see why these simple distortion pedals get a lot of attention
    there are so many really good diy guitar pedals that get left out
    look up or

  10. I thought the unamplified homemade guitar at the begging, and end, with the good music in the middle was an attempt at humorous irony. My tech school instructor would have failed that attachment of the wire to the phone jack. Saying a connection is to be both electrically, and mechanically secure before applying the solder. Then they introduced us to PCB where nether is the case. :)

    I wouldn’t be surprise to someday read a Radio Shack hater grousing about how Radio Shack doesn’t carry electron tubes, and if they did how about how much more than they are via mail order. Although when all order costs are factored in they may not be cheaper. In the event Radio Shack again stocks a greater variety of components, it’s likely to be short lived if they don’t sell. As far as I’m concerned a few pennies is worth the value added of being able to get what I needed when I wanted to buy them is worth the cost. No doubt those who use several components on a daily basis are placing order on at weekly basis at least. They will save in the long run, but that isn’t most hobbyists.

  11. @qwerty no they aren’t insane. Such packaging curtails theft to some degree. Also appeases those who don’t like buying a packing of several of the same components, when they just only want one. Anyway it’s not unusual for items to come from on line vendors to come with one component to a package as well. For all vendors such packaging is easier to bar code.

  12. @Quin I don’t think what your hearing is actually the pedal. The schematic looks like a derivative of the Dallas Fuzz Face. Not only does the Fuzz Face not sound like whatever is playing in the video, but it also does not use clipping diodes.

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