I'll tell you how I do it. Might not be the best way but I've developed it over almost 2 years now.
I always make sure that I have an enclosure ready to be drilled. Mine are all handpainted with acrylic so it doesn't take long to prepare them.
I find the layout I wanna make, quickly look at the parts and see if I can build it. Usually I have all the parts but sometimes I wire resistors or caps in either series or parallel to get the desired value. It's not often but it happens.
I cut the veroboard to size, mark the cuts, cut them, put all the jumpers, solder them, put ALL the resistors and diodes and solder them. Then I take IC sockets if there are any and solder. Lastly I put all the caps on the board and solder. I'm getting pretty quick at it now.
When that's done I mark the enclosure where I want to put knobs, switches, LEDs and stuff. I never have enclosures pre-drilled.
Drill them with a drill press (or whatever it's called), go back to the office and put all the hardware on.
I begin with wiring the LED, then the 3PDT switch to Marks layout and then I put all the wires on the pots and stuff so I can put the circuit in and solder it.
I use an automatic wire stripper and it has sped up my build soooo much. I shouldn't say this but until recently I stripped the wires with a knife, which is okay but it takes too long.
This morning I built a Robin Trower Overdrive with a AMZ Booster in one enclosure and the whole process took about one and a half hours. I had the enclosure painted and ready to drill.
The part I enjoy the least is drilling the enclosures, but at least I don't necessarily want to box up every circuit I build.
I build myself a Beavis Board inspired "interface" which is great for testing vero boards or experimenting with the breadboard.
It's basically a normal pedal with a 3pdt switch wired but with the 9v, gnd, board in and board out leads coming out the side into a terminal block. I simply screw the board's leads in to connect with those coming from the stomp box and off I go.
That was the first thing I've ever built, and most definitely the one I've used the most :)
Well I've always been pretty handy and a very quick learner with pretty much anything I set myself to do. It's a gift I'm lucky to have!
Honestly, it's all about practice. I've almost made 200 pedals now. I stopped counting when I moved back to Iceland from London. At that point I think I was at about 150 but since I got home I reset the count and now I'm at 36.
I make sure to ALWAYS make every pedal the same way. I'm not talking about layout or anything. I sometimes go wild with positioning of things but I always, always, always do everything in the same order, every single time.
Before I did that I had a lot of problems and circuits that never worked. Now pretty much 95% work straight away when I box them. Sometimes I make silly mistakes and sometimes it takes me a while to find it so I just put them away and get back to them later.
I ALWAYS double or even triple check that every single little component and link are correct before putting in the box. Then I always double check that I put the right wires in the right hole on the circuit.
Oh and another tip. When drilling, get yourself one or two stepped drills that go from 3mm to 12mm. The 3PDTs and power sockets need 12mm holes, the pots need 7mm holes and the jack sockets I use need 10mm holes.
yea, it's all about speed training, parts availability, and confidence in build.
speed training: after 200 builds, you know where to put your parts, your solder, your hands, and where to move around your workspace to economize the process naturally.
parts availability: not waiting on a switch or an enclosure to dry is a lot of time saved.
confidence: "huh, this isn't fitting quite right...nah, it'll be fine" and it usually is. most of us will go back and try and retool and fix the thing that doesn't need fixing. It doesn't hurt that IvIark and Miri have designed some pretty drop-n-solder circuits for us. It's practically PCB.
From what I've been reading on some facebook sites from boutique pedal builders, you've got the kind of speed they're lookin for :D I hope to get that fast in a couple years. I used to be that fast at bindery and retouching :\
+1 for experience, I'm still really inexperienced but I've noticed a real jump in speed over the last month as I've built more. Having all your components organised and labelled helps too as you spend less time hunting for them and probably the biggest time saver for me is having an area that's set up permanently for building (I know this is not possible for everyone and I'm lucky to have a very understanding girlfriend). Having the tools for the job is another winner, like someone said above things like wire strippers can really make a difference, I recently bought a cheap drill press, it was £50 but it means I can drill enclosures a lot more easily.
If I'm verifying a circuit that looks interesting I'll test it using a breadboard before I box it, I build the vero but rather than connect the sockets, battery, DC etc I just solder the wires onto the board, then I've got a couple of sockets that I wired up just for test purposes which I plug into a bread board along with a battery snap, that way if I need to debug anything I don't have a board with all the connections getting in the way.
Yup, I too agree with all of the above. Having been doing this for not too long I have surely become faster and more confident. While I used to breadboard first, make sure everything worked etc, now I just heat up the iron and crack on. I get a lot more done, and in less time.
One thing I REALLY need to improve with is the drilling part, though not having a proper space/setup to do it obviously has a lot to do with the fact I find it tedious and time consuming. I'm sure if I didn't have to convert part of my kitchen in workshop before I drill and clean after the mess I made after I'd be a far better driller of enclosures...!
Another tip for saving time: never forget Murphy's law: If you want to build a booster, fuzz or any effect under 20 components, doesn't matter how you do it, but finally you'll waste more timer debugging o rebuilding this effect, that if you build a Centaur or a Triple Wreck.
So, plan the Fuzz Face or Devi's build like if it was a Galileo or a double King of Tone :P
Beyond jokes, I'm very slow building effects. I start as previously stated: resistors / diodes / sockets / poly caps / electrolithic caps / board wiring / pots / sound check / install pots and board on the enclosure / 3PDT- jacks- led wiring.
But I solder components one by one: First I check the component on the polimeter, then solder / solder check / cut pins / following component.
Had bad experiences with mislabeled / defective components, and now i don't solder just one if it's not previously checked.
This way I take about an hour and a half soldering a medium board of 45 components, but my debug time after build is nearly 0. Even the Triple Wreck worked at first try :)
I`m with Javicap on this one, i`d rather spend an extra hour checking component values ( i mean by multimeter not by eye) and spend some extra time triple checking placement than spend time debugging. Personally i have no real inclination to build pedals fast, i just want to build pedals that work and now 99% of them do. A couple of years ago i couldn`t build a pedal, now i`ve built more than i`ll ever need. Like most of us i`ve made some schoolboy errors but that only compelled me to be even more patient. I guess i`m just glad that i get to do what i`m doing so how long it takes is not really an issue for me. What time i have saved in being better organised has probably been given back in checking and re-checking. If somebody wants to build pedals faster that`s fine, me, i just fkin hate debugging
If it wasn't for this website I would definitely have a life.
I'm torn now. I hate debugging as well, because it takes me forever. But I've really only made two mistakes out of maybe 15-20 pedals I built (though I didn't box them all) and they were early on. I probably could fix the issue much faster now.
But would you only have made 2 mistakes if you had rushed them?
As Geiri says, it`s all down to practice, and he`s had 10 times the practice you`ve had. Speed will come with practice, sure there are ways to save some time, I never breadboard a layout before building, especially not a verified one. Geiri has probably built up to the speeds he achieves, i doubt if he built his first few pedals as quick, personally i think this is something you can progress to rather than something you can force.
If it wasn't for this website I would definitely have a life.
I'm not gonna tell anyone how they should do their builds. I do mine pretty quick now because of practice and by being organised. I've got three cabinets with drawers and each drawer well labelled with what component is inside. When I stock up, I make sure that I put the right part in the right drawer. I don't need to check components unless I'm debugging. I've NEVER had a broken resistor or capacitor. I've had ICs blow out of nothing but I socket them so I just throw it away and put a new one in. Burnt out IC has actually only happened twice and it was recently.
When I started fiddling with pedalmaking it took me ages. Maybe one a day if I was doing good. So on that bombshell I just advise people to think about their builds while making them and see if they can find a method of doing something just slightly quicker. A few quicker methods add up to some time saving.
I'm quite a lazy builder because I'm never really in that much of a rush for anything, I definitely have a mañana attitude to it all. I have a man cave setup in my garage which is built onto the side of my house, and I tend to go in there to smoke when I want one (with a big fan to circulate the air and keep the smoke away from my parts). I have a vice setup with the board of whatever I'm building in it, and every time I go for a cig I stuff a few more components. I've built something over a couple of weeks doing it this way before. Just adding components when I feel like it.
But when I do have the urge to build something in one go, there are a couple of things which really speeded up the process for me. I stuff the components en masse, starting with the lowest and working my way up to the tallest on the board. So start off with all the links, then the resistors, and when they are all done and loose in the board I lock them all down, turn the board over in the vice and solder them all in together. Then do the caps etc until the board is complete. That better than halved the time it took to build compared to when I was picking and soldering each component individually.
Another big thing for me is the way I store components. I used to have all my blue metal film resistors bagged and in a card collection display book. So when I wanted a 10K resistor I had to open the book, find the page, take out the appropriate bag, open it, pull out the taped resistors, pull one off, put it back, close the bag, put it back in the appropriate place. That made building almost a chore for me, it was monotonous, time consuming and boring. So I bought a couple of components drawers here:
I keep all my most commonly used resistor values in one, and cap values in the other (the cap drawers are all marked out now too). And each draw has a cut off the reel and some loose resistors in as well. Now when I build I open a drawer, stuff, close the drawer, open a drawer, stuff, close the drawer etc, and that has really streamlined the building. Im sure plenty of others do it exactly the same way but this is just to emphasise how much quicker it is for those who keep all their components bagged.
I still keep all my Dale metal film and carbon comp resistors bagged because I only use them for special builds and so don't use them very often anyway. And when I do I like to take my time.
And please everyone, never ever ever solder the stomp switch up until you know the circuit is working. I know it's tempting to do it but it adds unnecessary time onto debugging, especially when the switch is at fault which would probably be the last thing you'd check. Always leave the switch soldering till last and use a little terminal block to make the necessary connections like this:
Another time saving tip. Well it took me forever to make this neat and in order.
What I did was that I organised my drawers so that resistors are first, in order of lowest value to the highest, then capacitors, transistors, diodes and ICs. Since I use resistors most, I have them in the cabinet to the right. This will make my builds faster and easier for me to see how my stock is going.
I put three types of transistors in each drawer with a separator. Same with ICs. With the diodes, I only put two different together in one drawer if they have an obvious difference in looks. I might put for example zener together with 1n4001 because hey don't look the same at all.
I have another cabinet with pots and jacks as well.
I use exactly the same kid of storage unit as you and Mark.
Because I only build pedals for myself (ie not loads) I only use one unit, plus a couple tackle boxes for extra bits and bobs. Having everything stored neatly does save an awful lot of time, can't believe I've gone a good few months without it..!
I keep my resistors in bags, based on the E12 series... but I keep all the values I use the most in one bag (100R, 1K, 10K, 100K, 1M). Another little thing I do is when testing, I never solder up unnecessary pots or switches. I'll only solder them together if I actually like the pedal. I also tend to install IC sockets first, so they don't shift around while I'm building.