Well, relatively easily. It's like making a CBG, but simpler.
This is a photo of an experimental box; my other amps have found homes. This by no means a "finished" amp; yours will look much nicer. Notice the killer 6.5" speaker in the middle. :D
CBG players often wish to have amps that look and sound as unique as our instruments. There are lots of ways to build amps. Some have near zero cost (parts from an old radio), some can be more costly (re-purposing an existing guitar amp).
But what about something in-between... on the low-cost scale? I've built several of these and they work great. So I thought I'd pass this tidbit on. Others may have already discovered this trick, but for those who haven't, it's a terrific experiment expanding your CBG workmanship.
STEP 1. ACQUIRE HOUSING
You will need either a large cigar box (optional; you can go with regular size too), or a wooden craft box (Hobby Lobby type; they make good amp bodies), or find a nice wooden-type box from a thrift store-- my favorite source. I tend to favor old silverware boxes. They're often available under $10 and are pretty. They're also usually made of solid, thick wood and make terrific amp housings. Tear out the insides and you have a wooden amp case. You can also use a small suitcase, old tin box, ammo box... you name it.
STEP 2. ACQUIRE SPEAKER
For this a thrift store is definitely wondrous. What you are looking for is a speaker at least 4 inches in diameter (6 or 8 inches is even better). You can even use 10 or 12" speakers. Try to get them as low wattage as possible (that's the tricky part). Usually 10 to 20 watts is perfect, although I've used up to 50 watt speakers. Speaker cabinets usually tell what's inside them. You tear them apart, discard the outside, keep the speaker. Five bucks often purchases a fine speaker.
The important thing is ohms. You'll want 8 ohms. That's because of the following.
STEP 3. ACQUIRE AMPLIFIER BOARD
Amp boards run all the way from two bucks on Ebay right on up the scale. What makes the board-of-my-choice special is that it can run on a wall wart or 9 volt battery supply (I recomend six 6 C or D batteries in a serial linking case for sufficient amphours). The board comes with built-in guitar jack, on/off switch, volume, tone and overdrive controls, a power jack and earphone/line out jack all built in, no extra soldering. In short, it has all the basics you might want in an amp board, ready-to-go. And it's less than $25 U.S. What is this marvelous board?
The Danelectro HoneyTone Amp
Yup, the wonder-amp is the little private-practice HoneyTone, known far and wide for it's mellow-to-gritty sound ability. You can buy them anywhere, including Amazon. They're one of the cheapest portable amps on the market-- and produce relatively great sound (considering the 2 watt 2" speaker). The HoneyTone is an 8 ohm amp, so you'll want to use an 8 ohm speaker to reduce clipping.
I recommend the black version, as you'll be using the plastic body panels of the amp as well as the amp board.
Test the HoneyTone to make sure it came off the factory line correctly. I've not had a bad one to date, but ya never know. If it works fine with its own speaker, it will work fine later.
All you do is unscrew the back, pull the little amp apart, take out the guts, set the speaker aside for future use. Then use a small saw or hot knife to cut off the top of the amp housing, the battery compartment (we're not going to use it, but 9v battery compartments always come in handy later), and the earphone / power input side. You'll glue those panels to the inside of the wood box for mounting your hardware, because even cigar boxes are usually too thick for the fairly-short HoneyTone pot handles. (Save all the hardware, including washers, nuts and knobs.)
OPTION: If you have enough room inside your amp box, you can just remove the back of the HoneyTone amp, snip the speaker wires and extend them to the larger speaker, and install the entire HoneyTone housing inside your amp box. Much easier that way.
STEP 4. ACQUIRE A WALL WART
You'll want a 9 volt wall wart at least 300mA (.3 A)... although you can go up to 2A because circuits will only use the amount of amperage they need and ignore the rest. You will also want to make sure the CENTER pole is negative. This will be indicated by a sign something like this:
+ --( -- not: -- --( +
You can find these at any thrift store for as little as dirt cheap. If you happen to find one that has a positive center pole... no problem. Just cut the power wire and reverse the wires, solder them, tape them, and you now have a negative center pole. Couldn't be easier.
STEP 5. AMP ASSEMBLY
You will also need to cut holes in your box for the hardware panels you cut off the HoneyTone. This is the most labor-intensive (and tricky) part. Before cutting anything, make sure the amp board and speaker fit together inside the box. You may have to do some creative positioning.
The amp panel holes should be slightly smaller than the plastic panels themselves. Use the panels as templates and cut slightly inside the lines. For this I love the use of Forstner drill bits (to take out the main body of wood) and a hand file to shape the edges. Makes nifty panel holes. You could also use a hand-jigsaw, cutting well within the lines and then using a file to finish out the edges. Cut carefully or kick yourself later; it's really easy for a jigsaw to have its own mind.
Glue the plastic panels inside the box using either epoxy or hot glue, either one. Note that you will need to mount the panels and amplifier circuit in a corner of the box, because that's how the board is set up. If you'd rather center-mount the amp, you can run extension cable adapters from the earphone and power plugs to the edge of the box. Drill holes to fit the extender ends and glue them in the holes. Corner mounting or center mounting... either way works.
When the glue hardens mount the washers, nuts and knobs to the amp panel.
STEP 6. SPEAKER ASSEMBLY
Test the speaker with the HoneyTone circuit prior to proceding. You want to double-check that it's compatible with the HoneyTone. If it's 20 watts or less and 8 ohms, it should be a shoe-in. But some speakers are cheap and sound awful. If it sounds awful, consider it to be a problem with the speaker. If the HoneyTone worked with its own speaker, it'll work fine with a good speaker.
Cut a hole in your wood box the size of the sound-active area of your speaker-of-choice. For this I love the Dremel hole cutter. Around $12 or so (not including Dremel Tool) and it does a great job.
Mount the speaker inside the box using either short screws or a good dose of glue. Screws are more professional if the box is thick enough. In this case I do not recommend duct tape. ; )
You can put some sort of grill on the outside of the box. It should not block sound. The grill can be anything from screen wire in a wood ring to an old hubcap with several dozen holes drilled in it. Be creative.
STEP 7. BATTERY HOUSING
Since you will drain a 9v battery in about 15 minutes using a larger speaker, you'll want to use batteries with a bit more life. You've already clipped the 9v battery housing off the amp board. Now just wire in your C or D cell housing, glue it to the inside of the box, and you've got a cordless, portable amp as well.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, YOU'RE READY TO ROCK
Yup, before you know it you're ready to go. Plug in the amp, plug in your guitar, turn it on, play. You will likely be amazed at the richness and loudness of the sound you get. You can even use this with a proper adapter cable to serve as a pre-amp for a regular guitar amp, since the earphone / line out jack cuts off its own speaker when plugged in. I've run this through a Crate amp and it sounded amazing.
You can of course be very creative and decorate the amp any way you like, just like you do your CBGs. There are no limits to human imagination and creativity. You can replace the dome-silver knobs with something more interesting, decorate the box, make it swampy, frilly or radical, your choice. Make it match your own personal CBG, wood burn your name on it, whatever. No one is holding you back.
Enjoy your home-made amp!
The famous tiny HoneyTone Amp prior to de-construction:
Awesome post Wayfinder. I just made some cigar box amps using the guts from a HoneyTone amp, and upgraded to a 4" speaker. Can you repost this in the amp group This Amp Goes to Eleven please.
That's terrific Ted. Gives additional examples. In addition, the one on the left shows a second way to change the tone. A closed box sounds different than an open box. I also see instead of using the plastic panels you made your own out of wood. Looks nice. : )
Thanks! I was able to cut the plastic HoneyTone apart on the band saw and used the actual holes on it for a template to cut new panels from wenge wood.
Great post(s) Wayfinder/Ted. Thanks to both of you. I've built a couple of amps with the eBay circuits and they work well (once you figure out the power polarity). The HoneyTone sounds like a great "donor".
Any more tips? Tone pots, etc?
I've got nothing on tone pots-- as I've seen factory produced guitars in which the tone pot seems to be nothing more that a muffling device. Rather than hearing the tone go from treble to bass, it just sort of dies down a bit. The only guitar I've seen to date that had a "real" tone change was an upper-end Fender (although I'm sure there are other guitars out there that accomplish good tone change).
The only thing I've learned is that contrary to common claim and popular practice-- even by the pros-- more is required than a simple pot and a capacitor to get a true tone change. Imo... the tone knob on most guitars I've seen primarily have the purpose of removing some of the treble from the sound and making the sound a bit more mellow, rather than working as an equalizer.
At this time I use a pre-amp device to adjust my guitar tone. They do a far better job. Some can even be worn on a belt as a sort of a mini-mixer. When it comes to CBG, the best devices I've found for actual tone change are the 9v-battery-powered mini-equalizers one can buy on Amazon or Ebay for around $10 or so. I mounted one inside a small cigar box with an input and output plug, but they can also be mounted in the side of the CBG itself, and they're cheap enough to warrant the addition. They really improve the electronics sound coming out of the CBG as they help convert the piezo current to the current an amp is expecting to see.
Great stuff... I contemplated sacrificing one once, but couldn't bring myself to it... I have too many amps right now (3) and no homes for them yet, but that's on my list!
I've built a number of simple effects (fuzz, preamp, buffer, and a buffered mixer for a stomp box) but given the time and parts cost, it makes sense to buy over build... It's just building is fun sometimes... and frustrating at others.
On tone controls - usually on my personal instruments I turn the tone pot down and leave it there. I've since switched to just soldering the capacitor (or 2) right across the jack lugs. I also do that on the harmonica mics I build.
That's an interesting concept... especially valid with piezo pickups!