A friend asked me to do some minor work on a guitar amp. It’s been a
real experience, to be polite. The amp is absolutely magnificent to look at. I haven’t gotten it to the level required to say much about the tone yet but it’s very present and in-your-face.
On its surface, the request was extremely simple: replace a footswitch
jack with a toggle switch. No sweat.
No sweat, that is, until one attempts to perform the extremely simple
mod. I’m changing my operating practices, allegedly for the better, by
trying to pay attention to cosmetics. In my hood, that means trying not
to rip tolex or scratch things beyond recognition. And NO HAMMERS. I’m
even trying to have a decent flat surface on which to work, but that’s
something that could take years to implement, if I’m ever successful at
all (no promises).
Because of the care with which this amp was built, I really wanted to
put in the effort towards not destroying it. And this amp *is* lovingly
put together. The covering alone is a thing of beauty. It’s perfect in
a way Fender could never achieve (and I have no problem with Fender at
all). The speaker is decently protected by a rear… ummm… plate?
Wood square that’s larger than the speaker but smaller than the cab.
Due to the unique layout of the amp, some interesting internal
gymnastics were necessary. In order to get to the front panel, the
entire amp has to come apart. The chassis sits on its own wooden
structure, as opposed to just being bolted to the top of the cab. The
cab is hermetically sealed. The speaker and all tubes were removed
first, as there would be a ton of difficulty otherwise (and the speaker
is being swapped anyway – per the owner – don’t get any ideas).
The designer did a hell of a job of squeezing two 12AX7’s, two EL84’s,
and a 5Y3 onto a small chassis along with the necessary xfmrs.
Everything is strain-reliefed. Wiring is neat but not OCD or museum
My first real task was simply to remove the 1/4″ footswitch jack. This
simple task took the better part of an hour, including time to walk
away, scream, and locate additional Cee-Four. This was a most
interesting footswitch jack. To all appearances it was a decent quality
1/4″ jack, just like on any other decent quality amp. It looked like
the sleeve piece onto which the nut was screwed was plastic but no big
deal – Marshalls are plastic too, not to mention downright WEIRD.
Fortunately the nut would not come off by hand. Unfortunately it
wouldn’t come off with pliers. Or HEAVY pliers. Or a Craftsman 1/2″
deep socket (I know, Lowell George preferred 11/16″ for his slide). In
fact there appeared to be no easy way to remove the jack.
As an inveterate tinkerer (otherwise known as The Destroyer), I have removed more 1/4″ jacks than I have hair. I have *never* experienced the abject Guantanamo-like torture which I went through last night with this TRICK 1/4″ JACK FROM HELL.
It became apparent that the sleeve was somehow turning along with the
nut. I grabbed the jack inside with the Serious Pliers and still the
nut turned without loosening. I cursed. I questioned my own ancestry.
Realizing I needed better weapons, I hauled out the welding rig. Just
as I was about to light the Big Fire, my wife reminded me that I was
trying to pay attention to cosmetics and that Alan would be less than
impressed about the jack because of the charred faceplate and melted
knobs. Dammit, I hate it when I have to act like an adult.
I then tried to stabilize the sleeve while un-nutting. You guessed it –
to no avail. At this point I had no choice but to get all Manly on its
ass. I grabbed the Serious Pliers (Oxxo’s!) and ripped off a hunk of
You have no idea how satisfying it is to hear plastic scream.
Of course the jack was much tougher than this. It wasn’t going to let a
missing internal quarter convince it to simple turn loose its own nut,
no sir. It twirled mercilessly, mocking me the whole time.
Armed with an ADDITIONAL Oxxo longnose, I did a bit more surgery,
separating most of the plastic from the jack. It continued its
unceasing laughter. I chipped away at the remaining plastic and metal,
resulting in a tall neat pile of metal and plastic shards by my feet and
up my pant leg (I will not finish this part of the story publicly).
Meanwhile the jack stayed there. By what I thought was the end of this
exercise, there was almost ZERO jack left inside the amp chassis, yet
the nut still turned merrily. I could hear it.. oh yes I could… it
was having great fun at my expense. It sat there, laughing hysterically
at me and calling me names. When I could take no more, I launched a
surprise attack with a screwdriver I had concealed for just such
circumstances. With just enough leverage, I popped the nut and sleeve
out through the front, being careful to drop it into a sealed container
made of lead, which I had blessed by the priest down the street (he
found it a rather strange request but it wasn’t my first). It is now on
its way to Planet Kryptonite, where it will sit in suspended animation
for the rest of time.
I expect that when I sit down tonight to wire up the new switch and
attach it to the front panel, it will take all of four minutes
(including heating up the soldering iron). If, however, you hear news
reports of a very large explosion in the Philly area, you’ll know that I
had to go to Plan B: “Amp Mods via Thermonuclear Device.”
In other news, the speaker plug was of a type I’ve never seen. The
sleeve is on a spring so it apparently shorts itself out when not
plugged in. When plugged in, it operates normally. I’m having trouble
figuring out the need for this on a speaker but it works….