How to Make a Custom Guitar Pedal Board
Guitar players: Keep your stomp boxes organized and secure with a custom made pedal board. Built from sturdy oak and mahogany, simple yet solid construction makes this an easy weekend project that's rugged enough to withstand years of use and abuse. Adjust the size to meet your specific needs, leaving enough space to add a few more pedals as you expand your sonic collection.
I built this pedal board for my nephew, who specified the dimensions to fit his needs. The surface area is large enough to handle all of his current pedals with some room to add a few more, yet compact enough to carry around to gigs. The elevated design allows cables to slip underneath from all sides without sacrificing stability. The angled sides pitch the top slats for good visibility and to reach the pedal selectors easily as he shreds away. And there's enough space underneath to mount a power supply.
Here's how I built this version of the guitar pedal board.
Step 1: The Cutting List
This version of the guitar pedal board uses only six pieces of wood. For strength and durability, I chose a combination of oak and mahogany from my stock pile of leftovers and salvaged lumber. The contrasting colors of these two woods look great together, especially after adding a few coats of Danish oil and wax to show off the grain.
I'm always on the lookout for bits of scrap wood. The quarter-sawn white oak was amongst the scraps from a friend's kitchen project, and the small leftovers worked perfectly for the end sections. The 1" thick mahogany planks came from another neighbor's deck remodel. My total cost for the raw materials to build the pedal board was $0.
Don't have any scraps of oak or mahogany laying around? No problem, just about any hardwood or plywood will work just as well.
Cut pieces of lumber into the following dimensions.
- Top Slats (3) = 22-1/2" L x 3-1/4" W
- Ends (2) = 12-1/2" L x 4-1/2" W
- Front = 21" L x 2-1/2" W
Step 2: Layout the Ends
The ends are the most challenging pieces to cut into shape. The photo (above) shows the original 12-1/2" x 4-1/2" rectangular piece of oak along with the cutaway pieces to get to the final shape. I started by laying out the three areas to remove for fitting in the three top slats. Since the mahogany slats are 1" thick, I measured down 1" from the top edge to establish the depth of the cut for the dado slots.
The dado slots for the top slats are 3" wide. I measured in 3" from each edge, then centered the layout for the 3rd slat in the middle of the side board.
Next is the layout for the angle to create the sloped ends. I measured down 1-1/2" from one edge and made a mark. Then, I placed a straight edge from the mark to the lower corner of the opposite edge. A pencil line connects the two points.
Step 3: Cut Slots for the Slats
There are several methods for milling out the material to create the slots, including setting up a dado blade in my table saw. Instead, I used a bandsaw to remove most of waste, being careful to cut inside the layout lines. Then, I used a sharp chisel and a fine-tooth file to clean up the slots.
The bandsaw works well for making the long angle cut. I took my time, carefully staying just outside the pencil line. A bit of sanding cleaned up the cut line.
Step 4: Make Room for the Cables
The last cut in shaping the end creates an opening along the bottom edge for threading the pedal cables under the base. The exact shape and size isn't critical, though I wanted the cutout aligned in parallel with the top edge of the side.
I measured up 1-3/4" up from the lower corner, then in 2" and made a mark. This point became the upper corner for the cutout. From this point, I used a square to draw a line straight down from the top edge down to the angled bottom edge. This line is parallel to the side edge.
Next, I needed to draw a line to mark the length of the cutout. I placed a straight edge on the mark, aligned it parallel to the top edge and drew a line between the mark and the point where the straight edge intersected the angled bottom edge.
Finally, I traced around a quarter to round off the corner of the cutout. The resulting cutout is about 3/4" high x 4-1/2" long. A bt more sanding cleaned up the cut lines.
Step 5: Fit, Drill and Assemble
Assembling the pedal board is straightforward: The slats are attached to the ends with glue and screws, then the countersunk screw holes are covered with wooden plugs. But first, we need to custom fit the slats to the slots. The slats were intentionally ripped slightly wider than the width of the slots. This makes it easier to compensate for any variations in the width of the slots.
Look for variations in the slots by holding the ends together: the slots should line up perfectly but since I cut along the penciled layout lines with a bandsaw (rather than setting up a jig on a table saw equipped with a dado blade), I noticed that the slots did not line up perfectly with their mate in the opposite end. The variations were minor and east to correct with a chisel and file.
The widths of the slots may vary from each other, so I custom cut each slat to fit a specific slot. Shaving small amounts off the width of the slat on the table saw allowed me to carefully and methodically fit each slat into its slot. It takes just a little trimming and a few test fits to mill away the right amount of wood to create a snug joint. I numbered each fitted slat with its slot to make the final assembly easier.
The slats are attached to the ends with screws. After clamping one end of the slat in place. I used a drill bit with a countersink to bore the hole through the slats and into the end. After drilling two holes through the end of the slat, I cleaned away any shavings before apply glue to all of the mating surfaces and screwed the pieces together.
Repeat the drilling, gluing and assembly with the rest of the slats. I used a framing square to ensure that the assembly was perfectly square.
Finally, attach the front piece to the subassembly. Drill holes through each end into the edge of the front section. Three more screws, evenly spaced, attach the slat to the top edge of the front.
Step 6: Plug the Holes
While attaching the slats with glue and screws creates a sturdy assembly, the screw holes are rather unsightly. An easy solution uses a special cutter to to bore plugs from a matching piece of scrap wood. After mounting the plug cutter into my drill press, I bored enough plugs to fill all of the screw holes. Use a small screwdriver to pop out the plugs.
Spread a bit of glue into a countersunk hole, then tap in a plug. I like to align the grain of the plug with the wood. For a little contrast, I used a mahogany plug to fill the screw holes in the oak ends.
Step 7: A Little Sanding, Then Some Oil and Wax
The plug will stand slightly proud of the slats. I use a belt sander to sand the plugs even and smooth with the slats. The guitar pedal board is ready for final sanding before applying several coats of Danish oil and wax. The guitar pedal board is ready for its debut.
Do You Have a Guitar Pedal Board?
The Beginners Guide to Designing a Guitar Pedal Board
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Anthony Altorenna