The Tommy Koffin “West Coast Pedal-board” Project

As everyone knows, I’m a huge fan of the Koffin Kats, a Psychobilly Band out of Detroit Michigan.

Their music inspires me in a lot of ways, and whenever I get the itch to be creative, I head for the welding shop to see what I can dream up. In most cases, it’s something deadly, loud, obnoxious, or skeletal, and this was no exception I guess.

Tommy Koffin called me a few weeks back and he asked me to build him a another pedal board. He wants to keep it on the West Coast, so that when he flies out there to tour, his gear is already waiting.

Now Tommy is a good friend, and he’s prompt, diligent, organized and highly detailed… So… Actually, he’s not any of those things. In fact, I suppose that his band mates would say that he’s the “anti-those-things”. But that’s what makes him so lovable?

When Tommy asked me to build his last board, the Koffin Kats were on tour, and I only had 4 days to receive his pedals in the mail, repair them, design a board around them, gather the materials, weld, wire, test, paint, and ship. So I was relieved when he told me that I’d have a month to build the new board.

Of course, when he said a month, what he actually meant was a week.

The new pedals arrived from Sweetwater, and although I love Sweetwater, I hated the pedals… But since they’re not mine… I moved on.

Sweetwater order arrives. A few great pedals that I swear by, and a few that I can do without.

Okay let me just get the Behringer issue out of the way up front. As a company, they suck out loud and I hate them beyond words. Their customer service is two notches below having a corn cob hammered into your asshole with a 2×4… That being said, I LOVE a few of their products, especially my X32 Rack Mixer!

But as I laid out the new board, I instantly realized that these Behringer pedals were not going to fly, and the the Electro Harmonix wah was no better. Sonically, maybe? Durability, no flipping way.

Thumbs up on the Line 6 wireless (which I’ve used myself since 2007), the TC Flashback, and the DAddario tuner!

The Koffin Kats tour relentlessly, and their gear takes more abuse while in storage than most of our stuff will ever see in it’s life time. These plastic pedals might survive one night of Koffin Kats antics… And I wouldn’t even bet on that.

As far as I was concerned, these pedals shouldn’t be used, but time, money, and inventory were not on my side. So I hit up our forum for some advice, and I was instantly barraged with a unanimous “scrap that crap and do it right”.

Usually that’s when you figure out that people don’t put their money where their mouth is, but that’s not the case in the SCTMMC.

I put a call in to Zac and Eric of the Koffin Kats and I made sure that my plans wouldn’t step on any toes… and they gave me a green light to upgrade Tommy’s stuff.

SCTMMC members Mktrat, Bonin in the Boneyard, Fcleff, and Metron helped me to get my hands on a top-o-the-line Dunlop Crybaby, and a TC Electronics Tremelo, and Chorus… And club member GC Insider helped me to get it overnight.

Hit the supply rack for some heavy duty aircraft grade aluminum!
God’s gift to cutting metal… The Milwaukee Portaband!
And Viola! The footprint is done.
A little MIG here, a little Tig there…
Aluminum is fun to weld, but it sucks when you’re in a hurry.

People are always surprised when I tell them that the case is the hardest part!

Off to the woodshop to build a case… Which is the longest part and most challenging.
Industrial glue and staples are used on the case.
The glue has to dry for 24 hours minimum before any staining or painting can be done.
Two coats of commercial polyurethane on this case.

It would be nice to be working on the case and the board at the same time, but you can’t start the case until the board is done, because it has to be exactly the right size. Too small you’re screwed, too big and the board will fly around inside.

Wait 24 hours for the glue to dry, sand it, and then two coats of polyurethane, waiting 24 hours minimum between coats, and then flip it and repeat on the outside! So if you’re following with your calculator… You could easily spend a week just painting the case, and that’s without stain or color.

Not good when you only have a week before you need to fill it with valuable electronics, and then stick it in cardboard box and send it to California. But it’s raining, snowing, and 20 degrees in New Jersey, so it’s fine.

Yummy candy red to match Tommy’s signature Reverend Guitar!
A few preliminary fitment things…

A primary element of my boards is that I glue the pedals directly to them. I seem to be alone on that philosophy, and I’m okay with that. My Youtube vid on how to do it had over 30k views when I took it down… However I’m no longer compelled to help people, who wont help themselves.

Gluing takes more thought and prep, but it is the diggity dang… No more costly velcro, no more heat guns, no more scrubbing sticker glue, no more lint and fuzz, no more loose pedals, no more ripping the paint off your pedals, because the glue is strong and the velcro is not.

100% RTV Silicone holds the pedals on like hot chewing gum on a pair of corduroy’s
Drill and tap the aluminum for some rubber feet!
Some threadlocker and stainless steel screws, and the feet are on.

I use 100% silicone RTV to attach the pedals. It’s available from any hardware or auto parts store and its cheap and easy to use. It forms a mechanical bond and the pedals will not ever fall off from any drop, use, or abuse… Yet with a small twist of a screwdriver bit, they’ll pop right off if you need them to.

Time to solder. My soldering iron is the same one that NASA uses to build the space shuttle.

I make all of my own signal cables and power wires. That way I have direct control over their quality and the cleanliness of the board layout. Plus, I may need two pedals next to each other on the board, but NOT next to each other in the signal chain.

I also always use One Spot power supplies, Mogami wire, and Neutrik plugs… But when time is tight, I use whatever I got!

6 pedals, 5 power leads?
Forensic micro work… YUK!

You can tell that Tommy is a guitar player! He has six pedals, and he gives me a power supply for five pedals. Fortunately, us bass players no how to fix anything!! However, forensic splicing and soldering is no fun, and it’s very unwelcome when you’re racing against time.

Now where can I hide all of this shit!

Ahh… It never ends. You’d think that just building this whole thing and shipping it to Cali was the hard part, but nope! Surprises around every corner and they caused me massive delays. First the pedals, then the power supply, and now the damn case latch snaps in half!

So…Do I stop working, clean everything up, drive to Home Depot for a $2 latch, delay the project another day, and blow my whole Saturday? Nope…

First, I look around to see if Allen Funt is hiding in the bushes with a camera… then I TIG weld the latch back together… Which is the equivalent of resizing an engagement ring. But… A $6000 welding machine and 35 years worth of skills are well spent on $2 hardware.

Cheap foreign hardware… what a bargain
Light and tight!
My “Tommy Philosophy” goes on the front. If you know where it came from, then you’re a badass for sure!

Very neat!
TADA!
26lbs with the case.
Test fit in the case.
Power cable whip fastened to the board.

Nothing blows harder than something becoming unplugged during a show, so every board that I make for Tommy gets a 15 foot, industrial power whip fastened to it. It’s 14 gauge, insulated, and rubber coated (that’s what she said), so it it’ll take years of abuse, and Tommy won’t have to carry or hunt for extension cords.

Peekaboo One Spot.
1 Spot and Power Whip.
Spare strings, zip ties, a lifetime warranted Neutrik Instrument cable, and an “I love you note” to Tommy.

And there you have it!

My sincere thanks to my good friends, the members of the SCTMMC, without whom this project would’ve tanked.

All in all… It was a week of pure torture, running around like a nut, freezing in the snow, wet in the rain, pissed off at Home Depot and crappy hardware… This is why you can’t do this for a living… If I didn’t like you, you couldn’t pay me enough to do this.

This was a labor of love, and although the Koffin Kats will thank me for it, it’s I who wish to thank them for bringing their music to my world. They’re incredibly talented and worthy of my friendship, praise, and support.

I don’t have a lot to give back… But I had this.