Law of the Instrument Part 1: The Rat

Maslow’s Hammer goes as follows, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

I went back through my posts and deleted one where I suggested turning a Proco Rat into an overdrive. There are many articles and forum posts by people much more knowledgeable than myself who can tell you all the reasons why the Rat works as a distortion pedal. However, turning down the gain on a distortion pedal doesn’t make it an overdrive.









I’d like to talk about one of the many pitfalls I came across when trying to run a business in amps and pedals. Exposure. People offer it to you like money. However, unlike money, you can’t spend it. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills let alone pay for the next build. I’ve never ever had anything I’ve ever done “for exposure” actually pay a dividend by resulting in a future sale. To be frank, anyone that offers you exposure for your work A) doesn’t have the money to pay you what you’re worth B) doesn’t value your work as they would their own C) knows that you have no idea what exposure is worth. Possibly all of the above.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do things for exposure. It just means you have to be smart about it. Insist on getting something in return other than just exposure. If you’re working, they’re working. If you’re spending money, they’re spending money. Never ever trade your hard work or money for simple exposure alone. The person offering you that is offering you something you could get for yourself if you’d just network better.

Most importantly, you should have an idea of what the exposure they’re offering you is worth to you. Make clear to yourself what your expectations are for the exposure you’re gaining. You expect paying customers, not tire kickers.  You know what your side of the investment is, make sure you’re earning that back.

My answer to the debate over exposure is that it isn’t nearly as important as a good reputation. Some (not all) of the most successful people in the business are some of the people I think the least of. I’d rather have the reputation. This guy does quality work. This guy went above and beyond to make me happy. This guy answered my questions. He picked up the phone. He answered his email. Those things spawn good word of mouth and repeat business. That’s exposure you don’t have to buy just by doing things you should be doing anyway.

Business Facebook Closed

If you were a friend of Tornado Alley FX on Facebook, you may have noticed we disappeared. We’ve closed up shop completely. I’ll post stuff here as I can but we’re in the process of relocating to the Tampa Bay area this summer and the solder station is getting packed up. Once we’ve settled in down there I’ll get back to work doing what I do.

Revisiting The Bad Bob

After living with the Bad Bob for some time and using it with a variety of equipment, a few things became clear. This pedal likes clean power and only certain amps and pedals. Time to revisit this project and fix the shortcomings.

If you remember, the AMZ Minibooster board has accommodation for some power filtering and a buffered output. We’re going to add these features to the Bad Bob because I’ve got hum issues with crappy One Spot power supplies and the boost has some output loading issues that I first noticed with a Traynor Dark Horse amp.
You’ll need a 220R resistor and 220u capacitor for R5 and C6 on the AMZ board and a 4K7 resistor and 2N5088 transistor for Q3. You’ll also have to remove the jumpers we installed on R5 and on Q3 for the Bad Bob build.

Neither of these modifications made any audible change in the character or tone of the boost but definitely improved functionality. I’ll be following up in a few weeks with some revelations about the Crybaby we modded in The Foot Job pedal mod.

Progress As Promised

I did say I was going to be busy with school. So far I’ve gotten 19 credit hours done this semester and am hoping to get a second certification worth 4 credit hours more in here the last part of this month. I’ve been slowly collecting some good PCBs to do builds of over the semester so that if I do get some time there’s at least something to write about.

The “On My Meds” Mod For The Fulltone OCD

Here’s a quick look at our mod for the OCD overdrive.

Let’s start with a reference schematic.

I start with tweaking the R4/C4 RC Filter to add more bass. I like 220n for C4 and keeping R4 stock. The stock corner frequency is 723.8Hz like a Tube Screamer, I prefer the new corner of 329Hz. I like the 1MA drive pot and I prefer the 1N34A clipping diode removed and jumpered if present. I prefer the V1 tone control values of C11 100n and Tone 25KA but I also prefer the 500KB volume pot. It is a pretty basic set of mods that I feel make a real difference in this circuit, especially the v4 and newer pedals. To answer your question, no I don’t know where to get the kind of pots that Fulltone uses.

A Closer Look At The Dust Devil Distortion v2

Since I’m transitioning away from building pedals I figure I’ll share some of my mods, builds, etc. Here’s a look at the Dust Devil distortion which is built on the guts of the Proco Rat.

Lets start with the multi-rat schematic.


Obviously I build true bypass, so you can omit the non true bypass switching from the circuit.
R4 – 100K
R6 – 51R
R7 – omit
R9 – 1K5
R10 – 1M

C2 – 4u7
C6 – omit
C8 – omit
C11 – 10n
C13 – 1u

D2, D3 – 1N914

IC – NE5534

Filter – 50KB

So I increase the power filtering, lower the input impedance, change the R6/C7 filter corner to about 1400Hz(the magic of the old rats), ditch the second lower filter, change the op amp to one more capable of driving the load of the tone control, and use the Treble Cut from the PaulC Timmy instead of the rat tone control values. The last one I built, I used a board from Aion Electronics that includes a small trim pot that you can dial in/out the clipping diodes. This really opens up the pedal in a way a simple diode toggle cannot. I highly recommend this mod. Overall the pedal has less noise and better response than any regular rat, new or old.