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Considering 5E3 Build

1/24/2005 7:48 AM
Considering 5E3 Build
Hi all,  
I'm considering building a Deluxe 5E3. My reasons for building one are that I play and write my own stuff and I'm always trying to get a Neil Young overdriven type sound. Now I can easily simulate this in Cubase but it just ain't the same. I'd like to think I'm a purist so I'd love to generate that sort of sound outta the amp and not through pre or post amp effects. Now if I could afford it I'd go and buy one of Fenders reissues, like the Bassman, but they cost a £1000 here in Blighty so that's outta the question. Finally, and most importantly, I think it would be a fun and interesting little hobby to keep me out of trouble with the law for a bit ;)  
Now I was a pretty good wood worker at school and I'm a hands-on kinda guy so building the cabinet shouldn't be too much trouble. Hey even if I get as far as building and covering the cabinet I'll be happy. I can just pretend it does something and use it as a drinks table or something.  
My weakness is I'm no master electrician - but then half the reason for doing this would be to learn these things. I mean at school I learnt to solder and built fuse testers and things like that but I can't read a schematic - atleast not yet.  
So that's my background and really I'd just like some initial advice.  
Am I mad to be even considering this with my amateur background?  
What sites out there have helped you with your build?  
Are there any UK builders out there?  
Any help or advice wold be much appreciated. Thanks all.
1/24/2005 7:37 AM

I first of all want to encourage you to go through with this. This amp is, in my opinion, the best guitar amplifier out there. obviously that's subjective, but i do feel that more than any other amp out there, the experience of playing through it can simply not be captured digitally. There's too much of an actual room presence that can only be experienced first hand.  
you neednt be a master electrician. If you buy one of Bruce's kits, it comes down to almost a paint-by-number sort of project.  
schematic reading is easier than learning how to read music. my suggestion is, go to the AX84 site ( download their step-by-step walkthrough the AX84 amp schematic. Im not sure where it is, but its a 15 or so page PDF file. Dont worry too much about the math, just get a feel for the different sections or blocks of a guitar amp.  
then download an old fender champ schematic. Its probably the simplest thing ever. Understand basically what each section does. again, dont worry about specific components, that'll come later. Just see - ok this is the input, it goes to the first tube. There is the volume control, then the output tube, the transformer and the speaker. That over there is the power supply, rectifier tube, and B+ line. It'll come, dont worry :) I was in the same place.  
Then move to the Deluxe. It's not a terribly complex circuit. You will definitely be able to do it. Building an amp stock like this is much more a mechanical process than an electrical one. Later you may want to do mods, and that'll be slightly more involved, but dont worry about that now.  
So yeah, just do some more web searches, see what's out there. There are plenty of UK builders, though Im not one of them.  
have fun. and definitely build it. just take your time. it comes partially by osmosis.  
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1/24/2005 8:52 AM
James P
Hi Johnny  
I'm a UK builder based in Somerset, and have had a great time building my 5E3 as well as being a massive Neil young fan. It was my first build, and although I had very little knowledge beforehand, and a LOT of help from the people on this forum, I now know my B+ from my ProPlus and my primaries from my secondaries!!!  
Although Aaron suggested a different amp as a starter, i don't think it's neccessary, as the 5E3 is a simple(ish) circuit, and almost all amps work in a an identical way no matter how big or small - only the amounts of components differ (That's a generalisation though. Like saying all cars are the same i.e. they all have four wheels and engines etc; but in comparative terms the 5E3 is like a Ford Escort compared to Mesa Boogie being an S class Merc). But there really isn't much difference in a 'beginners' amp and a 5E3, probably why so many people like making them.  
It was very helpful to read up on valve circuits and electronics, so I went to the local Library took some books out. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting the basics right in amp building. A few hours reading saves so much time later when you are wondering why something has gone wrong, and haven't the slightest idea where to start looking.  
I must say that the hardest thing I found was soldering some of the the components inside the chassis, as a Vintage style chassis is a squeeze at best - that's the price for being authentic.  
As far as parts go I scratch built mine using some bits from America and some bits here. If I was doing it again I wouldn't bother with any of that - i'd order a chassis kit from Mission amps in the US (Great price even with shipping). A lot of people here have built one and i've heard nothing but good things about it. I know Bruce (Mission Amps main man!!) supplies some excellent diagrams and step by step build advice which would be perfect for you. Something I wish I had at the time!!!  
I can supply you with some plans to build a very accurate dovetail jointed pine cabinet, and suppliers for the materials to do this.  
Hope this helps  
James P
1/24/2005 9:04 AM

no no! i didnt mean to say that you should BUILD the champ first, just look at the schematic first cuz it's simpler.
1/24/2005 9:09 AM
James P
Sorry Aaron, I do apologise - i spent so long typing that last post that my brain fried!!!!  
James P
1/24/2005 9:36 AM

Thanks to the both of you.  
James if you could send the plan that'd be much appreciated. I can add it to my big folder of amp building info.  
where did you get your wood from out of curiosity?  
I'm off the library after work to read up.
1/24/2005 10:34 AM
Other than having the same name………The 5E3 was my first. I just finished it about a month ago. I was sorta in your place, didn’t really know much but did now how to solder and was/is VERY interested to learn. I built mine with out much problems at all. 3 problems I had were; forgot the heaters on the preamp tubes, loose coupling cap solder joint, and loose PT mounting nut.  
I think the key is to buy the kit from a vendor who is willing to offer support. I bought mine from Dan at Tubegarden and I am so thankful for all the help and extra info he gave me. He spent time on the phone with me while I was building to trouble shoot and sends a instruction manual for the build.  
Also, all the folks here on this forum are very knowledgeable and helpful. This IS the 5E3 resource.  
The hardest part is the towards the end of the build and things get a little cozy inside the chassis. It’s just physically difficult to get those last components in.  
I did not understand how the amp worked while I was building it. I truly learned SO much about what was going on in there only after I had a problem. I have been searching schematics and info since. I am finally understanding this stuff and it’s great! I love it and am hooked.  
I think if you want to learn how to build an amp and learn how these electrical wonders work, AND have a kick ass little amp, build one. If you just want a less expensive alternative to a new amp, consider buying one complete. If you don’t think it’s fun, it won’t be.  
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