Remember your first build? Here’s mine.

Back in 2004 I worked for a publishing house in San Francisco that was, by chance, a part of the group that published Guitar Player magazine. They also published books, and since I got an employee discount I would raid their stash on a regular basis. One day I picked up a large-format, full color amp porn book (chock a block with schematics) called The Tube Amp Book, by Aspen Pittman. This book literally changed my life.

Looking at the schematics for the lowly Champ and its single-ended ilk got me in the ever-dangerous mindset of “I can do that,” and as it turns out, I could! After some Internet obsessing for a few weeks I bought a P1 kit from AX84 and got to building.

I studied the schematic and meticulously planned my layout. My build was a bit too Italian restaurant in terms of signal isolation, but still serviceable. After checking all my connections about six million times it was time to flip the switch and rock.



Look closely at the heater wire connections coming off the pilot light. See those two red wires tying into the heater wires and then meeting on the other turret board? That is a dead short and it turns out PTs don’t like those. Ouch.

What I had meant to do was to reference the heaters to the cathode of the power tube. What I didn’t understand in my newbie new-ness, was that you needed to use resistors to do that. LOL; so dumb.

After procuring another PT and fessing up to my dorkitude on a bunch of message boards, I did end up getting the amp up and running, thus beginning a decade-long quest for what the kids call tonez. Of course, later I would start up and be privileged to help hundreds of fellow amp tinkerers and master builders on their own tone-quest.

I can say that my builds have come a long way from my first false start. I have only used my own amps (YellowHead Amplification) to gig with for years now, and it still feels great to have someone compliment my sound and ask where I got that awesome amp. I hope you’re all as lucky!



Your amp’s logo: make it yours!

black-white-plastic-gordonIn the time I’ve been designing logos here at for homebrew amp builders (10 years! Holy moley time goes fast!), I’ve noticed trends come and go in the types of looks my customers want for their amp logo.

Perennial favorites are of course the Fender and Marshall script knockoff looks, as well as the HiWatt and Orange homages. While I fully support any look or design a customer chooses to put on the front of his or her grille, I usually try to steer them into a more original direction. Part of making your own amp (unless you’re doing a straight up clone) is to make it yours, and a big part of that is making your logo stand apart from the crowd.

The good news is that with free font sites littering the web, it’s easier than ever to pick a unique font as a starting point and let me tweak that base into something completely yours. is a favorite site of mine, because my customers can literally type in their brand name and see what it will look like in hundreds of free fonts; any of which we can use here at to create your nameplate logo.

Why use the same old Marshall font when you can jazz things up with Master of Break, for example? Or maybe forgo the Eurostile HiWatt look for a more stylized Recharge? Go crazy!