Tools and materials used to build a valve amp

One of the key reasons for the success of my amp build was the preparation I put in beforehand. Most important part of this was spending a few days reading and re-reading the build instructions and, whilst I read through, making a list of all the tools and materials I thought I might need. With the benefit of hindsight, this is what I learnt.

Mandatory – Don’t start the build if you don’t have these

  • Soldering iron.
  • Solder.
  • Frame or supports to allow the amp chassis to hang upside down with clearance for the valves and transformers. I used a couple of large heavy storage jars.
  • Pliers and needle-nose pliers.
  • Wire cutters.
  • A sharp knife.
  • Screwdrivers (small and medium, flat head and Phillips).
  • Junior hacksaw (or Dremel), for trimming the potentiometer shafts.
  • Multimeter. Mine is a very simple budget meter that measures DC, AC and resistance (which is the setting I also used for continuity checks). It can also measure current but this setting wasn’t required.
  • The printed build guide in colour.
  • A pen.
  • Ruler or tape measure, for cutting the various wires to the specified length.

Recommended – You could manage without, but I wouldn’t recommend it

  • Assorted spanners or sockets (various sizes from 7mm to 13mm).
  • Tweezers, because you will drop a fiddly piece into the chassis at some point.
  • A soldering iron stand.
  • A “helping hand”, a stand with a couple of clips on that allows you to quickly and lightly clamp smallish items, because you need one hand for the soldering iron and one for the solder.
  • Camera, was very useful for keeping track of what I’d done. When it comes to making the modifications I can sketch and plan them out on a picture, rather than having to take the amp out of the enclosure.
  • Insulation stripping tool – You can do this with the sharp knife or your teeth, but there are a lot of wires to be stripping and, when you’re prepping them in a tight location (cutting to length and stripping the insulation) particularly with a shorter run of wire, this was an invaluable tool to have.
  • Highlighter pen, to mark off the tasks that you have done. I only did this once I’d tested that the task had been completed successfully. This makes it very easy to make sure you don’t miss any step.
  • Masking tape, or some other way of labelling items whilst you’re building. Make sure it is something that peels off easily.
  • Extra cable ties (aka tie wraps). You get four in the kit but I elected to add a few more to keep the cable runs a bit neater.
  • Worklight. Unless you’ve got a really well lit work area, you need to make sure you’ve got a light that you can position as you need, particularly when you’re working in the corners of the chassis.
  • Magnifying glass, because the markings on some of the small capacitors are minuscule.

Not used – The stuff I got out “just in case”

  • Drill and bit – I was planning to drill the holes in preparation for the later addition of a Variable Voltage Regulator (VVR) kit, but the supplier didn’t get back to me with details of the size of hole needed, so this was postponed for another day. Thankfully I’ve got pictures of the inside of the chassis (see above) so I can plan this out on paper without having to take apart the amp.
  • Blutack – I was planning to stick the components onto a scale picture of the turret board to simplify the organisation, but the simple step of taping and labelling each item did away with the need for this.

Tools

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