The Journey of Amp Servicing, Modding, and Building
I was very lucky when I was eleven years old, my mother married one of the most brilliant, naturally curious men I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is a surgeon by trade, but his passion is music, and tinkering with mechanics and electronics. His natural drive of curiosity and dedication to learning has led him to have such an incredibly wide range of knowledge and know-how.
From a young age I was fascinated with watching him play guitar. Soon enough he bought me my first guitar and taught me my first lick. A few years later he started acquiring music recording equipment and, at 14, taught me to record and mix my very first record.
He became fascinated with woodworking and started building traditional and recurve bows. This led him to designing and building guitars. At 17 he guided me in building my very first telecaster, out of nothing but scraps of curated wood. And a curved top Les Paul the year after that. It was becoming difficult to keep up and learn with him as he finds new hobbies!
As I entered my twenties, I believe he found his true passion, something that’s he’s stuck with for at least 6 years now, and that is the science of amplifiers. Over the past 4 years I’ve had the honor of joining him on pieces of his journey of building and modding amps. Including building my two prized amps that are now the centerpieces of my living room, my Brownface ‘63 Vibroverb, and Blackface ‘64 Vibroverb. It was challenging as someone with little knowledge of the laws of electricity, circuitry, or tube technology, to keep up and not fry myself with over 700 volts of electricity in the process (Which to be honest, i came very close to!!).
For anyone interested in learning about the joys of amp technologies, my step-father set me on the right path with a few great resources. Start with Gerald Weber's series of overhaul books and DVDs. My first book is Tube Guitar Amplifier Essentials, by Gerald Weber. He gives you the tools to be able to understand what's going on in the chassis in an easy to understand way and without needing an electrical degree. He also has a very informative YouTube channel, Kendrickamplifiers.
Once you’re comfortable with the terminology and components, do some reading up on ampgarage.com. Find some links to some neat mods to do on a cheap silverface fender amp. Then you can start fiddling with different capacitors and resistors and start changing your sound! But remember, safety first.
There’s a lot to be said about the journey you take with your hobbies. Like my step-father, find something you love, let it progress to something else you love. Find many passions in your life, allow yourself to learn as much as possible. I’m glad I have his help to keep pushing me forward and finding new things in this world that I cherish.
Good luck out there fellow guitar and amp nerds.
Very nice article! Funny because I’ve been thinking about making an old tube.