Essential Equipment To Start Building Your Own Guitar Effects Pedals

When you begin building guitar pedals, it may seem a little daunting to take a printed circuit board (PCB) as a component for your next pedal to a fully working guitar effects pedal. Once you have gathered all of the necessary components, you’ll need the correct equipment to piece everything together.

To help you get started with this, I’ve created a list of equipment that I feel is essential to get you started. I’ve also added a necessity level to help you prioritise what pieces are critical and what are ‘nice to have’ that will make your builds much easier.

Soldering Iron

Necessity Level – 10/10          

A soldering iron may be the most obvious piece of equipment on the list but definitely worth mentioning and a good soldering iron will make a huge difference to the way you build pedals.

A soldering iron is used to melt the solder between your components and the circuit board to create a fully conductive circuit. Without a well-soldered joint, the signal would be unable to pass through the circuit and create the effect you’re after.

When it comes to buying your first soldering iron, I’d recommend choosing one of the below. There are a few different price points here to suit all budgets:

If you don’t fancy one of the above, the main things to look at when choosing a soldering iron are:

  • Adjustable Temperature – Being able to set the temperature of the soldering iron will give you much more control over your projects as some components require lower/higher heats to work with.
  • Fine Point Tip – As you’ll be working with small components in often crowded boards, you need as small a soldering iron tip as possible.
  • Minimum 30 Watt Rating – The higher the rating, the quicker the soldering iron will heat up. There’s nothing worse than sat around waiting for your soldering iron to get to the necessary temperature when inspiration hits. A soldering iron between 60 and 75 watts would be ideal and should do the job nicely.

If you’re looking to make a real hobby of this, I’d suggest spending the money and getting a soldering iron like one of those mentioned above. Buying cheap may seem like a good idea at the time, but once you quickly outgrow it you’re just going to have to buy something like this anyway.


Necessity Level – 10/10          

This really goes hand in hand with a soldering iron and will be the other piece to the puzzle.

Historically, solder contained lead as it had a low melting point and was easy to work with. However, we now know that inhaling lead fumes is really bad for us and it was banned in the European Union (EU) as part of the RoHS directive in 2002. While you can still buy it online, I’d strongly suggest that you stick to the solder that’s more commercially available.

Since 2002, we now use metal alloys specially designed for this purpose. The two main types of commercially available solder are Tin Alloy & Silver Alloy.

  • Tin Alloy solder is much cheaper and therefore my prefered solder. You can spot this solder with the symbol ‘Sn’, usually in conjunction with another element like Copper ‘Cu’.
  • Silver Alloy solder is a little more expensive and more generally used in manufacturing jewellery but can be used in electronics if it’s to hand.
    As there is almost no difference between the resistance and conductivity of the two solders it really comes down to personal preference and price.

Diameter is also something worth considering. Too thick and it may bridge a few components causing a short in your circuit. Too thin and you’ll have spend a lot of time adding more and more solder to make the connection.

For general DIY guitar pedals, I’d recommend anything less than 1mm diameter like the below:

However, if you’re using Surface Mount Device (SMD) components, you’ll need much finer solder. Something like 0.6mm will per ideal for this:

Solder Wick/Desoldering Pump

Necessity Level – 6/10          

We all make mistakes. Thankfully, when you accidentally put the wrong component in the wrong place, you can use solder wick or a desoldering pump to remove the solder, freeing up the component to be placed elsewhere.

Solder wick is very affordable and a single reel will last you absolutely ages. You can find some great deals for this on Amazon:

If you can’t quite get the hang of using the solder wick or if you’ll be removing lots of components from a circuit board, I’d suggest investing in a desoldering pump:

These are a little more expensive than a simple roll of solder wick/solder braid, but will speed up the process of removing components no end!

Wire Cutters And Wire Strippers

Necessity Level – 10/10          

While most kits come with pre-cut wires to help you connect the board to the jacks, switches and power, they’re still going to be a bit long and will need to be trimmed down to fit in your case. Once you’ve trimmed them down, you’ll need to strip the ends so that you can solder them to your components.

Investing now in a good pair of wire cutters and strippers will pay dividends for years to come. I’m yet to hear of anyone wearing out a pair of wire cutters so you should only ever need to buy one set.

While you could purchase a pair of wire cutters and a pair of wire strippers, why not have a tool that combines both of these into one? I personally use a set like these and they’re an absolute godsend:

My workbench for these projects is fairly small and the more I can minimise the need for unnecessary tools, the better.

However, if you’d prefer to keep things separate, there are some fantastic yet affordable options to go for:

Wire Strippers

Wire Cutter

Long Nose Pliers

Necessity Level – 8/10          

While not crucial to building DIY guitar effects pedals, having a good pair of long nose pliers will make it easier. When you’re soldering wires or components, things start to get a bit hot as everything is metal and metal conducts heat. If you can hold your wires and components in place with some pliers, not only will you be able to ensure you get a solid connection but you’ll also avoid burning your fingers on the hot metal.

I’d suggest something like the below that are spring-loaded as they’ll make picking things up and letting them go much easier:

Wire (Various Colours)

Necessity Level – 9/10          

Even if you’re working with kits that contain all the wires you need, I’d strongly suggest purchasing a set of assorted coloured wires.

They come in handy for creating jumpers or can replace any supplied wires that you accidentally cut too short.

Having worked with a few different types, I’d suggest buying a solid core wire. While it’s not as flexible as stranded wire, it’s much easier to connect to components and mould to your case for cable management.

At a minimum, you should have 3 colours of cable:

  1. Red for live voltage
  2. Black for ground wires
  3. Any other colour for everything else

There is a fantastic kit available on Amazon of 22 gauge wire in 9-meter spools which I’m currently using that also has four additional colours alongside the necessary black and red. This can be found here:

With the extra colours, you could have a set specifically for input signal, another for output and a third for any jumpers you need.

Helping Hand / Third Hand

Necessity Level – 6/10          

You can definitely live without a third-hand device, but once you start using it, you’ll find it tough to go back.

This is essentially something you can use to grab your PCB or your components and hold them in place, freeing up your hands to hold your soldering iron and solder.

Some of these come with magnifying glasses and lights to help you see what you’re working on a little easier. However, the main thing facet of these is the adjustable arms and pincers. Most come with just two arms, but depending on the project, you may wish to buy one with 4 or more arms.

A helping hand is a luxury that, if you can afford it, is well worth the investment.

You can find a couple of these below:

Basic Helping Hand

More Advanced Helping Hand

Digital Multimeter

Necessity Level – 7/10          

Whilst you’re building ready-made kits, you probably won’t find a need for a digital multimeter, but once you start building you’re own sets and error checking you’re circuits, this will become a necessity. However, as this guide is all about starting out, I personally don’t think it’s a necessity.

There are lots of videos on YouTube about using digital test meters, but a few great starting points can be found here:

If this is something you’d like to get started with, you can find some very affordable multimeters that will help you test resistors, voltages, capacitors and even transistors. A great starter multimeter can be found here:

Electric Drill And Drill Bits

Necessity Level – 7/10          

Some kits will come with a pre-drilled enclosure and in those cases, you shouldn’t really need a drill.

However, if you need to source your own cases, I’d first suggest buying a pre-drilled one. These do come at a premium, but correctly aligning the holes can be a bit tricky depending on the number and alignment of the potentiometers. A few pre-drilled enclosures can be found here:

If you’re on a budget and are happy to drill your own enclosures, you can pick up a blank Hammond 1590B (the standard size guitar pedal enclosure) on eBay for half the price of a pre-drilled version. Any electric drill should do the job and you could buy a simple corded drill or a more portable battery-powered drill.

My main tip for drilling your own enclosures is to use a step drill bit. This will help you ensure all the holes are the correct size and will also make it much easier to drill clean and precise holes every time. The set I use can be found here:

Adjustable Spanner / Wrench

Necessity Level – 7/10          

Once you’ve put all of the hardware in your enclosure (jack inputs, DC input, footswitch, pots, switches etc) you need to make sure that they’re tight and secure. A loose fitting won’t stop the pedal from working, but it may get a little annoying and while you can use your fingers to tighten these bolts, an adjustable spanner will finish the job nicely.

You could buy a set of different sized spanners like the ones below, but if you’re like me, I don’t have a huge amount of room for tools I won’t always be using.

Alternatively, a single adjustable spanner will cover all of the bolts you’ll ever need to tighten. I’m currently using one like this but any adjustable spanner should do the trick:

Safety Equipment

Necessity Level – 10/10          

Whenever dealing with voltages, high temperatures or sharp objects, you need to ensure that your protecting yoursellf. This is something that most people often forget about but I can’t stress how important it is to buy the correct safety equipment before making a start on your first project.

Portable Extractor Fan

Necessity Level – 10/10 

When starting out, many of us will be building pedals in closed and confined spaces like sheds, garages, utility rooms and the like.

To help ensure you don’t breath in any of the potentially-hazardous solder fumes, I would strongly recommend purchasing a portable extractor fan.

It not only keep the smoke & fumes out of your eyes and lungs, but will also make the entire process much more enjoyable.

For my first few builds, I stupidly didn’t use a solder fume extractor fan and could only work on my projects for short periods of time before it gave me a headache. However, now I have one of these, I can work on building my pedals for much longer and get even more done.


Necessity Level – 10/10          

Safety glasses will not only protect your eyes from stray pieces of wire you’re cutting but also from molten blobs solder that fly away from your soldering iron. When it comes to your eyes, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.

You don’t need to spend a huge amount on glasses and a simple pair like the ones below will work just fine:


Necessity Level – 10/10          

When working with electronics, you have to deal with sharp components, hot wires and electric currents. The best way to stay safe around all of these hazards are to wear thin rubber gloves. They can’t be too thick otherwise you’ll lose feeling in your fingers which could end up in you being burned with the soldering iron. I use something like the below as they provide fantastic protection whilst still allowing me to feel the items I’m working with:

Soldering Mat

Necessity Level – 6/10          

Soldering irons run at 300°C and accidents happen. If you accidentally catch your work bench or kitchen table with the tip of your soldering iron, it will leave a scortch mark. To avoid this, I’d highly recommend purchasing a soldering mat like one of the below:

They’re heat proof for up to 500°C, contain sections for the components you’re working with and the more expensive ones are magnetic to help keep everything in place.

If you’re working in a garage and not that bothered about marking the work bench, you can give this one a miss. Otherwise, I’d highly recommend purchasing one of these to protect you’re work area.

As initially mentioned, I’ve collated this list for people wanting to get started with this awesome hobby and are not sure what equipment they need to get started.

If you’re new to this and would like to know where to buy components for your DIY effects pedal projects, check out my guide here:

Where to buy DIY guitar effects pedal components

If there is anything missing from this list or anything you’d like to see bumped up the priority list, please let me know and I’ll do what I can to get it added.

Hi, I'm Pete!

I have been a guitar and effects pedal enthusiast since 2005 and electronics tinkerer since 2017.

I’m here to help you begin your journey with building DIY guitar effects pedals. Get in touch with me if you have any questions.

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