How To Read Stripboard & Veroboard Layouts For DIY Effects Pedals
When you first start building your own guitar effects pedals, I would strongly recommend buying a pedal kit that has been pieced together by a professional. All of the components have been hand-selected for that specific build and you have a much higher chance of it working straight away. If this is something you’d like to investigate further, check out my pedal kit guide here:
However, once you have built a few pedal kits, and you’re comfortable sourcing your own components, the next phase of your pedal building journey is to use stripboard/veroboard
What Is Stripboard & Veroboard?
Stripboard, also known as veroboard or matrix board, is a prototyping board that is incredibly affordable and flexible. This is the perfect base to start building pedals as it allows for compact designs that will fit into the classic Hammond 1590B enclosure.
For the price of one printed circuit board (PCB), you can get 20 similar sized pieces of veroboard that will allow you to create 20 pedals.
Stripboard is a piece of epoxy board with copper lines, or tracks, that contain predrilled holes for you to add your through-hole components.
Where To Find Stripboard & Veroboard Layouts?
There is only one name in stripboard & veroboard effects pedal diagrams and that is Tagboard Effects:
They have hundreds of pedal layouts and using their sitemap, you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Another great source of veroboard layouts is SabroTone:
They don’t have as large a library as Tagboard Effects, but still definitely worth checking out.
How To Read Stripboard & Veroboard Layouts?
Now that we know what veroboard is and where to find the effect pedal layouts, we need to understand what all of symbols mean.
All veroboard and stripboard layouts start with one fundamental. The actual veroboard. You can see an image of what this looks like here:
As you can see, with veroboard, there are copper rails that stretch the length of the board and it is these rails that will connect the components to one another.
On some layouts, you may see a red circle around one of the holes of the veroboard.
These are called cutouts and they break the connection of the copper rail allowing you to add more components to a smaller board.
You will sometimes need to bridge the rails of a few different strips and to do this, we use jumpers.
These jumpers are normally blue but you may also see them in different colours. To create the jumper, just use a simple piece of wire and solder it to the specific strips you want to connect.
The most common symbol you’ll see on a veroboard layout is that of a resistor. If you’ve already read my resistor guide for DIY pedal makers, you’ll know everything you need to about these components. However, this is how they look on a veroboard layout:
These will either be annotated with the necessary resistor value like it is here, or they will be called something like R1, R2 etc. The layout will then contain a bill of materials (B.O.M) that will match up these annotations to the correct resistor value.
As you know from my beginner’s guide to capacitors for DIY pedal builders, capacitors come in three main variations. Ceramic, film and electrolytic. Let’s dive into these, shall we?
Ceramic capacitors are our lowest value capacitors and great for high pass filters. Here’s how they look on veroboard layouts:
All ceramic capacitors are measured in Picofarads (pF) and the symbol on our veroboard will either contain the value or C1, C2 annotation with the necessary value found in the BOM.
Film capacitors, box film capacitors and polyester film capacitors are the most common capacitors you’ll find in your layouts. This is how they look in veroboard layouts:
Film capacitors are either measured in nanofarads (nF) or microfarads (uF). The symbol on our veroboard will either contain the value or C1, C2 annotation with the necessary value found in the BOM.
Electrolytic capacitors are generally used for power conditioning and are the only capacitors in our circuit that are polarised. This means that there is a right and a wrong way to place them in our circuits. This is how they look in our layouts:
Film capacitors measured in microfarads (uF) and have a positive and negative end. The symbol on our veroboard will either contain the value or C1, C2 annotation with the necessary value found in the BOM. Be careful to check the polarity and the placement of these components.
If you’re looking to build an overdrive pedal or a delay pedal, you will most likely need to use at least once Integrated Circuit (IC). These look something like this:
Depending on the size of the IC, you may see 8 or 16 pins but be careful to check for the orientation of the notch.
There’s a lot to know about transistors and how they interact with your circuits but I cover some of the basics with my beginners guide to transistors for guitar pedal builders here. Most transistors you’ll be using for DIY guitar pedals utilise the TO-92 form factor. These have the three pins in a row and will look like one of the below:
As you can see, there are no actual values on these transistors. Instead, the veroboard layouts will show you the correct orientation of the transistor. The Bill Of Materials or notes below the layout will tell you which transistors are needed.
Diodes will generally be the final piece of the puzzle for most veroboard layouts and they’ll look like this:
As with our transistors, you will very rarely see the value of the diodes on the symbol itself. Instead, it will be below the layout or in the Bill Of Materials along with the corresponding annotation. E.g. D1, D2 etc.
Be careful with the orientation of diodes as they have two distinct ends. Placing these incorrectly into the circuit will mean your pedal won’t work as expected.
Not all veroboard layouts will have these, but some pedals will require internal trim pots for additional tone shaping or biasing. These will look like the below:
If these trimmers are for biasing, the build notes should tell you exactly what to look for. However, if they’re for tone shaping, have a play around and see what works best for you. Just like external potentiometers, trim pots come in all different values so be sure to check what it is you actually need.
Once you have a fully populated veroboard guitar pedal or stripboard guitar pedal, you may be wondering how to then turn it into a fully working pedal. This is where you need to check out some off-board wiring diagrams. If you’re completely new to this, I’ve created a guide to help you get started:
Before you jump into deciding how to wire up your footswitch, I’d highly recommend checking out my guide to your bypass options:
Now that you know how to read these diagrams and layouts, it’s time to take this knowledge and start building some awesome DIY guitar effects pedals. A library of layouts just like those shown above can be found on the Tagboard Effects site:
This is an incredible resource for anyone wanting to build their own pedals and the comments sections often discuss how the pedals can be modded and/or improved further.
As always, happy building and if you have any questions on anything in here, please get in touch.