One of my long-time clients came into the shop with a homemade amp that he had acquired as a part of some kind of trade deal. It was pretty crudely done; the aluminum chassis had holes that looked as though they might have been made with a nail and a chisel. It had a thick aluminum control panel with the markings you see in the photo. The chassis was loosely hung in a homebuilt pine cabinet that was covered in textured fabric from grandma’s old couch cushions, which had then been coated with polyurethane for a sort of “beige armadillo” effect.
It didn’t really work. I mean, if you plugged in a guitar and played, you’d hear noises through the speaker that corresponded to what your hands were doing, but it certainly didn’t produce any useful kind of sound. Trouble is, it was full of really nice parts.
After some conversation with the owner I asked him if I could rebuild it for him into something worthwhile. As I stripped it down, for some reason I started imagining that the amp had been a project that had been built by some guy with his kid, sort of like an electronic version of a Pinewood Derby car. The more I thought about it, the more it all seemed charming; the idea of this dad-and-lad team working on it together. I could just imagine the kid with an oversize pair of safety goggles, a set of letter/number punches and a hammer, working on the panel lettering, sticking out his tongue and taking careful aim with his dad standing watchfully by.
So after I rebuilt it, I brushed the panel with a Scotchbrite to give it some character and wiped some black lacquer into the letters so they would stand out. I remounted it in the armadillo cabinet (securely, this time) and it ended up sounding great. I only wish there was some way the original builders could hear it working properly.
Seriously, I’m gonna put a ToH3 knob on something one day.