DIY: Tool Recommendations for Pedal Building

Here’s a list of tools I either use or recommend for people getting into modding and building their own pedals. I’ll update if anything new or exciting comes out but these are the basics:

Soldering Irons:
Hakko FX-888D – A popular mid-level soldering iron. Lots of tips available, heats up quick, good overall iron. Weller is also a popular choice but my favorite model was discontinued.
Hakko FX-951 – Twice the price of above but is a great choice for extensive SMD soldering.

Soldering / Desoldering Accessories:
Kester Lead-Free Solder – Buy a pound so you don’t run out mid project.
Solder Reel Dispenser – Put your reel of solder on a dispenser for easier positioning.
Hakko 599B Tip Cleaner – Brass shavings to clean the soldering tip instead of a wet sponge.
Tip Tinner – Cleans and conditions soldering iron tip. Works wonders.
Solder Sucker – A great option to have on hand in addition to desoldering wick.

Hand & Power Tools:
Xcelite 170M Shearcutters – Seriously, buy a pair of shearcutters. I see so many people using wire cutters which just can’t get in tight against the PCB to clean up the leads after soldering.
Xcelite 378M Thin Pliers – Small pliers are so much easier to work with when trying to navigate inside of a pedal casing. Great for precisely bending leads, grabbing parts to be desoldered, or fishing wires through tight spaces.
Precision T-Rule – Accurately measure from the edge of the casing for marking where you need to drill. Down to 1/64″ so you can get very accurate center lines. You’ll need a very fine mechanical pencil to use the indexing holes.
Center Punch – Mark the hole so the drill bit doesn’t walk out of alignment. There are automatic versions but I prefer this style and find them to be less likely to slip. Wear your hearing protection because this is LOUD.
Bosch power drill – A good general purpose drill that’s not too heavy or oversized.
Seiko Step Drill Bits – Step drill bits are great to have on hand for opening up holes to a slightly larger size. Be sure to check fitment as you drill to make sure you don’t accidentally go one size too far. These are cheap ones; Irwin makes a cobalt version for harder metals or heavy use.
Craftsman 1/4″ Spinner Handle – Much more comfortable and convenient for low torque applications where you don’t need a ratchet.
ATD 6-point SAE & Metric 1/4″ Socket Set – Covers every size you’ll find on a pedal. You’ll want both metric and SAE and up to a 1/2″ deep socket for footswitches. 6-Point sockets are more durable and less prone to rounding than a 12-point.

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