Valves (vacuum tubes, electron tubes, or whatever you want to call them) may be a 100-year old invention, but they still make for an amazing warm sound, which is why they’re still a preference for many musicians around the world.
Tim has been a hobbyist for many years, creating all manner of interesting projects. His fine woodwork in this original valve amplifier demonstrates craftsmanship to the highest degree, something the name brands would be envious of. His one-of-a-kind Shamrock 59-LUXE valve head and speaker box looks amazing. It’s a stunning fusion of practical circuit design, with tremendous finesse in the artistry of woodwork and panelling.
Tim didn’t stop just with the valve-head, however. He build another stunning cabinet to house a 12-inch Celestion Seventy 80 wide-range instrument speaker, which is highly popular in guitar amplifiers around the world, due to its performance quality. Together, it’s a stunning example of what DIY electronics and woodworking can achieve. We caught up with Tim to find out more.
Your valve amplifier is visually stunning and I bet it sounds beautiful, Tim. What made you decide to design your own valve amplifier? Was it purely budget-focused or is it partly “because you could”?
This is my third attempt at building a valve amp from scratch. The first two were The Lamington and The Lamington Junior, which were inspired by Valve Heaven, but changed slightly to suit my needs. After them, I became addicted. I decided to blend some of The Lamington ideas with an iconic Fender amp, using some modifications I found online from Rob Robinette; and yes, being budget conscious was also a factor.
It’s certainly no easy task. What unexpected challenges did you have along the way, and was there much trial and error?
There were many challenges. Research is critical in regards to component layout to reduce noise and the like. There is a bit of trial and error involved; I definitely learned from my mistakes.
The panel designs themselves are beautiful, etched right into the timber itself. How did you achieve such a stunning result? Was it a laser engraver?
Yes, they were done on my Darkly Labs’ Emblaser.
Editor’s Note: The Emblaser from Darkly Labs is a laser engraver capable of cutting and engraving. It uses a 9mm 445nm laser diode (class 4), with a 3W and 4W option. We haven’t used one ourselves, but it looks like a very versatile unit!
You’ve definitely made great use of the engraver, to create your panels and add a touch of detail to everything. Did you start building right away, or did you draw up a schematic first?
Yes, I created a schematic of the amp and power supply (see website), and as I mentioned, it’s based on a 5F6A Fender Bassman. The output section uses two 6V6 valves, which delivers approximately 15W, compared to the 35W to 50W from a Fender. I’m only a “lounge room” player these days, so I don’t need too much power.
Hey, we’d take 15W of amazing sound over 1000W of scratchy average sound! Quality always wins over quantity, especially if you’re going to the trouble of building a valve amp. What was it like switching on the unit for the first time, and playing a tune? I’m assuming you’re using it as a guitar amplifier?
Yes it’s used as a guitar amp, and it is always nerve-racking switching something on for the very first time, but it fired up straight away and sounded great! Better than I hoped actually, and to this day it still surprises and excites me to use it. Of course, building it yourself makes it even sweeter.
We definitely agree with that! What lessons have you learned from this build that you would apply to the next one, if you were to attempt the project again?
I have already learned a lot from my builds. When I first started I couldn’t read a schematic but now I can draw my own! I love working with my hands, so I will definitely be building another one. The plans are already in place!
Good on you, Tim. Keep that journey going – we can’t wait to see what you come up with next!
Warning: Valve amplifiers operate at voltage above what is recommended for safe use by non-qualified persons. Electric shock may result, leading to severe burns or even death.