Wrought Iron Leather and Effects has grown from simple DIY beginnings making my own guitar straps, to the point we're at now: getting ready to launch our first 3 production level effects pedals. You will find detailed descriptions and demo videos of each pedal below as you scroll down.
UPDATE: We did it!!! We've reached 120%, our stretch goal. (Everything that foloows in italics is realted to the new SHADOWFAX pedal; scroll down past the italics for the t-shirts, decals, ORCRIST, ASLAN, and BUCEPHALUS pedals.)That means the SHADOWFAX Boost is now available for pre-orders. SHADOWFAX is a clean boost. Now there are a lot of “clean” boosts on the market, so let me clarify a little. Some boosts that are bipolar transistor-based are actually pretty dirty (classic LPB-1 and Rangemaster type circuits) meaning they start to clip your signal as you turn them up. That's fine for some applications and actually sounds AWESOME into an already overdriven amp. Then there are JFET based boosts that have a more gentle tube-like clipping which sound great even into a clean amp, but also have their own flavor. The SHADOWFAX is a MOSFET based boost. It has a super-high input impedance (it won't load your guitar signal down and rob the high end and presence) and more “headroom” than the other types. There are other MOSFET boosts on the market (The ZVEX SHO, the AMZ MOSFET boost, etc) so what makes SHADOWFAX special? Well, we've taken some of the features from out other pedals and incorporated versions of them into SHADOWFAX.
#1. SHADOWFAX not only has your typical treble cut tone control, it also features a bass control knob. While not as versatile as the full 3 band tonestack of the BUCEPHALUS PreAmp, these two tone-shaping controls give you a wide range of control.
#2. Custom laser cut LED backlit graphic. We've received so much positive feedback on the ORCRIST light-up Elvish runes, that we decided to do it again with SHADOWFAX. The horse graphic (more original artwork by Kristine Louise) will be laser-cut and backlit with white LED's. If you are wondering if it's going to look freakin' spectacular, you can stop wondering and start ordering because the answer is “Yep.”
#3. The 18 volt internal charge pump gives you more headroom that a 9 volt boost AND lets you use your standard 9 volt power. Another feature we borrowed from ORCRIST (Goblin Cleaver setting) is the internal charge pump. Read on below for a more detailed explanation of why that's important or go ahead over to the side bar and just order SHADOWFAX right now.
The enclosures are being laser-cut right now, so we probably won't have a legit photo or demo for this one until after the KS has ended (sorry! Just the nature of last minute stretch goals I guess.) But here's the design of the plate that will comprise the top, front and back sides of the enclosure. I'll post a picture of the raw materials as soon as I pick the up.
Highly technical data section: Think of your guitar signal as an alternating current sine wave and the boost pedal is a direct current room. The ceiling and the floor in the room are defined by the DC power supply voltage that you feed your boost pedal (in most cases, 9 volts). The transistor in the pedal wants to boost your signal up higher than the ceiling and lower than the floor, but once it hits the ceiling (or floor) it runs out of “headroom”, the signal bumps its head and gets squashed down a bit. The sine wave has become distorted or clipped. Now that can sound really cool...if that's what you're looking for. But if you want a clean signal, just louder, that ceiling can be kind of frustrating. So what's the logical thing to do? You guessed it: raise the ceiling! How do we do this? Well, one way is to build a “charge pump” into your circuit. This subcircuit takes your standard 9 volt power input and pumps it up to 18 volts. Now the ceiling is higher and your signal has more “headroom” before banging against it. (see accompanying technical diagrams).
If you've already pledge for another pedal and want to add SHADOWFAX to your pledge, we've got some combo packs coming just as soon as I can get them typed up that will offer a little discount to you. THANKS EVERYBODY FOR SUPPORTING WROUGHT IRON!!!!
If you already know guitar pedals are not for you, but you still want to be part of the project, check out this wicked t-shirt graphic! This will be on the back of the t-shirt and the Wrought Iron logo will be small on the front
Here is the story of how we got to this Kickstarter launch.
Earlier in my career as a farrier, I started making my own guitar straps with the leather left over from the horseshoeing chaps I made for myself. Some friends and family asked me to make straps for them and I eventually I started selling a few--- that was about 800 straps ago. (You can see the current line of straps here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Wroughtironleather?ref=l2-shopheader-name).
A couple years later, I got into learning about building my own effects pedals. Inspired by a DIY boost pedal that the bassist of a favorite band built for their guitar player (http://dawestheband.com/), I decided to try to build a couple pedals for my own use. I found that between the electronic circuitry work and the process of housing the circuits in re-purposed vintage containers, this project had really captured my creative attention. After spending some time learning and experimenting, I eventually started building pedals for sale. I could spend a lot of time on each pedal because I wasn't trying to make a living doing it. I was just learning and experimenting.
But now a shoulder injury has forced me to lay down the hammer and tongs and give up horseshoeing/farrier work. That change has given me the nudge I needed to take Wrought Iron to the next level. As it turns out, custom shaping hot steel to the shape of individual horses' feet has helped me develop a style of working that transfers over into electronic design very nicely: a combination of art and science. With that mindset, over the last year or so, I have developed 4 Drive circuits (The ORCRIST Overdrive, ASLAN Overdrive, and the two sides of the BUCEPHALUS PreAmp) creating customized enclosure designs for each one.
I have 4 main goals for the Wrought Iron pedal line:
- 1. Great Sounding Circuits. If I can't do this, nothing else really matters.
- 2.Original circuit design-- there are plenty of other options on the market for modified Tube Screamer, Blues Breaker, and Klon circuits and many of them sound great! So no need for me to re-invent the wheel. I want to build something that sounds a little different and unique.
- 3. Visually Appealing Enclosure Design. If I put the work into building something that sounds great, I want the box it lives in to complement the sound. I want everything about the enclosure to communicate something about the "soul' of the circuit. The pedals' names, fonts, graphics, colors--it's all intended to flow together into the sounds that the circuit produces. I want them to be inspiring to look at. If you're going to look at these things every time you play your guitar, I want you to enjoy that experience! Form follows function, of course. But it follows very closely. For this reason all Wrought Iron enclosures are either custom-made folded Aluminum or Stainless Steel, or are re-purposed vintage containers.
- 4. Keep the price within reach for any player who really wants to own one. While I am not trying to compete with prices from huge manufacturers who build their pedals in Taiwan or China, my goal is to keep prices comparable to other small American manufacturers.
The ASLAN (Good) Overdrive
This pedal takes its name from the lion in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S.Lewis and specifically from a passage where Lucy asks whether or not Aslan is a safe lion. "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."
The circuit's cascade of JFET transistors gives it a very tube-like sound. The ASLAN is voiced to give you a LOT of mid range to sit very nicely in a full band mix. It has your standard Level, Gain and Tone controls plus Bite control to turn up the gain to the final stage to really punch through the mix. The ASLAN Good Overdrive gives you that cranked vintage amp sound, but at a reasonable volume. It's not a tame sound, but it's a Good sound!
ASLAN OD demo by 60 Cycle Hum
The ORCRIST OD is named after the sword from Tolkien's The Hobbit. Forged by Elves, the sword took on a blue glow when Orcs were near. The case features the name ORCRIST in Gondolinin runes cut out and back-lit with blue LED's when the pedal is switched on.
The ORCRIST is a bipolar transistor overdrive that is voiced for lots of low-mids, lows and even low harmonics. This is a really warm overdrive that gives you lots of break-up without the high-end sizzle that's characteristic of a lot of op-amp overdrives. It has standard Gain, Volume and Tone controls, but also gives you a Bite control that adds a little treble and gain to the final gain stage. Additionally, on the top side of the pedal, there's a toggle to switch between standard 9 volt mode (Biter) or 18 volt charge pump mode (Goblin Cleaver) for more volume and a little more headroom. This is a great OD for rhythm guitar players and stacks great with other overdrives.
ORCRIST OD demo by 60 Cycle Hum
The BUCEPHALUS PreAmp
Bucephalus was the warhorse of Alexander the Great in his conquests from Greece to India. Legend holds that, as a boy Alexander was able to tame the massive uncooperative horse that no one else could by turning him into the sun so that he no longer saw his shadow. Bucephalus became the driving force of the Companion Cavalry as the Macedonian army stormed across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The BUCEPHALUS PreAmp is designed to be your dependable foundation to boost or build your tone.
You will probably notice that the BUCEPHALUS PreAmp has undergone a redesign even since the video was filmed. BUCEPHALUS now features two independent circuits.
The Hippikon ("Cavalry Soldier") side is a 2 mode boost/OD with a mid-voiced 3 band amp-style tone stack. The "Biting/Brutal" toggle moves the midhump forward to high mids (great for lead tones) or back for low mids (great for rhythm playing). The tone stack controls let you fine tune the EQ. The mode switch goes between Finesse for a cleanish boost with some light breakup and Force for a full on low gain overdrive.
The Exelasis ("Cavalry charge") is an very open sounding JFET overdrive without any diode clipping/compression. This low gain drive is super-responsive to guitar volume and has very amp-like response to picking dynamics. It features standard Volume, Tone and Gain controls, plus a 'Discipline' control for reining in higher output pickups. The "Unbridled" toggle opens up the full output of the final gain stage for a little extra boost.
The feature that adds extra versatility to the BUCEPHALUS PreAmp is that each circuit has separate input and output jacks. So you can run the circuits in either order OR insert other effects in between the two circuits.
BUCEPHALUS demo by 60 Cycle Hum
I feel that we have met our goals with these 3 pedals and I am excited to share them with the guitar playing community. So why not just open a website and start selling them?, you may ask. Why do a Kickstrater campaign? Those are good questions. So let me outline the answers here by giving you a little peek behind the scenes.
Up to this point, each pedal has been a completely hand built item--I build the enclosures, I anodize them to color, I bend them to shape, I even acid-etch the Printed Circuit Boards myself before populating them and soldering the components in place.
This has been a fun way to do it, but it is not as consistent or cost effective as it could be. I need to get some pros to help me out with some of those jobs. This Kickstarter project will allow me to have PCB's professionally machined in a large quantity and get the enclosures laser cut and professionally marked and anodized for consistent high quality production (See the Risks and Challenges section for more on this). I can then focus on building the circuits, shaping the enclosures and assembling everything....and continuing the experimentation that leads to new Wrought Iron Effects designs!
Thanks for your consideration of Wrought Iron products and for your support in this project!
Ed and Kris Chew
Risks and challenges
Risks and Challenges:
The biggest challenge is getting quality materials at prices that allow me to keep the pedals affordable. Quantity discounts are the key to controlling costs. Getting a sufficient number of pre-orders can drive the price of certain materials down by 66%. So the challenge is to get enough pre-orders of each pedal that I can buy materials in sufficient quantity to take advantage of these discounts.
The main risk is going to be supplier lead times. I have developed a good supply chain, but sometimes things don't work out as planned. I will be working with a local anodizer for the BUCEPHALUS and ASLAN enclosures. Matching the colors I have developed for each might be a challenge. Also, some parts for the circuits are becoming hard to find as they are replaced with tiny surface-mount components, intended to be set by machine rather than by hand. I have located a primary supplier and 2 back-ups, so I should have access to a sufficient quantity of high quality components for these 2 rounds of production.
- (30 days)