Category: Mods

BYOC Pedal Build

I love BOSS compact pedals. Of all the various guitar effects, they are my favorites. There are detractors to the line, of course, but I think BOSS stompboxes are brilliant.

To start with, they are masterpieces of industrial design, ingeniously solving so many problems that all guitar pedals face. The casings are robust. The large, raised footbed makes them easy to operate without accidentally hitting the control knobs with an errant step. The battery is housed in a separate compartment which is opened via a single thumbscrew. Simple bold colors make the pedals easily identifiable on a darkened stage, and a consistent form factor makes them easily interchangeable.

Say what you will about tone suck, but the electronics inside are also remarkable. While the pedals may not utilize the highest grade of electronic components or deliver sound nuances capable of satisfying every artist, BOSS stompboxes find a balance between affordability and quality output that work for most people, including many professional musicians. And if it’s good enough for the likes of David Gilmour or Eric Clapton, it’s probably good enough for me.

Recently, when I decided I wanted to add another overdrive effect to my pedalboard, I knew that what I wanted was something Tube Screamer flavored. I’m not going to enter into the debate about whether the vintage ones are better or whatever. Most people can’t tell the difference between all the different varieties, and I’ve got better things to do than worry whether an effect gets me the precise tone color I desire. Among those “better” things? Build the effect myself.

The final product
The final product

So I looked at the kits offered by BYOC, and settled on their Classic Overdrive. Rather than put it into a standard case, however, I decided to mod the whole thing slightly to fit it into a BOSS enclosure from a dead pedal that I found on eBay. The biggest problem was getting the footswitch to fit, for which I had to make a modified latch for the battery/switch cover plate. Other components, such as the jacks and the AC adapter were taken from the broken pedal because they fit into the case better. I painted the whole thing, and using bake-on waterslide transfer decals was able to emulate the trademark BOSS font and appearance. After a few coats of polyurethane, the thing is ready to play. The effect works very well, and was easy to assemble thanks to the kit. I think I’m going to be very happy with it as a second OD on my board, and I can foresee experimenting with other pedal builds in the future.

Here’s a soundclip.

Here’s some pictures of the process.

The BOSS pedal disassembled.
The BOSS pedal..
Closeup of the hinge latch mod.
Closeup of the hinge latch mod.
Closeup of the footswitch mod.
Closeup of the footswitch mod.
BYOC kit parts.
BYOC kit parts.
The board.
The board.

Everything fits!
Everything fits!

Tripping the Light Fantastic

daI’ve long been in search of better lighting in the Vanagon. I’ve still yet to add an IKEA puck light LEDs to the cockpit area, but I was nevertheless able to make two more light mods that really brightened things up. First, thanks to fellow vanagonaut Harold Teer, I acquired a second overhead galley light and mounted it above the stove. The improvement is incredible; gone are the days of cooking in the dark.

The second modification was to upgrade the bulbs yet again since LEDs have come a long way since I first installed them in Olly seven years ago. With new, brighter and warmer LEDs from superbrightleds.com, the interior becomes much less clinical, making it far cozier. The new warm LEDs also match the IKEA pucks better, giving an overall more uniform appearance when all the lights are on. One installation note: I did have to slightly bend the prongs in the galley lighting to accommodate the oversized festoons, but that was easily accomplished with a pair of needle-nose pliers. This could be avoided by using smaller LEDs than the 6451‘s I used, but some light output would be sacrificed.

As a bonus, the whole thing looks very vanagonish, as if the light fixture was always there.

Goin’ Immobile

It hasn’t really been a good spring for Olly. He’s spent a fair bit of time in the garage, which is better than being in the driveway, but he hasn’t gone much further than that. That makes him (and me) a bit sad.

On the bright side, I’ve managed to do a lot of things to Olly while he’s been in the garage. It all started with an idea to replace the heater/vent fan before summer rolled around. Of course, that necessitates dashboard removal, so since it was out anyway, it was a good time to take care of a number of other tasks, like some rust mitigation, wire management, heater box restoration, speedometer cable replacement, brake cylinder replacement, sound proofing, and relocation of the power window switches. While I was in there I removed the stock cruise control hardware and lubed up anything that I could. While I was waiting for parts, I took the seats out and repainted the swivel bases with POR-15 and rattlecan Rustoleum top coat. The bases are much nicer looking now, and turn smoother as well. The passenger side could use some new bushings, but I just couldn’t justify spending $70 for a few pieces of plastic right now. At any rate, pretty much the entire front cab was gutted in the process, and all told that kept Olly off the road for a good month in March.

I also transferred the my existing wiring harness and gauges to the instrument cluster I’ve restored. I love having actual tabs to connect the cluster to the dash. It’s the little things, you know.

Here’s a few notes for future reference, in no particular order:

  • I bought the master brake cylinder from Van-Cafe, and it came with the brake light switches pre-installed. Unfortunately, they are 3 prong switches, so I had to cut out the middle terminal and bend the outer ones inwards slightly so that I could keep the stock connectors.
  • The sound deadening material I used was from SoundDeadenerShowdown.com. I like his products and website, although he doesn’t have a proper online store. Everything makes a dull “thunk” noise when hammered instead of sounding like the inside of a trash dumpster.
  • The padded elements of the dashboard apparently can be removed. This would make painting and restoring it so much easier than the masking that I did.
  • I moved the power window controls to the dash a la GoWesty, but without their million dollar kit. I actually did a lot of research looking for the ideal switches, and would actually have used the stock VW switches if they weren’t so durned expensive. So I found a kit made by SPAL Automotive sold by A-1 Electric. The switches are stock size, and so fit into the VW bezel, and they are illuminated unlike the GoWesty kit. On top of everything, they look appropriate to late 80’s automotive styling, so they don’t feel out of place. I did a bit of splicing to utilize the stock wiring as much as possible, and the result is wonderful. Both windows raise and lower without problem. The switches require a slight lean across the cab from the driver’s seat, but it’s not uncomfortable what with my gorilla arms.
  • I’d like to get some stock fuse holders to add to the fuse panel for a few accessories: the Bostig MIL indicator and the radio.
  • Also, still need to create some kind of filter for the air intake to keep Olly from collecting butterflies.
  • The steering wheel shaft has a bit of play in it, and I assume it’s due to some bushing wearing out in the upper column.

I got Olly reassembled long enough for him to star in a movie. I was able to enter Bostig’s spring contest and will post a link to the video once the contest closes.

Olly’s mobility was short lived, however, and ended when I decided it was high time to tackle the wheel bearings. Suspension and wheels scare me, I don’t know why. Probably because these can be really tough jobs to do without a lift and a press of some sort. Also, screwing them up can be really bad. In any case, Olly’s wheels came off so that I could replace and lube all 4 bearings, and none of it was actually that difficult. The job got drawn out when I decided to replace the brake hardware while I was in the neighborhood. I also encountered a snafu involving a broken rear bearing case. It was remedied by Ken Wilford at Van-Again, who is really a great guy. I posted my problem to the Vanagon list serve, and he volunteered to help. A call the next day resulted in a quick payment transaction, and a completely rebuilt rear bearing case was on its way.

For what it’s worth, I have no real complaints about any of the various parts vendors, and use them all. Ken does deserve special mention because he’s very knowledgeable and down-to-earth in his explanations. I’ve also found his YouTube channel to be a nice supplement to Bentley for some quick-and-dirty guides to some dirty jobs.

So now the van is running on all four wheels again. This is a good thing, as I decided to fix the broken window motor in the Bimmer, so now it’s holed up in the garage. The joys of owning 80’s automobiles.

More Interior Lighting in Olly

The lighting additions I’ve done previously include a dome light over the front passenger seat and one over the sliding door. I’m using LED festoons to minimize the amp draw, and though the light is a bit diffuse and cooler than I’d prefer, when all are switched on, the cabin is lit well enough to enjoy a bit of nightlife. Reading is possible, but my eyes aren’t getting any stronger so it’s not entirely comfortable. So I decided to add some reading lights over the back passenger seat.

By day...
By day…

I picked up a set of Inreda LED spotlights from IKEA last year with the intention of mounting them in the cabin for additional lighting. Not only are they sufficiently bright to make reading enjoyable, but they’re also much warmer in color. As an added bonus, they pivot ever so slightly in their housings, allowing some small degree of directionality in their use. The lights are in plastic housings with an aluminum base. Like most things from IKEA, they’re not expensive (or expensively made) but their silver color and simple styling fit in well enough with the Vanagon aesthetic. The price of a package of four lights was around $45.

I decided to mount them on the cover for the Westy support bar so that they could be used as reading or task lights over the rear bench seats. Additionally, they are individually switched using rocker switches from Radio Shack. I mounted the switches to the sides primarily because there’s more depth in the air duct and shelf units that line the sides of the passenger compartment. The switches are simple and don’t look out of place in the van.

The wiring was straightforward: they are wired up in parallel with the kitchen light, so the lights can be turned on when the van is off, and I was able to do most of the wiring in the cover plate. Individually they each draw about 0.1 amps, so when they’re on with all the other interior lights, the draw is around 0.33 amps. I suspect that I’ll use the older interior lights less, as the light from the IKEA spotlights is plentiful.

The results are spectacular. Next I’ll have to mount one in the cockpit to better light that area. Also, I’d like to pick up some warmer toned festoons for the other light fixtures.

... and by night!
… and by night!

 

Pole Marking

20130323-115527.jpgI finished just a small mod to make life with the Bus Depot Ezy Awning a bit easier: the poles are marked. I used white and dark blue to denote the support and awning poles respectively. This should make setting things up a bit easier, especially when the light is low.

Sliding Door Lighting in the Vanagon

I’ve always thought that one oversight of the Vanagon is a lack of lighting in the passenger cabin. Obviously in Westfalias there’s the galley lighting, but that’s not triggered by opening the door. A closer inspection of the B pillar and the sliding door revealed that clearly it isn’t a complete oversight of VW: there is a cutout for the door switch, indicating it must be an option somewhere.

Adding the light wasn’t overly difficult, but did require a bit of experimentation. First I ran wires, tapping into the existing cabin lighting so that all the lights would be on the same circuit. This was made easier by the fact that I have already installed a light over the front passenger seat. Ultimately I got the wires in place using string and some bailing wire. That done, I had to engineer the trigger for the switch, since the door doesn’t fit flush where the switch mount point is. This I accomplished with a hex bolt and few nuts which allowed a fair amount of precision adjustment.

After that, it was just a matter of cutting the hole for the new light fixture in the right side air duct. I used the standard VW dome light for uniformity of appearance. Now I can see what’s going on when I open the sliding door, and the dome light provides some additional lighting when camping. Easily one of the best mods I’ve made on Olly so far.

The pieces of the adjustable trigger.
The pieces of the adjustable trigger.
The trigger installed, making contact with the door switch.
The trigger installed, making contact with the door switch.
The hole cut.
The hole cut.
And then there was light!
And then there was light!

Interior Lighting

The light generated in the cab of the van by two LED-fitted dome lights.
The light generated in the cab of the van by two LED-fitted dome lights.

The single driver-side dome light in the Vanagon tends to leave one in the dark, particularly when camping.  I wanted a passenger-side light that retained the style of the original, and which could be controlled by the doors or switched on and off independently of the driver-side light. Fortunately, dome lights are cheap and easily available, and they’re easily installed.

I also wanted to replace the interior lights (both fore and aft) with LED lights which would generate less heat and consume less power when running on the battery.  Two drawbacks to using LEDs is that they tend to have less light output (owing largely to their directional nature), and the light they generate tends to be colder than monofilament bulbs.  I felt the “cool” nature of the lighting could be offset by having multiple light sources.
This project wasn’t difficult, but it was time consuming.  Removing the headliner (Bentley 75.7) isn’t fun, as it requires the removal of both the left (Bentley 76.4) and right (Bentley 76.5)curtain rails on late-model vans.  I recommend following the Bentley procedures, as they take the guesswork out of what you need to disconnect.  I would have saved myself considerable time had I done so.
The original bracket (bottom) next to the new one (top) before cutting.
The original bracket (bottom) next to the new one (top) before cutting.

After removing the headliner, I had to construct a metal bracket to hold the light, and cut a hole in the headliner.  To make the bracket, I salvaged some sheet metal from an old computer CD-ROM case.  It was a slightly lighter gauge metal, but was rigid enough to work.  Measurements were taken from the existing bracket, easily visible with the headliner removed.

I cut the metal using an angle grinder for the outside and a Dremel tool for the inside.  I shaped the bracket using pliers and a ball-peen hammer.  When all done, I tested the fit of the dome light fixture before riveting it into the headliner.
…more to come…
The new bracket and dome light fixture fit together perfectly!
The new bracket and dome light fixture fit together perfectly!