Making a Stomp Box: The Instructions

GETTING THE BOARD

This sounds pretty lame and straightforward (it’s a box) but there are actually a few options. If you have any old wood kicking around, that’s the best thing, but if you have to go and buy yours like I did, make sure it’s “stomp-worthy.”

I was actually on a Home Depot run with my mom when I had my boards cut. We knocked and stomped on every piece of plywood in the place, I think, and I finally went with a multi-layered piece of plywood. I had one long board (that’s how it comes) cut into four even sizes (I needed four boards). The size was fine for me but not-so-fine for my friends J and M, two of my tall stompbox-testing friends whose big feet didn’t have much extra room if they were to stand on it. So… keep size in mind. No matter what they say, it does matter.

EXTRAS:

If you’ve sharpened your carpentry skills and want to make a box with sides (and meaning you won’t be standing or dancing on it) you can make sides, but if you want a versatile board, you can just crazy glue or nail some feet on the corners of one side. I suggest nailing them in… two of my board testers had a foot fall off so either I used the worst “super” glue ever or I should have nailed them. If putting feet on them, you can use anything that’s sturdy as long as it’s even. I used large wooden craft beads I found at my local craft store, which ended up being surprisingly sturdy and keep the boards wabble-free.

I have also built a few slip-on attachments for the boards, with different types of metal and steel to make different sounds, but I’ll put those in a post of its own.

SANDING & DECORATING:

If you’re planning on going-barefoot on the box at any point of time, or if the wood has rough edges, I highly recommend giving it a good scrub with a sanding sponge.

I decided to custom paint one side of each board (the tapping side, without the feet) using acrylic paints, with a landscape for J, an octopus scene for S, and KISS the band and fish for M (long story). I stained the other side (the dancing sides, with the feet) and painted a simple bird on them. I figured the dancing side would get scuffed up and I liked the look of the grain, especially with the stain. I gave both sides a good spray with a good arts and crafts water-resistant finishing spray for wood projects. It’s about $7 at your local craft store and let each side dry for 10 minutes.

PLACING YOUR CONTACT MIC:

Now it’s time to plug this baby in. Depending on your contact mic (if it’s homemade or if you went with a pretty Cold Gold one… if you have a clip-on or suction-cup one already that you prefer to use, this wouldn’t apply) tape the contact mic down with painter’s tape or a piece of duct tape.  Make sure you’re taping the piezo disc down flat as can be against the wood because this is what’s going to pick up the vibrations. Also, make sure it’s the right side. You don’t want to put tape on the piezo disc and risk ruining it. In the case of a Cold Gold mic, it’s “gold disc-side down”  but it’s pretty obvious when you have one in your hand, so don’t worry.

Placing the mic takes a bit of experimentation but I find that when I am tapping the board and it’s raised by the feet, it’s best to tape it to the edge or directly in the middle of the underside of the board. If I’m dancing on it, I tape it down at an edge of the surface I’m dancing on, directly under one of the feet so I don’t step on it (that’s loud!)

Stay tuned for my post about all of the stomp box effects and experimenting with levels and pedals.

TIME TO PLAY!

Now your stomp box is made, prettied up, plugged in – and ready to be played.

You’ll notice how sensitive the board is. You’ll see what I mean by trying the following:

–          Stomp with a pair of shoes or boots on

–          Tap with your toe and heel, or alternate

–          March on the board in sock feet

–          Dance barefoot on the board and roll your toes, go back and forth.

A little experimentation with how you’re comfortable playing, paired with some experimentation with levels and distortion, is all it takes.

Again, stay tuned for my post about all of the stomp box effects and experimenting with levels and pedals.
I hope this works out well for you and you’re stomping away! If this seems too time-consuming for you and you’d like me to make one for you, drop me a line at hooksandladders@gmail.com and we can hook something up.

Happy Stomping!

S.M.

Here are some photos my friends took of my stomp-boxes-in-progress: (That weird bomb-like contraption is really one of my first stomp box attachments, which I’ll explain later.)

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~ by hooksandladders on May 29, 2009.

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