Even though the patch cables will later be installed using Custom Boards Safety Clips, we can already prevent many little problems by attaching the cables to the effects correctly.
This is the single most important point for well-functioning patch cable connections. A well thought-out signal routing, and taking into account physical tensions within the cables, along with neat installation, will make sure no patch cable pops out of a pedal by accident. Because you’ve made all the patch cables yourself and tested them with a multimeter, your pedalboard will be extremely rugged and reliable.
Installing the power supply cables first will leave the heavier patch cables to push them down, keeping them in place on top of the pedalboard frame.
Short PSU cables are used for effects that are close to the power supply, and longer cables go to the pedals further away. Later on we will attach these neatly to the frame. For now they can be left hanging loose, as long as the PSU cables are routed along the frame’s bars. It’s no problem if the cables are a little too long.
Plug the patch cables into the pedals according to your tape markings. Leave the masking tape on for the moment. Later on we will attach the cables to clips on the underside of the frame, so that most of the cable itself stays out of view.
If some of your digital effects are connected with MIDI-cables, or you use an expression pedal with stereo cables, the required cables will be plugged in next. Their connectors – as well as the visible parts of their cables – will rest on top of the patch cables.
The cable snake comes last and is placed on top of all other cables. Connect the audio cable to the last effect, and plug the AC-power connector into the power supply.
Plug the other end into the amp’s input and AC outlet, respectively.
Make sure your amp and your board are connected to the same AC feed. Now you can look at your pedalboard springing to life. Note that some pedals’ default setting can be “off”, when they’re powered up.
At Custom Boards we always make a point of routing all patch cables in the straightest way, avoiding any sharp angles. The cabling should be neat and linear, and all corners taken in round curves.
The way we dress our patch cables owes a lot to the way boutique-class point-to-point guitar amps are built – all routing is neat, involving well thought through strain relief.
When you think of it, a pedalboard isn’t that much different from an amp, which means that the cabling should be just as good. Here are some of the similarities:
Taking our amp/pedalboard-analogy a bit further we could think about how long it would take before an amp’s signal would deteriorate, or even drop out, if all connections inside an amp head were made using phone plugs and jacks, instead of solder.
As their name suggests, phone plugs were originally developed for operator switchboards – easy to plug in and out for fast telephone connections. The more you think about it, you will realize how important it is to make all patch cable connections as “solid” as possible.
The most common causes of pedalboard malfunctions are loose cables, so no patch cable should pop out, even if you throw your board against the wall.
Theoretically you could go and hardwire your board by soldering all patch cables to the effects’ inputs, or even straight to each effect’s circuit board. With a lot of care – and with effect pedals that never break – you could achieve very good results.
But as we all know, most musicians will want to try different pedals somewhere down the line, which makes hardwiring extremely impractical.
However, we can take a lot of inspiration from this idea. We should aim for maximum reliability in our patch cable connections, by making sure our plugs will stay safely in place under any circumstances. Well-dressed patch cables both look great and provide ultimate reliability.
Safety Clips make sure your cables will stay plugged in. They prevent many problems and keep your pedalboard reliable. The clips will also keep the cables in their predetermined places, so they won’t wander off towards the PSU or beneath your wah-wah.
We offer three different Safety Clip types:
– Custom Boards 26 mm Safety Clips are used for routing groups of cables along the underside of the board’s frame. To make this larger clip fit perfectly to the underside of Pedaltrain frames, you should cut off the part of the plastic foot behind the back of the clip with a wire cutter or a pair of solid, quality scissors.
Leaving the bit in place will push part of the adhesive pad over the frame’s edge, which doesn’t look nice, and also leaves the clip hanging less securely and prone to gather dust etc.
– Custom Boards 19 mm Safety Clips are best for installing single patch or a couple of power supply cables.
– The Custom Boards Safety Anchor together with included cable ties are great for bundling power supply cables. Using the other clip sizes can easily leave the cables either too loose or rather squeezed.
The power connections are usually more permanently installed than patch cables. There’s quite a lot of them near the PSU, and they are only seldom replaced.
Our Safety Anchors are also handy at busy crossings with a larger number of cables. Setups using an effect looper also often need Safety Anchors.
Installations using Safety Anchors and cable ties are more permanent than using the clips, which is why we don’t recommend this method for patch cables, even though this is quite common around the world. Should a pedal become defective, you will want to unplug and reroute the patch cable as quickly as possible. A Safety Clip allows you to do just that, while the Safety Anchors are a better choice for permanently installing larger groups of cables.
All our clips will only stick to smooth and clean surfaces. Using our clips is the main reason why we at Custom Boards don’t recommend Velcro-covered pedalboard frames.
True, you could attach a piece of Velcro to each clip, but Velcro won’t be as strong as the adhesive on a smooth surface, negating most of the clip’s advantages. If a clip is under constant stress or torque in a certain spot on the board, you can use super glue to install the clip. We’d also suggest using super glue for attaching the clip that holds the cable loom’s cables in place.
The routing and dressing of a board’s patch cables is the most demanding, interesting, and also the most rewarding phase in the building process. You’re aiming for a clean and neat look, combined with the highest possible reliability.
We have to take into account all the possible problem sources we’ve detected during our first batch of tests. Don’t install patch cables where they will pick up hum or buzz.
You have to consider the natural push and pull on each cable during installation, and especially when attaching them to the board using the clips.
Routing and dressing patch cables is extremely tedious and pedantic work, but there’s a positive therapeutic aspect, too. This phase will bring out your personal touch, and the result will please the eye. The best patch cable routings are like little works of art – full of personality and beauty.
Try to achieve a positive flow during this phase. Put on some calming music, and try to enjoy placing the cables. This isn’t only electronics, this is a spiritual happening – you’re on a quest for the ultimate in pedalboard feng shui!
It’s usually best to start at the busiest point of the board, and then continuing outwards. You can add additional clips where they’re needed. Again, take care of the big picture first, and then continue by attaching single cables.
If you are using two power supply outputs for a single pedal, secure the splitter´s connection with electrician’s tape. In the best case both PSU connectors are straight plugs, and the angled plug goes to the pedal. Add two 26 mm Safety Clips side-by-side to secure the connection.
You can bundle spare power supply cables into dense bundles, and attach them to the frame using two Safety Anchors and cable ties. Don’t tighten the cable ties too much, or you might damage the cables’ insulations. Make sure that there’s enough slack in the signal and power cables near each pedal.
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