DIY Stomp Box Completed, Aerial View
Click on the image above to hear the stomp and scroll down for a video.
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Acoustic Stomp Box
Here’s one way to make an inexpensive stomp box. In fact, if you have access to some trashed electronics and some scrap wood you can make one for almost nothing. I think both John Lee Hooker and John Hartford used stomp boxes. KT Tunstall stomps on a tambourine and uses lots of other neat pedal effects.
You’ll need an 8 ohm speaker with a paper cone, bigger is better. I used one with a 5-inch cone for the box pictured here. One piece of wood about a foot wide and about 18 inches long, a half to three quarters inch thick. Another small piece about 1 inch by 12 inches.
Some speaker wire and a soldering iron.
Four wood or metal screws: 2 short, 2 long.
An old piece of carpet, a nice fluffy rag, an old towel, or some fake fleece like shown here.
I assume you can deduce how to put one of these together by looking at the accompanying photos, so I won’t go into excruciating detail.
Solder the wire to your speaker like you normally would for one side of a stereo connection.
Put a plug of some sort on the other end. The plug should match the device you will plug the speaker into, most likely an amplifier.
Screw the small 1-inch high by 12-inches long board onto one end and underneath the 12 by 18 inch board, making a ramp (this thing should really be called a Stomp Ramp!). This board determines the steepness of the ramp and how comfortable your foot is while stomping or tapping, so experiment around for the feel you like.
Cover the ramp with the carpet, fluffy rag, fleece, etc. I had to use a staple gun for the fake fleece. I suppose that dreaded, but convenient, hot glue might also work. You can put more than one type of material on the ramp to make different sounds.
Turn the speaker cone facing down, place it on top of the material you chose and loosely screw it onto the wood piece toward the very top. Two screws are enough. I put some heat shrink tubing and some surgical tubing around the screws before I put them in to keep the speaker frame from causing a rattling sound. But you might like that sound. Try it both ways.
Putting the speaker on top of the material gives it a thumpier sound as opposed to a tap-tap-tap sound if you just put it on the bare wood.
Create some strain relief on the wire from the speaker if you anticipate rough use. As shown in the photo, I tied a knot in the wire and then put a horseshoe nail just in front of the knot, toward the plug end.
Plug the speaker into an amplifier and the output of the amp into a regular speaker. Or a big Marshall if you’re so inclined.
When you tap your foot you should here a thumping noise coming out of the speaker. Loudness will be determined by how hard you tap your foot and how high you turn your amp. To hear what this stomp box sounds like with a 10-inch speaker, a little 15 watt amp and just a white sock on, double click on the movie below. I didn't have to use a shielded wire for the speaker (to prevent hum and picking up talk radio stations!) but you might have to depending on your location.
You can change the tone of your box by changing the equalizer on your amp or mixer and by fooling with the thickness and type of material you use on the board. I used fleece for the tone quality and because it wouldn't show the dirt from my shoe as much as the old, white gym towel I first tried.
I’ve tried 2, 3, 5 and even a 10-inch speaker. The bigger speakers made for a stomp box with somewhat lower tones.
I sometimes put an old, upside down Rubbermaid plastic bowl over the top of the speaker and it seems to work like the air enclosure on a woofer, it produced more bass. Hey dude, don't step on my Tupperware!
Why does it Work?
When you tap on the board, the speaker acts like a microphone and generates a small current as the speaker’s cone coil moves through the magnetic field generated by the speaker’s permanent magnet. It's the same principle as a phonograph needle and cartridge. It’s a passive mechanism so it doesn’t need any batteries.
When I Googled “stomp box” what I got was lots of effects pedals. When I searched for “acoustic stomp box” I got a few for sale that ranged in price from $100 to $200. Some recommended putting a microphone in a box then into an equalizer, etc. But I didn’t find much information on a DIY stomp box that was to my liking so I winged it and made a few like this one. My apologies to any inventor if I’ve inadvertently ended up duplicating something that’s already out there. Also, it’s not purely acoustic since it depends on an amp to work. It should be called an Amplified Acoustic Stomp Box Ramp I guess. The same is true of the few commercially available "acoustic" boxes. Of course, you can also run the output of this box into an effects device. I fooled with that for a while and then gave up figuring I would be better off to practice some more rather than further amplifying my sketchy guitar playing and stomping.
After I posted the Stomp Box Video above I happened to listen to the sound on someone's Gateway PC Laptop. Awful! It was nearly impossible to hear any bass at all, which of course is necessary to judge whether you might like this DIY Stomp Box. If possible, check it out with decent speakers or headphones. It sounds MUCH better through my little M-Audio Studio Pro 4's or even with $4.99 Coby headphones.