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How much is too much DIY?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> 5U Format Modules Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next [all]
Author How much is too much DIY?
This is really a budget based question (in as much as I don't have much money to spend).

I have built some of Ray Wilson's sound makers, the WSG was my first project. I would have made his analog modules, but I've fallen for the YuSynth modules (not even sure why). I have no problems with soldering or anything like that and I am seriously temped to try and etch my own PCB's, but I guess the question is "Is it worth it"? As I said, budget is my main constraint so I figured that to save money (although £20 a board from soundtronics isn't exactly steep) I'd make my own. Or should I just stop being a cheapskate and save up for the kit?

I like the idea of REALLY building my own, but I would appreciate opinions on the ease of making PCB's. I've watched videos and read articles and reviews and the results seem to vary.

The other thing is that in my job I can make the module faceplates and print masks for etching PCB's for free.
Hello. I etch my own (photosensitive) pcbs and also design boards that are produced in professional pcb fabrication houses.

You can just order the pcbs you design to be manufactured for around 5usd per 10pcs from china if you can afford to wait. This way you get a professional result and you don't have to pay for any etching and exposing equipment.

The other way is of course etching them your own in an hour at your house. Bear in mind that the result will not be a plated through board and you 'll have to solder both sides where applicable.

Oh and there's no such thing as 'too much diy'. On second though there might be from a budget perspective but I guess most of us actually enjoy it. Plus you're learning something new.
Amazing idea about getting them from China. I hadn't thought of that at all. Would they just make any board you send them? (I'd be using the designs from the YuSynth page).
Yes any board but the price is for specific dimensions. You have to re-design them yourself in software though as you need gerber files (which you do not get for yustnth pages).
yeah, they only have PDF's. We use CNC routers and plotters in work. I'm pretty sure the software will save as gerber files too. I'll check on Monday. Now to start researching all the options (I've had a quick look and it seems quite daunting).

Thank you!
No, what you have in mind will not work. Here's a part of a great guide, you'll soon understand why it will not work. ng-gerbers
Amazing! What confused me was that we use gerber software. Well I'm off to do some homework and start planning an assault on my bank account. I'l keep you posted with my progress

Thanks a lot!
Well, people don't make their own capacitors these days, so I guess that's where the line is. Mr. Green (Yes, in the early days of radio, some people made their own capacitors. Making inductors is still a thing with the radio people today -- you can buy cores and bobbins.)
haha, that's a bit too diy!

At the moment, this project is like the dream sequences in horror films, where the person is running down a corridor and the door at the far end is getting further and further away.

I'm still at the research phase for now. Thankfully you've given me lots to think about

Does anyone have experience with the YuSynth PCB's? I downloaded the pdf of the VCO template earlier, and it's tiny (about 100mm x 70mm). I know the boards aren't huge, but just eyeballing it, it looks too small for the components. Are they to scale or something? (Apologies if this is a really stupid question)
The dimensions are correct. I have built the vco.
cornutt wrote:
Well, people don't make their own capacitors these days, so I guess that's where the line is. Mr. Green (Yes, in the early days of radio, some people made their own capacitors. Making inductors is still a thing with the radio people today -- you can buy cores and bobbins.)

I actually have 2 small rolls of dielectric lying around in case I ever need to make my own electrolytic capicitors hihi Admittedly, I haven't had to use any of it yet.

I've etched quite a few Yusynth PCBs, The pcbs are all pdf files and are all to scale. I just measured one of my yusynth VCO pcbs, and it was around 70mm x 100mm just as you mentioned, so no worries about scaling Yusynth pcbs. It's still good practice to check if the pcbs are to scale as some diy pages such as MFOS don't have the image files saved as pdf, and thus are not to scale.
I just printed out one of the vco pcbs cause I was curious; yes, it's 75x100mm. It looks kind of small but the components will fit fine.

If you get too far into this you're going to have to go find the Music Tech DIY forum (if you haven't already).
I've built most of the YuSynth modules using panels from and pcbs from Bridechamber and the rest was etched by some guy in Germany. In the end it won't be that much cheaper than actually buying directly from when you take every little bit needed into account.

Budget wise, my take its that it all depends on what you see is your mission. Do you want to make music or do you want to build ?

The most expensive parts are usually the panel, pcb and hardware components. So if you can make pcbs and panels to a next to nothing cost. You'll save a lot.

A good practice would be to take the bom for the ADSR and see what would it cost you to source all parts, from Mouser or your favourite supplier, then you can saccutally get a number on what you really need to spend in terms of money.
Rex Coil 7
I've used EXPRESSPCB (not PCB Express .. totally different company) .. I've had ~roughly~ 400+ circuit boards made for me by them.

They use a proprietary file type that is generated in their own program ... it is a LOT like using Front Panel Designer. The program has easy to learn usefulness and is easily picked up on by new users. I learned how to use it to design all of my own circuits, and I had never even seen a CAD program before in my life, let alone ever used one.


You do the same thing that you do with Front Panel Designer .... you download and install the design program, design your circuit boards, send them the file, and in THREE DAYS the package of circuit boards is in your mailbox. 3 days! They typically used USPS as a shipping company.

The program allows for solder-through vias and through-holes, you can designate your own through hole sizes as well. They offer every level of fabrication ... prototype boards (at phenomenal prices) .... solder mask, silk screening, the whole works.

The only itch in the works is that the program creates files in a proprietary format. If you create a PCB file with their program, you may have to PAY someone to convert it to a gerber file if you would ever need that.

But I don't think that's any different than Front Panel Express .... I am not totally certain about this, but I believe that FPE/FPD creates files in their own proprietary format as well. And I also don't believe the Earth stopped spinning because of that fact, either.

For instance, I was getting 1" x 5" PCBs done for $6.50 each, 10pcs quantity. 2" x 1" PCBs were less than $3.00 each 25pcs quantity.

However, those prices were for PCBs without silk screening (I don't need that done, I have a very useful method of stuffing boards that does not require legends on the boards).

The boards are nice and thick, not cheapo thin-assed minimal layer fiberglass.

Take a looky see.

seriously, i just don't get it
Making PCBs is too DIY for me. Especially considering that you have to drill all the holes and you are left figuring out how to populate a component side that is just blank. I've even built some modules on protoboard rather than have to fuss with all those chemicals and etching.

Panels, on the other hand are definitely worth it. FPE is so expensive and most pre-made DIY panels are pretty expensive too. So if you want to save money panels are the first place to do it.

The next best thing is to get your parts in bulk, particularly the most expensive ones. I got hundreds of surplus pre-ROHS Switchcraft 111 jacks for much less than half of the (at the time) going rate. I also got hundreds of knobs and pots from some group buys on here years ago.
Full kits are good instruction/manual will be DYI for me It's peanut butter jelly time!
I hope that synthcube or some one else will create some kits of MU modules.
Wow, I have a few days away and come back to all these answers! Thanks for all the recommendations for PCB companies. I've had a look at them and it blew my mind. I think I'll have a go at etching my own, only because I have absolutely no idea what the options on those sites mean! (Plus it means figuring out the software and then translating the existing YuSynth boards). I can make the front plates for free at work, so by looking at it, the biggest outlay per module will be pots, knobs and jacks. Once Christmas is out of the way and paid for, I'll be starting on this project properly.
Thanks again for all the advice, I'll probably be back on here soon enough with even more questions!
neandrewthal wrote:
Making PCBs is too DIY for me. Especially considering that you have to drill all the holes and you are left figuring out how to populate a component side that is just blank. I've even built some modules on protoboard rather than have to fuss with all those chemicals and etching.

I made (etched) my own PCB's for my 901a & 901b builds some while ago... and am also currently building a Moog 1125 S&H on strip board..!

Nice work! hopefully I'll have something like that to show off in the not too distant future!
I'm doing a lot of the DIY stuff, too...and I'm about a week from etching my own boards. Having said that, I'd really like to find some sources for a decent grade of solder mask (purple, anyone?) as well as compliant coatings.

For the time being, though, I have several projects on the go...two restorations, a theremin build (which is fun because there is a box instead of a panel), an extreme mod, and two pcb sets in the mail (a skookum anookum and a x0xb0x)

I like consoles razz
Haven't seen purple apart from on some of the Chinese pcb fab sites (where it comes as a pricey extra). I must say I like idea of a purple board! At the moment I'm living vicariously through the Look Mum No Computer and Molten Modular YouTube channels. I also fancy turning my hand to a single stringed "drone stick" which will feature a home made pickup, and I'd like to try and build an "Apprehension Engine" too. But there are only so many hours in the day, so we shall have to see.
Etching my own PCBs never worked for me. Lot of effort to get a non-working POS that I threw away.

MOTM Kits I had 80% success with. I think I needed to send a 300 oscillator to Paul for repair back when he supported that. MOTM kit documentation is amazing, five stars. I built a YuSynth noise + S&H module and it works. I would have bought the MOTM kit instead but I was out of space (this was 1u.)

But I have a lot of failures on top of that. I attempted a few Catsynth modules but they didn't work, went in the trash. I built some of the Gyraf designs: the 1176 works but is falling apart, my GSSL compressor is semi-working in a box in the garage. I built a guitar amp (Trinity 18W tube amp) that works 90%. Could never get one input to work despite swapping out everything in the circuit.

I don't think I'm particularly sloppy, I just don't have the patience for two weeks of troubleshooting. Some people enjoy that process. But I've gotten to the point of not doing DIY anymore. It's just not worth all the time and effort for me to get something that may or may not work. Just eat PB&J for a few more weeks and buy the finished module.

When I do DIY now it's to build something that doesn't exist, like a synth cabinet or freaky cable.
You can never have enough DIY!
It's a great feeling when you've done something all by yourself and it works.

I'm building on stripboards or on self etched pcbs. Labelling of the panels is done with laser printed and laminated paper.

The only thing on etching is to properly dispose the chemicals. They are poisonous and must not go to the sink.
I did find (on maplin I think), a neutraliser that you add to the chemicals that solidifies them and makes it safe so you can chuck it in the bin.
The copper salts in the etchant are hazardous waste. They must not go to the bin because that will go to the groundwater.
We have disposing possibilties at our local authorities. Maybe that exists in your town too.
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