My name is Austin Sirkin, and I’m a member of Decatur Makers. Over the summer, I came and took a tour of the space, and found that while it needed some work, it had a lot of something that appealed to me: community. The space has come a long way since my first tour, and that’s due entirely to the dedication and devotion of the folks who work there.
As a recent bass (guitar and upright) player of intermediate skill, I’ve begun trying to build up my collection of effects pedals in order to round out my sound and capabilities. Since I’d been meaning to learn how to wire circuit boards for the longest time, I decided to try to assemble an effect pedal kit, as kits are markedly less expensive than new pedals. So I purchased all of the component parts for a bass distortion pedal, but I still had no idea how to actually make the darned thing.
At that moment, I realized that I could try to make use of the best resource that Decatur Makers had to offer: its people. I sent a message to the community googlegroup explaining my project and asking if anyone was interested in helping me, and much to my surprise, I immediately had several folks offering a tremendous amount of support and information. Most helpful was Bill Sandidge, who offered to host an impromptu soldering class. I had no idea how exhaustive it would be: Bill studied my circuit diagram in advance so as to be able to better explain how I should proceed.
During the class, Bill even gave me extra boards and parts to practice on, so that I didn’t need to go into my project without any experience. He explained each technique to me, gave me the general idea, and then backed off and let me go. And go I did! I soldered like a pro thanks to his instruction, blazing through an absolute ton of solder points on the board with a speed that was, frankly, amazing to me.
Still, time escaped me, and before I knew it, it was 10 pm, and then 11 pm, and then midnight. Everyone left to go home except for Charles Redwine, who stayed until the absolute end to give me advice, guidance, and company, even though we’d never met before that night. Once I’d put together my pedal and had finished soldering all the wires, resistors, capacitors, transistors, and battery, I brought in my guitar and amp to see if the thing actually worked.
With bated breath, I plugged in the cables and turned on the amp. There was nothing. We pressed the button a few times, but while the true bypass function was working and my guitar signal was getting to the amp, there was no distortion at all. Suddenly, Charles realized that the switch was “single throw”, which meant that it needed to be held down in order to function. Suddenly, fuzzy, overdriven bass notes filled the air and I knew that I’d successfully made a functioning electronic circuit from scratch. What a powerful, enabling feeling! I’d walked into the maker space that night with no idea of how to do it, but five hours later I left with something that I’d made with my own hands, something that I could use in the days or years to come. And more important than the pedal itself were the skills I’d learned, which I can use for the rest of my life.
I’m tremendously glad that I decided to become a member of Decatur Makers, and I can’t wait until the next project!