Micky's Big Blog

5F1 Fender Tweed Champ Build

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With so many other amp builds to choose from here on the forum, I decided to start my own. Not that I won't be following the other builds, it is just I don't have the funds to finish one of those yet. In all reality, I don't have the funds to finish this one! I am still lacking a few components and the transformers, but they will somehow come along soon. I just need to sell a bunch of other stuff first, and stop trading for things I don't need.

This Blog Thread will be heavy with photos, I will try to keep them small enough in size to prevent the site from bogging down. I will also shamelessly plug a few brands and builders, as I feel this is the perfect platform to say whatever I want, without taking away from anyone else. I am gonna start with the tweed cab I recently purchased.

On eBay, I saw an item posted that piqued my interest a bit - It was a tweed cab with a 10" baffle for a 5F1 (or other similar small chassis) build. Now as you may or may not know, a Fender Champ (5F1 circuit) comes with an 8" speaker originally (50's Champs & Champions had a 6" speaker). This cab on eBay interested me, as I have a couple 10" speakers kicking around that no one wants to purchase. (shipping them is ridiculously expensive) So I sent this guy an offer for the cab.

He never responded, so I investigated a bit more and sent him an email. John Mergili was his name, and he initially offered a finished tweed cab with hardware for $220. I replied and let him know I was interested in the unfinished version without hardware and we settled on the original eBay price of $130 (plus shipping from Spokane) with a 10" grille cloth covered baffle. Well the cab arrived yesterday, and I couldn't be more pleased. I cannot believe the attention to detail as far as the tweed covering is concerned! I will try to post some macro photos of his work in the following posts, as this work is incredible and I feel I MUST show it off.

Dry fitting everything together was very rewarding, as the speaker I have chosen JUST BARELY fits with the chassis in place. No holes drilled yet, the baffle is still not screwed into place either. I will be taking some time to lacquer this cab (not poly) as I feel this may someday be cool enough to pass down a generation or two, and the age that would show with nitro will be much more pleasing than with poly. I can tell right from the start that this is gonna be an awesome build, probably looking a lot better than it might sound...

Before I start shooting and posting a lot of photos, I will just start with a tiny bit of background about the Fender Champ. Back in the '60's, (I think it was 1965 or so) my dad worked on TV's as a side job. He taught me how to solder, and to also respect the voltages present in tube circuits as well as flyback transformers. He got this little Champ (blackface version) in trade for something, just in time for me to get my first electric guitar. It was an S&H green stamp guitar (comparable to a Squire only cheaper) and I was now a rock star (in my mind). Not necessarily a bedroom amp, as this thing could get very loud very quickly, but that is where I started learning to play.

I quickly graduated to larger amps, I can remember a SilverTone that really cranked, as well as a Bogen PA amp I modified for a guitar input. I distinctly remember swapping some resistors in one channel so it had a clean as well as a dirty channel, but I still longed for the original Champ I had years earlier. I especially wanted it back when I learned Joe Walsh used one, and recorded several songs in the studio with one. Come to find out, many guitarists have used one to record some great songs such as Rocky Mountain Way and Funk #49, Clapton used one almost exclusively with Derek & The Dominoes, Greg Allman used one, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford use one on Honkin' W/Bobo, Billy Gibbons, Robert Cray and the list goes on and on. I now realize what an IDIOT I was to trade it away...

Anyway, time to go shoot some photos, as there is much more to this build than just the cab!
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  1. Micky's Avatar
    As promised here are some photos of what I have collected so far:
    (sorry they are sideways, I haven't figured this crap out yet...)

    As you can see, this cab came out great. I have done tolex before, and quickly realized that I really don't have the time or expertise to do this sort of thing well. I would much rather pay someone to do this kind of work, and John Mergili does it VERY well. The attention to detail is outstanding, as soon as I can get some more photos resized, I will put them up as well.

    All of these photos are before any lacquer is applied, and after receiving this tweed cab, I really hate putting anything on it! I know the cotton tweed will be destroyed though, I think I can see oily fingerprints on it already from handling it so much. Anyway, back to photo editing, much more to do!
  2. Micky's Avatar
    Here are some additional photos of the cab:

    I really can't express how nicely John built this cab. You can email him and I will bet he can build a custom cab for just about anything!
    His email address is: mergili@gmail.com andhe is located in Spokane, WA.
  3. Micky's Avatar
    So I have a couple of 10" speakers kicking around, no one wants them so I figure I can put them to good use. One is a Celestion that came in my DSL5c, and the other one I purchased from Warehouse Guitar Speakers (WGS) for a crazy low price when Musicians Friend had them on sale (thanks Marty for letting me know!) Here is a photo:


    Now I know a bunch of you will think I am crazy (maybe so...) and ask why the hell are you using a 75W speaker in a 5W build?
    The answer is really pretty easy, it is because this speaker sounds GREAT! Now I KNOW I should have gone with the Celestion here, it weighs 1/3 as much and will really help keep the weight down, especially after I get some bigass ClassicTone transformers in there. I can't say enough about this speaker, it has enough thump to keep anyone happy as well as the ability to tame some of the high end I know will be present in a single-ended build. This thing has a MASSIVE magnet, and at first I was really worried that it wouldn't fit into the cab and that I would HAVE to go with the Celestion. Such is NOT the case, the speaker fits great, the transformers will clear, and there is about 1/8" clearance between the chassis and the magnet. Perfect fit if you ask me... Here are some more photos:



    (again sorry for the sideways post, there are no real editing tools here)

    As you can see, it will be a tight fit, but it is completely workable.

    There are still a large number of parts and components left to obtain, RiverRatt sent along quite a few badly needed pieces, and I will detail those later in a separate comment. A couple of real gems in that package, I can't wait to show them off.
  4. Micky's Avatar
    So the Champ chassis's are all around on eBay, so I figured I could get one cheap over there.

    I was right, but as in my typical fashion, I didn't read the fine print accompanying the item.

    I saw the 5F1 chassis, and a 'Make Offer' button. He had like $45 on the chassis in the Buy It Now, so I offered $20 and sent the offer.
    He came back fairly quickly, (next day I think) and accepted the offer. So I bought it.

    Lo and behold, it arrives a few days later, and I am looking at it, and it has 3 X 9-pin tube socket holes in it.
    I guess I need to read these things before I click the 'buy' button. Sometimes I am just an idiot.

    Anyway, I need 1 X 9-pin chassis socket hole, and 2 X 8-pin (larger) chassis holes.
    Shit I don't even have a step drill that large (1 & 1/4" I believe...).
    (have a step drill on order thanks to eBay...)
    But what I DO have is an industrial Greenlee Conduit Punch set, and one of the punches appears to be the correct size.

    Since RiverRatt was kind enough to share some amp parts, I now have a couple new ceramic octal tube sockets that look like they will chassis-mount just fine in that size hole.
    This is the kind of thing that makes this type of build so damned nice.
    Maybe someone can send me some 2W resistors?

    Anyway, here is a photo or two of the chassis, it has one hole punched out for the PT, looks like the ClassicTone 40-18019 is gonna lay down in there really nice.

    You can see the 3 tube socket holes in the bottom photo, I will be punching them out a little larger possibly later this week.
    Spent some time putting lacquer on the cab tonite, and I need to start doing that shit outside.
    Fumes nearly knocked me out...
  5. DirtySteve's Avatar
    Just saw this...wow! Awesome, Man!!!!
  6. coyotesgator's Avatar
    Fantastic cab!
  7. Micky's Avatar
    Well I got some parts in today, and started assembling the turretboard. Mind you, this is not nearly as complicated or involved as a Dirty Deluxe, so keep that in mind as you monitor this build.
    Here is a photo of the board so far:

    I only had 1/4 watt 68K resistors for the input, and I think that ought to be OK. The others are mostly 2 or 3 watt flameproof, and if I can, I will get matching resistors for the rest.
    Missing is the 470-ohm 5W resistor, Alan sent me one (I think it was 470) but I can't find it...
    Please let me know if you spot anything out of place so far, nothing is soldered yet and the jumpers and connecting wires are not installed yet.

    I got the cab pretty much finished, I got the thing lacquered (boy I need to do that outside from now on...) and the back panels drilled and screwed into place.
    The Fender logo got nailed to the front, and a nice comfortable Fender handle screwed to the top with t-nuts underneath.
    Note in the photo, the volume goes to 12. That's 2 more...

    You can see the WGS speaker installed, there is just barely enough room for the speaker and the chassis...
    The inside of the back panels have metal shielding tape installed also.

    This thing is starting to look really nice, and as soon as I can afford transformers, it will start to SOUND really nice too!

  8. coyotesgator's Avatar
    Looks great!

    Are you going Classictone 40-18019/30?
  9. Micky's Avatar
    Probably 40-18019/31 as the OT is larger and will provide more clean headroom.
    Just hope I got room in the cab...
  10. Micky's Avatar
    So I got home from work a little early today, had a real nice dinner and had time to work on the Champ chassis for a bit.
    As I have mentioned, I got a chassis, but it has 3 9-pin holes punched, and I need 1 9-pin and 2 8-pin. So this means I need to either drill or punch out a larger diameter hole in 2 of the spots.
    Luckily I have a Greenlee Conduit punch set, and one of the punches is almost the right size, slightly oversized for an octal tube socket.
    Plenty of leeway left for mounting holes, here is a photo of how I started.

    You can see the first hole punched already, getting ready to punch the second (6V6) hole:

    The punch mounts into the existing hole, if you don't have a hole already it takes a 5/8" diameter starter hole:
    It is a pretty heavy-duty punch you can easily punch 1/8 or 10 ga. steel...

    Here you can see the sockets mounted, Alan was kind enough to supply me with some genuine ceramic octal sockets:

    Here it is with the tubes installed, a Sylvania 5Y3, a Hammond 6V6, and a GE 12AX7.

    Here is how it looks in the combo cab, clears the speaker and the tubes sit below the back panel:

    Still waiting on a couple smaller components and the transformers. Should be here by the weekend...
  11. coyotesgator's Avatar
    How much clearance is there between the magnet and the tubes?

    Looks great!

    I'm really looking forward to your impressions of the G10CS.
  12. Micky's Avatar
    About an inch or so clearance for the tubes.
    Only about 1/4" for the chassis.
    I didn't realize how small the chassis really is until tonite.
    Probably get even smaller when I start wiring it...
  13. coyotesgator's Avatar
    Well, we're waiting!

    While we are young, damnit!
  14. Micky's Avatar
    Time for an update...

    A week in the hospital kinda made me lose a little time for this project, but now that I am feeling better, I have made a little progress.
    I think I finally have all the parts I need for this one, the little odds 'n ends can get kinda expensive if you get the parts new. Thanks to Alan and some others I have a lot of what I need, but still needed to get things like transformers and such. Apparently I used up all the capacitors I had set aside for this build and finally got around to ordering exactly what I need.

    Tomorrow I will try to get some decent photos of the transformers, I now have them mounted and took some time today and got them wired up and working. Either I know what I am doing, or I got pretty lucky, I wired everything up and it worked right from the start. The Power Transformer (PT) is a ClassicTone 40-18019, designated Champ Power Transformer. It is a 650v/5v/6.3v designed to be used with a 5Y3GT or 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier tube. With a 5Y3GT the B+ is supposed to be 383VDC (@70ma) and I measured 340 with the rectifier tube Alan sent me, I am not sure exactly what it is...

    Anyway, as I eluded to previously, it is amazing how Fender fit all this stuff into a chassis as small as this one is. I am finding it incredibly difficult to manage to connect all these tiny wires to where they need to go. I still don't have the turretboard mounted, and I imagine that will be a nightmare when I actually get around to it. But this thing is incredibly solid, very heavy for it's size and built like a tank. I would imagine once finished it will be close to indestructible. Definitely one of the hand-built things you would wanna pass down to your grandchildren, as I believe they would end up passing it down as well. Photos tomorrow when there is more light...
  15. coyotesgator's Avatar
    Good you're back at it.
  16. Micky's Avatar
    Here are a couple photos I promised, the transformers are mounted, and the PT is wired up and working:

    Please ignore the little transformer on the right side, it is a reverb driver (40-18034) I might be using in the Dirty Deluxe. I mounted it for comparison, it is the same size as the OEM Output Transformer (OT) that Fender used back in '57. The OT I am using is a ClassicTone 40-18031 15W single-ended transformer, more commonly found in larger amps. It has 4, 8 & 16-ohm outputs, which works well for me as I have a 10" WGS smooth-cone 16-ohm speaker already installed. I will just not connect the 4 & 8 ohm taps.

    I might work on mounting the turretboard tonight, but today is my first day back at work and I am exhausted.
  17. RiverRat's Avatar
    I never think to read these blogs. Glad you were able to use the stuff I sent. I don't know why the voltage coming off the rectifier is so low, but you should still be close enough. You may need to tweak the value of the dropping resistors to get the 12AX7 voltages where they need to be but the 6V6 should be fine. Hope to see an update soon, the amp looks really nice.
  18. coyotesgator's Avatar
    Any progress?
  19. Micky's Avatar
    Time to fess up...

    The amp is almost done, but there was a slight detour along the way.
    After mounting the board, and insuring everything was soldered, I fired up the amp.
    Kind of a strange humming, but it didn't look too bad, and the humming was inline as I turned up the volume.
    My wife called me from the other room, and I got up and went to see what she wanted.

    I came back just a few moments later, and I could not believe all the smoke coming out of this tiny amplifier.
    Apparently I had something terribly wrong, and now I had let all the smoke out.
    The smoke filled the house and started setting off smoke alarms. I turned off the amp...

    After opening all the windows in the middle of a cold winter night, the smoke finally cleared.
    I looked inside the amp, and something had gotten very hot, and had dripped out onto the base of the combo.
    Why hadn't the fuse blown?

    Then I found out why... The fuse below is still good.

    It is an MDX 5A, slo-blo 5 amp. Why had I installed a 5-amp fuse in a 2-amp holder?
    Apparently I am dyslexic or something, as I didn't even think to re-check it before turning it on.
    I had been working on it on the dining room table, where all my test equipment is downstairs.
    (this incident has inspired me to modify/install my variac in a new enclosure...)

    I was so disgusted with myself I threw the amp downstairs behind a pile of other stuff I had screwed up.
    I tried and tried to forget about it, and thought I had succeeded...
    That is, until I started to clean out the junkpile downstairs.

    I was looking for items to sell at a flea market, and looked long and hard at the amp.
    I have already invested over $450 into it, and thought about what it might be worth as scrap.
    Parting it out might recover about half of it, but I knew I would take a hellova loss if I did.

    I was kinda sure I had let all the smoke out of the transformers, which was really sad.
    These were nice ClassicTone transformers, plus I was sure some of the caps were gone as well.
    I thought about trying to diagnose things, but each time I picked up the amp I got more disgusted with myself.

    In steps @RiverRat to the rescue. I had something he wanted, so we worked out a trade.
    He agreed to diagnose the amp, and I agreed to send what he wanted.

    So finally he confirmed what I feared the most, that the transformers were shot.
    About $100 later, he has new transformers and should be installing them soon.
    Maybe if he reads this it might inspire him to chime in about his experience with this little amp.

    Hopefully he can ship it back soon, and I can provide some final photos of this beautiful little thing.

    Then come the modifications...
  20. RiverRat's Avatar
    The amp is up and running and sounds GREAT! Since it has iron that’s rated for up to 15 watts, I’ve been playing around with different tubes. I have a GE 6L6GB that sounds big and round. I’m probably going to send it with the amp.

    I checked the power tube socket and noticed that it didn’t have anything soldered to pin 1. I put a jumper wire between pin 1 and the cathode at pin 8, so now this puppy can run EL34’s and the old metal can 6V6 and 6L6 tubes without the danger of touching the can and getting a nasty shock. Cool!

    I love the 5F1/5F2A circuit. It’s simple and sounds huge for what it is. I hope the owner is happy with it. I would be.

    New transformers:

    With an EL34:
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