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. coyotesgator's Avatar
    Don't beat yourself up about it Micky. Sooner or later we all let the smoke out of something.

    Nice save Alan.
  2. Micky's Avatar
    Yeah, I have been beating myself up over it for a while now, but now that Alan has saved the day I think I will take some time and relax with a big grin on my face. It is not the first time I have let the smoke outta something, and I imagine it won't be the last. Remind me to post about the time we vaporized a pie tin with a Ham Radio amplifier...

    Now all I need to do is convince Alan to wire it for 16-ohms and send it along. I can see him now with a smile on his face cranking out old Aerosmith tunes...
  3. RiverRat's Avatar
    I with I could crank it. Living in an apartment, I have to be careful. I did crank the volume all the way for a minute and lightly brushed the strings on my SG. It’s a magical experience for sure. If I had the cab, I might not be in too big a hurry to send it home. I gotta build one of these. I have a 1x12 combo cab if I can find a chassis to fit it.
  4. Micky's Avatar
    So, apparently the Gibson GA-5 is just about the same circuit. I think they called it a Skylark, but anyway it came in several different configurations just like the Champ went thru.

    I am itching for one of these, but I fear it is so much like the Champ it won't be worth it. I love the simplicity of it, but this GA-5 is a SS rectified model, and I will bet it has a bit more clean headroom as well. I am pretty sure the GA-5 is the amp Marty McFly cranked in the beginning of Back To The Future...
  5. cornhusker86's Avatar

    I have one of reissue versions of the Gibson;

    I replaced the weber speaker w/ an eminence patriot 820H. Sounds great and now the bottom end stays together at full volume. Not a lot of choices for 8" speakers. I bought the damn thing more out of curiosity than anything else. After having it for a year now, I doubt I'll ever sell it.
  6. Micky's Avatar
    OMG! I love it!

    Like I mentioned, it is almost identical to the Champ 5F1 circuit, so I will bet that it sounds glorious! I have built-in a couple mods into mine already like the larger OT (15W) and @RiverRat has already tried several different finals in it. I am looking for a very specific tone from it, most notably Joe Walsh type of mid gain creaminess.

    Do you use this amp a lot? Is it your carry anywhere go-to amp? How does it fare with pedals?
    Sorry for all the questions, but I need an amp I can throw in the back of the truck easily and cart around, something that doesn't weigh too much but still cranks a bit. The GA-5 or 5T is a cool little package, but in my Champ I decided to get a custom-made 10" cab that I think might be a good compromise. I just hope with all the upgrades that it is not too heavy...
  7. cornhusker86's Avatar
    I play it often. Sounds great! A boost pedal is all I use with it. Too much dirt overwhelms the speaker. A 10" will give you more choices. The 5 watts is perfect for what I use the amp for.
  8. Micky's Avatar
    Time to finalize this entry in the blog!

    After an agonizing wait, Alan finally shipped the amp back to me. I will bet anything he was having a blast testing this thing out!
    He was kind enough to send along some extra tubes, and since this is a single-ended 8-pin design, just about anything left over will fit and work. I know I couldn't wait to try all the odds-and-ends I had laying around. Every goddam one of them sounds great in this little amp.

    What amazes me is how quiet this thing is. Just the slightest bit of hum, and you need to put your ear up to the speaker to hear it. Of course it is a different story with a guitar plugged in and the amp turned up all the way. OH- You should notice that this amp goes to 12. That is 2 more, int it?

    Having just received the amp a day early, I haven't had a chance to try different guitars yet. I also wanna plug in a pedal or two, but so far things are working great. Hard to believe it is only a 5-watt amp. So far I like the 6L6GC big bottle in it...
  9. cornhusker86's Avatar
    Glad you like it. Play the shit out of it!!!
  10. RiverRat's Avatar
    That was actually a 6L6GB I sent. You should get a little more break up with it - kinda like a 5881 but more big and round, if that makes any sense.
  11. Micky's Avatar
    Whatever it is it sounds fantastic! I didn't pay too much attention to it, all I really remember is that it was a nice big bottle 6L6, and I had already tried a couple others. I can't even remember what rectifier I had, all the printing seems to be worn off, whatever the combination is it sounds great. Thank you again, without your eagle eyes I would have never gotten this running again.

    I tried a new trick with it today, more about that later after I figure it all out...
  12. RiverRat's Avatar
    Thanks man, I appreciate it. The rectifier is a 5Y3. Glad you’re getting some good tones from it finally. You kinda got me in the mood to build something for myself. I have a chassis I can recycle. I already put in an order with Mouser for the resistors and signal caps.
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