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  • Writer's pictureDavid

Boards, boards, boards

Updated: May 17, 2022

When building a circuit, there are several ways to connect all the components. Let’s take a look at the options.

  • Wrapping the components together

Most of the components used in building pedal circuits have wire legs that can be wrapped around the legs of other components. This is probably the easiest way to make a circuit. A complete circuit could be made simply by twisting components together to make a physical representation of a schematic, with no soldering needed. The downsides to this are pretty obvious – a connection made by twisting parts together doesn’t make a very secure connection, plus the circuit will be fragile and probably won’t stand up to being moved. It also takes up a lot more space than other methods and can get quite complicated depending on the circuit. For this reason, this method is hardly ever used.

  • Prototype Board

A prototype board has a series of holes that allows wires and components to be held in place and connected to other components easily. This is an easy way to quickly build a circuit idea and allows for components to be changed out pretty easily. For this reason, and as the name suggests, it’s used quite a lot to test out circuits. One of the strengths of this method is the ease at being able to see the component connections. Which makes troubleshooting a lot easier. It’s not a practical long-term solution, though – prototype boards are expensive, bulky, and don’t travel very well, so usually a circuit built on a prototype board gets transferred to another type of board.

  • Perfboard

This board has a series of holes that are spaced to hold components in place. There are soldering pads on one side that allows components to be soldered in place. The soldering pads are not connected to other pads, so connections to other components need to be made by using wires soldered to the solder side of the board. This method is great for smaller circuits that don’t require too many connections. It’s a solid way of building circuits that can be mounted into enclosures. Because the components are soldered to the board, the circuit can put up with being moved. This method is used quite a bit for building circuits, but is a slightly more advanced technique than other methods. Perfboards are cheap and can be cut down as needed, so many circuits can be made on one board, depending on the size of board.

  • Stripboard (Veroboard)

Stripboard is also known as Veroboard, although Veroboard is a brand name. Stripboard is similar to perfboard except that the soldering side holes are connected by strips of copper. This allows components to be connected by simply soldering them to the same strip. Components that are on the same strip can be separated by making a cut in the copper strip. Stripboard is used a lot in the building of circuits – it’s inexpensive, rugged, and allows for tight layouts. There are several online sites dedicated to stripboard layouts that can be used to build circuits very cheaply. This is a great way to get into building circuits that is a step above the all-in-one DIY kit.

  • Tagboard

Tagboards use turrets that the legs of components can be wrapped around and soldered to. This is one of the first methods used in circuit building. It’s still widely used for guitar amplifiers and can be used for circuits with small component counts. A lot of fuzz circuits that are trying to stay true to the aesthetic of the original fuzz circuits will use tagboards. The component count needs to be low for a tagboard circuit to fit in a regular pedal enclosure, but it’s an easy and rugged solution.

  • Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

The Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is probably the most recognizable board. PCBs are used in most mass-produced devices. They allow for the smallest footprint and can be extremely rugged. Similar to other boards, components are connected through copper strips. Unlike other methods, however, the strips can be on one or both sides of the board and can be designed to use the smallest amount of space possible. The holes for components are only cut where components need to be installed and can be spaced perfectly for each individual component. This can make it very easy to build a circuit as most of the connections are made once the components are in place. It speed up the process of making several of the same circuits. Most DIY kits will be made on PCBs. Depending on the size of PCB needed, PCBs can actually be one of the most inexpensive options when a number of boards are needed. One obvious downside is that PCBs are limited to the circuit that’s printed on the board. Probably the most advanced method of circuit boards, designing and ordering PCBs has become much easier thanks to excellent designing software and websites that manufacture small orders.

  • Cardboard

Another board that can be used to hold components in place is cardboard! Cardboard is non-conductive and components can simply be pushed through the cardboard to be held in place and soldered on one side. This isn’t the most rugged setup, but can be used in place of prototype boards for trying out circuits. For smaller circuits, it’s still a viable method for circuits that can fit into a pedal enclosure.

  • Manhattan Style

Manhattan style is similar to the first method discussed where components can be laid out to follow the schematic. Basically, a copper base (in most cases) is used as a ground plate and components are soldered to each other vertically, resulting in a circuit that resembles a skyscraper, hence the name. This is more of an artistic take on circuit building, but it can be a pretty rugged solution. It takes up quite a bit of space, so isn’t practical for a lot of circuits that fit inside a pedal enclosure.

There’s a brief look at the various methods of building circuits. Which ones have you tried? What’s your favorite?

Let me know in the comments.

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