Rehousing a Danelectro Coolcat Vibe

Why bother doing this at all?

Bad knob positioning on the Coolcat Vibe

Bad knob positioning on the Coolcat Vibe. Who thought of that?

Take a look at the picture on the right; that’s the back end of the stock unit. While this device sounds great once you get it dialed in, it’s almost impossible to interact with it while you are playing. While I’ve never thought about it before, it seems that I like to see where my controls are when I’m playing. Perhaps it is akin to driving a car in that even though you might be just cruising along, you still want to be able to glance down and see what speed you are doing. So when you’re tinkering with the vibe’s controls you just can’t see anything because it’s all hidden.

Secondly, the big switch isn’t quite perfect. I’ve become accustomed to the basic switch that every custom builder knows and loves. This one doesn’t seem to switch effectively unless the force you apply is perfectly in line with the axis of travel of the switch.

Thirdly, it’s a really ugly box.

Preparations

I knew I would have to replace a few parts here and there. Here’s what I bought:

  • Potentiometers. I saw from this post that I needed 2 x B50k pots and 1 x C 50k pot. I found 16mm Alphas at Mammoth Electronics, who I had been wanting to try since a recommendation from Shawn over at DIY Effects.
  • DC power connector. The existing one is square and I don’t have an square drill bits.
  • 1/4″ jacks. The existing ones are probably crappy PCB mounted ones.
  • An enclosure. You can get a painted and drilled enclosure from Mammoth for $10. At that price why would I ever do this myself? When I tried it for my first ever pedal build it was messy, time-consuming and ultimately I was not pleased with the results.

Coolcat Vibe - in pieces ready for rehousing

Coolcat Vibe - in pieces ready for rehousing

Disassembly

This part was easy as I could use normal tools, so it only took five minutes. It’s a shame really; this enclosure is really well made, and would probably stand up to a considerable amount of abuse. If only they had located the knobs in a useful place (and it didn’t look like a clam).

The coolest part was finding a ‘real’ 3PDT switch underneath all that cast zinc. It fit the pre-drilled hole in the new enclosure and it seemed I would not have to bother removing the small PCB that it was soldered onto.

Still functioning, sans enclosure.

Still functioning, sans enclosure.

At all stages in disassembly/assemblyI wanted to make sure I didn’t break anything, so I made the effort to plugin and power up the device.

Mounting inside new enclosure

Mounting inside new enclosure

Assembly

The first task was to isolate the power supply jack, and the input/output jacks. You can see that the jacks are PCB mounted, and there are thin shield wires going between this PCB and the switch PCB. I chose to use those wires, and simply solder them to the appropriate replacement parts. At this point I was able to mount the switch and the new signal jacks into the new enclosure, and test once more. So far, so good; I haven’t broken it yet.

One by one the pots get replaced 'off board'

One by one the pots get replaced 'off board'

The next stage was to replace the pots. I had a feeling this was going to be painful, and I was not wrong. Over recent months I’ve replaced many a component in my amplifiers, and other pedals, but I’ve never dealt with PCB mounted potentiometers. What a terrible, terrible nightmare. I fully understand that they are designed this way so that untrained monkeys can assemble the boards, and then they slap some molten solder underneath and its done. After all, I did buy this device for $40 online,so you can imagine that its out-of-factory price is probably closer to $5. But it makes repairs very hard indeed. I managed to cook one leg of the first pot, which meant the PCB trace lifted from the board. Nothing that super-glue couldn’t fix though. My technique of removal was using a solder-sucker. It wasn’t very efficient as the suckers nozzle is quite larger compared to these component legs, and it was hard to keep the sucker ‘focussed’ on the leg AND hold the soldering iron in place. I was more careful with the other 2, so they went more smoothly. And when I say ‘more careful’, I mean I desoldered as much as I could with the sucker and some wick, and then mechanically pulled the pots off the board while trying to keep their solder molten. I know, I know.

The tabs that hold the LDR/Bulb enclosure in place.

The tabs that hold the LDR/Bulb enclosure in place.

Potentially the most treacherous part was rewiring the LED. To get to the soldered legs I had to take off the little metal box that enclosed up the light bulb and LDRs (light dependent resistors). Here’s a great article all about the inner workings of a classic Univibe.

The bulb and LDRs in action!

The bulb and LDRs in action!

You can see in the picture to the left, that there are three metal tabs surrounding the blue LED. All I had to do was gently bend those perpendicular to the board, and the box came right off revealing the bulb. Of course I couldn’t resist powering it up again, just to see the bulb working. In the picture you can see that there are two solder points above the bulb; these are for the LED indicator. Once again I had to carefully de-solder these, so as not to de-laminate the traces. I then attached wires, and connected a bright blue LED in its place.

Enclosure finished

Once I’d mounted the LED in it’s little bezel, I was basically done. I had to make sure I put the metal bulb enclosure back in place, of course, but all that was left was to tighten up any mounting nuts, and close up the box. Here’s a shot of the newly rehoused Coolcat Vibe next to my also-recently-rehoused DIY Effects OD (fantastic Tubescreamer clone).

The finished item...so far

The finished item...so far

An idea

I suddenly had an idea to make this rehouse a little more interesting. In other words, I looked at my vibe and the DIY Effects OD, which I had also rehoused (the green one, duh), and thought they looked somewhat plain. I’m basically proficient with publishing/layout-tools, so I thought I would try and create a decal for the top of the units. I took some basic measurements, and setup grids and guidelines, and just kind of went for it. Sadly I cannot find my decal paper (must buy some more), but I did do a basic printout onto photo paper. This is a work in progress, so updates to follow when I do finally buy some decal paper. The real one would not have the yellow background obviously. I can turn that layer off when I print so that it’ll be transparent, but you get the idea.

A mock-up of the decal

A mock-up of the decal

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30 thoughts on “Rehousing a Danelectro Coolcat Vibe

  1. SLW says:

    Well done! It looks great. I can’t wait to see the decal finished and on the box.

    SLW

  2. Ryan Snell says:

    Looks awesome! Do you have a better way, now that you’ve finished, to take the pots off the PCB? I’m looking to rehouse my Cool Cat Fuzz and that’s what’s currently scaring me away (along with desoldering the LED, but that should be pretty easy :P)

    deathgrape

  3. simonallaway says:

    Thanks Ryan! I have no magic formula for getting those off, and you have to bear in mind they weren’t designed to be removed. This isn’t like the lugs you get on say a guitar’s pots or inside an old amp.
    The mistake I made though, which led to the floating PCB trace, was too much heat. So the best technique involved patience, and don’t be scared to completely destroy the old pots in the process; you’re going to replace them, so who cares?
    Good luck!

  4. Cameron says:

    I’m about to undertake this same procedure. How did you end up mounting the circuit board in the Enclosure when you were done? Foam? Standoffs? Thanks!

    • simonallaway says:

      I just wrapped it in foam and held that in place with a cable tie. Nothing as luxurious as stand-offs although that’s what I did plan on doing. Originally I was going to go the whole hog and apply the decal to the enclosure etc, but that never happened. So the board is still floating in there with the foam waiting for me to do it properly ;)

  5. Ale says:

    Do you know which connections go where on the PCB?

  6. Ale, the only off-board connections I changed were the pots and the I/O jacks. As such, I simply replicated each connection one at a time. So I didn’t have to worry about anything as long as I replaced them as I went along.

    The board had no problem fitting into the enclosure. I did not have to modify it in any way, nor use an especially large enclosure.

  7. Hi, you talk about 2 x B50k pots and 1 x C 50k pot, what you mean with B and C???
    Linear and logaritmic?? Let me know please :D

  8. Arturo Dinatale says:

    Hi Simon, i just made a graphic layout of the rehousing.., you can download it at this link:

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/651/schemavibemod.jpg/

    Is too much work for you, if I ask you to link all the circuit paths in the layout, as I did for the 3 pots, and resend me the complete image???
    It willmake the rehousing work easier, for unskilled people too, and then we can upload the final layout for all the coolcat vibe users world :D

    Thank you in advance, and sorry for my english… I’m italian.
    Bye, Arturo

    • simonallaway says:

      Excellent work, Arturo. I’ll see if I can find the time to do that. I actually have mine disassembled right now to finish off the decal, so I’ll do my best to get that done soon. Thanks again.

      • Arturo Dinatale says:

        :)
        I’ve contacted you via FB too, let’s keep in touch :D

      • Hi Simon, any good news about the layout???
        Happy new year!!!

      • simonallaway says:

        Happy new year to you too!
        I’ll have a chance this evening to fill in the gaps on the layout :)

      • Arturo Dinatale says:

        Hi Simon, still waiting for the layout…. please please please :D

      • Damien says:

        I am in the process of rehousing my vibe, and I would really appreciate this layout, especially for the jacks. That would be awesome, thanks in advance ;-)
        Damien

      • simonallaway says:

        I still haven’t had the time to do the diagram, but I had an idea. The image I took of the partially populated new enclosure shows pretty much everything you need to know about where the signal wires for input and output go:

        You can see the new jacks in place in the new enclosure. As it’s upside down, the output jack is on the right of my picture. As I chose to use the stomp-switch, and switch PCB, from the original pedal, it’s very clear which one is which.

      • Thanks a lot for your answer !

        Just to be sure, as I see in the picture, the shield of the cable goes on the sleeve of the jack, and the white wire of the cable goes on the tip, right ? same for both jacks ?

        Both jack can be mono ? (it seems that you used a stereo jack sleeve/ring/tip for one of the jacks – the one on the right in the picture – )

        And a last question, for the new dc input, do you just solder the 2 power cables from the board ?
        Black goes to center pin, red goes to one of the 2 other lugs ?

        Again, thanks

        Damien

      • simonallaway says:

        Yes, the jacks wire up as you say. And I used a stereo jack for the input in the standard way, which means you use the ring as a switch for the black wire of the battery connector.

        For the DC power input, note this picture of the jacks and power connector from the original pedal:

        …you can see the wire and connector inbetween the input and output signal wires on the original board. I simply snipped off the white connector and soldered to the appropriate termianls on the DC connector.

      • Awesome ;-)
        As for the stereo jack, I think I’ll pass… a battery is not a good idea in a vibe type pedal, as it would drain it way too fast ;-)
        For the dc jack wiring, the brown goes in the center (negative center) ? I think the Dano Vibe has a center ground, right ? (I don’t have mine yet, it is on its way, so I can not check).

      • simonallaway says:

        Yes, ground is the center. The defacto standard Boss method, I suppose.

    • Damien says:

      I am in the process of rehousing my vibe, and I would really appreciate this layout, especially for the jacks. That would be awesome, thanks in advance ;-)
      Damien

      • simonallaway says:

        I still haven’t had the time to do the diagram, but I had an idea. The image I took of the partially populated new enclosure shows pretty much everything you need to know about where the signal wires for input and output go:

        You can see the new jacks in place in the new enclosure. As it’s upside down, the output jack is on the right of my picture. As I chose to use the stomp-switch, and switch PCB, from the original pedal, it’s very clear which one is which.

  9. Forrest says:

    …I’ve been looking for a good site like this with tips on rehousing Dano pedals….great work! Newbie question though – I would like to rehouse a Cool Cat TOD v.2. Reason for rehouse to move the knobs from the side to the top. So which enclosure? Is it predrilled? And do I have to actually change the pots or reuse the originals? Thanks!!

    • simonallaway says:

      Hi Forrest,
      Thank you for the kind words about my efforts here.
      The enclosure I chose for this was a 125B, bought from Mammoth in pre-drilled form…Here

      Naturally you can just buy a bare 125B and drill it yourself to have total control over where everything goes. But unless you have a drill-press it can be a lot of hard work. The 125B is about as small as you probably want to go. If you went for a larger enclosure, like the 1590BB, you’d have much more room. You might even consider a larger knob for the speed control so it’d be operable with your foot, like this

      The original pots get somewhat destroyed when you remove them; and you have to remove them to site them on the top face of the enclosure, which was the whole point, right? So I bought all-new pots, again from Mammoth.

      Good luck!

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