What lies beneath…

A circuit’s just a circuit right?

Well, yes and no.

There’s a lot of truth in that, but it can be misleading. In the 50’s and 60’s when Fender, et. al. started cranking out tube amps to accompany those new-fangled electric guitars the work they were doing was largely experimental. And by that I don’t mean to suggest that they were high level theoretical engineers, but rather that there was a lot of trial and error going on. 

Since I already mentioned it, by the time you get to the venerable 5F1 Tweed Champ in 1957, Leo and company had already been through several revisions of the circuit, and were really just trying to get a product to market at a reasonable cost. They tinkered with size, and enclosures, and parts, and in fact they released and scrubbed several interesting designs all within a decade – The Champion 800, the Champion 600, the 5B1, the 5C1 (a personal favorite of mine), and the 5E1.

Part of the equation was the circuit revision. Part of it was the speaker size. But all of that gets wrapped up and stuffed into an under-appreciated box of wood.

And that’s where my focus has been lately. I’ve been interested in what that box does to the sound.

And while we’re here in Tweedsville, there’s no better place to start than the Champ.


Measuring in at a mere 12″ x 13.5″ x 7.5″ this mighty little critter may seem unassuming, but don’t let that fool you, she has all the right measurements.

Well, almost.

While there’s nothing wrong with 12×13.5×7.5, there’s nothing wrong with adding an inch all around either if it means you can cram a 10″ speaker in there, which is what you see above.

Dimensions aside, what I posted this for is to talk about cabinet making and show those beautiful half-blind dovetails that you’re not going to see when it gets covered up in tolex. Form is important, but above that I believe that amps should function well, and a strong, well made cabinet is part of that equation. Up to now I’ve been constructing my cabinets, regardless of material, with finger joints. Finger joints are as strong as anything out there, and reliable, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but I’m making the move to dovetails. 

But why? You don’t even see them?

Well, my primary reason is that with some new tooling added to my shop, these joints allow me to work quicker and with more precision. They may look more complicated, but I can build a cab in half the time. They also make for a tighter physical joint which may or may not be audible in the resonance of the cab, but I believe will allow me to build a better, more musical product in the long run.

I also want to talk about wood choice. The 5F1 would not be the mythical beast that it is today if it were build out of hickory (fine wood that it is). The pine lets it breathe. It allows it to fill out some of the bass frequencies that might be lost in such a small form factor and it becomes part of the overall sonic signature.

There is no wrong wood as long as it’s structurally capable. There may be better or worse woods for what you’re looking for. Baltic birch makes a sturdy, mid-focused 2×12.” Pine makes a scrappy Tweed Deluxe.I have, (and will again) built a champ out of cherry. It is fantastic and the hard cherry helps give the amp a more focused mid-range bite. 

Lots of ways to slay the dragon, and lots of fun in the process.



4 thoughts on “What lies beneath…

    • I do, in fact. I don’t have a set product line or anything, but I do sell what I build. I’ve built and sold several tweed Princeton style amps, a couple of champs, some off-beat Silvertone designs and whatever else strikes my fancy.

      This blue 5C1 champ is for sale right now if you’re interested.

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