Lasercut mini (monster) guitar amplifier from new blogger, Rich Decibels

Rich Decibels introduces himself by giving away a monstrous little laser-cut amp.
Rich Decibels' Miniamp

Hi, I’m Rich, the latest addition to the Ponoko blog team. And I’m going to be writing weekly articles about how digital fabrication is being used by electronics hobbyists.

I got started with DIY electronics about 5 years ago when I wanted a Smokey amplifier but couldn’t find a local stockist. The Smokey is a little battery-powered practice guitar amplifier that is built into a cigarette pack. It’s tiny and lo-fi but the distorted tone is actually quite awesome if you happen to play blues or rock ‘n’ roll.

I did a little research online and found that the Smokey amp was built around a common “LM386” chip. With only 5 components, the circuit is super simple to put together; the hard bit was coming up with a suitable enclosure.

Over the years I’ve come to find that this problem is common to many electronics projects: wiring the circuitry is easy but finding or building a good enclosure is expensive and time-consuming.

In this instance I settled on a Chelsea Golden Syrup tin. While this functions well and the kitschy aesthetic works, it was a lucky find – the inside diameter of the lid just happened to match the speaker I had on hand.Rich Decibels Golden Syrup Amp

To introduce myself to the Ponoko community I thought I’d try to design a laser cut enclosure for a more repeatable solution.

Having no experience with laser cutting it took a bit of head-scratching to get my first design together; this instructable from (very cool open-source hardware company) oomlout was a huge help.

I used Google Sketchup to visualise the finished product in 3D and Inkscape to draw the cutting template.

The design is pretty straightforward, the only trick was accounting for the laser’s cutting width (kerf) in the tab-in-slot joints. I took a stab in the dark and made my tabs 10.2mm and slots 10.0mm. These joints proved sufficiently snug, though further testing showed I could go up as far as 10.5mm to get them really tight.

Three days after submitting my design files I had the thing in my hands. Considering it’s the first time I’ve fired up my Personal Factory I’m pretty pleased with the results – suddenly it feels like I’m living in the future!Rich Decibels Miniamp v1

Once I was happy with the mechanical design of the enclosure I enlisted illustrator/designer/superbabe Kelly Spencer to add some pretty to the box for round two.Rich Decibels Miniamp v2

Here’s a really quick demo to show you what it sounds like.

The product plans for the first version are available for free in the Rich Decibels Personal Factory showroom and complete build instructions for the circuit are up on my website so you can go and make your own.

Once Kelly and I have tweaked a couple of technical details on the second version it will be up for sale in the showroom too.

Giveaway: because I’m new here and I’m desperate for everyone to like me I’m giving away one of these amps! This happy loud-face yelling amp guy needs a name – leave a comment with your suggestion and I’ll choose a winner a week from today. One entry per person please.

Update: thanks everyone, the competition is now closed. Congratulations to Sebastian, he scraped in at the last minute! I’d like to welcome Howlin’ Gaptooth to the world!

38 Responses to “Lasercut mini (monster) guitar amplifier from new blogger, Rich Decibels”

  1. Richard F Says:

    Given he likes to shout, and is wearing a tennis sweatband, how about calling him the (John) McEnroe Amp?

  2. Rich Decibels » Blog Archive » Miniamp Says:

    […] introduced my version of the common LM386 guitar amp today over at the Ponoko blog. Here’s some more details for those interested in duplicating my […]

  3. DMcC Says:

    Great to have you aboard Rich. I propose you call him Forby Tree, in honour of mouth’s remaining teeth, and the wooden (?) materials he is based on.

  4. Arvin Says:


  5. Madam Says:

    Nice work Rich and Kel, i would like to knight him Sir Handy Ampy.

  6. JP H Says:

    Arghh Boy.

    Arghh Boy.

  7. Tyler Says:


  8. Chris Says:


  9. ohjennymae Says:

    mackie von snargaluff has a nice ring

  10. DaveK Says:

    His name is Steve, and he’s pretty amped about the
    Pink Floyd Experience concert in Wellington this weekend!

  11. Holly Boismaison Says:

    Chip Screamer?

  12. Sascha Says:


  13. Kartik .C. Jangam Says:

    I think “Hello thaar!” sounds like an appropriate name or better yet “Inappropriate Amp” is good too. Lol…

  14. Dylan Says:

    deathweasel the loudenator

  15. Aaron Says:


  16. Forest Says:

    I dub thee “Billy Belcher”!

  17. Joe Says:

    Screamin’ Stanley

  18. Kevin Says:

    Loud Mouth! (The exclamation is part of the name)

  19. Jon P Says:

    He should be named “Chapulin”, after the grasshoppers eaten in Mexico. Because he’s based on the Noisy Cricket amp and because with that expression, he looks like he’s just eaten one. 🙂

    What type of speaker is that? With the whizzer cone, it looks like a full range speaker, not a usual guitar one.

  20. FourthDr Says:

    Mr. Big Amp

  21. brandonnn Says:

    I don’t know why you’d call her/him anything other than “dB”.

  22. Josh Says:

    Scream It up!

  23. blackthursday Says:


  24. CamoMrD Says:

    Wahmpy – short & sweet

  25. Mark H Says:


  26. Ivan T Says:

    The Sweet Voicebox. Sweet alluding to the tones and the syrup tin. Voicebox alluding to the tonal dynamic range this simple instrument can produce!

  27. Meet the Poplar « Ponoko – Blog Says:

    […] Ponoko’s new blogger Rich Decibels.  You can be the envy of all your friends by winning this amp here.Eurolite Poplar is a natural material, so it’s prone to warping over larger sheet sizes, […]

  28. Jake B Says:

    how about loudmouth larry

  29. Paul Spirito Says:

    His name shall be… Tesla! Oops, no. That’s been done. Uh… Dolby? How about Ohm! Yea, Ohm!

  30. Mike Donovan Says:

    Max Decibels!

  31. Ortzinator Says:

    Chip Screamer

  32. Tanya Sooksombatisatian Says:

    Sidekick Wattson

    soooo cute

  33. Scott Says:

    Yodel – The amp with volume

  34. John Says:

    Mr Shouty?
    Noisy Little Bugger?
    Raaaa! ?

  35. Ant Says:

    Hello ‘ YeLL O’ !


  36. jordan Says:

    Sceamin’ Steven

  37. Wolfgang Says:


  38. Sebastian Says:

    Howlin Gaptooth