Erin and I built a guitar amp last night.  She was really excited.

I can’t remember when she first expressed the interest but long ago she found a copy of my Make magazine with an article about how to make a guitar amp and put it inside a Ritz cracker box just to make it a little funky.  Lately she reminded me that she wanted to do that and that it should be now.

Well parts are cheap so we made a list and went to Radio Shack to stock up.  Neither of us had ever used a proto board before but it seemed easy enough so we jumped in.  Unfortunately, Evan’s room (that is, my laboratory) is devoid of furniture so we had to just do all work on the floor.  Things get pretty scattered this way but it does work.  I don’t look forward to vacuuming though what with all the little spicules of wire and solder in the carpet.

Anyway, we had to spread the work over two evenings and had some problems but they were the sorts of things that always happen when building stuff.  After a few minutes of frustrating diagnostics it came to life.  She really wanted something to plug her iPod into but I went forward with the guitar amp plan thinking that we could adapt it after we got it working and this was indeed the case.  We soon got it working with an iPod and it was surprisingly loud.  Because it’s a guitar amp, it has a control for how much distortion gets introduced so this has to be turned down for iPod use.

Now all we have to do is put it in a box.  She was too excited not to go immediately to WalMart to search for the perfect cracker box.  It was about my bedtime but we went anyway.  Walmart is not the best place to search for such things – I’m thinking Whole Foods might have a more interesting selection of packages that could be repurposed into a guitar amp but she found one that would do.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes ahead without me and finishes it up which would be fine of course.  I think the pots are wired backwards so that to increase the volume you turn the knob backwards but she will not care about this.

It’s fun to build stuff and it’s even more fun to build stuff with like-minded people.  I’m glad I got a chance to do this with her before she heads off to college because we’ll probably never have another chance like this.  My time with her feels like it’s running out.  I’m sure that there’s more value to this shared experience than simply creating a cheap guitar amp but who knows what that will be?  I only know we both had fun.