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Discussion Starter #1
I have an original (larger size with the earphone-style power jack) Holy Grail that is acting up. Sometimes I lose signal completely when switching on or off with the footswitch.

I've experienced the same problem in the past with a Rat and also with a Sparkle Drive; those are sitting idle on a shelf, but the Holy Grail is on my pedal board so it matters to me more.

Google tells me it's likely a failing switch, but I haven't found any pointers on the following:

Is there a Canadian supplier of these switches?

How can I tell which switch I need for a given pedal (there seem to be lots of variants)?

Any help?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, the Sparkle Drive doesn't really play nice with my Deluxe, so it's been sitting idle for a while.

I'm much more concerned about the Holy Grail. The new ones are $150, and that's a lot when a $10 switch has a chance to get me back in business.

I wonder if there's a part number on the switch. Maybe I'll open it up today.
 

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The footswitch is the standard 3PDT switch used in literally hundreds of thousands of pedals. (see pic here: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-S8A9HF3AjZ0/UbeUMOct6iI/AAAAAAAABcg/Wf5dRO2xslA/s1600/holygrailtop2.JPG)
The dilemma is that ordering one might set you back more than the $3.50 they would normally go for. Though I imagine somebody in the GTA has a bin full at their bench and would happily sell one to a walk-in customer. (note price change!)

That said, unless the switch is mechanically damaged, the most typical thing to go wrong is the damping grease working its way onto the contacts and acting as an insulator. I show the insides and how to fix them in this video. Just about anybody with a decent pair of needlenose pliers and enough self-restraint can fix one without busting it in the process. And even if you do break it, you'd have the pedal all prepped for replacing the switch.

 

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Discussion Starter #5
Awesome! Thanks for that video. Very informative.

I managed to find Lawrence Scaduto and BLMS, and I've got 4 of these switches on their way from the US, but now I'm tempted to try the disassembly and cleaning.

Hopefully that is all that is wrong with the pedal.

It occurred to me just now that it wouldn't take much to bypass the switch entirely, wire it permanently 'on', and just control the amount of reverb with the big black knob. I might do that temporarily, as a test, to see if the problem goes away.

Thanks again for your help.
 

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Awesome! Thanks for that video. Very informative.

I managed to find Lawrence Scaduto and BLMS, and I've got 4 of these switches on their way from the US, but now I'm tempted to try the disassembly and cleaning.

Hopefully that is all that is wrong with the pedal.

It occurred to me just now that it wouldn't take much to bypass the switch entirely, wire it permanently 'on', and just control the amount of reverb with the big black knob. I might do that temporarily, as a test, to see if the problem goes away.

Thanks again for your help.
That wouldn't hurt at all. I don't think I ever turned my Holy Grail off anyways
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Success!

The replacement switch arrived in the mail a few days ago.

And after some delicate soldering, the Holy Grail is back to normal, no longer cutting out randomly.

I'm glad I got a few extras - I have a feeling this is going to happen again on some other pedal.
 

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Hobbyists and repair people will occasionally talk about "switch failure", as if the switch itself is the sole source of malfunction. My own reasoning about it is that if commercial pedal manufacturers experienced the frequency of such switch failure as seemsto be reported on forums, the switch-makers would go out of business PDQ

So what accounts for the discrepancy between what gets reported, and what *ought* to be true? My sense is that there are a few things, stemming primarily from installation, and the role of heat in making the solder do its work before it affects the grease inside the switch:
  1. Pedal manufacturers are going to use higher wattage irons, which will flow the solder very quickly and form a joint before the grease is affected.
  2. Pedal manufacturers who purchase switches in volume, are more likely to have switches that don't arrive a little tarnished on the contacts, and won't leave those switches in the parts bin long enough for them to become tarnished. Oxidation on the contacts impedes solder flow, and generally results in the tip of the iron being applied long enough to flow the grease.
This is not to blame builders and repair people. Rather, commercial manufacturers will normally, and maybe even unintentionally, do the sorts of things that overcome the challenges facing stompswitches, while the rest of us who do one-offs have to pay special attention to overcome those same challenges.

So what can you do to install a stompswitch that won't let you down?
  • Banish 25W irons from your bench! You'll need at least a 40W unit to get in and out fast without creating excessive heat buildup inside the switch.
  • If the solder lugs aren't gleaming bright to start with, grab your X-acto blade or similar, and scrape the tarnish off until they're shiny.
  • Keep a little bottle of liquid flux around and apply a little bit to the lugs with a Q-tip before you apply the iron.
  • Tin whatever wires you intend to attach to the switch before attempting to solder them in place.
  • Tine the lugs before soldering the wires
    • It's overkill, admittedly, but think of it like zero-deductible car insurance. What you want is to assure that any heat applied to the solder lugs is not transferred to the little rocker contacts inside. Keep in mind that the way the switch works is by making contact between the rocker contacts and one set of outside lugs, or the "other" set of outside lugs. If you measure the resistance/continuity between the common (middle contact) and outside lugs and find it is open circuit, then those outside lugs are isolated from everything else inside, and heat will not be transferred to the rocker contacts to make the grease flow unless applied for a long time. Once you've got those wires in place, push the switch to lift the physical contact with the other set of outside lugs, and solder thse leads into place. You can't do this with the middle/common lugs, but as Meatloaf said "Two out of three ain't bad". Besides, once you've soldered the middle leads, you can simply pinch your needlenose pliers around those lugs to soak up any excessive heat.
    • Like I said, these latter bits are clearly overkill, but if you cannot tolerate any risk of failure, it's a small investment to make.
Happy stomping!
Mark
 
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