When does DIY make sense?

At some point, unless you are rich, you will hit a financial wall when building a modular synth.  Sometimes the makers will have a DIY option and you might be able to curb some of those costs by building it yourself.  However, the DIY option can be a trap if you do not consider how deep and complex the project is.  I finished this custom set of World Cores and Control Cores and wanted to fill the remaining space with a custom set of utilities.  The original DIY project of the World Cores/Control Cores took me a year to finish.  That is a typical amount of time that it usually takes me to finish a fairly complex DIY project.  So that would be one of the first things I would advise, is to have plenty of patience and time when taking on a DIY project.

Next is passion!  After taking a year to finish the core builds I knew I wanted to build a couple of custom utility modules to accompany the core set.  It took me another six months to design and build those.  I have a love for the old 8 bit gaming systems, so it was easier to be patient as I trudged through those builds.  So, have plenty of ‘GO’ juice in the tank if you plan on finishing your build.

Plan on getting an education!  It’s one thing to gloss over a BOM and hit the big items on the list, but makers use all sorts of components when constructing their modules.  There is a good chance you will not immediately understand their choices.  That will immediately put you into research mode where you might have to delve in to understand how different micro processors are programmed or why you should solder the components in this order…   …and so on.  Expect to be stumped and expect to spend many hours scratching your head trying to figure this stuff out!

What I’m not done yet?  No, the last stage is the one that will ‘get’ most newbies.  Troubleshooting!  Here is where the rubber truly hits the road.  If you have been in modular for a few years, then you should already know what it is like to sit and troubleshoot ‘why’ something IS happening when it should not be and why something is NOT happening and it should.  It can be more of the same when you are close to the end of a DIY project.  Again, more patience and thinking is required at this point.  Sure you can rush over to this and that forum and beg for help and you might get some and get it to work, but if you are not that lucky you might have to go over all of your own work and have to figure out why your shiny new module is not working ‘properly’.  Keep your chin up…    …you are not alone 😀

2 thoughts on “When does DIY make sense?

  1. Thank you for the additional patience and effort to write this article putting a DIY synth building effort into perspective. I have to refer to myself as a ‘tweener since my system is a combination of new, gently used, and DIY modules. It seems that every passion has behond it a lot of time, effort, learning, and many dollars.

    It is good to emphasize the amount of time doing research, designing, building, and the part that everyone despises … TROUBLESHOOTING and DEBUGGING. Today’s SMD technology goes beyond the electronics -rojects that I have been involved with almost 30 years ago, so there is a tremendous learning curve required to master soldering boards laden with chips that have to be placed with tweezers and microscopes to go over dense circuitry trying to find bad solder joints and bridges.

    All of this is further complicated by the rarety of some chips, the glut of poorly manufactured chips and clones that just do not perform to specs. I makes DIY modules a daunting challenge. It is good to post this arrticle for wou;d be DIYers who want to venture into this space. It also indirectly tells of some caution that must be teken when buying cheaper DIY modules on eBay and other places. Sometimes you wind up inheriting the troubleshooting piece of the puzzle because something does not work like it should.

    Hopefully there are many others that subscribe to the Million Machine March that have DIY thoughts on there minds, not to scare peoplecaway; but, to put the effort into perspective. Thanks for taking the tome tobwrite this up.

    • You bring up a great point with buying and acquiring others incomplete DIY builds. I too have done this a couple of times. And ‘yes’ puzzles they can be! If you see the best part of any build as the journey more than the destination you will always be ‘busy’ instead of ‘frustrated’ 😀

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