Seth Owlson of Night Owl Industries wrote in to tell us about the beautiful amplifiers he's building with the help of Big Blue Saw.
Seth described for us the origins of this project :
I’ve been playing and collecting small tube amps for almost 20 years, from modern ones to decades old eBay finds. While there are a lot of great amp makers out there, I felt like even the boutique amps on the market were lacking the sound quality I was getting with vintage equipment. Also, I felt like someone needed to build an amp that wasn’t a rectangular metal box inside of a rectangular wooden box.
He went on to describe the design technique, as well as how he processed and assembled the parts from Big Blue Saw to make a completed amplifier.
I started with a sketch, then a cardboard version, and once that was all done it was time to start making them out of aluminum. After cutting and drilling 6 by hand, I realized I would need to have the panels waterjet cut if I was going to make them in any kind of quantity.
These are the body panels of the chassis. Before the sides can be taken to the brake for bending, I use a bead roller to give each side two 1/8th inch beads.
These are the face panels, which I use a 3/4th inch round wheel to add two large wells to. The two heights correspond to the height of the EF86 input tube and EL84 output tube. Then I add a 1/4 in bend on all sides to give it a bevel. Now they're ready for welding.
This is a welded and partially polished transformer cover, which will cover the power and output transformers, along with the filter capacitor. Since the aluminum I source still needs to be welded, formed, shaped, sanded, and polished, it's nice to be able to have various types to choose from on the Big Blue Saw site.
I wanted to do something special for the first run, so I took the extra step of taping of the tube wells and a few other sections, and polished them to a shine. To tone everything down and not make it look like a car part, as well as to insulate and protect the chassis, I then had them anodized. The anodize over polished aluminum is a cool effect, and I won't be repeating it since the next batch will be hydro-dipped.
The final step in the metal work is bending the custom grille I designed for the front panel. These are tricky since the brakes can't do 30 degree bends that close together. I decided to go with a thinner aluminum I could bend by hand and with seamers, and with Simon's help settled on long slats at the bend lines that would allow me to easily work the material.
Here is the final product, sitting on top of a beautiful speaker cabinet that was built for me by my woodworker to my specification. These will be available together or separately from the amplifiers.
The parts you see were waterjet cut by Big Blue Saw from 0.05 inch and 0.025 inch thick aluminum 5052, based on the Night Owl designs.
I scoured online for a company to [waterjet cut the panels], and that’s when I came across Big Blue Saw. The ability to get quotes on their website, proof the image, then have it in your hands a short time later were absolutely integral in the realization of this amp. Julie and Simon were not only helpful, this literally could not have happened without them.
The first batch of 40 amps will be going on sale in October, and we’ll be making both guitar and hi-fi amplifiers. Although the sound is wonderful (it’s a class A tube amp), what really sets this product apart is it’s design and craftsmanship, and that’s something that everyone should be able to enjoy, even if they can’t play the guitar.