Most great ideas have very small beginnings, and Lil Dawg Amps is one of those ideas. What began as a dream to give my son Michael a one-of-a-kind handmade birthday present, rapidly took on a life of it’s own once I started on the project.
I decided I wanted to make a small tube guitar amp for him, as we’re both guitar players. It seemed like an easy project, just a little work here and there and out it would come ready to play. I was definitely in for a surprise. There is a great deal of planning and labor that goes into making an amplifier that not only sounds right, but looks right also. I spent a lot of time looking at and listening to different amps, just to narrow the choice down to the one I wanted for my son. It had to be just right.
The amp that I thought sounded the best for the styles we play happened to be the time proven ’59 Fender 5F1Champ. A sweet little workhorse that’s full of tone, and able to do anything from country, to rhythm & blues, to rock, and especially well suited for blues. These are also nicely suited for harp too, with just the right amount of grind. What was so amazing was all the tone that was available and no need for a tone control, just a single knob for volume.
So now I had the amp, but the Champ’s only had a 8″ speaker in a very small cabinet. They were great with a mic in front of them, but on their own they didn’t have much volume. So I tried different cabinet designs out and finally ended up with a cabinet large enough for a 12″ speaker, slightly deeper than most, and with a ¾ back for some punch. I used 1″solid pine for the cabinet and 3/8″ Baltic birch plywood for the sound board and back panels, dovetailed the joints for strength, covered them with good quality tweed obtained from a restoration shop, then gave them a four coats of polyurethane (1 coat of 50/50 honey pine & 3 coats of clear). Add a quality leather handle, stainless steel hardware, and the cabinets closely resemble a wide panel tweed amp of the late 50’s plus they sound great.
So now the amp was together, all except for the name. I thought of my son’s dog Whiskers, who is a Chihuahua mix, and Lil Dawg was the name that came to mind. He’s the one you see pictured on all of the amp labels. Then I needed a model name and “Champster” was the favorite .
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord….Psalm 100”