Pumaboard Classic #69
Kevin "Pumaman" Perkins
Fate and an early love of hot-rods are behind Kevin 'Pumaman' Perkins' Pumaboards custom pedalboard shop. Oregon-based Pumaboards blends innovation with racing stripes to make a solid and attractive piece of stage gear.
How did you get started making pedalboards?
Well what really got me thinking about it was meeting Ron Thorn, a custom guitar builder in Glendale, Ca. While his guitars are about as good as it gets (I’m lucky enough to have two), what always impressed me from the first time I met him was his enthusiasm with his guitars and his appreciation and interaction with his customers. A couple of visits to his small shop for his yearly gathering of Thorn enthusiasts, and seeing how it was just him and his Dad working together to turn out these beautiful guitars, and my wheels [started] turning. [With] an unexpected, career-ending back injury, it was time to get serious about doing something enjoyable for a living. I actually sat down with a piece of paper and listed the things that I liked about Ron’s business and a couple I didn’t like. Working pretty much 24/7 like he does wasn’t going to be possible with my back. This would need to be something I could do at a pace my back could tolerate. As luck would have it, a month before my injury I was mapping out on paper and cardboard plans for a pedalboard for myself. So, I had a pretty good idea of what I thought a pedalboard should be like. After a few months of research and development came the final piece. My webmaster/daughter set me up with a cool website with pics and now videos, and using a nickname that was given to me years ago, Pumaman’s Custom Pedalboards was born.
How has your design evolved since you first started?
The basic design has been consistent. No rocket science here, just a wedge shape with room underneath for wiring and power supplies. Any size a customer wants and power sockets and quarter-inch jacks arranged to suit.
But I felt there was room for boards that looked cool as well as being functional. We all tend to take pride in our gear and enjoy having a cool looking guitar or amp. Why not a cool looking board to put those fancy pedals on? The thought of Tolexing boards to match amps sounded like a good idea. [It] didn’t take long before I was looking at my boards like the hot-rods I grew up with, so stripes just seemed right. I remember being so excited when I figured out the way to do them. Now my hot-rods were looking seriously cool. My wife thought I was a little nuts at the time. I probably put stripes on more than half the boards I build now. They have kind of become what a Pumaboard is.
I just recently came up with a new option that seems to be going over well—the two-piece slotted top. I was always bugged by the usual grommet in the front of the top for passing cables through from underneath. Seemed like I always wanted to put a pedal where that grommet was, and with bigger boards and more pedals, one grommet would not be enough, then with each added grommet there was another spot on your board you could not place a pedal. Now I can place a one inch wide slot two inches down from the front of the board that spans the entire width of the board. With this, no matter how you arrange that top row of pedals, you will have multiple spaces in between pedals to bring cables up through, while keeping the good looks of a solid top. And I have some flexibility as to where to place the slot. It’s already been helpful to a couple of guys to have the slot just in front of a midi switcher or loop box that can have a lot of cables coming out of it.
Tell me about your customers.
I consider all my customers artists. I’m just as thrilled to build a board for the at-home guy as the guy out on tour. No big name artists yet that I am aware of, although I did build a massive board as a gift for Vic Johnson, guitarist for Sammy Hagar’s Waboritas. The phone call I got from him when he opened it was priceless.
What would you do without Velcro?
I guess I would be stocking a lot of screws and bicycle chain links and building more replacement tops. You know, I think everyone that builds pedalboards has looked for a “better” surface than Velcro. I’ve done Formica and Plexiglas as well. But, to me, Velcro is still the best. It remains the most user-friendly way to go. You give that up when you try anything else. It’s been my experience that any additional holes in a board for mounting pedals or routing cables will ultimately result in a need for a new top. You know us guitar players can’t ever be totally happy with our pedals. I really like my boards to not only be user-friendly, but also ready to handle pedal changes anytime. For my money, Velcro is still the logical way to achieve this. Oh and a new two-piece slotted top will help as well [grin].
Do your systems come with their own power supplies?
No. What I provide is the power socket and patch cord needed to use any of the many power supplies available.
What power supplies do you recommend?
Well, Voodoo Lab's PP2 is hands down the most popular and a great product for most guys. But there are a lot of comparable units available. It really depends on the application. I have built boards powered by simple daisy chains [and] huge boards powered by multiple power supplies. The big thing now is the need for power supplies that cover all the different voltage needs of all the great pedals available these days. Eliminating the need for wall warts is always a good thing. Promising new products that address this are right around the corner from Voodoo Labs and others.
Any pedals out there that just are not pedalboard friendly?
Yeah big pedals and heavy pedals come to mind, and of course, ugly pedals are no good either.
What are some popular customizations?
My customers really appreciate options. Just the fact that I can build boards any size is a big help for a lot of guys. Sometimes it can save a guy a lot of money when I can build a board to fit an ATA case he already has, or one he can purchase for much less than having the case custom built to fit the board. I can cover a board with about anything I can get my hands on. Matching a guy's board to his amp is very popular.
Guys dig those crazy stripes, too. So do I. The early responses would suggest [that] the two-piece top is going to be a hit.
How long does it take to make a pedalboard?
I ’m currently building about two boards a week.
What materials do you use?
Clear ¾” Pine for the frame, 5/8” Ply top, various Tolexes and vinyls.
Take us through the process from raw materials to finished product?
Boards are cut, with great care to keep my fingers. Then pieces are routed for top recess and lap joints. Then I will rough sand pieces to give the wood teeth for better adhesion for the Tolex glue.
Pieces are then glued and pin nailed at the corners. Next will be the hand sanding and rounding of the corners. Time to lay out and draw the holes for Power socket and jacks on the board. Then I’ll snap a couple pictures for the customer to see if there is anything they would like to change before drilling holes. Then the messy part… Tolexing. Add sockets, jacks, corners and brackets and it’s time to cover and install the top.
How many fingers does your table saw guy have?
Well, that would be me. Still have them all. Being a guitar player, I would like to think I’m more careful than some.
What cables do you recommend?
I have always been happy with George L’s. I love the small footprint, and they are easy to use once you get the hang of it. However, I’m about to step up to the new solderless Lava cables, a great product from what I have read.
What makes your pedalboards stand out in the crowd?
"Pumaman" applies racing stripe Tolex to a board's frame
I would say the cool looks, solid design and options such as any size and any Tolex. This makes it a lot of fun for the customer to put together a special board. It can be anything from a clean, well laid-out, black board, a striped and chromed-out hot-rod or a '50s red sparkle vinyl classic. If you want a board covered in something you don’t see on my site, just ask. I can actually cover a board with about anything I can get my hands on.
Any special or odd customization requests?
Classic #38 comes to mind. My customer wanted his board covered in Leopard skin fabric like he used for inside his custom guitar cases. I wasn’t too keen on the fabric for durability, but he was okay with that. It actually turned out pretty damn cool.
I’ve been surprised by the sizes of some of the boards ordered.
With the use of switchboxes and midi switchers, guys can have a row, or even two, of pedals they don’t have to step on. I actually have built a board 28” deep.
What is the price range of your pedalboards?
$150 and up
Is there an average price?
I would guess maybe $350 - $400
How long do you expect your pedalboards to last on the road?
Forever, of course. At least that’s how I try my best to build them—overbuilt, just like I would any hot-rod. After a lot of use, I suppose it’s possible the Velcro could stand to be replaced, although I haven’t heard of that happening. But replacing tops easily, if needed, is one of the intentions of my design. Other than that, I really can’t see one of my boards failing in any way under normal use.
I still hear from some of my earliest customers that their boards still look like the day they got them. And I know that to be true of all the boards that I have I built for myself. I am my own test subject, you know.