Building the famous 1974X Marshall 18 Watt

The amp the started it all. The 1974X is a very popular build amongst DIY amp builders. Some say it holds that classic Marshall tone.

My Build starts 18watt.com and my dad, as usual. During my first year at uni dad started building the Marshall and it just sounded soooo good. Of course I could barely play guitar but I had to have one. That feeling when you are learning, playing through a killer amp and get a power chord right is just awesome.

Repurposing speakers

Sourcing the schematics and wood was the first task. I ended up building mine to the physical specs of the Marshall Bluesbreaker instead as I managed to find two Celestion G12L-55’s from and old Rivera cheap. The speaker baskets got a gold paint job as they looked pretty rough.

The build

I used the workshop at uni to fold up the chassis for free essentially. The specs for mounting the chassis in these old Marshalls is a bit different where the chassis held captive by two boxed sections built into the cabinet instead of folded and welded ends like modern Marshalls. I also managed to sneak in some time on the laser cutter to get some badges and faceplates cut/etched.

It was a complex build, you have to do most things in just the right order or else it wouldn’t go together right. You need to route under the top vent to be able to wrap the tolex around and you need to build the speaker grill in 3 pieces to be able to get the grill cloth wrapped and the top panel to cover the t-nuts that bolt it all together.

All in all it turned over pretty well.

Taming the beast

After years of lugging it around and realising that it only sounds good when it is at full blast I decided to get a Hall Electronics VVR installed. It worked well but just didn’t sound the same and as you lower the B+ voltage the tremolo stopped working correctly.

In the end I ended up selling it as I just didn’t have the space to play it at volume or store it. I think the guy that brought it ended up putting Greenbacks in it and loving it.

Materials:

  • 19mm pine boards
  • 12mm ply front and backs
  • Mojotone tolex and grill cloth
  • Hofner Heyboer transformers
  • Celestion G12L-55 speakers
  • Hall Amplification VVR kit
  • Laser cut faceplates and badges from 3mm perspex