Forever Boner

Forever Boner Overdrive Pedal

A Tribute

The woman approached me the moment I stepped out of Temple Hospital. “Sir. SIR. I ain’t tryin’ to sell my body.”

“Ok, that’s good, because I wasn’t interested in purchasing it.” (I have a natural knack for connecting with people.)

She launched into a meandering story about how she lost her job, was waiting for the assistance checks to start, was a recovering addict, and so on, but mostly that she needed formula for her baby.

At that point in my relationship with Philadelphia, I was used to brushing aside bums and hustlers. I’d already heard the one about needing bus fare to get back to New Jersey, and I could get most people to take a step back with only a certain well-practiced glance. Four miles up Broad Street from City Hall though, I was a tourist, and in that moment—stepping out of Temple Hospital, in a general sort of existential malaise, coming off of my own elaborate run of screwups—I engaged in this conversation. I told her that I wasn’t going to give her cash, but that if she really needed formula, I’d buy it for her.

I thought there was a good chance that she’d wander away once money was off the table, but she lit up at this idea and I was swept into the quest. She said there was a drug store a couple blocks away. We walked east, away from Broad Street, into parts of the city I’d never seen or imagined. We didn’t get fully into the store before the people in the plexiglass cage started screaming in a language I couldn’t begin to recognize, pounding on the glass for her to go away. We left quickly. She said that she had previously tried to get formula there and that it had gone poorly, which I had inferred. We continued east, deeper into whatever that place was.

We went to a different store that had no products on the shelves. It was like a cold war depiction of a Russian grocery store on the day before the bread line formed. I wondered why they’d bothered to be open.

The world became increasingly unrecognizable as we continued on. People crept around at one-tenth speed. Some things were mildly on fire. There were no cars, but occasionally someone would drive by on a dirt bike, riding a wheelie to the vanishing point of the horizon. Some old skeletal dudes were playing craps and I fully expected them to be using finger bones as dice, but didn’t inquire. We went into a third “store” that was more like an impromptu yard sale being staged in the parlor of a house that had burned down 30 years ago. They didn’t have any baby formula. My new friend tried to make conversation with me about her relationship with her god. I looked around and saw no evidence of a god at work.

I wasn’t sure if we were all the way in or all the way out when we came upon a structure that could be easily identified as a store. It wasn’t much, but appeared to have the necessary infrastructure to exchange money for goods. She picked up a can of formula, looked at me sheepishly, then slowly picked up another as if to ask if she could get two. I bought her two. I then wished her good luck, let her take a couple steps in the direction that she was going, and went the other way.

It’s possible that it was all an elaborate hustle. I’m at ease with it either way.

If you stand on Broad Street in the Hunting Park neighborhood of Philadelphia and look south, you’ll see “Boner 4Ever” written on the Beury Building—a work of art that means more to me than anything on the Ben Franklin Parkway. I named my first overdrive pedal after it. If you stand on Broad Street at Temple Hospital and look north, the same building says “Forever Boner.”

Details

Forever Boner is dylan159’s Clown Centurion, which is his interpretation of a Klon Centaur. It may be his most famous pedal, since it was tested out and publicized by Brian Wampler of Wampler Pedals.

The original Klon Centaur is an overdrive pedal that was developed by Bill Finnegan in the mid-90s. It is perhaps most infamous for its absurd pricing on the used market, routinely selling for multiple thousands of dollars. Beyond that, it’s known for having oddball parts bestowed with near-magical properties, having its circuit board “gooped” in black epoxy to [futilely] hide its components, and for sounding pretty good.

The Clown Centurion is an effort to capture a similar sound, but with standardized parts, like E6 values for passives and commonly-available BAT41 Schottky diodes in the clipping section (which act quite similarly to germanium diodes without the hassles). It also only runs at 9V, whereas the original has a charge pump that allows it to run with 27V of headroom internally.

Forever Boner is pretty close to the Clown as-designed, except that I have omitted the buffered bypass. People do get excited about the buffer in the original one, and buffers definitely have a purpose, but there is nothing supernatural about them and I buffer elsewhere in my chain. It’s built on vero, based heavily on jeepe’s layout on freestompboxes.org, but I made some minor changes and saved a row by omitting the buffered bypass.

Vital Stats

Rarity
Philly AF
Horsie
Transparency
Collectibility

Sound

There’s nothing wrong with the sound of my original Boner 4Ever pedal, which is also a take on a Klon (perhaps designed with more of a concern for authenticity than simplicity). It’s still on my board, and the only concerns I’d have with it are related to the fact that it was one of the earliest pedals that I ever made: my soldering was way behind where I am now, and the enclosure is poorly done in ways that probably only annoy me. But I was curious to build Forever Boner as an alternative and see what it would do in comparison.

It’s quite similar. While I haven’t done any scientific measurements, I can get them pretty close by dialing in the controls (by ear, not by the position of the knobs). I might be able to get them ever closer if I mess with them more. The volume control on Boner 4Ever, for example, is only useful in the first 20% of the range of the dial because it’s so loud above that and is pretty touchy. One downside may be that Forever Boner appears to be noisier than Boner 4Ever, but I’ll have to test that more closely…it may have been an unfair comparison because of the way I had the test set up. [Update: the noise is no longer an issue. Dylan suggested that C10 should be slightly larger than C9 (see schematic). I didn’t measure precisely before soldering and can’t measure them within the circuit, so I tacked an extra 100pF in series with C10 and it’s quiet now. Or maybe wiggling the wires around in that process solved it, but either way, it’s now slightly quieter than the old one.]

The following sample is the Coronacaster with Forever Boner into a mostly clean Fender Deluxe Reverb. There are three sections:

  • Part 1: Starts fully clean, then Forever Boner is engaged. The gain is set slightly above medium, which is pretty gritty with chords, but cleans up with softer picking and individual notes.
  • Part 2: This starts with the Forever Boner off, but running through The Wreck of the Ella Fitzgerald. I may have initially tried this only because of the phrasing, but for real, one of the best sounds that I can get is ramming Boner 4Ever into a Big Muff circuit. I don’t know if this is how people typically arrange gain stages, but it sounds so good to me, and I was worried about Forever Boner having a different mid character or something that would make it not work as well in this role. So it starts off with just The Wreck, then Forever Boner is added. It still does the thing.
  • Part 3: A half-assed A/B comparison. I don’t think I have the settings exactly right between them—it was annoying to record myself while playing and flipping back and forth and I felt like fixing it in post would be cheating. But I play a few things, poorly and possibly out of tune, going between the old one and new one.

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Mind your tone. (this is a pedal joke)