Brian May Rig Replica Build

In late 2020, I was offered the opportunity to acquire a Brian May style live rig originally built for Andy Barnett by Nigel Knight of Knight Audio Technologies (KAT). The rig was contained in an SKB roto-molded 6U shallow rack case (model 1SKB-R6S) and consisted of the following 19″ rack units:

  • Dunlop DCR-2SR CryBaby Wah Wah (1)
  • TC Electronic G-Major 2 guitar effects processor (1)
  • Sennheiser wireless receivers (2)
  • Custom made KAT audio routing and MIDI switching master controller (1)
  • Custom made KAT wireless receiver switcher (1)
  • Canford power supply unit (1)

The rig was designed to work with a custom made KAT 24 way floor switching unit with amplifier muting and MIDI/effect pedals switching features. Also included was a KAT RED-18 strap mounted treble booster and all ancillary items including two Sennheiser EW 500 G2 bodypack transmitters and various heavy duty professional cables (some custom made) to connect all the units.

I bought a second G-Major 2 unit from a U.K. eBay seller for £150 as a spare in case the supplied unit developed an unrepairable defect in the future. To house the units, I ordered a custom made shock-mounted 19″ rack flight case with removable front and rear covers and top lid with a wheeled trolley from NSP Cases (The Flight Case Company) in the U.K. The YouTube video below covers the unboxing, assembly, connection and demonstration of the rig. Also featured in the video are my home made Brian May Red Special replica, a KAT Deacy replica amp and a 2001 model Vox AC30 TBX amplifier.

Brian May rig replica build video

Brian May Red Special Build Tips & Techniques Videos

I generally did not film any of the work involved with building my Red Special replica at the time, other than some of the early CNC routing attempts. This footage was neither edited in a way which best illustrated the processes nor contained any spoken commentary. As and when I have time, I will address this shortfall by publishing a series of videos with distinct segments and narrative to demonstrate key processes and offer tips for building a Brian May Red Special replica guitar from the perspective of an amateur luthier.

The first of the two embedded videos below illustrates some aspects of mahogany timber preparation for making the neck while the second entitled “Fretboard Techniques” covers making a stencil to paint the fretboard side marker dots. I also compare and contrast the side marker dot pattern on my 2004 Burns Red Special and Guyton RS Transporter and show two techniques worth considering for ebonising the oak fretboard: Liberon spirit wood dye and black cyanoacrylate superglue. Future videos will cover other important techniques including veneer work, grain filling, staining and working with Rustins Plastic Coating.

In the third video I demonstrate using a 5 mm diameter brad point wood auger to drill the short section from the underside of the tenon through into the main channel routed out to accommodate the truss rod itself. All wood routing was previously done using my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine. This neck cutting was recently completed and the cut object remains attached in its surrounding frame. I took the opportunity to rout a rebate for the auger shaft to pass through.

The fourth video illustrates all the equipment required, and processes involved in making a single action compression style truss rod for a Red Special replica guitar with only basic workshop equipment and limited facilities.

The next video is an introduction to a series of videos which illustrate all the techniques required to finish the Red Special body including veneering, grain filling, staining and lacquering with Rustins Plastic Coating (RPC).

The second video in the series on finishing the guitar body covers the process of veneering.

The third video in the series on finishing the guitar body covers grain filling and staining the mahogany marquetry veneer with black Jecofil and Rustins red mahogany wood dye.

The fourth and final video in the series on finishing the guitar body covers all aspects of Rustins Plastic Coating (RPC) including making up batches, applying it to mahogany veneer, flatting back with graded abrasive papers then burnishing/polishing to a gloss finish. Website 6 Month Progress Update

When I launched in October 2020, I intended only to create a straightforward, traditional website to present my guitar build and modification projects in a more structured way than was possible on any internet forum or social media platform. Although many people have social media accounts, there will always be interested parties who are difficult to reach without a regular internet presence.

In the six months since I registered the domain name, I systematically populated with my Brian May Red Special guitar build project, the Fender Stratocaster and Burns Red Special modification projects and the two collaborations with Luke Holwerda and Jon Underhill to showcase their work. I then added a section covering enthusiast meets and concerts I have attended and a FAQ section which now has three articles on Burns Tri-Sonic pickups, how to “play like May” and some background information on my CAD designs. I augmented this in February 2021 with a “Gear” section to present basic information and attractive pictures about the various pieces of musical equipment used by or related to Brian May otherwise my strapline “guitar and gear info here” would not be meaningful.

In March 2021, I reached a minor milestone of creating the 100th unique web page and writing the 50th blog post on

As you can see from the WordPress statistics shown in the attached images, the website has sustained growth in both the number of people visiting the site each month and the number of views. My intention was to build an accessible and objective reference canon for people interested in Brian May guitars and equipment, not write a weekly or monthly journal or build a site as comprehensive as for example, so I only expected to see around five to ten visitors and maybe 40 to 50 views per day. However, traffic has surpassed my modest expectations to grow to over 750 visitors per month (around 25 per day) and over 5,000 unique views which is very gratifying. Discounting those using VPNs to view the site, there have been over 22,000 views from visitors in 72 different countries on all populated land masses which is more a testament to the global reach of Queen than anything I have done.

It remains to be seen whether this traffic can be sustained, will increase, or reduce if I don’t regularly post new material. I was planning to close my Facebook blog page in due course once was established but since there has been an increase in my “likers and followers” this month I will maintain a presence on Facebook for the foreseeable future. A heartfelt thank you from me to everybody who has shown interest in Doug Short Guitar Blog.

Vox VBM-1 Brian May Special Amplifier

Launched in 2003 and retailing at US$199/£149, the Vox VBM-1 Brian May Special amplifier remains a popular choice for guitarists seeking to replicate Brian May’s signature tones at low volumes and on a limited budget despite being discontinued in 2005. It was designed to fulfil a specific purpose: to replicate the distinctive sounds of the legendary Deacy amp. Check out my latest musical equipment section article on this unit:

Treble Boosters

For the 100th distinct web page on and the 50th site blog post, I have published an article on one of the perennial topics of conversation in Brian May enthusiast circles: treble boosters:

I cover some background information and restrict the discussion to three treble booster variants related to Brian May and Queen, the current 3-in-1 BMG Treble Booster Classic unit developed by Nigel Knight of Knight Audio Technologies for retail by Brian May Guitars, Brian’s KAT RED-18 strap-mounted treble booster and the Fryer Sound colour series (TB Touring, TB Plus, TB Super and TB Deluxe). There are embedded videos from Jamie Humphries demonstrating the Fryer treble boosters for Guitar Interactive and Frank Campese demonstrating the 70s setting of the BMG TB Classic.

DigiTech Red Special Pedal

The fourth article for my musical equipment section covers the DigiTech Brian May Red Special pedal. It contains original photographs and PDF user manuals of this, and the other two DigiTech Artist’s Series pedals (Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton Crossroads), some additional photographs of the rack mounted version of this pedal that Nigel Knight built into Brian May’s back-up, touring and guesting rig, and an embedded demonstration video by Frank Campese.

Westfield Mini Gibson Les Paul Upgrade

The last of my five planned guitar build and modification projects covers the upgrade of a Westfield Mini Gibson Les Paul guitar I bought from U.K. eBay in January 2014. This lovely little 18.5″ scale, solid body instrument is an easily playable travel guitar for an adult or introductory electric guitar for a child. It sat unloved in its gig bag in my attic for around seven years and deserved to be improved to the best possible specification.

Amongst other minor cosmetic upgrades to gold hardware, the modified specification includes:

  • Tonerider AC2 Alnico II PAF humbucker pickup AC2B-GD
  • Gibson OEM strap buttons (brass)
  • Gotoh Nashville GE103B-T Tune-o-Matic bridge with large posts
  • Gibson style speed knobs (gold)
  • Bourns PDB181-GTR01-504 potentiometers
  • Optima Gold 2028M string set (0.011, 0.014, 0.018, 0.030, 0.038, 0.050)

Brian May Deacy Amp Replica

Check out the third article in the musical equipment section of this website which covers the Brian May Deacy Amp replica made by Knight Audio Technologies (KAT):

It contains the original pictures shown below, technical specifications for the amplifier, hyperlinks and four embedded YouTube videos, including Jamie Humphries‘ review for Guitar Interactive magazine and some demonstrations recorded by Martin Pitcher at the 2018 and 2019 Brian May Red Special enthusiast meets.

Vintage Vox AC30/6 Gear Story

I have created a new website section to cover musical equipment, including amplifiers and effects. The first article for it covers the story of how I acquired a classic JMI era copper top Vox AC30/6 with some history and provenance. I have included a review of the top three publications on the subject including the bible for Vox Amplifiers compiled by Jim Elyea who runs the History For Hire prop rental company in Hollywood.