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Tri-Sonic Pickups: General Information, Brian May Red Special Pickups, Coil Winding and Assembly

I made the embedded video below in June 2022 to accompany the FAQ on Tri-Sonic pickups. It is 22 minutes long and covers Tri-Sonic pickups in depth. I take a look inside an early 1960s vintage pot magnet style Burns Tri-Sonic pickup and compare and contrast vintage and modern variants. I discuss the characteristics of the specific set fitted to Brian May’s Red Special guitar with reference to a replica set made by Ade Turner of Adeson Pickups.

I demonstrate two methods for engraving the chrome plated brass cover then wind a bobbinless Tri-Sonic style coil on my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine using a custom made former to my own unique design. Finally, I assemble all the component parts of a Tri-Sonic pickup and measure its DC resistance and inductance using a Peak Atlas LCR45 meter.

Brian May’s Original Home Made Pickups (BHMOHM)

Before he fitted the three Burns Tri-Sonic pickups to his Red Special guitar which feature in all Queen recordings and live concerts, Brian made his own pickups with his father Harold’s guidance. He discussed them in an interview with Simon Bradley for the Red Special book in which they featured in Chapter 6: Revisiting The Past. You can read the transcript on the official Red Special website which is maintained by Simon:

https://www.theredspecial.com/2018/01/brian-may-interview-the-red-specials-original-pickups/

I recently completed a project to make a replica set of these pickups following Brian’s original design sketch but winding them to try to achieve similar DC resistance (7.0-7.4 kOhm) and inductance (2.0-2.3 H) to a typical vintage Tri-Sonic pickup. I made a 17 minute video covering the project in which I discuss the pickups and wind one using my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine and small AC industrial milling spindle. The only additional piece of equipment I bought was a magnetic wire tensioner.

There is more information and some images in the article in my FAQ section here:

https://dsgb.net/faqs/bhmohm/

Brian May Red Special Guitar Spare Parts Box

Another party’s over, so let’s take a relaxing look inside my Brian May Red Special spare parts box accompanied by one of my favourite Queen songs: My Melancholy Blues. I can show you some good merchandise including Adeson Brian May specification pickups and some replicas of the original pickups that Brian made from Eclipse button magnets. I’ve also got a number of vintage items including Bulgin jack sockets and TCC Metalmite capacitors. There are numerous items of custom made hardware including bakelite nuts, aluminium ‘top hat’ style control knobs, tremolo springs and a tremolo arm.

2022 US Red Special Meet-up (Phoenix, AZ)

The second US Brian May Red Special Enthusiast meet-up took place at the Linger Longer Lounge, 6522 N 16th Street in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday, 26 March 2022. As in 2020, the event was again arranged by Luke Holwerda, supported by Jon Underhill of The Red Special Guitar Podcast. The video below is a ten minute compilation video of some of the highlights of the day and includes demonstrations by Ricky Peraza of his CQ Red Special, a modified BMG Special owned by Andrek Hernandez and a 1994 Guild Brian May owned by Gonzalo Plaza. Check out the story in the Events section.

A ten minute compilation video of some of the highlights of the day

Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition

Two years after the original Seiko 5 Red Special themed wristwatch offered 9,000 Brian May enthusiasts a chance to own a timepiece of history, a new limited edition version has been released. The dial has the same red and black color scheme as the Red Special and features a delicate wood-like pattern like the body of the guitar. Special markings on the case back.

The watch is offered as a limited edition with Brian’s signature on the case back alongside “LIMITED EDITION” and the serial number 00001/12500 – 12500/12500. As with the first collaboration model, the dial recreates the fine details of the legendary guitar with a pressed pattern reminiscent of the texture of the wood, its glossy finish and graduated colouring.

The case is a special gold colour, requested by Brian himself, inspired by the newly released ‘Gold Series’ reissues of his solo albums. The presentation box is reminiscent of a guitar case and comes with a replica of the sixpence coins which Brian uses instead of a guitar plectrum.

Seiko Watch Corporation will donate a proportion of the sales proceeds from this wristwatch to The Mercury Phoenix Trust with Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations in mind. The MPT is a charity organization founded by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Queen manager Jim Beach, in memory of Freddie Mercury, to help fund the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide.

https://www.seikowatches.com/global-en/products/5sports/special/brianmaylimitededition/


SRPH80K1 (Caliber 4R36) is available from March 2022, £530.

The Red Special Guitar Podcast

Please check out episode 15 of Jon Underhill’s Red Special Guitar Podcast which we recorded back in July 2021 at his home in Newton Abbot, Devon. We spent around two and a half hours discussing various topics including how Curiosity Killed The Cat helped steer me into Queen, the day I met Brian May and the challenges of building a Red Special replica. If you watch/listen via his YouTube channel, the podcast video shows a montage of most of my own Red Special project YouTube videos up to and including the aluminium roller bridge I uploaded on 10th January 2022.

Please support Jon in his quest to record the personal experiences of Queen and Brian May enthusiasts and the professionals who work with Brian such as Simon Bradley, Andy Guyton, Pete Malandrone and Nigel Knight by liking, commenting and subscribing to his social media presence on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVpZLY2zn-nsuArW4LqFedw/
https://www.facebook.com/RedSpecialGuitarPodcast/
https://www.instagram.com/redspecialguitarpodcast/

Brian May Red Special Roller Bridge CNC Milling

Brian May made the unique design of roller bridge for his original Red Special guitar from a piece of aluminium bar using hand tools. In my latest YouTube video I illustrate the process of making this intricate item by CNC milling using a hobby class CNC machine, in my case a 2016 model Stepcraft 2/840. The main sequences are all speeded up and the longer sections are considerably shortened so that they are only illustrative of the full process. The background music is Brian’s guitar solo from Queen: A Night at The Odeon.

I prepared a section of 6082 T6 aluminium bar to 84 x 16 x 10 mm using a hacksaw and abrasive paper and mounted this onto a levelled, square section of aluminium plate on my CNC machine bed using cyanoacrylate superglue. I then use three single fluted solid carbide cutters to mill the roller bridge: a 3 mm one for the thicknessing operations then a 2 mm cutter for the outline and roundover toolpath and cutting out the individual blocks and finally a 0.8 mm cutter for milling the roller axle channels (see note below).

I designed the general appearance such as the edge roundovers to resemble the Guyton Red Special bridge with the exception that the channels cut to accommodate the 1/32″ (0.8 mm) diameter axles of the roller saddles are drilled to 0.8 mm deep on those pieces whereas I only milled them to half-depth (0.4 mm) for this video. Embedding them to the full diameter of the axle goes some way to ensuring that the won’t pop out during string fitting.

Bridge Saddle Dimensions

  • Bridge saddles length: 5/8″
  • Bridge saddles width: Top & bottom E: 1/2″ (12.7 mm), middle four: 13/32″ (10.3 mm)
  • Bridge saddles height: Low and high E: 35/128″ (6.95 mm) A & B: 39/128″ (7.74 mm) D & G: 43/128″ (8.53 mm)
  • Roller rebate width: 25/128″ (4.96 mm)
  • Roller rebate depth: 3/32″ (2.4 mm) on all saddles
  • Screw holes to accept a cheese head machine screw (M3 or 6BA), 2 mm head depth

Bridge Rollers Specification

  • Overall width including axles: 23/64″ (9.13 mm)
  • Cylinder width: 3/16″, 4.76 mm
  • Cylinder diameter: 11 SWG (2.946 mm). All cylinders have a 0.042″ (1.07 mm) toroidal channel
  • Axle length: 23/64″ (9.13 mm)
  • Axle diameter: 1/32″ (0.8 mm)

The following information is essential when attemping aluminium milling on a CNC router (as opposed to a liquid cooled CNC milling machine):

  • High Brinell hardness alloys machine better, e.g. 6061-T6. Temper (T-number) is important
  • Use a very low XY feed rate, e.g. 500 mm/min
  • Use a small diameter, SINGLE FLUTE cutter
  • Shave the metal (e.g. 0.05 mm depth per pass)
  • Decrement the cutter height off the stock because end mill flutes are not designed for drilling
  • Use a spindle speed less than 10,000 rpm (e.g. 7,500 rpm)
  • Use a lubricant, e.g. WD-40 Specialist dry PTFE

dsgb.net Website 12 Month Progress Update

dsgb.net has now been fully populated since late December 2020 with all the content I originally planned and consists of 108 pages and 63 blog posts (including this one). As you can see from the WordPress statistics shown in the images below, the website is receiving 700-800 visitors per month and has settled to around 5,000-6,000 individual content views per month; the results for December 2021 are representative. The website has attracted over 8,600 visitors and over 64,000 content views since being fully populated, the bulk of which are from the USA and Western Europe. However, I am more fascinated by the small number of views from exotic locations, whether or not somebody on holiday or serving on a military base clicked on the wrong Google search result!

A huge thank you from me to everybody around the world who has shown interest in Doug Short Guitar Blog; I hope I have inspired and helped a few people around the world to launch their own guitar build or modification projects. The highlight of 2021 for me was attending the U.K. Red Special meet-up at Theale Village Hall. I am looking forward to the following Queen and Brian May related activities in 2022:

  • In January I will be a guest on Jon Underhill’s Red Special Guitar Podcast where we chat about how Curiosity Killed The Cat helped get me into Queen, the day I met Brian May and the challenges of building a Red Special replica.
  • In March (Covid-19 constraints permitting) Jon and I will be attending Luke Holwerda’s second U.S. Red Special meet-up in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • In June, I am looking forward to attending the Queen + Adam Lambert Rhapsody Tour postponed from 2020 at the O2 Arena in London with my wife and children.

I have a few more RS build videos planned and I will obviously post content from the enthusiast meets but workload permitting, I anticipate moving on to other guitar related projects including one I have wanted to attempt for some years: a 1959 Gibson Les Paul replica build.