I recently revised my Brian May Red Special guitar neck design to correct some original sin errors and incorporate a significant number of improvements (‘kaizen’), most notably to the thickness of the mahogany in the main section and the headstock. I also reinterpreted the region where the headstock lozenge shape meets the elliptical profile of the main section to improve the fidelity. Having improved my TurboCAD techniques in the five years or so since I began this project, I also took the opportunity to simplify the methods I use to design each part of the neck (tenon, main section and headstock) to achieve a better result.
I sourced more mahogany timber (from Manuel Angelini in France), prepared it using my Makita table saw and CNC cut the neck over several sessions in August 2021, over four years since I made my original neck. I recorded highlights of each session in full HD, 60 fps, speeded up the sequences and mixed them into a 13 minute long YouTube video illustrating each stage of the process. This is embedded below; further details are available in the YouTube description with time indexed titles.
I took every opportunity to improve the cutting and drilling processes including CNC cutting two large 2 degree and 4 degree wedges for drilling machine heads holes in the headstock and fixing screw and bolt holes in the tenon. I also made an extended bed for my mini drill press from 19 mm plywood to accommodate them. To maintain precise axial alignment for both the upper and lower side toolpaths, I fitted a “L”-shaped alignment bracket water-jet custom cut from 20 mm thick aluminium to the T-slot machine table. Credit to Jon Underhill for providing this. This was the first cut in which I deployed direct dust extraction by means of a Delta dust shoe and Dyson DC39 Animal vacuum cleaner.
To make subsequent assembly easier, I CNC cut a slot for the brass plate which the truss rod tensioner bolt butts up against and corrected the position of the rebate which accommodates it. I also drilled six dowel locating holes to mount a perspex template which I will use to align the fretboard precisely to the the mahogany.
After a two year hiatus enforced by the global Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the annual U.K Red Special meet-up will be held once again at Theale Village Hall near Reading, Berkshire on Saturday, 9th October 2021. The event is organised by Jon Underhill, host of The Red Special Guitar Podcast. Tickets are on sale for £15 from Eventbrite at the link below; the admission price covers the hire cost of the venue.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, those who required local accommodation enjoyed a comfortable and welcoming stay at the Best Western Calcot Hotel, a short drive from the event venue with after hours discussions over a meal and later in the bar being a highlight of the weekend. However, due to uncertainty regarding ownership of The Calcot which has been closed since January 2021, guests are recommended to book into the Hilton Reading for the Friday and/or Saturday nights.
I have booked my admission ticket and will shortly be booking accommodation when our family plans for the weekend are finalised. I look forward to seeing regulars and some new faces. As in previous years, the meet-up is a great opportunity to see, hear and try out commercial and home made Red Special replicas and variants, vintage and modern effects pedals and Brian May rigs, none of which can generally be bought in high street shops or from online retailers. The regular cohort of attendees, both amateur and professional are friendly, approachable and highly knowledgeable on a range of topics from luthiery through guitar effects and rig electronics to Brian May’s musical style and playing technique.
To get a flavour of what to expect, please take a look at my reviews of the previous TVH events:
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:
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.
I recently recorded two videos in which I discuss and demonstrate some of the techniques required when building a Brian May Red Special replica guitar from the perspective of an amateur luthier. I generally did not film any of the work involved with building my Red Special replica at the time, other than some CNC routing and 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 recording edited videos with distinct segments and narrative to demonstrate key processes and offer tips where appropriate.
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.
When I launched dsgb.net 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 March 2021, I reached a minor milestone of creating the 100th unique web page and writing the 50th blog post on dsgb.net.
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 Gilmourish.com 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 dsgb.net 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.