Burns Brian May Red Special BHM 4787 Upgrade

At the end of September 2020, I bought a 2004 Burns Brian May Red Special guitar with serial number BHM 4787 from a local seller advertising on Gumtree. I had been searching for a budget priced one to attempt an upgrade for a few years. This example is in excellent condition and because it lacks the semicircular faux tremolo cover and associated screws, it is better suited to cosmetic improvements and hardware upgrades than the later BMG Special models.

I restricted the project scope to cosmetic upgrades and reversible hardware modifications. The majority of the man hours expended were on the CAD design of a new pickguard shape which is as close to Brian May’s original Red Special guitar as possible given the constraints imposed by differences in the guitar body and cavity shapes of these otherwise good quality commercial replicas. The schedule of changes are listed below:

  • Gotoh SG381-01 MG-T Locking 3L/3R Chrome finish, Thomann GmBH
  • White pearloid small ‘butterbean’ tuning pegs (set of 6), WD Music U.K.
  • Adeson “Original BM/Guyton Specification” Tri-Sonic pickups with DC resistances and inductances within 1% of the original Red Special (middle RWRP)
  • Custom designed pickguard CNC cut from 3 mm gloss black perspex, 45 degree bevelled outer edge, hand polished
  • Custom designed pickup surrounds CNC cut from 2 mm thick gloss black perspex, roundover edges, hand polished
  • Custom designed rear cover plate from perspex (Red Dark Gloss 433)
  • Roller bridge saddles by eBay seller Air cargo trader Ltd (outdoormarket)
  • Brian May Guitars’ aluminium control knob set
  • Vintage Burns style chromed brass strap buttons (Cyber Shop) fitted after the pictures were taken
  • Bourns PDB181-GTR02-254A2 audio (log) taper potentiometers at 236 kOhm, remaining stock selected from 2014 Farnell order to match the original Red Special
  • Vishay MKT1813 Polyester capacitor, 33 nF 400V, selected from a large batch to match the capacitance of the original Red Special
  • Switchcraft 46200 LRX series DPDT parallel slide switches mounted on a custom designed perspex carrier plate
  • Rotosound British Steels BS9 super light string set

Links to Project Phase Pages

Part 1: Inspection and Strip Down
Part 2: Design Phase
Part 3: Routing and Milling Operations
Part 4: Pickguard Fit Tests
Part 5: Switch Mounting Plate
Part 6: Mechanical Set-up
Part 7: Control Cavity Copper Shielding
Part 8: Pickguard Wiring