Brian May Stratocaster Conversion Part 4: Hardware Upgrades

While the guitar was disassembled, it seemed sensible to upgrade the standard hardware to Fender ‘deluxe’ specification which would improve the tuning stability during heavy tremolo use. I fitted a set of Fender Schaller back-locking tuners which are essentially the same as those fitted to Brian May’s Red Special, but with all six the same instead of 3L3R versions for a symmetrical headstock. They are also customised with the Fender ‘F’ logo instead of a plain back to the adjustment screw for standard retail pieces.

Roller bridge saddles like the ones pictured are available from various eBay sellers based in Shenzheng, China. They have a brass captive roller in a solid saddle. I ordered a set which took 15 days to arrive. The roller saddle itself is quite satisfactory but all the hardware [correct specifications are: M3 x 15 intonation adjustment screws, 6-8 mm long springs and M3 x 6 or M3 x 8 mm action height grub screws] were all too long requiring replacements had to be ordered; this was reasonable since they only cost £6.99 including postage. I traded all the hardware on the instrument for the Adeson Tri-Sonic pickups so I wasn’t able to re-fit the intonation springs and new Fender items had to be ordered.

During setup of the guitar, I established that the top and bottom E string saddles cannot be lowered sufficiently to achieve the 4/64″ (1/16″, 1.6 mm) ‘medium’ action height at the 17th fret that is recommended by Fender and which I find suitable. However, there is scope to remove some metal from the lower surface of the saddle without compromising its functionality. I was able to achieve an action somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 mm by using drill bits of these diameters to check the gap between the fret crown and string bottom, so not much milling or abrading was required to achieve the desired action.

I searched for some control knobs that were metal and suitable for fitting onto plain shaft potentiometers. The only suitable parts I found are custom made by Anotone in Chicago, Illinois:
These look great in their own right, particularly the bare aluminium finish which is reminiscent of Brian May’s Red Special while the top hat shape is pure Fender. The only snag is that the centre shaft diameter is around 5.8 mm whereas the Bourns plain shaft potentiometers are 6 mm diameter. I drilled these out to make them fit using the method I described in detail in the routing and milling operations section of my Burns RS conversion project:

Next article:
Part 5: Pickguard Shielding
Previous article:
Part 3: Pickguard Set