Brian May Stratocaster Conversion Part 9: Final Assembly and Testing

To complete this project, I CNC cut a pickguard shield from 0.127 mm thick copper sheet from Fred Aldous art and craft supplies, glued it to the back of the pickguard and applied thin, self-adhesive copper foil to the perspex PCB carrier plate. I mounted the pickups with M3 stainless steel machine screws using 0.5 mm small brass washers as shims and stainless steel nyloc nuts. The switches are fitted with 8.7 mm diameter ALPS TAK8-102 A.3.3 pushbutton switch caps in light grey from Conrad Electronic in the U.K:

I soldered lengths of 7/0.2, 26 SWG PTFE sheathed instrument wire to the KAT PCB at each pickup, common earth and jack socket barrel and tip connections to allow the module to be removed and replaced without desoldering and soldering at the PCB itself, and because the positive and negative wires on the pickups were not all long enough.

I rewired the 1/4” mono jack socket with 7/0.2, 26 SWG PTFE sheathed instrument wire and fashioned a 7 mm high support for the underside of the volume potentiometer from 14 mm o.d./8 mm i.d. black silicone hose with 8 mm diameter PTFE rod in the centre. This was glued to the control cavity floor. Final testing revealed that I need to remove a shim washer from the treble side of the bridge pickup to raise it and eliminate a source of noise caused by the copper shield on the underside of the pickguard not lying flat against the strip attached to the guitar body.

I took the guitar along to the Red Special meet-up in Theale, Reading, U.K. in October 2018. Luke Timmins was kind enough to put it through its paces with his full live rig in front of a small but highly knowledgeable group of Queen enthusiasts, amateur musicians and Brian May’s guitar technician, Pete Malandrone. The embedded video below shows Luke demonstrating it. Please note that this video was recorded on an iPhone 7 and the recorded tone is not representative of the in-room audio quality. Luke is the lead guitarist with tribute band Supreme Queen and is playing through his full live rig.

You can find out more about Luke at the band’s website:

Jon Underhill has recorded a 1h 12 minute podcast with Luke in which he talks about how he ended up performing in a Queen tribute band and his replica of Brian May’s live performance rig. You can listen to it here:

I retained the guitar in this configuration until the time of writing this article at the end of December 2020. Since I completed my Red Special replica build project in June 2020, a Burns Signature RS upgrade in November 2020 and I also have a Guyton RS Transporter, there are plenty of options to try to sound like Brian May. Earlier in the year I had acquired a set of Fender style single coil pickups wound to vintage specification by Adrian Turner of Adeson Fenton Weill so I decided that it was worthwhile returning the guitar to a regular Fender Stratocaster specification. I also ordered an EMG DG20 loaded pickguard ( to begin a David Gilmour tone quest in 2021.

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Part 8: The KAT PCB
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