Brian May Red Special Build Project: Materials, Parts and Suppliers

This article is an inventory of all the materials and parts I have used on my Brian May Red Special replica guitar build listed under an appropriate category heading. Where the parts I used are no longer available, or were custom made and unavailable for general sale, I have included a recommendation where you can obtain suitable alternatives that I would have used my if circumstances were different at the time, or if I was planning my build at the time of writing (end June 2020). None of these recommendations constitutes a commercial product endorsement, they are simply intended to be a steer towards what I consider to be the best product available with which to build an authentic Brian May Red Special replica guitar that would be cosmetically and sonically acceptable to most enthusiasts. Please seek the opinions and advice of other knowledgeable enthusiasts, particularly those who have built at least one Red Special replica before parting with your money.

Adhesives & Fillers

  • Epoxy Resins
    • Milliput Epoxy Putty, Superfine White, Amazon.co.uk
    • Gorilla Epoxy Glue 25 ml, Amazon.co.uk
  • Grain Filler
  • Superglue
  • Wood Filler
    • Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler, Amazon.co.uk
  • Wood Glue
    • Titebond Wood Glue (various grades available), 16 fl oz (473 ml), Amazon.co.uk

Coatings

Clear Lacquer
I used Rustins Plastic Coating (RPC), obtained from Amazon.co.uk to clear coat the entire guitar body and neck, including fretboard. I chose the same brush-on formulation that Brian originally used, not for absolute authenticity as such, but because it was a proven product that had been available for many years and if the instructions for use were clearly understood and carefully adhered to, would yield a consistent result. In addition, I was not confident in either my own ability to uniformly apply aerosol spray lacquer or that the climatic conditions (i.e. changeable weather, relatively low ambient temperatures and relatively high ambient humidity levels throughout the year) would be suitable for applying and curing aerosol spray based formulations. Please read my article which offers some practical advice on using RPC: https://dsgb.net/projects/redspecial/rustins/

With the benefit of hindsight, I would give serious consideration to using a medium viscosity cyanoacrylate superglue applied with a sponge brush to clear coat the woods in future. This cures quicker and yields a harder wearing clear coat than RPC permitting a ‘scrape flat, sand smooth’ approach. I used this technique to refinish the headstock. Andy Guyton used superglue extensively for stabilising and filling cracks in the lacquer during his mini restoration of the original Red Special in April 2016. If you decide to take up this recommendation, please test on scrap timber before committing to an instrument and, when scraping, clean your blade frequently to prevent build up of residue which could be drawn across the surface, scratching it.

  • Paints & Stains
    • PlastiKote 21102 400ml Premium Spray Paint Gloss – White, 400 ml aerosol canister, Amazon.co.uk
    • PlastiKote 21100 400 ml Premium Spray Paint – Gloss Black, 400 ml aerosol canister, Amazon.co.uk
    • Rustins Quick Dry Blackboard Paint, 250 ml tin, Amazon.co.uk
    • Rustins Red Mahogany Wood Dye, 250 ml, Amazon.co.uk

Electronic Components

  • Bourns PDB181-GTR02-254A2 potentiometers 250 kOhm, audio (logarithmic) taper, Farnell, https://uk.farnell.com/
  • Bulgin (Radio Spares) 1/4″ stereo jack socket (eBay). If unavailable, I recommend a Switchcraft 1/4″ jack socket, mono, long thread item.
  • Vintage TCC Metalmite CP33N 0.02 microF Capacitors. Neil Badcock ‏(morgankl‏) ebay@neilbadcock.com
  • MKT1813 Vishay Polyester Capacitors 33 nF 400V 10% tolerance: RS Components Ltd (https://uk.rs-online.com/), RS stock number 185-4303, manufacturer part number MKT1813333405
  • Barb cone lock silver plated PTFE insulated terminal posts Part no. 156-WE-SP, AERCO Ltd, https://www.aerco.co.uk/ (cheaper alternatives are available)
  • Parallel slide switches: use 46206LRX series switchcraft switches and modify them as necessary. If you desire the cosmetic appearance of the original Jeanrenaud items, consider modifying a set with my design of 3D printed hybrid actuator.
  • Burns Tri-Sonic pickups. Please read my FAQ on Tri-Sonic pickups for background information and recommendations. Enthusiasts seeking traditional authenticity should buy from Ade Turner of Adeson Fenton Weill (https://www.adeson.co.uk/). At the budget end of the range, Korean-made BHK Tri-Sonic pickups with plain covers or etched with “Burns Tri-Sonic” can be obtained from eBay for less than £90 per set and are suitable for modification. I understand that this factory makes the pickups for Burns London, http://www.burnsguitars.com/accessories.php).

Fasteners and Fixings

See my full schedule of imperial fasteners used in this build: https://dsgb.net/projects/redspecial/fasteners/
Many of these were obtained from the following U.K. eBay suppliers: Kay’s Fasteners (kayfast1), Bolt Base Ltd ‏(boltbase‏) or Falcon Workshop Supplies ‏(massiveattack007‏) http://www.falconworkshop.co.uk/ Some other items are listed individually below.

Hardware

I recommend obtaining all your Red Special hardware (tremolo rocker block, tremolo arm, spring set, roller bridge, control knobs and strap buttons) from Ron Smith’s Cybershop which has a website (https://www.rscustommachine.com/) and a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheCyberShopLLC). Ron has been making Red Special hardware for various commercial luthiers for some years. I met him at the 2020 US meet-up in Phoenix, AZ and am happy to advise that he is friendly, approachable, quality-focused and willing to discuss customisation to your design if his stock parts do not meet your requirements.

Raw Materials

  • Bakelite
    • Ormond Bakelite E1022 Hairdryer or other mottled brown bakelite items from eBay.
  • Metal
    • Steel flat bar (imperial ground flat stock) 1/4″ x 1/2″ x 12″, GLR Kennions Ltd, https://www.glrkennions.co.uk/
    • Aluminium sheet NS4 H3 (equivalent to 5251 H22 grade) 1.2 mm x 300 x 300 mm, Merlin Motorsport, https://www.merlinmotorsport.co.uk/
    • Polished Brass Sheet Plate 1.5 mm thick 150 x 50 mm, Steve Graham Sales Ltd ‏(sgs132‏, hardwareoutlet@hotmail.co.uk)
    • Thin Copper Foil (0.1 mm), LiveMoor via Amazon Marketplace
    • Extra Thin Copper Foil (0.05 mm), LiveMoor via Amazon Marketplace
  • Plastic
    • Gloss black cast acrylic sheet 400 x 350 x 3.0 mm thick & 2.0 mm thick, freely available mail order via eBay, plastics suppliers all over the country.
  • Wood
    • Victorian/Edwardian Fire Surround, solid mahogany, eBay.
    • Non structural hardwood plywood sheet 2440 x 1220 x 3.6 mm (8′ x 4′ x 9/64″) Travis Perkins Builders Merchants, https://www.travisperkins.co.uk/
    • Planed All Round (PAR) European Oak timber 3 metres length 4 3/4″ wide x 3/4″ thick, British Hardwoods, http://www.britishhardwoods.co.uk/
    • Sitka Spruce tonewood 4.6 kg, 550 x 90 x 90 mm approx, Exotic Hardwoods (Timberline), https://www.exotichardwoods.co.uk/
    • Reclaimed quarter sawn English oak wood boards (102 x 12 x 725 mm), English Woods (englishwoods), scswwk@gmail.com
    • Mahogany veneer, crown cut 2900 x 360 mm, Exotic Hardwoods (Timberline), https://www.exotichardwoods.co.uk/ Note that it is difficult to obtain quarter cut genuine mahogany marquetry veneer with leaf width sufficient to cover the entire Red Special body. Therefore, I recommend joining narrower veneer sections on the upper and lower surface of the body.

Miscellaneous Items

Related articles:
Tools and Tips
Rustins Plastic Coating
Fixings and Fasteners