Brian May Red Special Guitar Podcast

The one we have all been waiting for is finally here. Live at 19.00 on Saturday, 5th November 2022, Red Special Guitar Podcast host Jon Underhill brings us an intimate discussion with Queen guitar legend, astronomer, animal rights campaigner and stereoscopic photographer, Dr Brian May. Watch, listen, enjoy and show your support for Jon’s endeavours by liking, commenting and subscribing to The RSGP on its various platforms.

Red Special Meet-up TVH 2022

The 2022 gathering of Brian May Red Special enthusiasts in the U.K. is imminent. Jon Underhill, host of The Red Special Podcast will welcome us once more to Theale Village Hall near Reading on Saturday, 8th October from 10 am to 5.30 pm. A number of participants will be flying in from the USA this year and we are sure to have the usual representatives from the U.K. and Europe (the continent, not the rock band) including Sweden and The Netherlands. No matter whether your interest is primarily in Brian’s music, building or playing his guitars, amplifiers and other equipment, there will be something of interest to see, hear and chat to other knowledgeable people about.

The schedule is not promulgated to avoid the disappointment of broken promises and dashed expectations in case guests or equipment are unavailable at the last minute but I can tell you that Jon has lined up some interesting people to interview and demonstrate a variety of Brian May related gear. I will be attending and staying at the Hilton Reading on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October. I will bring my Red Special replica, at least one KAT Studio-One amplifier and my purple Guyton RS Transporter if Andy Guyton has fitted its new carbon fibre pickguard. I might also bring a copy of The Red Special book and some metallic Sharpie markers on the off-chance that I can get it signed by one or both of the authors.

How Did Brian May Design His Red Special Guitar?

In 1963, because they could not afford to buy a suitable instrument, Brian May and his father Harold took an innovative and practical approach to designing a new type of electric guitar. Later dubbed “The Red Special”, neither of them could have predicted that ten years later it would become as famous as Brian himself. In this video, I explore an urban myth in the Brian May Red Special enthusiast community that they drew around various household objects to form the basic outline and features of the guitar. Like all good urban myths, it might have an element of truth to it so watch the video and decide for yourself.

Brian May’s Original Home Made Pickups (BHMOHM)

Before he fitted the three Burns Tri-Sonic pickups to his Red Special guitar which feature in all Queen recordings and live concerts, Brian made his own pickups with his father Harold’s guidance. He discussed them in an interview with Simon Bradley for the Red Special book in which they featured in Chapter 6: Revisiting The Past. You can read the transcript on the official Red Special website which is maintained by Simon:

https://www.theredspecial.com/2018/01/brian-may-interview-the-red-specials-original-pickups/

I recently completed a project to make a replica set of these pickups following Brian’s original design sketch but winding them to try to achieve similar DC resistance (7.0-7.4 kOhm) and inductance (2.0-2.3 H) to a typical vintage Tri-Sonic pickup. I made a 17 minute video covering the project in which I discuss the pickups and wind one using my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine and small AC industrial milling spindle. The only additional piece of equipment I bought was a magnetic wire tensioner.

There is more information and some images in the article in my FAQ section here:

https://dsgb.net/faqs/bhmohm/

Brian May Red Special Guitar Spare Parts Box

Another party’s over, so let’s take a relaxing look inside my Brian May Red Special spare parts box accompanied by one of my favourite Queen songs: My Melancholy Blues. I can show you some good merchandise including Adeson Brian May specification pickups and some replicas of the original pickups that Brian made from Eclipse button magnets. I’ve also got a number of vintage items including Bulgin jack sockets and TCC Metalmite capacitors. There are numerous items of custom made hardware including bakelite nuts, aluminium ‘top hat’ style control knobs, tremolo springs and a tremolo arm.

2022 US Red Special Meet-up (Phoenix, AZ)

The second US Brian May Red Special Enthusiast meet-up took place at the Linger Longer Lounge, 6522 N 16th Street in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday, 26 March 2022. As in 2020, the event was again arranged by Luke Holwerda, supported by Jon Underhill of The Red Special Guitar Podcast. The video below is a ten minute compilation video of some of the highlights of the day and includes demonstrations by Ricky Peraza of his CQ Red Special, a modified BMG Special owned by Andrek Hernandez and a 1994 Guild Brian May owned by Gonzalo Plaza. Check out the story in the Events section.

A ten minute compilation video of some of the highlights of the day

Brian May Red Special Roller Bridge CNC Milling

Brian May made the unique design of roller bridge for his original Red Special guitar from a piece of aluminium bar using hand tools. In my latest YouTube video I illustrate the process of making this intricate item by CNC milling using a hobby class CNC machine, in my case a 2016 model Stepcraft 2/840. The main sequences are all speeded up and the longer sections are considerably shortened so that they are only illustrative of the full process. The background music is Brian’s guitar solo from Queen: A Night at The Odeon.

I prepared a section of 6082 T6 aluminium bar to 84 x 16 x 10 mm using a hacksaw and abrasive paper and mounted this onto a levelled, square section of aluminium plate on my CNC machine bed using cyanoacrylate superglue. I then use three single fluted solid carbide cutters to mill the roller bridge: a 3 mm one for the thicknessing operations then a 2 mm cutter for the outline and roundover toolpath and cutting out the individual blocks and finally a 0.8 mm cutter for milling the roller axle channels (see note below).

I designed the general appearance such as the edge roundovers to resemble the Guyton Red Special bridge with the exception that the channels cut to accommodate the 1/32″ (0.8 mm) diameter axles of the roller saddles are drilled to 0.8 mm deep on those pieces whereas I only milled them to half-depth (0.4 mm) for this video. Embedding them to the full diameter of the axle goes some way to ensuring that the won’t pop out during string fitting.

Bridge Saddle Dimensions

  • Bridge saddles length: 5/8″
  • Bridge saddles width: Top & bottom E: 1/2″ (12.7 mm), middle four: 13/32″ (10.3 mm)
  • Bridge saddles height: Low and high E: 35/128″ (6.95 mm) A & B: 39/128″ (7.74 mm) D & G: 43/128″ (8.53 mm)
  • Roller rebate width: 25/128″ (4.96 mm)
  • Roller rebate depth: 3/32″ (2.4 mm) on all saddles
  • Screw holes to accept a cheese head machine screw (M3 or 6BA), 2 mm head depth

Bridge Rollers Specification

  • Overall width including axles: 23/64″ (9.13 mm)
  • Cylinder width: 3/16″, 4.76 mm
  • Cylinder diameter: 11 SWG (2.946 mm). All cylinders have a 0.042″ (1.07 mm) toroidal channel
  • Axle length: 23/64″ (9.13 mm)
  • Axle diameter: 1/32″ (0.8 mm)

The following information is essential when attemping aluminium milling on a CNC router (as opposed to a liquid cooled CNC milling machine):

  • High Brinell hardness alloys machine better, e.g. 6061-T6. Temper (T-number) is important
  • Use a very low XY feed rate, e.g. 500 mm/min
  • Use a small diameter, SINGLE FLUTE cutter
  • Shave the metal (e.g. 0.05 mm depth per pass)
  • Decrement the cutter height off the stock because end mill flutes are not designed for drilling
  • Use a spindle speed less than 10,000 rpm (e.g. 7,500 rpm)
  • Use a lubricant, e.g. WD-40 Specialist dry PTFE

dsgb.net Website 12 Month Progress Update

dsgb.net has now been fully populated since late December 2020 with all the content I originally planned and consists of 108 pages and 63 blog posts (including this one). As you can see from the WordPress statistics shown in the images below, the website is receiving 700-800 visitors per month and has settled to around 5,000-6,000 individual content views per month; the results for December 2021 are representative. The website has attracted over 8,600 visitors and over 64,000 content views since being fully populated, the bulk of which are from the USA and Western Europe. However, I am more fascinated by the small number of views from exotic locations, whether or not somebody on holiday or serving on a military base clicked on the wrong Google search result!

A huge thank you from me to everybody around the world who has shown interest in Doug Short Guitar Blog; I hope I have inspired and helped a few people around the world to launch their own guitar build or modification projects. The highlight of 2021 for me was attending the U.K. Red Special meet-up at Theale Village Hall. I am looking forward to the following Queen and Brian May related activities in 2022:

  • In January I will be a guest on Jon Underhill’s Red Special Guitar Podcast where we chat about how Curiosity Killed The Cat helped get me into Queen, the day I met Brian May and the challenges of building a Red Special replica.
  • In March (Covid-19 constraints permitting) Jon and I will be attending Luke Holwerda’s second U.S. Red Special meet-up in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • In June, I am looking forward to attending the Queen + Adam Lambert Rhapsody Tour postponed from 2020 at the O2 Arena in London with my wife and children.

I have a few more RS build videos planned and I will obviously post content from the enthusiast meets but workload permitting, I anticipate moving on to other guitar related projects including one I have wanted to attempt for some years: a 1959 Gibson Les Paul replica build.

Red Special Meet-up TVH 2021

The annual meet-up for enthusiasts of Brian May’s music and equipment was once again held at Theale Village Hall near Reading in Berkshire, U.K. on Saturday, 8th October 2021. The organiser, Jon Underhill, assisted by several other co-ordinators this year helped grow the event by increasing the numbers attending and stage-managing a series of talks and demonstrations. These included Martin Pitcher covering Brian’s Starlicks set-up, talks by Arielle and Queen’s Sound Engineer Justin Shirley-Smith and a 25th birthday present by Andy Guyton to Luke Timmins of his Guyton Time Warp Red Special. A raffle for some superb donated items including a KAT BM Mini Rig and a KAT Groundbreaker raised £530 for the Save Me trust. Click the link below to see additional content on the events section:

Red Special Meet-up TVH 2021

Brian May Red Special Guitar Neck Full CNC Cut Video

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.