Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 76

COLUMN Shop of Hard Knocks
May has said they were basically copying
a Strat, but using Burns Tri-Sonic pickups
and a switching system that could activate
individual pickups and/or reverse the polarity of a single pickup or any combination
of pickups. It also created series or parallel
connection. By isolating the ground lead from
each, May and his father used double-pole/
double-throw (DPDT) switches for the polarity functions and double-pole/single-throw
(DPST) switches for series/parallel function.
Everything was handled by six small toggles
on the Red Special's pickguard.
Installing a system like this from scratch like
the Mays did would be a huge undertaking for
the average hobbyist, but it's much more doable thanks to a commercially manufactured
assembly.

KILLER (QUEEN) TONE
The Brian May Wiring Mod
By Will Kelly

W

hen Brian May and his father grabbed
some old mantle wood and started
building the famous Red Special guitar

in the mid '60s, they applied several radical
(for the time) wiring modifications to its
three-pickup layout.

1

2

VINTAGE GUITAR

76

January 2018

1) I used a body carved for a humbucker/
single/single configuration and planned to
install controls including a master Volume,
master Tone, and a five-way pickup selector.
The body does not use a pickguard, so I had
to drill mounting holes through the guitar's
top. Obviously, this part is irreversible, so if
you decide to try it, do not do it on a vintage/
collectible/dear-to-you instrument. If your
guitar has a pickguard, you'll want to mount the
switches on it, so consider buying a replacement
that can be dedicated to the mod.
2) The six-switch assembly provides 35 tones
from three pickups. Its package includes a drilling/mounting template as well as spare hookup
wires and labels for tracking wire traces.
3) After using the template to mark hole
locations, I drilled holes with a 1/4" Forstner-


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 3
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 4
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Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - Contents
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