If you ever searched for “Brian May Guitar” on Aliexpress, you might have noticed the strange text “Bill Nvlay” that’s part of most descriptions. It meant quite a lot of head scratching until I found out what that’s supposed to mean: on the head of the guitars, there’s a faked “Brian May” signature. For the first copyist, the signature must have looked like “bill nvlay”, and since then it’s used that way 🙂
Since I just acquired a Stratocaster DIY kit without any hardware, I’ll outfit it with the circuit of Brian May’s Red Special – three Burns Tri-Sonic pickups in series, each of which can be switched in or out of phase. And since the Chinese text amuses me endlessly, I’ll call it “Billy Nvlay”. But I won’t apply Dr. May’s faked signature 🙂
Since I’ve already made corresponding plans for the Mini May, I’ll work with slide switches here, too – just with three instead of the six of the original; the cavity in the Stratocaster body would be too small for that. The slide switches will be mounted on a specially designed pickguard, which will also have larger holes for the Tri-Sonic pickups; the body will be painted dark red, like the original’s. Whether I’ll also paint the headstock red, I don’t know yet; the kit already came with a quite nicely lacquered neck, so presumably not.
The body, on the other hand … well. The kit already has a bit of a history; a friend of the previous owner once wanted to build two guitars, one for himself and one for the owner. He didn’t really make it very far – he just painted the bodies with one layer of glaze, then the project died. Based on the “decoration” burned into the headstock’s backside with a soldering iron, that seems to have been in 2011. Anyway, the painting isn’t really done well, and in the meantime the poor unfinished things received quite some scratches and dents, so I’ll sand them down again and try to get the flaws out of the wood as gently as possible. “Billy Nvlay” comes first. After a night session until 2 PM it already looks much better; another long session, and the body is ready for new adventures 🙂
… always the greatest pleasure. I already designed and printed three pickguard layouts – both for two potentiometers and three slide switches; one with the switches in a horizontal row, one with a slanted arrangement with vertical switches, one with an angled arrangement (most likely the best one, as it fits the existing cavity best and allows for more space between the pots). When I find the time, I’ll print and apply them on the body (… and of course check whether the real pickups and switches match the design!); if it works, I may have the best one made; or I’ll do it myself with a jigsaw. We’ll see. Jigsaw is cheaper, of course. Even including the jigsaw 😎
Not clear yet: the pickup positions. The Stratocaster kit has 21 frets, the Red Special has 24; correspondingly, the pickup positions are different. Since I have to route out the pickup cavities anyway – the Tri-Sonics a re quite a bit larger than normal Stratocaster single coils – I’ll presumably take exact measurements on the Red Special and try to reproduce that on the Stratocaster.
Other things – the Nvlay needs hardware. The bodies got a Vintage Tremolo routing (i.e., 6 screws, 56 millimeters between the outermost screws’ centers); the necks are in Vintage style, too (~6/8.7 mm holes for the tuners, truss rod at the body end). I don’t feel the need to tinker with that, so I’ll try to get good tuners for these measurements. Regarding the tremolo – that’s going to be a Wilkinson WVP6 in chrome (should go well with the Red Special theme), with a brass block.
And … a nut. While the neck has a(n uncut) nut, that’s a plastic one. If possible, I’d prefer a brass nut; that should correspond better sonically to the Red Special’s zero fret.
What else? Sure, some details … 2x 250K potentiometers (the 220K of the original are not as easy to get) and a 22nF capacitor; I’ll use a Fender Original Poti and a Fender No Load Tone Poti, which comes with a capacitor. A matching jack plug; I’m not sure yet whether in chrome or black. That I can simply try out when the rest is done – the experiment costs me around 1-2 Euros.
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