Red Special Tremolo.


Red Special Tremolo was designed by Brian May of Queen in conjunction with his dad. I love the picture in Brian’s book of the build, where he has the hand wired pickups bathing in a melted wax pan.  The home made wire winder shows how rudimentary their tools were. Using a drill as a lathe shows flexibility of the mind and certainly they thought ‘out of the box’. To think that Brian May, with his home built guitar , could produce such tremendous music is surprising indeed .

The Red Special has become the subject of a book. Its been X-rayed and even spawned an industry around other people building their own replica’s.  This guitar though also raises difficulties for those seeking to make their their own. Finding the items to faithfully replicate it is directly attributed to its home built birth. Using pieces laying around in his Dad’s workshop present those who build their own with such problems as the springs required for the very clever tremolo.  I have been searching high and low for suitable springs.  The many forums covering the building of replica’s have all had posts asking for help.  I think at last I may have found some today (28th Nov 2016) but until they are delivered I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will do the job.

Continuing build of the Red Special.

Today’s offering relates to completing the Tremolo assembly (minus the hard to find springs!).  I decided that the various tremolo arms I have seen(and those on the plans) were all different so decided to do my own thing. As I have said before I am not gifted in the ability to play any instrument. even the triangle! I can however make the arm parts to my own pattern. After watching Brian play on youtube I am happy with what has been made. I did add a couple of teflon washers I turned from some rod, so David can arrange the right level of movement for himself.

Red Special Tremolo
Red Special Tremolo assembly from the replica being built


The tremolo arm

The tremolo arm consists of a 5mm stainless steel threaded rod that is screwed into the main tremolo block. It is held firmly in place with a brass lock nut turned, and threaded on the lathe. A spacer turned from brass brings the arm above the top of the main block. Then the first of the self made washers sits between the spacer and the collar, to which the arm is secured. Another teflon washer is used between the collar and the second (turned from hex bar) lock nut. Finally, using more hexagonal bar, a domed nut was fashioned locking it all together.

The tremolo arm in the picture however is not the correct one. Its shape is wrong and was bought as part of a tremolo purchased early on.  So I have ordered some 5mm stainless steel bar to make one as per the Red Special itself. Its a shame the bought tremolo wasn’t used.  When running through the make up of the main body I discovered it needed to be fitted from the back of the guitar. This meant a large plate on the back and completely different fittings. It was supposed to be for the red Special guitar but would not have been true to the original.

Videos to ponder.

An hour was lost during the writing this article because I  visited Youtube. I wanted to show a video of Brian using the tremolo arm to help clarify its use when I watched a couple of videos. They were so good they deserve to be shared with you. Whilst not a Queen nut like David they are one of my favourite groups and I have many off their recordings. One in particular is Brian singing too much love will kill you. I never ever knew he had such a smashing voice and suppose I thought a guitar and backing singing was his lot. However, this version of the song brought a tear to my eyes……..

I actually prefer it to Freddy’s!  I always thought this was biographical for Freddy referring to his untimely passing but now find it was written by Brian.

Review of Brian and his Techy….

The next video refers to the red special itself. It not only references how Brian and his dad built it but  shows some replica’s.  Look out for a stunning ‘Badger’ version. You may or may not, (no pun with his name!) know that Brian is a big campaigner in the UK for Badgers. The ‘Badger’ has an ‘F” hole that was going to be included in the original Red Special and described as a semi-acoustic guitar. It really is a work of art.

I need to make it clear that I am not profiting from the two videos in any way and the music is copyrighted to the musicians. Since you can find these on Youtube yourself though I should be safe. I fell foul of youtube copyright when making my pen video as I had the radio on in the background! It was only seconds before they let me know I breeched the copyright on 3 tunes! Still were friends again now 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Red Special Tremolo

  1. Hello Mike,

    I did watch the Brian May video and must agree it is a superb performance.

    I am really looking forward to seeing the Red Special Guitar when it is completed. If David is half as moved by this gift as I was with my Chess Set he will be “over the moon” so to speak. Something hand made with love and such attention to detail is priceless.

    Keep up the good work and keep your finger out of the grinder.



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