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First build- Lap Steel

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by The Aram, May 17, 2009.

  1. The Aram

    The Aram TDPRI Member

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    So I've been reading here for a long time to get some build ideas. I figure before I start making full-out guitars, I should start with something simpler and tackle a lap steel. I've always wanted one, so it works out.

    Here's what I have so far, and what I'm envisioning. I will post my drawings once I can get them scanned to get some feedback on if I'm setting something up incorrectly:

    My wood is a slab of 1 7/8 inch thick ash, 3 feet long by 8 inches on one end, tapering out to 10 inches on the other end. I bought it from the local reuse center, which sells reclaimed wood from urban treecutting. kiln-dried and everything. cost me $32, which seemed pretty reasonable.

    I've decided to go with a single P90 for the pickup. I went with the soapbar configuration. I will be having tone and volume knobs, 500k pots, .022uf cap.

    I'm debating whether to go with the LP Jr. wraparound bridge I bought from GFS or just use the aluminum angle stock i'm using on the bridge and do a string-through configuration. I'm inclined to use the LP bridge to make things simpler, but I'd also like some practice drilling ferrule holes.

    I will be building a MDF template to route from next weekend. Should also be a good way to get into routing, as I've never done it before.

    I really only have three major questions (and subquestions, i guess):

    1. How deep should I rout the pickup cavity with a soapbar P90? How close should the pickup be to the strings for a P90 on a lap steel? Also, how close should it be to the bridge? The action will be somewhere around 3/8 to 1/2 of an inch.

    2. What's the best/easiest way to mark out tuner holes on the headstock when I'm doing the drawings/template? I have 3-on-a-side plate tuners from GFS, so I will have to be drilling 9mm holes. I'm just nervous I'll drill them incorrectly and they won't fit. Also, how far is too far from the nut for the top and bottom tuners, and with the higher action of the lap steel nut (I'm basing my design off the of the buildyourownguitar.com lap steel plan), will a string tree be necessary?

    3. I'm a bit perplexed by a grounding wire to the bridge. Is that necessary/how do I drill the hole/where do i mount the wire to the bridge? Wouldn't just grounding the electronics to the ?volume? pot be necessary? I'm not afraid of soldering, but I've never soldered a guitar before. I'm also assuming I'm going to have to shield everything pretty thoroughly.

    That's all I have for now, I appreciate any help anyone can give me. There will definitely be a lot more as the project progresses. I've gotten to the point as a player where I'm finding it hard to find commercial guitars that fit exactly what i want, so it's time to start building my own! There will, of course, be pictures along the way.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Ragtime Dan

    Ragtime Dan Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    I am probably the least qualified on the build forum to answer Tech questions about lap steels, but, here goes:

    1. The bottom of the P90 pickup cavity is around 1 1/4 inch below the strings. So if the strings are around 1/2 inch off the body.
    Then the cavity will be around 3/4 of an inch deep. Slightly deeper if the strings are lower. Have the pickup in hand before you try it, so you can practice on some scrap and check the fit and height.

    2. Since the tuner plates give you a nice guide. Position them and trace them on to a paper template.
    Drill a 3/4 inch piece of particle board using the template you drew as a guide. Check the fit of the tuner plates in the particle board.
    If they fit well, carefully clamp the particle board to the head stock along with a backer (scrap) on the oppisite side to prevent tear out.
    The particle board jig you made will prevent the bit from wandering whem you start the holes. If you don't get the jig right the first time you can do it over until it's to your satifaction before applying it to the headstock.

    3. The bridge ground can be done with a hole drilled from under the bridge plate mounting position down at an angle to the pickup cavity.
    the end of the wire under the bridge can be stripped and spread flat so the bare strands are trapped under the bridge plate when you screw it down.
    But you understand, if you are using a Tele style bridge plate any contact point under it is as good as any other, as long as it is solid, it doesn't have to be soldered to the bridge. The bridge ground is importand to reduce RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) which is very common with electric guitars causing buzzing, humming, and picking up CB radio bands. I'm not kidding. Ten four good budy.
     
  3. The Aram

    The Aram TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the help, Dan.

    So I've been knocking around some ideas in my head, and I'm thinking I'd like to make the tuning pegs vertical, a la an old Fender Deluxe.

    Like this:

    [​IMG]

    There are two ways I can figure to pull this off with 3-on-a-side tuners.

    1. rout out a swimming pool rout on the headstock and then fitting in two strips of wood inside it to mount the tuners into, thereby making it easier to drill the holes. My only concern would be that screwing them into the headstock wouldn't provide enough stability for the string tension. They'd just get ripped out. Is that valid?

    2. Rout out a strip down the middle for the tuning pegs themselves and enough on the other side for the mechanisms, but then this means i need to drill through the middle strips from the outside edges, fill the access holes with dowels later. I'm planning on a black finish, so that isn't a huge deal.

    Does this seem like it could work? Would I need to have some kind of angle to the tuners (vertically or horizontally)? I know on the Fender models the holes for the strings on the pegs are staggered to allow them to stay out of the way of the others.

    I hope this makes sense in writing. I'm kind of a novice at this and don't want to make any huge mistakes. Thanks in advance.
     
  4. Jack Wells

    Jack Wells Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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  5. Ragtime Dan

    Ragtime Dan Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    Aram,


    I had to chuckle at myself. Because before I looked at the picture, When I read “a la an old Fender Deluxe”. I was picturing in my head a Fender Telecaster Deluxe. When you said you want the pegs vertical, I thought you meant you wanted the part the string wraps around vertical, like on a Telecaster head. But people use terms like pegs & tuners interchangeably, so my confusion is under state able.

    Some ukulele builders are routing out a square hole through the headstock and just drill holes from the side to mount cheap and readily available guitar tuners. The Fender Deluxe you are using as your model, has a steel cup assembly with tuning machines mounted in it, that screws into an hole routed in the body as a unit. Since those are not available. And because you originally stated your reason for building a lap steel guitar first, was to do something simpler, before building a guitar. I would think you would do something both easier than what you are describing, and more like what you will need to practice when you start building your (Telecaster style?) guitar.

    Like this simple approach:

    http://buildyourguitar.com/resources/lapsteel/


    That being said, there is no reason you shouldn't try fabricating your own mounting assembly, or whatever creative Idea you want to try. If you a make a “huge mistake”, you will have to figure out how to fix it and move on. That's every bit as important as getting it right the first time.
    I would like to tell you to quit second guessing your self and allow yourself to try out the ideas you have. If you have to start over, you will find a use for the scraps.


    There is a guy I met briefly here in Tucson at the annual 17th Street Market Luthier's Show, Kevin Sterner,who makes “Cigar Box” Lap Steels, and “Mini-T” Lap Steels.
    They are stunningly beautiful, and functional, in spite of using not parts specifically designed for Steel Guitar hardware. He also makes equally beautiful Electric Guitars, which are usually sold out.
    You should have a look at his web page for inspiration:

    http://www.kevinsterner.com/

    Also there are several links that might interest you on his links page.

    Enjoy!

    Oh, and another links diversion to keep you from working on your project, Brad's Page of Steel:

    http://www.well.com/~wellvis/diy.html

    ...I like JWELLS post too, that's a great approach!
     
  6. IrishMail

    IrishMail Tele-Meister

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    I have an early 60s Rickenbacker 'Electro' model 105 lap steel.

    At the head, the inside routing for the tuner 'posts' doesn't go thru to the back, which is awkward for re-stringing. The open-gear tuners are recessed into the headstock, with a chrome cover plate keeping out all manner of evil stuff. The nut appears to be bakelite. The fret-marker board is painted aluminum. The body is maple.

    [​IMG]


    -

    At the tail end, there are 6 holes to the back, without ferrules. Evidently, the maple is hearty enough, and there are slight counterbores from the back. The bridge and knobs are also bakelite. The classic horse-shoe pickup is about as close to the bridge as they come.

    [​IMG]

    -
    This 'Rick' goes to our weekly jam, where I play it 2 or 3 hours. Everything from honkytonk and western swing to Allman Brothers and the occasional Santana or BB King minor bluesy thing are put forth with relative grace.

    Good luck with your build, and please share lots of pictures!
     
  7. IrishMail

    IrishMail Tele-Meister

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  8. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    On a lap stel you neither need adjustable height, not intonation adjustment - go for the simplest design possible, either as shown by jwells witha wood base and metal road, or with aluminium angle like I use:

    [​IMG]

    I woudln't go with a wraparound bridge (or that Allparts bridge linked to), for the following reason: these are intended for "regular guitars", so the saddles will sit at different heights, to follow the fretboard radius - but on a lap steel you want the bridge to be straight, the strings should all sit at the same height, otherwise you'll have to exert a lot of pressure onto the steel bar to press down the strings for playing chords...
     
  9. IrishMail

    IrishMail Tele-Meister

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    Another alternative is to get a couple of 'roller nuts', one for each end. No sharp edges or corners.

    Here's one with a BIN price under $5:
    [​IMG]
     
  10. scubadoo

    scubadoo Tele-Afflicted

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    there's always this for a bridge
    [​IMG]
     
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