Standard Issue Lap Steel

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by henkka, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    Getting inspired by all the fine projects going on here, I thought I´d give instrument building a bash.

    I´ve been interested in aquiring a lap steel guitar for a while. They are definitely not abundant here in Finland, I have never actually seen one (let alone tried) in my life. Nevertheless I like the sound of them.

    As a guitarist and bassist for around fifteen years, I´ve noticed that the cheapest price range instrument isn´t always the best way to really get into a new instrument. In lap steels mid range products seem a rarity with either cheap asians or expensive professional u.s. gear the only options. Not able to afford anything proper at the moment as I am a student, I decided to build one. At least it´ll have entertainment value.

    As a fan of simple things, as Esquires and Leo´s early work in general, I start off my project with this background story:

    What if the army had suddenly placed an order of 100.000 six string lap steels instead of jeeps around 1950? The guidelines being:
    1. It must be cheap, light and sturdy
    2. It has to use standard, readily available parts
    3. It has to be suited for mass production (=easy to build, quick to finish)
    4. It has to be easy to repair by anyone (or not break, ha ha)
    5. It has to do what it´s built to do well
    6. It has to have long enough scale to make sure operating it with standard issue gloves on is possible

    Here´s a quick sketch:
    [​IMG]

    And reactions to guidelines:
    1. Speaker-cab pine is the wood of choice
    2. Esquire hardware minus controls, pickup=>jack shall be enough)
    3. No frills design (two-by-four esthetics), blonde+nitro finish (quick and cheap)
    4. Easily replacable screw-on parts (as Leo would have liked)
    5. Well, we´ll see about that...
    6. Something around 24", perhaps a dull metric 60cm will do

    I´ll start building the prototype asap and will have my camera with me.

    Cheerio, and please let me know if this post is in the wrong place or wrong in any other way.

    Hilleri
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010
  2. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    Bought wood. Pine speaker cabinet board, € 2.75 (~$3)

    [​IMG]

    Sawed it in half. Cut the other half shorter than other, modeled the headstock. Glued them together.

    [​IMG]

    Another view.

    [​IMG]

    It can dry in peace, try to rout pickup and jack area tomorrow.

    Hilleri
     
  3. Tom Pettingill

    Tom Pettingill Tele-Holic

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    Lap steel is a ton of fun, you will have a blast.

    I'd recommend at least having a volume control. If you move the bridge up a little you can get one in on the tail or alternatively you could mount it on the side similar to how they do it in this basic tutorial http://www.buildyourguitar.com/resources/lapsteel/
     
  4. spyderxxx

    spyderxxx Tele-Meister

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    usually you want the controls on the top. i don't know the proper term but you curl your little finger around the volume control and vary thr volume in certain
    situations. I have a national down stairs . Tell me if you want a pic
     
  5. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    Volume & National

    I´ll think about the volume thing, those pedal-ish sounds are fabulous. (Let me think, what about a volume pedal, or is it just an example of making things difficult?)

    I´d love to see your National, just general interest combined with stuff I´ve been wondering about eg. string height and so on...And overall styling is always interesting. How do you think a tele bridge pickup will do?

    Cheers for your comments.

    Hilleri
     
  6. Tom Pettingill

    Tom Pettingill Tele-Holic

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  7. spyderxxx

    spyderxxx Tele-Meister

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    National steel from about 1960. Probably $120 when new. Hasn't been out of the case in 15 years. It's on it's second set of strings. Hope this works.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG].
     
  8. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    Some progress

    First, thanks for all the advice and good pictures. If this ultra-ascetic model works at all, I´ll definitely try out something more classic, perhaps in the style of the National pictured. With my ragged work quality i could call it the ´International´ as a hats off to our former eastern neighbors.

    Quick stop to the shop in the weekend.

    Routed the mic channel. Power drill and hand tools, looks dodgy, but works.

    [​IMG]

    Generic tele bridge and pickup fits fine.

    [​IMG]

    The headstock is mildly rounded.

    [​IMG]

    Painted masonite fretboard with some 60´s black car paint I found in the garage. Can handle nitrocellulose on top, tried it out on a test surface.

    [​IMG]

    Next time jack routing and finishing, gonna use alcohol based stain, fender blonde-style. Tested on test surface, can also handle nitro, dries real fast.
     
  9. vlada

    vlada Tele-Holic

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    here`s my version of lap steel design. it is wallnut body with printed plastic paper fingerboard, guitarparts bridge and tele neck pup. aluminum control/scratch plate - homemade.
     

    Attached Files:

  10. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    fretb

    Cool idea with the plastic fretb, my idea was masonite + printed paper + laquer on top. Nice looking lap steel too, black and silver works well together.
     
  11. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    Progress.

    Finally built the thing. Prototype sounded ok, but has multiple issues due to it being my first build. Weird nut, fretboard length issues, and several steps of learning. Version two is significantly better in small details. Heres a few pics of my ultra-simple lap steels:

    Here they are. White Swedish alcohol-based furniture stain + nitrocellulose looks quite all right. Prototype is on the right as you can probably see from its crude construction.

    [​IMG]

    Thin finish looks pretty all-rite from this far. Gonna be innaresting to see how it yellows over time. Proto is toploader, but thought I´ll train my drilling with the second one, and training is surely needed. Nice to compare sounds though.

    [​IMG]

    I call it the laptonaut 6. Space-age instrument, rocket booster design and general good feel of the 50´s space revolution inspired the name. RR is from my name and a friend´s who builds amps. Giving the proper one to him in hopes for a matching amp =). Laser print on overhead film. Glued to headstock with nitro laquer, which dissolves the black if not quick with applying it. Buying waterslides for next one...

    [​IMG]

    Found nice old slotted screws for the bridge bits, which are tightly screwed in place for a decent amount of sustain. Scale is 60cm or 23,622".

    [​IMG]

    Super quick yellowing visible best in this pic, right one is the proto, three weeks older, and already going old. Pine sure relics quick, as you can see from the headstock of #2. Differences between the two are routing, first one chisel, second with a router (my favourite tool right now!), bridge positioning, and slight offset to improve visibility to fretboard. The fretboard starting from the first fret was a weird idea, why not I thought, it´s not gonna be for sale anyway. Fretboards are black-painted masonite with nitro coat. Proto has printed frets. Second one printed laquer-dipped cardboard.

    [​IMG]

    I am happy with them, as my goal was to make them cheap and still have a 50´s vibe about them. Building cost around €80, that would be around $100. Cheers everyone, now for a inspiring read of this forum to gather new ideas. Always been a fan of telecasters and early p-basses, perhaps something like that if I dare. Happy new year!

    Hilleri
     
  12. Manship83

    Manship83 TDPRI Member

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    I wanted to build one also just here a couple weeks ago, and I come up with this. Its not finished yet but I got it together and played it for a little bit, before I tore it back apart for the parts for a tele I put together. Great looking steels tho!!
     

    Attached Files:

  13. henkka

    henkka TDPRI Member

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    Nice

    Theres something space-travel about these instruments. Your´s is quite a bit sexier than my broomsticks though, amazing what soft curves can do!

    50´s design comparison:

    hard shapes[​IMG]

    soft curves[​IMG]
     
  14. Tom Pettingill

    Tom Pettingill Tele-Holic

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    Cool, you will have some fun with those! Lap steels are a fun build and can be as simple or fancy as you like.
     
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