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Making a slide guitar from scratch (sort of)


ok, so i'm not a musician by any stretch of the imagination. but i do like to make things out of wood and what nots. so i've decided to make my brother, who plays guitar, a slide guitar for christmas (mostly because of the posts here that show people making them).

i went out and bought a $50 pawn store electric guitar (serious pile of crap but all the electronics work) and i've disassembled it. i've got a rough idea of how i'm going to build this thing as far as shape and actual construction of the box etc.. (sort of going for the pool cue box method), it'll basically be a long rectangle with a hinged lid.

i've got a basic idea for how i'm going to hold the strings (i'm thinking this is called the nut? or something? dunno, the looped end of the strings) but i'm having a hard time coming up with a way to make it tuneable. i've still got the machine heads from the guitar and i'd like to use those, but i'd ultimately like for this thing to be a 6 string (if he wants to make a 6 string into a 3 or 1 string he just has to pull strings off, but if i make it as a 3 string he can't use it as a 6) and i'd like everything to be contained inside. i can't for the life of me figure out how to mount the machine heads in such a way where the turning handles would be able to still be inside of the box and still be usable.

i've thought about maybe zither pins/pegs/whatever the hell they're called, but i've got no idea if those would work.

also, i know a lot of the 2x4 slides use a beer bottle under the strings behind the pickups, now that looks neat but does it actually have a function?

any help is appreciated

gmoon7 years ago
You're attempting a "lap steel" style guitar, eh? They aren't really complicated...

The strings are tensioned in a fixed length over two points which define the "scale length." Usually these points are referred to as the nut (at the end of the neck near the tuning keys) and the bridge (the other end, where the strings have a "ball end").

A beer bottle at one end could serve as the bridge (ala "It Might Get Loud"), but a chunk of metal or any other solid object would work as well. Conceptually, there's really no difference between the nut and the bridge. In fact, some guitars had the ball end at the nut and the tuners in the body by the bridge (Steinberger guitars, for instance.)

I strongly suggest you use the tuning machines. Your brother will appreciate them when it's time to tune up.

And just use a solid piece of wood (or laminate) as the body. There's a reason why "solid body" guitars are the most successful type.

Here's a nice page on building your own lap steel. He's using a LP junior combo bridge/tailpiece, but a piece of aluminum or steel will work just as well...
crapflinger (author)  gmoon7 years ago
right, i'm attempting to end up with something like this https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-lap-steel-guitar-out-of-a-pol-cue-case/ except i'll be building the case from scratch (out of hardwood and hardwood plywood).

i would imagine based on your suggested linkage that you're suggesting that most of the "sound making components" be part of a single piece of wood, then build a box around that piece of wood instead of building a box and trying to mount components separately.

my issue with the machine heads is that i'd like to not have them exposed outside of the case (as they are in the pool cue case one). i basically want him to be able to carry this thing in somewhere and have no evidence that it's a musical instrument from the outside. i've thought about possibly mounting them to where the pins go horizontal and the "keys" are vertical, but i can't think of a way to do that in any easily predictable manner.

me and my brother are long time adversaries, so i'm perfectly ok with forcing him to carry around a tuning tool to tune the zither pins if they would work for this application. i just don't know enough about this stuff to be able to decide that on my own.


I'd use the existing tuners, maybe in a violin configuration (or a classical guitar.) Violins have a "peg box slot" in the peghead. If you built a box within the larger box and mounted the tuning machines at a right angle to their current orientation. I.E., the keys pointing up and the winding shafts horizontal. You'd need some clearance to turn the keys, so I don't know how practical it would be.

You could also build the guitar on the lid of the case, and have the case body flip up and away...

me and my brother are long time adversaries, so i'm perfectly ok with forcing him to carry around a tuning tool to tune the zither pins if they would work for this application.

Aahhh... Well, I won't ask...

To be honest, that "pool cue case guitar" looks difficult to play--the strings are below the sides of the box. Any time the slide brushes against the case, the noise will be transferred to the strings and the pickup. But suit yourself...