Instructables

Building a basic lap steel guitar

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In this, my first Instructable, I will attempt to chronicle the construction of a simple Lap Steel guitar. Disclaimer; power tools and sharp cutting tools will be used and I take no responsibility for people who use these things carelessly, read and understand manufacture's instructions and safety guidelines for their proper and safe use. I would also like to acknowledge the web site Buildyourownguitar.com for providing the basic guide lines I followed,
http://www.buildyourguitar.com/resources/lapsteel/index.htm

Here is a list of tools and materials I used in this build in no particular order, of course you are free to substitute any where you wish:
1 piece Maple 32" X 4" X 3/4"
1 Piece pine 32" X 4" X 3/4"
2 pieces of maple 18" X  3/4" X 1/8"
1 piece walnut 18" X 3/4" X 1/8"
several small bits of maple mostly 4" X 2" X 1/8" (pick-up cover plate and control plate)
2 pieces aluminum L channel, 2 1/4" X 1/2" X 3/4" ( bridge and nut)
1each 250 K volume pot
1each 1/4" phone jack
1 single coil pick up with adjustment screws and springs
Carpenters glue
2 part epoxy
6 tuner heads, 3 left, 3 right
5/8" #6 pan head screws
tuner head screws
Sand paper, 60, 100, 150 and 600 grit
table saw
miter saw
joiner
drill press
cordless drill
many clamps
flush cut hand saw
dove tail saw
wood rasp
several files
Cabinet scrapper
digital calipers
tape measure
18" steel rule
French curve
rotary tool with steel burr and sanding drums.
Safety glasses
assorted drill bits
lots of imagination
an occasional adult beverage of your choosing (I do not endorse drinking and operating tools)
lacquer
0000 steel wool
one set of electric guitar strings
chisels
block plane
saddle square and combination square



 
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richie_1142 years ago
Awesome build. Beautifully finish too. Have you tried copper wire as frets? Works pretty well but you have to lacquer them so they don't turn the surrounding wood green.
The frets on a lap steel are for decoration only so any material would do. Even a sharpie marker pen.
friger (author)  richie_1142 years ago
I have not tried that since I have a good supply of fret wire. It would look cool though.
olivergon2 years ago
I also made a few of them for myself and friends using the same e-book.

I also introduced a few changes like having the strings through the body to add more sustain.
wobbler3 years ago
Nice design and Instructible.

Would it be possible to use a thinner top plank, one the same depth as needed for the machine heads in order to make the shaping of the head piece easier and make the bottom piece correspondingly shorter? You wouldn't then need to cut away so much on the head piece and could just shape the bottom piece before gluing together. Hope I've described this well enough!
friger (author)  wobbler3 years ago
That sounds like a reasonable idea to me. Thanks, I'll try that on my next build.
wobbler friger3 years ago
I hope it does! Thanks for the reply! ;o)
bowakowa3 years ago
Here's one of three I made about 15 yrs ago. Lowe's pine 2 piece laminate, mighty mite p-90, some cheap tuners, a nut, saddle, oak inlay on the bottom for the string thru, and an oak bridge. Had a lot of fun with it since.
steel.jpg
friger (author)  bowakowa3 years ago
Nice, I like it. I bet the P-90 sounds awesome too.
i want this so i can play sleep walk!
handy1573 years ago
One thing I might be concerned about with this instrument is with the wood lamination part.. It may or may not be a problem, but at least theoretically it could be. Using pine and maple, especially back to back, could cause warping, due to the different expansion and contraction characteristics of the two different woods. This probably wouldn't be a problem if you make sure that you cover every square millimeter of the wood with your finish so that there would be no possibility of moisture transfer from the air to the wood (and vice versa) in varying humidity conditions. With laminating the body, you could also have made a groove down the middle of one (or both) of the pieces and placed a piece of steel rod in it before laminating. This would help strengthen it and also help keep it from warping. Pretty cool instrument though!
friger (author)  handy1573 years ago
I hear ya on the movement differential, but that again is of little concern because of the nature of the guitar, so long as you don't get such a massive twist that the strings are radically uneven, it would remain playable. I seriously doubt a truss rod would do much good here. I did seal the end grain with epoxy to prevent that sort of thing happening before I put 4 coats of lacquer on it. If anything the lamination of pine to the maple will help stabilize the natural tendencies of maple to twist. (damn site cheaper than solid maple too).
charliemor33 years ago
Hi Guy,

I've got to say, you did a great job with the "ible". Lots of detail without babling; good pics and explanations.

Thanks for the info, I've just been looking at building one myself. Keep up the good deals.
lennyb3 years ago
this is very nicely done.
looks a bit like one i made myself pre instructables time.
you seem to have used better hardware than i did.
lets see if i can find a picture of it.ok good i got 1.
the other slider is a 1 string diddly bow.
good show.
IMG_1592.JPG
friger (author)  lennyb3 years ago
Ok, I'd say you lap steel is cut from the same cloth, I love how you used a humbucker ,and that bridge is awesome. I cant tell for sure but is it a hard tail?
Sweet bow too, piezo pick up?
lennyb friger3 years ago
unfortunately that humbucker is a single pretending to be a humbucker .it came from a 1$ yard sale guitar i picked up.
the bridge is a homemade hardtail type with adjustable saddles{not really needed on this project but i did it anyway}
the pickup on the bow is a coil from an old inductance microphone that you would use to record a telephone in the old days.
i did a couple of instructables way back on slide guitars and easy pickups here are the links if you would like to look

http://www.instructables.com/id/3-string-slide-guitar/

http://www.instructables.com/id/cheap-and-easy-guitar-pickups/
also heres a closeup of the bridge if ya wanna see it
IMG_1593.JPG
friger (author)  lennyb3 years ago
I love it, simple and elegant. I will steal this idea if you don't mind?
lennyb friger3 years ago
feel fre my friend.
if you build it post it here i for one would love to see it.
yay i made it!...It took me 2 hours to make it!
friger (author)  darkranger0323 years ago
a 2 hour build?! I'd love to see some pics. I've built diddley bows in that time.
IMG00428-20100806-2057.jpgIMG00424-20100806-2055.jpgIMG00425-20100806-2055.jpgIMG00426-20100806-2056.jpgIMG00427-20100806-2056.jpg
I'm definitely going to have to build one of these! It'll be an awesome winter time blues project. Good job. :)
gmoon3 years ago
Well done, sir.

That's a right shame about the ink smearing. Maybe you'll strip the lacquer and redo that (someday ;-).
friger (author)  gmoon3 years ago
Thank you, I would consider doing that but since I am donating it to friend I'll let him decide what he wants to do about it, if anything. I've already invested all the time into it that I had planned to. I will build another, and not make that particular mistake again, I am sure I will make all kinds of new and novel ones on the next build.
Thanks again for taking the time to look.
Wasagi3 years ago
Fantastic! This is a project that I would really love to do once I get time, and I loved how informative your instructable was. Case in point, I had no idea you didn't need fret wire. If I could give it 10 stars, I would.
friger (author)  Wasagi3 years ago
Thanks for that. Here is a picture of a 3 string resonator I built a while back using tooth picks as frets, they are holding up just fine too.
IMG00776-20110125-1920.jpg
Wasagi friger3 years ago
That is beautiful! What did you use for the cone?
friger (author)  Wasagi3 years ago
Get this, The cone is the hub cap from a Ford Ranger pick up truck, a piezo pick up and she sounds awesome
Wasagi friger3 years ago
Haha, That is genius! I would not have thought of that at all.
lennyb3 years ago
whoops links dont work.
copy and paste if you like or you can access it from my profile
later
n0ukf3 years ago
"...out of the rack at my local borg store."

Borg store? Did they try to assimilate you?
Nice piece of wood though.
friger (author)  n0ukf3 years ago
Resistance is futile, Home depot, Lowe's they are all borgs!