Introduction: Make a Lap Steel Guitar Out of a Pool Cue Case

Picture of Make a Lap Steel Guitar Out of a Pool Cue Case

I made this three stringed, electric lap steel guitar from an old pool cue case I bought at an op-shop. The sound is pretty raw, which kind of suits the whole smoky, seedy pool hall feel of it. Plus, once you're done busking for money to bet on games of 8-ball, it becomes it's own case.

This whole project cost me around $60, but if you can get your hands on the guitar bits (pickup, tuning pegs, pots), it'd work out even cheaper.

Step 1: Things You'll Need

Picture of Things You'll Need

First of all, a pool cue case. I picked this one up for $8 at an second hand shop.
You'll also need:
- a single coil pickup
- three individual guitar tuning pegs
- a couple of chunks of hardwood for the bridge and nut
- a piece of thin wood for the volume and tone mount (I used a section cut from a cigar box lid)
- input socket for a guitar lead jack
- 10k pot for volume
- primer and paint
- some sticky-backed fabric letters

Step 2: Drill Holes

Picture of Drill Holes

I only made this a three stringed guitar as I wasn't sure how much pressure the box could take, and I didn't want to put any reinforcement in, as it would hinder the simple design.

I am left-handed, so I drilled the holes for the tuning pegs at the right-hand end, with the open lid closer to me, so the lid can act as a hand rest while I play.

Make sure you drill the holes far out enough that the pegs will be able to be turned freely, but also remember that you will need to fasten then inside, so leave enough space between the stem and the wall of the case.

I fastened mine in using large nuts.

Then drill a hole for the jack socket at the other end of the box, facing outwards.

Step 3: Volume and Tone Pots

Picture of Volume and Tone Pots

To mount the pots, you'll need a section of wood about a 1/4 inch thick, although plastic or metal would work too. I cut a section from the lid of a cigar box (which I'm using for another guitar project). To simplify the wiring process, you could also just go for a volume control.

This mount will need to sit at the end over the lead socket. I found that because the case is lined with felt, the mount sits pretty snugly, without any need to fix it in place.

Step 4: Bridge and Nut

Picture of Bridge and Nut

I used some offcuts of hardwood to make my bridge and nut. You need to make sure the wood is solid, particularly for the bridge, as it will be bearing the brunt of the pressure when the strings are tightened.

Put three screws into the back of the bridge, with the heads sticking out. these will be used to secure the strings. You'll need to buy mandolin strings with the loops at the end.

Carve some grooves into the bridge to guide the strings, and another groove lengthwise. Place a thin strip of metal in this groove. I used an old guitar fret.

You'll also need to carve a channel along the bottom of the bridge, for the wires from the pickup to run along.

For the nut, carve another channel, and place a strip of metal or plastic with three grooves in it to guide the strings to the tuning pegs.

I then primed and painted the bridge, nut and pot mount black. I was lazy, and only gave them one coat, so they're pretty rough looking, but I kinda like that.

Step 5: Wiring

Picture of Wiring

I copied this wiring from another home-made guitar, and am not really sure how to explain it properly. I'm sure there's instructions out there, and it's pretty basic, as there's no power source involved.

Make sure you test it out before you fix anything in place.

I haven't yet wired the tone pot, as I'm missing a bit (not sure what that is yet - any ideas?)

Once the wiring is done, you can fix the bridge and pickup in place.
The pickup will need to be placed diagonally, but as long as your strings are positioned so they'll cross evenly between two of the magnets, this won't really be a problem. This project is more about creating a fun instrument from a forgotten object, rather than making a serious instrument with perfect tone and playability.

When fixing the bridge, insert screws through the bottom of the case, and the sides, to ensure the pressure of the strings doesn't create any movement.

Fix the nut in at the other end. Try to place the bridge and the nut as far away from each other as possible, to allow for the greatest possible range in pitch.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

If you want to place fret markers in the correct spot, you can find fret calculators on the net, which tell you how far apart to place them, depending on how long the strings are.

I'm not so fussy, so I opted for some cool fabric letters instead. Even though they're not spaced properly for playing, over the couple of days since I built this, I've gotten used to where they are, and can use them as a sort of rough estimate.

Finally, string her up and plug her in! You'll need to play her using a guitar slide, or, to complete that bar room blues look, a shot glass.


33six (author)2009-11-23

 I've just put up a (very bad) video of mine on youtube.

It's not as nice as this one, but will have an amp built into it when I get around to it.

freeza36 (author)33six2013-04-09

Great job! Where did you get the case?

Lach (author)33six2009-11-23

 Ha! That's awesome! You are obviously a more accomplished player than I am. It sounds sweet!

33six (author)Lach2009-11-23

 I'm not sure about that! Maybe I'll get around to posting a video with some better playing and less people talking in the background!

Thanks so much for the instructable, I'd have never thought this up on my own.

I may try and build another one with a more 'polished' feel to it, as mine isn't up to the standard of yours : )

33six (author)33six2009-11-28

freeza36 (author)33six2012-02-23


a splosion (author)33six2012-01-15

What's most impressive about this video is that you can operate a mouth camera.

dsaavedra (author)33six2010-04-13

that is cool as hell!!!

Lach (author)33six2009-11-28

I love it!!

LucDaRocka1 (author)2013-03-17

Nice Honeytone! Lol I had one!

warehouse32 (author)2012-05-02

To get your tone pot to function you need either a .022 or .047uf capacitor wired from the left lead of the tone pot (if you're looking at the second picture you have) and the other end grounded on the pot itself. Then just run a wire from the middle lead of the tone pot to the middle lead of your volume pot (this should be the one connected to the output jack). hope that helps!

zeurozek (author)2011-09-01

...or put the tuners inside the box (ie horizontaly instead of verticaly.). If I catch one same box, sure I'll try. Nice work though!

joeybrocken (author)2010-08-26

Sir, This is a very cool instructable. I found this page by coincidence and I decided to make one myself. It's not finished yet but here are some pics to give you an idea. when it's finished I'll upload a video on youtube. Thanks for the idea. Joey

What do you tune this to? octaves or perhaps a basic power chord? Thanks

cbaron3 (author)2011-08-14

Fabulous! Great Job.

joeybrocken (author)2010-09-05
Arbitror (author)joeybrocken2011-07-16

Damn, you're good!

Lach (author)joeybrocken2010-11-03

That is AWESOME! It sounds like you know what you're doing, too.

SuperCoPilot (author)joeybrocken2010-10-16

awesome music man, i'm just curious what type of pedal effects you're using

joeybrocken (author)SuperCoPilot2010-10-17

I'm using a BOSS ME 50.
With these pedals turned on.

Naturel overdrive

Harmonist (octave pedal)

and a delay.

Searchin4succubi (author)2011-03-14

Built one myself, its currently hung in an art gallery with a few other instruments I've built.

Very good instructable.

Lach (author)Searchin4succubi2011-05-01

Woo! Where is this gallery? Do you have any other pics of it? That's awesome!

TruthHunter (author)2011-03-18

LOL! what did you do with the pool sticks? Make a slide trombone?

Your instrument made me think of the Music Man warning the people about
Pool in order to sell musical instruments

...some of the lines from the song Ya Got Trouble:

"By the presence of a pool table in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City."

ROBOCOP603 (author)2011-03-06

awesome! You should try making a wider one w/ 6 strings and 2 or 3 pickups.

frightened rabbit (author)2010-07-18

can you make it with a violin case? i bought one a flee market and i tought it also would be cool

Ape Mandune (author)2010-06-30

This is pretty epic, I must say. I was wondering what tuning your strings are in.

silversocket (author)2010-02-08

I made one, although I had a d'addario pick up and used that instead of wiring my own pickup. It's got a buzz.

33six (author)2009-08-05

built mine, looks a bit different but the idea is the same - will post pictures when i get around to wiring in a preamp and on/off switch with LED. I used broom handle cut-offs for the nut, bridge and the slide itself. works brilliantly. Thanks again for this instructable

Lach (author)33six2009-08-06

Awesome! Looking forward to the pics.

brianbf1986 (author)2009-07-30

"You'll also need to carve a channel along the bottom of the bridge, for the wires from the pickup to run along." It doesn't seem like this last carving isn't visible in any of these photos, can you add one and post it up please and/or send it to my email at ? If not, which photo shows it and where is it ? I'm really intrigued at this project and am interested in doing it on my own, thanks for your work on putting it up online to share.

33six (author)2009-06-29

I've ordered all the parts, but am going to build a tiny amp/speaker where you have the tone pot. Awesome instructable - I'll post pics of my hustler inspired guitar soon.

billytwix (author)2008-06-02


clark (author)billytwix2008-06-02


mollusk (author)clark2009-06-20


billytwix (author)clark2008-06-02

sorry dude, my company uses caps lock in the programs, so whilist taking a 5 second break, i decided to lend some praise to my fellow instructable's individual. sorry if you can't handle it.

Lach (author)billytwix2008-06-03

Thanks for the comments. And caps don't bother me - I've got the same problem at work.

mollusk (author)2009-06-20

Superb. I'm especially a fan of the 'hustler' decal under the strings. Do you sell these instruments...and if so, do they come in kits; complete with a half-pack of unfiltered Camels, iron-on bourbon stains for my shirt, and some yellowing teeth, a shifty gaze?

rocktheproject (author)2009-04-04

dude, please tell me you have recordings available of you playing this lovely instrument. i just priced out pool cue cases on ebay, i'm gonna freaking build one tonight. i want to hear what you've done on it. awesome idea!

Lach (author)rocktheproject2009-04-14

Ha! Sorry man, no recordings - I'm not much of a player. But thank you for the compliment. Have you built yours? If so, can you post a pic?

The_Roadie (author)2009-04-01

Best place for Wireing diagrams for any pickup configuration is here

Lach (author)The_Roadie2009-04-03

Cheers The Roadie!

illrockanduroll (author)2009-01-26

hey i have all the parts and am working on building one of these but i am kinda unsure on the wiring . any tips or places to look . i have a diagram , i guess i was just looking for tips .

Lach (author)illrockanduroll2009-01-26

Ooh...I'm the last person to give advice on wiring. I've sort of taught myself soldering, and am not very good at it. I'm sure three are some tip sites out there somewhere. I'm glad you're building one! How many strings are you putting in?

illrockanduroll (author)Lach2009-01-27

im going with 3 . i saw the one guy did a 4 string but im gonna keep it simple. pretty excited though .

Gakki (author)2008-10-06

This is freaking awe inspiring.

ragingben (author)2008-08-03

This is brilliant! I made a four string version - the case took the tension of the strings although the angle of the bridge shifted a bit when they tuned up - I didn't secure it properly thought the bottom of the case though! Other differences are that lid opens away from the player, and I made a metal nut, gives it a bit of twang! One handy tip is make sure that the wood of the bridge and nut are flush with the rim of the open case, so that when you cut the groove for the metal of the bridge and the actual nut itself to sit in, they protrude about 3 or 4mm so that playing is nice and easy with no obstructions but the case still closes! Thanks for a great idea man, really enjoyed making (and playing) it! Rock on

Lach (author)ragingben2008-08-03

Thanks for the comments, ragingben. That's awesome that you made one, and with improvements! Any chance I could see a photo of it?

ragingben (author)Lach2008-08-04

Yep I'll pop some up in a sec! I (accidently) over emphasied the rough look by just general bodging so its not too smooth! But it sounds ok, you can get some wild high notes out of it with distortion on! One problem I had was using too softer wood for the bridge and nut - off cuts from an old bit of fence post - and also MDF does not take paint well - found that one out the hard way, resulting in lots of smudging on the interior carpet! So how many Hustlers are there out there?

Lach (author)ragingben2008-08-05

GOLD! There is now a grand total of two Hustlers out there. Going by your photo, you are perhaps a little more experienced with stringed instruments than I am... whack up a vid, dude, let's hear how it sounds!

ragingben (author)Lach2008-08-05

Ok here is a rough vid I just took after I finished work! Woohoo - 2 husters and counting!

About This Instructable




More by Lach:Lucha Libre masks for your thumbMake a lap steel guitar out of a pool cue case
Add instructable to: