Intro: How to Make a Biscuit Box Lap Steel Guitar
This instructable was created to give someone the information needed to build a simple "biscuit box" type lap steel guitar. The information contained in this instructable is a compilation of several people's ideas with a bit of my own thrown in where I thought it might save money or work better. A special thanks to Fernando Neris Garrido for a large portion of the info contained herein.
Step 1: Materials Needed
Materials needed .
1. Biscuit box. For those who don't know what a biscuit box is...it is simply a cookie tin, such as
one might see around the holidays.
2. Tuning machines. Three left and three right for this project. If you design your headstock
differently you could also use six in a line. I sugest using good quality tuning machines.
Mine were made by Gotoh.
3. A good length of wood, 36" or longer,(3/4"x 3 1/2"). The kind of wood is up to you. I used pine.
A hardwood such as oak would be better. A good tonewood such as maple or mahogany
would be even better. I used pine, (good quality), because that is all that was available.
4. A piece of 1" x 2" about 8" long.
5. Some threaded rod. I used two different sizes simply because I was experimenting. These
rods are to be used on nut and bridge assembly. The idea here is to have the threads on
rod just large enough to accommodate the strings.
6. Two lengths of shelving ledges. These are to be cut to legths fo about 33" so anything longer
than that will be fine.
7. Six small nuts, about a quarter inch. (Not pictured).
Step 2: Cutting the Board
The first thing I did was cut my 36" length of board. I cut a 25 1/2" piece and a 3 1/2" piece. These were to be used for the fingerboard and tailpiece.
Step 3: Cut and Attach Shelving Ledge.
I first attached the shelving ledge to the longer piece of wood intended for the fingerboard. I measured down 7" to leave room for the tuning machines. The nice thing about using these shelving ledges is that they have pre-drilled holes for your screws. I attached screws at the top and about 3/4 of the way down.
Step 4: Attaching Tailpiece to Shelving Ledge.
After I secured the fingerboard I then attached the tailpiece. I placed the biscuit box in between to get an accurate measurement. Two screws were enough. I turned it over and put the lid on at this point, just to check the looks. So far, so good.
Step 5: Making the Nut and the Bridge.
This is where the piece of 1" x 2" comes in. Cut two sections, each about 3 1/2" long, or the same width as the fingerboard. I then proceeded to sand half-round dips in the center of each piece so that the threaded rods would lay comfortably in them. Now take the threaded rod and cut to the width of the piece of wood. I used a hack saw to cut mine.
Step 6: Cut Biscuit Box to Width of Fingerboard and Tailpiece.
As in step 4 place the biscuit box in between the fingerboard and the tailpiece, (with lid off), so as to get an accurate measurment to cut a place for the fingerboard and tailpiece. I cut about a 1/2" down. Screw biscuit box to fingerboard and tailpiece thru the tabs that were cut.
Step 7: Prepare Headstock for Tuning Machines
The tuning machines are set up three to each side. I set up mine 1 1/2" from the top of the headpiece and then 1 1/2" apart. Also measuring a 1/2" in from the side. The size of the hole drilled depends on the tuning machines you decide on. The headstock must also be thinned out a bit because 3/4" is too thick for the tuning machines. I shaped and sanded mine down to a little less than 1/2".
Step 8: Install Tuning Machines
Time to attach the tuning machines. Now that your holes are drilled and the headstock is shaped, attach the tuning machines.
Step 9: Create Fret Lines and Dot Markers
Since this is a lap steel guitar, and not a regular guitar in which the notes are actually fretted, the fret lines can be drawn or marked any way you choose. I used a woodburning tool to make my fret lines. There are several scale lengths in which a lap steel guitar can be made. I chose 25 1/2". I placed the fingerboard against one of my Fender guitars, which is also 25 1/2" to get the line measurments for the frets. If you want or require a different scale a fretboard calculator can be found at Stewmac.com.
Step 10: Prepare Tailpiece for Strings to Go Through
The nuts that were mentioned earlier are to be used to stop the strings from pulling through the wood. First drill six holes, the size of the nut, about half way through the wood. Next drill holes, through the existing holes, about the diameter of a guitar string. After that is accomplished press the nuts into the large holes.
Step 11: Place the Nut and Bridge
Next get the two pieces of 1" x 2" with the threaded rods and place one at the top of the fretboard and one 25 1/2" down on top of the biscuit box. String and tune.
Step 12: Conclusion
Mine turned out pretty fair, for a first attempt. So far I've tuned it to open E and got some good sounds.