Lap Steel Build


View Full Version : Lap Steel Build

08-07-2006, 09:38 PM
Well, a few weeks ago I decided to build a lap steel. I convinced my dad(a mainly classical guitar luthier) to help me out. I'm only as far as sanding the fretboard(which I'm doing tonight) but I'll put up pics soon. It'll be shaped similar to the Artisan lap steel, but far superior in quality(like that's hard to do)

Here are some specs (mostly from the hardware list in front of me and my memory, some missing, and most parts will be bought from Steward-Macdonald):

Body: Mahogany
Fretboard:Maple with Mahogany frets and markers
Peghead Veneer:Maple
Bridge:Modern Tele Bridge for Humbuckers
Knobs:Dome knobs(chrome)
Switch: Straight toggle switch(chrome)
Jack:Switchcraft Mono with LP jack plate
Tuners: Grover 18:1 slotted

for the nut I'm going to use a piece of aluminum. The only thing I'm unsure about is the pickup. I'd like to use the Dimarzio Multibucker because I want a Humbucker that can have many tonal qualities. It can be hooked up to the 3-way switch. But can anyone suggest a better humbucker that can also sound like a single-coil(and tell me how to split the coils).

prepare for pics soon.

08-07-2006, 09:50 PM
EMG's 81 85 set, perhaps?

08-07-2006, 09:59 PM
Hey man do i look like Zakk Wylde to you? just kidding. No, with designs so far I can only put in one 'bucker, but i admit i am interested in the 85.

08-07-2006, 10:23 PM
just get a humbucker with 4 leads and wire it like two seperate pickups on a 3-way toggle. piece of cake.

edit: i know that the gibson 490 p, t, and r humbuckers have coil tapping and all sound great. also i hear the tony iomi pickups gibson makes are pretty incredible sounding, respond well to the tone control and arent just for sabbath style stuff, they're just a really high tone pickup. they have 4 leads also.

~jacob t.

08-07-2006, 10:29 PM
Yeah, that's what the multibucker does. Any other suggestions, comments and/or questions?

08-07-2006, 11:56 PM
alright here is the just leveled fretboard. as you can see it has mahogany frets. next is to inlay the fret markers which will be triangles on the right side of the fretboard and a triangle on both sides on the 12 and 24 frets(if that makes sense, but you'll see soon enough).

08-08-2006, 12:30 AM
Sounds pretty interesting. I've been thinking of building a lap steel one day if I ever get around to having the time. By the way, its nice to see I have been put into someone

08-08-2006, 03:20 AM
I'm up to placing the bridge on my lap steel :) I have a hot humbucker that can be tapped for my pickup. I'm using a combined bridge/tailpiece for the bridge, and a piece of aluminium angle for my nut. All chrome parts, including the knobs. Any suggestions for how I should paint it? I was thinking EVH style, black and green :p

08-08-2006, 04:02 AM
Dude I can see this as being a great build. Good luck with it man, is your dad a luthier?

08-08-2006, 06:07 PM
Yeah, so far my dad has built 50 or so classicals, a flamenco thats i love to play, and maybe like an oud back in the eighties. Ever since I started playing electric ive gotten him more interested in jazz guitars and that is probably going to built pretty soon. lets just say he knows his stuff.

heres a pic of the hunk of mahogany that will be used for the body. the laquered part will probably be similar to the final product, maybe, possibly... but just so you can get an idea.

this pic is also pretty decieving, the wood is nowhere near that light.

08-08-2006, 11:27 PM
alright, i just finished the rough cuts and routing/chiseling for the fretboard markers. Here it is

after routing, but before chiseling:

basic shapes of the fretboard markers set in the spaces

i was a little bummed that the mahogany used for the markers is a bit younger than the mahogany used for the frets, so its a bit of a different color, anyone know how long it will take for it to age to a darker color? days? weeks? months?

08-08-2006, 11:47 PM
Well since your going to seal the wood (I'm guessing) once its finished, your kind of stuck with the different colors of the wood. It may not take as long for it too age since it has been cut recently, but it would probably still take a while for the two pieces to get a similar color. But I think you will just be stuck with the two different shades of the wood.

08-08-2006, 11:50 PM
yeah i figured that. I guess im gonna have to stain the markers a bit to match them up with the frets and binding(also will be mahogany)

08-08-2006, 11:52 PM
Yeah, I forgot about staining. But since it would take a while for ageing to happen I think the easiest option is staining. But its still tunring out great. I really like it. Good job, so far.

08-09-2006, 12:16 AM
I figure tomorrow I'll get the fretmarkers glued in and possibly planed(depending on if the glue has dried) but im not sure, Im going to a jazz thing at the capitol so my time is limited. After that the binding around the fretboard will happen, then on to the body. I think I'll order the parts I need from stewmac tomorrow as well.

08-09-2006, 10:41 PM
Well I decided instead of staining or waiting for the fretmarkers to age i should just cut new ones(really a million times easier and faster too). here they are unglued(ha magic):

and here they are after being glued but waiting to dry

oh and LuthierofTexas, I didnt know this either, but if I had sealed it, the wood still would've aged if it was near uv lights,etc. Like I said, it was news to me.

Also I'll will be most likely cutting the body this weekend, by then i should have the fret board done(including binding maybe)

08-10-2006, 09:54 PM
Alright so I just planed the fretmarkers, here ya go:

and just glued the binding:

tomorrow I'll take off the take, and plane the binding to get it even, and then sand the whole fretboard to get it even. Saturday i think I'll be starting on the body, and probably ordering parts.

Desk Jocky
08-11-2006, 12:14 PM
Looks amazing.
Keep us updated. I also liked the idea of staining your markers to match. Very nice!
Have you thought about a graphic for the headstock or paint job (other than a stain)?


08-11-2006, 01:27 PM
For the headstock i want to do a veneer. but basically i want to take that veneer(probably maple) cut a design in it, then fill it in with mahogany if you can follow that. But i'm not really sure what to do for the design yet.

heaven's gate
08-11-2006, 07:01 PM
where did you get the wood? a lumber yard?

08-11-2006, 07:07 PM
what the hell is a lap steel

heaven's gate
08-11-2006, 07:08 PM
you dont know what a lap steel is? jeez

heaven's gate
08-11-2006, 07:11 PM

you play it horisontally and with a slide

edit: it gives you a western sound, and sometimes hawaiian. quite neat, i want to get one

08-11-2006, 07:17 PM
wow that is quite strange,...yet oddly apealling...*subscribes to thread*

08-11-2006, 07:52 PM
Um, I donno really, not a lumber yard, they wouldnt have something this nice. But I think it's from a wood shop, I visited one in St Louis on broadway street or something on the river, and it was really really nice. but that's not where i got it... i was just saying.

heaven's gate
08-11-2006, 08:01 PM
hmm, what form did it come in? (2x4, .....)

08-11-2006, 08:20 PM
originally it was about 10 ft long and 8 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches thick, but we used alot of it for other stuff, and this is all we have left now( see the pic on the first page) it had a bit of flame in it and was pretty much perfectly quarter sawn, so we had to get it.

08-11-2006, 09:06 PM
Alright i finished sanding the fretboard, and here it is. i think thats all im gonna do tonight, tomorrow is a day off but i might just post new pics for the hell of it. on sunday I'll be cutting the body. I cant on saturday cause we need to go to a workshop owned by a friend of my dad's, so we dont want to get in his way(cuz he'll be there on saturday but not sunday). I really like the turnout of the fretboard, its pretty much exactly how i pictured it in my head. oh and i still have to trim the binding a bit, as you can tell.

heaven's gate
08-11-2006, 09:31 PM
nice job

08-11-2006, 09:57 PM
looking very good

but is this neck as wide as it looks? is it supposed to be that wide? keep in mind that ive never seen a lap steel up close so if these questions seem stupid please excuse me.

08-11-2006, 11:18 PM
yeah man, im not gonna be touching it at all, so i could make it as wide as i want to. it's about 2 1/2 inches wide. i kinda regret not making it longer though. the frets get small pretty fast.

08-11-2006, 11:27 PM
How many strings is this going to be? If its 2 1/2 inches wide you could possibly make a 10 string. You would have to use a special pick up but it would be kind of cool.

08-12-2006, 12:11 AM
yeah, but ten strings on 2 1/2 inches would be tight. and plus all the plans are already for a six string

08-12-2006, 11:04 AM
wow interesting build! *subscribes*

08-12-2006, 11:46 AM
killer impressed

08-16-2006, 11:03 PM
alright here's a large update to make up for the fact that i suck and didnt do anything over the weekend building wise.

here is the mahogany slab of wood with the peghead veneer being glued on and the fretboard laid on to give a general idea of it.

and here is everything in the last picture laid against the sketch for the lap steel, kinda hard to see i know

here is the rough version of the nut, made out of aluminum

and here is the nut in the fretboard, oh and i also sanded the fretboard more to get some pencil and glue marks that you might have seen in the last post off. but then it got dirty again on like the 2nd and 3rd(you can see it).

08-16-2006, 11:34 PM
pictures dont work... :(

08-16-2006, 11:47 PM
Fine for me, they just took a while to load...
and btw man, GREAT JOB!
Really amazing!

08-17-2006, 12:29 AM
yeah sorry bout that, i guess that's karma for putting 9 fairly large pics on one page. tomorrow i guess i'll resize all the pics in this thread, that should help a bit. thanks alot pink queen, once i get to the wiring i may call upon you for some help. we'll see though

08-17-2006, 12:47 AM
Ok some pictures are now working. The first and last pictures on your last picture post dont work for me. But so far, great job!!! I really like the fretboard style.

08-17-2006, 08:01 AM
Man this looks awesome! Keep it up man!

08-21-2006, 05:30 PM
Nice fretboard... like the markings... I'm new to guitars so im just learning wahat a lap steel is too ... the markings look different to me :) Theres dots on my guitar :) *subscribes*

08-21-2006, 05:31 PM
We need body pics! :P I wanna see the body of this beast :P

08-21-2006, 06:38 PM
i havent really got around to shaping the body yet, its still just a hunk of wood, i'll try and work on it tonight. anyone have any ideas for the design on the veneer(remember the space for the tuners)

08-21-2006, 07:47 PM
So what kind of music will you use it for? We can come up with designs accordingly.

08-21-2006, 08:14 PM
lookin pretty good, i built a lapsteel about 8 months ago. Yours looks a lot cleaner than mine...much like my next one will be ;)

two questions though from somebody who's been there:

Your neck looks fairly wide, are you going with 8 strings or 6? if your like me it'll only take you about 6 months to outgrow the harmonic possibilities of 6 strings, particularly in open E or something. if you can fit them use 8 strings.

Second, DONT USE ALUMINUM. maybe my aluminum nut was poorly designed but it went through several revisions and I've been unable to escape a tinny, grating tone it adds to the sound. it sounds pretty good clean, all bright and clear, but my theory is you need more mass than aluminum can provide. on top of that, it sticks to the strings when you are tuning up

but whatever you choose to do, good luck! i'll be following this thread closely, and waiting for soundclips.

08-21-2006, 10:03 PM
well you know, i like the lap steel in neil young's music, i like robert randolph but thats a bit different(his crazy 13-string pedal steel) and i like zeppelin lap steel. im just looking to add some nice textures and atmosphere to my music.

maybe i will go with 8 strings, but that would mean a completely different bridge, pickup, and tuners, so we'll see. another reason i wanted 6 strings is so i can but a humbucker in it to get more tonal possibilities with coilsplitting. I've only found 8-string singlecoil pickups, but if anyone can find a humbucker, bridge, and tuners for 8strings, it'd probably convince me. and about the aluminum nut, i had also thought the aluminum might not sound the greatest, but i want to find out, and if it doesnt work so well, i'll probably switch to brass.

09-12-2006, 07:59 AM
Any progress? I was really looking forward to seeing how this turns out. I might be a few steps ahead of you, but yours looks 10000000000000000x nicer :D

09-12-2006, 02:44 PM
We need body pics! :P I wanna see the body of this beast :P

the edit button works wonders. :haha

I'm really impressed!! Very nice work, sir

06-04-2007, 11:29 PM
Alright I feel really bad for forgetting about this thread when a bunch of you had subscribed to it. I put the lap steel aside for all of winter because i couldnt get a hold of certain parts/tools. I'm almost done now, in the finishing stages, and ill post a bunch of pics tomorrow. And yeah i know the pics dont work anymore, i may redo those too.

06-04-2007, 11:50 PM
Sweet! Pics!

gm jack
06-05-2007, 12:21 PM
The pics don't work for me either :(

But it SOUNDS good...

06-05-2007, 09:20 PM
Alright here it is, pictures finally. I've just put on the first coat of finish and ill probably do about 8 coats to get it really nice.
Body (ignore the block in the pickup cavity its so i can be more precise when finishing)

and here's a picture of one of my dad's just completed classicals (# 47 i think), this one is a spruce top and it plays and sounds almost too good. this pic doesnt do it justice

I will update more now and when it's completely done i may repost the pics from earlier stages in building.

06-05-2007, 09:55 PM
Wow, that looks pretty sick, and that classical guitar.. OMG :eek: .. i want that, how much does your dad charge for one of those?

06-05-2007, 10:02 PM
well about $2500 to $3200 but people whove bought his have said he drastically underprices and they've played $7000 guitars that dont sound as good. we're hoping to send one or two to a classical guitar store in seattle where my dad used to work and hopefully they'd sell it for much more.

06-05-2007, 11:16 PM
It looks really good. I'm not digging the really tall triangle shape, but it still looks damn good. The headstock and fretboard are breathtaking.

Would you be able to get a picture from the side? I'm curious to see how you go from the thick body to the thin headstock.

06-06-2007, 01:23 AM
Holy **** im back!

And this has spell check :eek:

But that lap steal is amazing man! Congrats! And as for that classical.... I envy you...

06-06-2007, 04:52 AM
Wow. It looks incredible, great job!

06-06-2007, 12:59 PM
that's soooo nice. With lapsteels is the fretboard just there as a guideline for where the slide should be? i really don't know much about them but i really want to try building one some time.

EDIT: Are you going to use 8 strings or just 6 now?

06-06-2007, 05:39 PM
yeah the fretboard is just so i can see what fret im at, its not gonna be touched in any way. I'm still gonna do 6 strings cuz i could find any parts i liked for an 8 string.

yeah for sure next update ill take some side pics.

06-06-2007, 06:16 PM
Wow, looks awesome.

08-09-2007, 05:34 PM
Cant see any of your pics :(

EDIT: now i can see some pictures

08-11-2007, 12:41 PM
Looks great; you may have inspired me to purchase one of my own.

08-12-2007, 02:00 PM
Looks great; you may have inspired me to purchase one of my own.
well I would've liked to have inspired you to build your own, but i guess spreading the lap steel word is a close second.

Today we'll be working on wiring and hardware, so hopefully i get some pics of it fully completed (after i play it for awhile of course).

08-21-2007, 07:46 PM
So after failed attempts at soldering, i took it to a shop. then i took it to the shop again. but now it's all done. it resonates forever (unamplified) and sounds beautiful. if people request i can post some sound clips. oh, i made a case too.

08-21-2007, 07:51 PM
looks amazing!
i hope i will build one soon with a friend of mine.

08-21-2007, 07:59 PM
looks amazing!
i hope i will build one soon with a friend of mine.

if you have any questions lemme know and i'll try to help out.

08-21-2007, 08:28 PM
okay thanks!
for starters, what's the thickness of the body?

08-21-2007, 08:36 PM
It's 1 9/16ths inches, but anything around that would probably do. you should start a thread, i'll subscribe and help you out.

08-21-2007, 10:26 PM

08-22-2007, 06:31 AM
It's 1 9/16ths inches, but anything around that would probably do. you should start a thread, i'll subscribe and help you out.
I will as soon as we start :)
I will need to buy another measuring tape with inches, we use metrics in Israel.

10-29-2007, 07:06 PM
where would i go about finding a nut like yours?

10-29-2007, 07:15 PM
Anyone else think lap steel sounds like a euphemism for an erection?

10-29-2007, 07:18 PM
I really wanna build one of these !

10-29-2007, 07:42 PM
but does anybody know where i could find one of these nuts?

10-30-2007, 08:10 AM
wtf happened with all the pics?
i want pics!!

edit - found them hahaha :) looks brilliant mate... im jealous

10-31-2007, 10:35 PM
but does anybody know where i could find one of these nuts?

i just found a strip of aluminum at a hardware store and filed it down to fit. I buffed it a bit as well. pretty simple job.