Lap Steel Guitar Build

Created by kruvek on Jan. 17, 2018, 6:54 a.m.
  • Hey Testers,

    Over the past few weekends I've been working on building a Lap Steel Guitar. I designed it in Sketchup over the past few months, using my usual iterative design methodology. I had originally intended to use some of the cutoffs of Birch Plywood from a D&D Gaming Table I'm working on (I'll make another post once that's done), but I ended up getting some White Pine instead, as it was easier to work with, and less prone to delaminating. I cut all the parts on a Scroll Saw.

    For the Fretboard design I decided to go with an alternating stain pattern, since a lap steel guitar doesn't need actual frets, since it uses a tonebar. I replicated the dots on a guitar by using a hole-punch to make dots of masking tape, and punching holes in some of the masking.

    I did a test piece, and learned that I needed to burnish the edges of the tape to reduce bleeding, especially on the small dots of masking tape.

  • I stained it with a Red Mahogany stain, which came out a little grayer than I would have liked, but it's fine. I ended up using some 1/8" lexan for the pickguard, and sanded the bottom of it to give a frosted look. The electronics came from a "Loaded Pickguard" I bought on Amazon, it was a 3 Pickup (Humbucker, Single, Humbucker) set with a 5 way switch, volume, and 2 tone controls, for $20. Very obviously cheap Chinesium quality. The person who assembled it forgot to remove the protective plastic on the pickguard before they put the electronics in, luckily I was removing it anyway.

  • My original design used 3/4" Right-Angle extruded Aluminum for the Nut, Bridge, and Tailpiece, since we already had some in the shop. I cut everything to fit, and filed some slots for the strings, and strung it up.

    Everything seemed to be working fine, but for some reason as I was stretching and tuning the strings, it kept going flat over and over. Eventually, I realized that the tailpiece was bending over the stress, as well as pulling the wood screws out of the wood. The strings were also marring the bridge and nut, and probably would have dug channels into them over time. I took the strings off, and tried to find another solution.

    I ended up buying some raw buffalo bone nut and bridge slabs on Amazon (they were so much cheaper than the newer better plastic ones), as well as a Knock-off Gibson style "Tune-o-Matic" bridge and tailpiece. I had to glue in some pieces of wood where I had cut out for the angle aluminum, and then drill the holes for the bridge and tailpiece (both parts are held onto the guitar by the tension of the strings. I cut a slot for the nut, and then strung up the guitar.

  • Everything seems to be working now, and the strings are just about broken in. I still need to file down the nut and bridge a bit, to flatten out the string profile, so that it doesn't buzz on the tonebar. And I still have a lot to learn in regards to playing the instrument. I'd also like to build a nice case for it.

  • Here's the parts list:

    • Loaded Pickguard ($20): http://a.co/bXJlVRx
    • Strings for C6 tuning ($7): http://a.co/2NRwCc3
    • Tonebar ($20): http://a.co/d3Ys7MW (This ended up being a little short, I'll probably end up getting the longer "Lap Dawg" style bar)
    • Finger Picks ($6): http://a.co/36aMwlk
    • Tuning Machines ($17): http://a.co/caUxIvN (I don't know whats up with the price for that right now)
    • "Tune-o-matic" bridge and tailpiece ($12): http://a.co/0CTcDYz
    • Bone Guitar Nut Blanks ($8): http://a.co/9QwaVPd (I ended up not using these, but now I've got them for future projects)
    • Bone Guitar Saddle Blanks ($8): http://a.co/7xqEnVA (I used one of these for the nut)
    • And 2x 8"x1"x4' white pine boards from Lowes (~$20), that I had cut down to size in the store. Of course, the 1" was its common length, so it ended up being 3/4" thick in reality.
  • This is really great work. I'd really like to see a link to some audio you recorded using the instrument. Fantastic effort and execution. Well done.


  • omg this is awesome...