my lap steel build

A discussion of techniques, and equipment for guitar. Fretted, bottleneck or slide, acoustic or electric, this is the place.

Re: my lap steel build

Postby guitarslim101 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:08 pm

Looks great, Zhyla!

It's got that National New Yorker look going for it, which is my favorite lap steel shape. Sometime I hope to make a copy of one of the old New Yorkers with the two pickups hidden under the fretboard.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:13 am

Just had a good look at your pics, zee. I like her a lot. By now she'll be well finished. I haven't seen pics of the f/bd or final coating & set up so if I've missed those in the mix, could you point me in the right direction? And yes, I know exactly how measurements can be "gremlinised" despite the best possible care and attention. My Weissy has the soundhole very slightly closer to the nut than I drew on my plan. Who moved my mark? But she was drawn "intuitively" in the first place so there is no negative impact - there's as good a chance that it's improved the tone. I reckon that so much lutherie throughout the world is done intuitively. It's much the same as playing - too much formula and too little feel and she's a dead duck.

I'm home again now but was never far from the Weissy. I got my wife to bring her up to my room in the hospital and managed a brief session each morning (with the Weissy, not the wife) so that I always had a connection with man made music. One of the doctors was a muso himself and inserted the chemo line so that it didn't get in the way of my tone bar hand. The Weissy proved ideal - it's small - parlor sized, very light and sat nicely across the arms of my armchair and could be played with a gentle touch for reduced volume. I used an almost silent (homemade) bakelite-substance tonebar which is really frictionless (like the tribo-tone, I imagine) so there was no sound leakage from my iso room. It was just so nice to crawl back into bed after a 10'- 20' session knowing that I'd been able to do something a little extra.

Don't forget to post any pics I might have missed. Peace :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby Django3 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 5:11 am

Great to see you posting again Rick
JIm.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Mon Sep 06, 2010 6:42 am

Thanks, Jim, I haven't been able to contact you. My email provider has gone awol and I can't send or receive, and phone calls to the "Contact Us" line (ha ha) inform me that there are "significant delays"(ie go away). I've had SO much email trouble lately. But I wanted to find out how you managed in the quake. Were you anywhere near the major damage out New Brighton way? I was on the 8th floor of Dunedin Hospital (230 miles from epicentre for USA people) and man, was there a bit of whip up there. But I figured a) at least I was close to emergency services, and b) I was so sick, I didn't really care what happened to me anyway. But today I've seen a post that your reso had survived. Well that's good. I'll email if & when but I'll keep an eye on PMs in the meantime.

Off subject, Z, sorry. Btw, what strings did you use? I used D'Addario jazz meds (wound 3rd) but changed the e&b to 15 & 17 but I'm intending to put D'Add nickel baritone strings soon (for open Emaj scale 24") . The sustain is endless. Peace :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby Django3 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:03 pm

Hi Rick
Thanks for replying so quickly,Ye survived the biggie but quite a wee bit of damage to the house and area [ sorry laddies this is a bit off the subject, but this is such a great site everybody is so friendly and helpful always my first visit in the morning.
cheers jim
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby kiwiblues » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:20 am

I have great deep cracks through the drive and garden and my sea wall is munted. My decks are all at strange angles and the house is slightly squewif but liveable and hopefully repairable.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:49 pm

Hey Ric, good to see you're online again. You haven't missed anything, it's still in the same state - no finish, no fretboard. Been busy fixing up the baby's room and other stuff around the house. Also, to be honest, now that it's playable I am loath to disassemble it.

Strings... on there right now are are some used electric strings I found in my stash. When I receiver guitars and clean them up I usually save the strings I yank off of em in case I need a spare for something. I think I have some (new) .11's somewhere from when I went thru the required thick string phase ("SRV played 13's and that's what gave him the tone!!!").

Might take a wack at the fretboard this coming weekend. Need to get the purple heart plank cut down to size - hopefully my puny bandsaw will make it thru that. I want to do kind of a teardrop taper at the end of the board but need to draw up a template for that.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:48 pm

That's good to know, Zhyla. I'd hate to miss an important development stage. If it's of any use to you, for my electric lappy, I set out the fret positions in pencil from an online scale chart. Do this while the fretboard is still unattached and parallel then you can use a standard try square. Then I incised them firmly using a sharp marking knife (I punched the position markers with a nail punch sharpened to about 1/16" at the same time - just a firm tap is all that's needed to cut the fibres and dent the surface - these leave small microdots as on my Larrivee), then I used a small triangular file to CAREFULLY widen and deepen the knife cuts. Then I spray painted the (unattached) fretboard with (in my case) silver paint and when it was dry sanded the paint back to clean wood using a 1/3 sheet sander (is that what you call them there? - a flat, rectangular bed) leaving the position markers and fret markers full of silver paint. For the Weissy I actually cut fret slots (standard tenon saw) and glued in pre-prepared slivers of veneer, because I wanted a more "finished" look. If you find some use in these ideas, good, otherwise ignore as required. And by all means prioritise baby-wards but DO take that lappy through to finish as you find the time. You only have to complete it once, but "someday, sometime..." echoes for a long long time. Peace :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:08 am

Not sure the sander type you're describing, is it a bench top belt sander?

What I had in mind instead of painting the frets was to basically inlay a contrasting wood. An example is below (not mine). I need to cut some maple sticks to use as my veneer on hand is really thin. Cutting a lot of uniform strips is going to be tricky, will need to rig something up with my bandsaw.

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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:56 am

Inlaid frets do look better, I agree. With the electric lappy, I got the scent of the "kill" in my nostrils and followed the path of least resistance.

Could the tool be called a random orbital sander? You load it by cutting a sheet of sandpaper into 3rds and clipping each end of one piece to the flat base of the tool. The dimensions of exposed paper (or the flat base) are roughly 5"x3 1/2" in a rectangle. We call them 1/3 sheet sanders because they take 1/3 of a sheet at a time, though it took me a while to work that out. ROS would make more sense. They are great for finishing a surface. I cut my Weissy top with a final 400 grit paper and if you keep the tool moving with a lightish touch (just the weight of the tool, really), you don't get hollows and high spots and because the orbit is random you don't get torn grain. But Murphy's Law is fairly consistent and you have to watch that you don't get little bolls of packed dust which can bruise the random orbital pattern into softer timbers. This usually shows up just after you've finished the varnishing stage, have washed any brushes, your hands and are about to turn off the workshop lights. Therefore after the 400grit ROS, I always give a fine surface a standard sanding by hand. I'm enjoying this build thread, Z - thanks. :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:25 am

Made good progress on the fretboard this weekend. It is purple heart inlaid with maple "frets". I think it will look nice when it's done. Freshly sanded purple heart looks odd for a few days while the colors all oxidize and purplify. Another note on purple heart: it's a real bitch. Nearly impossible to plane and tends to splinter when cross sawing the fret slots. But it's still fun to work with purple wood.

I found out after playing the guitar with this fretboard laid on top that fret markers are absolutely crucial to lap style. I hadn't really noticed this before but it's just a zoo of frets without them. So I'll have to work on something else until the markers show up. I'm leaning towards white MOP - what you guys think?

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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:59 am

Looks great, zhyla. The white maple frets work beautifully with the purple heart. Excellent kerfing and setting in of frets. Imo, I'd stick with something that complements the pale maple but has a slight sheen for low light visibility eg your suggestion of MOP. I've worked with timbers with similar working qualities to PH. Even the sharpest hand plane just tends to bounce. But once everything's in place, it all looks mighty fine. Thinks here going ok - don't postpone that Weissy too long though. I get so much pleasure playing mine. :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby OldWailer » Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:44 pm

This is a very cool thread! I started out on the lap steel when I was about 12--over half a century ago--then went to other instruments and ended up on guitar--but this thread has rekindled my desire to play the lap steel--just for the fun of building one.

Thanks for posting all the great photos!
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:27 pm

I didn't play lap until I started building this, it was just a fun thing to build. It's nice that no matter what your skill level is you can build a lap steel that will play and sound great, even if that's just screwing some random stuff from the hardware store onto a 2x4. I expect to make more instruments after this, it's been a good warmup exercise for that.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:46 pm

Guys, once started you'll be hooked. I hadn't played lap guitar until February this year (ordinary guitar from high school) and within ten days I was making sounds I wanted to hear. By now I could pick one up and play with confidence (up to a point). I tune to open E and as you become familiar with where the notes are and your ear improves, you're away... wooowooo ... :D Peace
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