my lap steel build

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my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Tue Jul 06, 2010 4:00 pm

Figured I'd do a build thread for this lap steel I'm working on. This is the first time I've attempted to make an instrument. Actually, the only other woodworking I've done is the workbench in the pictures.

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The body is maple and machiche, an obscure mexican hardwood that my uncle snagged from a cabinet shop that was going out of business. You can't see from the photos but I routed out a small tone chamber inside down the center. Seems to have a slight effect on the sound when rapped over that area.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby rustyslide » Tue Jul 06, 2010 6:49 pm

Love the laminating!
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:24 am

Ahhh... I can smell the woodshavings from here. Good one, zhyla. +1 on the laminations. Can't wait to see how you finish her and your choice of pickup/s. Looks on the plan like you are going for a single coil. Can you also tell us what the scale length is and what nut width you have decided on. Rock on. :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Wed Jul 07, 2010 7:30 pm

I have a set of tele pickups. I like how tele neck pickups look so that is what I'm going to try.

I originally drew it out for 23" scale but I'm currently thinking of doing a 24" scale. There is a lot of extra room on the tail so I can do either.

Nut width: 2". I didn't really think about this too hard, I think my resonators are 2" nut and I just mimicked that.

My original plan involved using this little plank of purple heart for a fretboard (with veneer frets) and solid maple for the body. Now that it's all stripy I'm not too sure about the purple heart. Might just look too weird. I've got some teak and wenge lying around as well as more of the machiche. Thoughts on this? I'm an engineer, things involving more than two colors confuse me.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby rustyslide » Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:05 pm

Arrange the body with the potential fretboard woods and take some pics and post them for us if you still can't make up your mind. :)
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby bluejay » Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:42 pm

What type of finish/stain are you planning for the body? That will certainly influence the fretboard decision. But I like the idea of showing us a few options via pics.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:39 am

Your specs are pretty much what I used on mine, zhyla. We are metric here but I went for a 50mm (2") nut and because I was using a h/bucker neck p/up with 2" between the outer pole pieces, the strings ran parallel all the way to the saddle. I also used the metric equivalent of a 24"scale ie 600mm, which is actually about 23 5/8". You are never going to have neck bowing problems on these so you can use really meaty strings for open E or any tuning you like. Keep the pics coming - p/up rout etc etc. This is all good stuff :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricochet » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:54 am

Oh, this looks really cool! It's going to be a 6 string, I take it?
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:02 am

Yes, 6 string. And Rico, where the hell have you been? :)

No new progress to show but here is a picture of the tone chamber. Very crude. This was really tough to do with a palm router and I wussed out. I think it works but probably would be better if it were bigger and smoother.

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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:02 am

Minor progress today, got the headstock routed. It doesn't look complete because the back side of the headstock is going to get cut down. So that little island will be gone as well as the floor. You can see my crude template there too. It worked pretty well except:

1. The bit fell out and whirled around and gouged one side. I corrected this by shifting the template over after I was done to widen the slot a tad.
2. One of the brushes sprung out of my router halfway thru this operation. Apparently they're easily replaceable, but also can work themselves loose over time. Weird.

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Re: my lap steel build

Postby ricbleu » Sun Jul 11, 2010 1:46 am

Going well, zhyla. I've had those kind of router problems too. Of all the hand power tools I've got, the one I am most afraid of is the router - they take no prisoners. Are you going for a cavity routed from the top to access pots etc or a cavity routed underneath? It was doing my h/bucker cavity with the 1/2" router bit at full depth that the shavings caught fire. Very spectacular. :shock:

And z, you will have calculated correctly the thickness of the maple left on the peghead for the machines, won't you? Each side should be about the same as the peghead thickness of a guitar. And also that your centre rout there is wide enough that opposite string posts don't clash when fitted. It looks like they are ok from here. You can always stagger them if measuring shows that they are going to. Also fwiw, I tried drilling the holes for the string posts using a hand held drill only to find that the two E posts did not line up perfectly. :( The others were ok. So when I made the Weissy, I drilled those using a drill press for greater accuracy. Hope this helps, I don't want to seem like a know it all - but I'm fresh from the experience. :D
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:39 pm

Yes, I believe the rim of the headstock is the necessary width - .40". I think I had spec'd it for .50" but it came out a little thinner for some reason. I can always shim on the inside if necessary. I drew up the plans for this many weeks ago, hopefully I did everything right :).

I've given up drilling anything important by hand, drill presses are awesome.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:49 am

Got the back of the headstock cut and tuner holes drilled. Sorry for the nasty pic, was in a hurry today. Learned one thing: measure the tuner placement from the end of the headstock instead of the slightly irregular slot, that way both sides will line up. They're off by about 1/16" as it is.

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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:52 am

Fabricated some rough versions of a nut, bridge, and saddle. The bridge in particular is a little wonky, ideally the lamination lines would line up perfect. Strung it up for the first time, finally.

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And here's a little fixture I came up with to let me test pickup placement with before I do any body routing. This works great for lap guitars since it can just sit on top. The tele bridge pickup won out over the tele neck pickup. But if I can find a gold foil cheap enough I might stick with that - would simplify the routing considerably.

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Oh yeah, and Ricbleu, you asked if I had measured the headstock thickness correctly to match my tuners. I thought I had, but I must have used specs from a different set of tuners or something. I ended up having to cut 1/4" off each of the tuner nuts. Thank God for dremels.
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Re: my lap steel build

Postby zhyla » Sun Aug 22, 2010 4:23 am

Nearly done with the body (aside from sanding/finishing). I just need to drill out for the string ferrules on the back side (like what's on a telecaster).

I replaced the nut/saddle I had previously with some thicker stock. It looks less cheesy that way. The fretboard is next.

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