For those who are new to the term “Lap steel”, let me quickly try to explain what it is. It is a type of a guitar with its strings so far from the fretboard that the only way to play it is to use a metal or glass bar to slide on top of the strings. This changes the pitch, the further up the neck you slide the bar, the higher the note. The instrument is usually tuned to a chord which makes it possible to play several, or all the strings, at once without sounding nasty and out of tune.
The guitar gets its name from the way it’s played, on your lap, so you usually would be playing it sitting down. There are a few different versions, resonator, acoustic, but the one I made was a solid body Lap steel with electric pickups.
What makes it interesting, are the sounds you can get out of it. Often paired with a chain of Volume, Delay and Reverb effects the outcome can have an eerie quality to it, but is also capable of bluesy, drier and slightly over driven tones.
Because a Lap steel is tuned in a mayor or minor chord, it makes you re-think the way you play. The all familiar Am chord might not be where you thought it should be, and you have to look for alternatives places.
A few things were clear, as I began planning the project, and there were others that I thought would sort themselves out as it progressed. I had some Gibson tuners lying around, so they were surely going on. And I was certain I wanted a 590 mm scale length since I was used to it because of a previous Lap steel I had at the time. Next were the woods. I liked the idea of it having a “twang”, so I chose maple for the body and neck, for the fretboard I chose macassar ebony.
Continuing with the twangy theme, the pickup of choice had to be a Gibson P-90.
I had various thoughts about the rest of the hardware, first I tried to buy some, but finally I decided to make them myself out of brass. As far as it not having a volume or tone pot, it was a conscious choice. I hardly use them and if I do, I much prefer them on the floor in the form of a pedal.
I chose Tung oil as the finish, simply because I’m not a huge fan of shiny lacquer but still wanting to protect it against humidity and spilt beer. As it turned out, I really quite like the texture and might use it again, at least for the back of some guitar necks.
At least in my book the project was a success. From a esthetic point of view, she’s a stunner with a nice contrast between the ebony and the brass and with the smooth feel of the oiled maple. But all that comes second compared to the sound, which I’m happy say, is beyond my expectations.
In this video (thank you Alfredo from omnivoros) you can see and hear the final result, sorry for my sloppy playing