If you were inspired by last month’s lap steel special and fancy having a go, why not build your own? It’s the perfect project for a budding luthier, and Huw Price can tell you exactly how it’s done
I flipped over the body and tapped the string ferrules into place using a hammer and a length of dowel rod to protect the body. After attaching a Shed Spider pickup (www.shedpickups.co.uk) to the bridge, it was simply a case of threading the wires through that pre-drilled hole into the control cavity and screwing down the bridge using the pre-drilled holes. I attached the pots to the control plate and wired in the capacitors, then joined the pickup wires direct to the volume pot. The output wires were soldered to a regular mono jack socket that was bolted to a curved plate and screwed in place onto the body.
The next stage was to fit the tuners. My preference would have been a set of white-button Klusons, but I ended up using some Schallers that were sitting in my parts drawer.
Making the nut was really simple. I bought a length of 1cm x 2cm ‘aluminium corner’ from B&Q, cut a piece to the width of the fretboard, then drilled three holes in the 1cm side and screwed it onto the headstock. I measured to make sure that each bridge saddle was exactly 25″ away from the nut, and loosely attached the strings. I stuck some masking tape over the top of the nut, spaced out the strings by eye, marked the top of the nut on each side of every string and cut the slots using nut files. If you haven’t got nut files, you can get by with a needle file and some abrasive paper.
To be honest, this project took me more than one weekend, but that’s only because I decided on a sprayed finish to make it look as good as possible. You could make this project even simpler and cheaper by applying an oil finish or just waxing the wood. If you’re really in a hurry, you needn’t even bother with body wings or controls – you could just go with the 3″ wide centre block. In fact, you could even paint the fingerboard onto the body.
So is this the ‘lap of luxury’? Well, to me it sounds just like lap steels sound on records. It sustains for days and, more by luck than planning, that volume control is perfectly situated for volume swells. All I have to do now is buy some heavier strings for those countrified 6th tunings, and then figure out how to play it. Wish me luck!