I want to build my first lap steel guitar. Only problem is I have had almost no exposure to one before and I have nothing to model it against.

Is it a standard guitar scale?

Do I fret it?

How high should the action be?

Where is the best place to in stall the pick up?

1 Pick up or two?

humbucker or single coil?

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I did not fret my first one, did the second one. One single coil pickup on each. Single/humbucker depends on the sound you want. Sound bites here: http://www.seymourduncan.com/support/audio-samples/humbuckers_and/

 KISS. Strings one half inch high.

My second lapsteel sounds good
Scale length ... Most steel makers offered a choice, 24" or 22" (or thereabouts...) the country and western swing guys favour the longer scale ones, the Hawaiian guy the shorties cos it makes for easier slants..
Single coil definitely.. There were no humbuckers back in the glory days of steel guitar
You only need one, but real fancy ones have two
Frets.. Well you don't fret the strings, but it's customary to mark or inlay em in some way. Take a look around there's a hundred ideas. I did one with a busted bandsaw blade inlaid nd sanded flush. Randy bretZ did an awesome one just with garden twigs glued on..
Ideally put the pickup very close to the bridge
Google steel guitar images. Pay attention to where the builder put the volume control particularly, volume swells are important on steel. Good luck

Thanks for the feedback. I have a little Martin LX that I'm going to model the scale after. It's 23 1/8" from nut to saddle.

Now all I need to do is learn how to play slide.

I'll take advice on beginner songs or books if you have any.

Here is my first Lap steel.  Nothing fancy so keep it simple.  It is 31 1/2" x 3" - Made of 2 pieces of 3/4"  maple that came from some bed slats glued together - Scale Length 22.1/2" - Fretboard is marked with a Sharpie.  Single coil pickup - Volume control and 1/4" jack.  I have more pictures in my album

Paul a few questions please.
1. What are you using as bridge and nut and where did you get them?
2. What is the approximate angle for the headstock so that the tuners can follow the strings? The sorta triangle headstock angle?

HI Rob, I've made about a dozen cbgs in the last 20 months or so ,and used     wfret.zip    ( just type it into your seach engine )        to calculate the fret spacing , it's free ,dead simple and prints a strip that you can mark off or just glue on for a really quick build...good luck with it and above all have fun...


I think that whatever you decide will work for you. I have build many lapsteels, and the usual length varies between short scale which is around 22 inches to longer scales of around 24 or more. The shorter scales help facilitate slanting the bar to achieve chord soundings, and is easier to play in my opinion. The longer scales do have a unique sound though, and are a little mellower, and lend themselves nicely to different effects.

No need to fret about frets....a lap steel is meant to be played with a bar.

I like humbuckers for pickups, although I have built a few steels with single coil pickups, so go with what you have available. The placement of the pup is important to the sound you want, and the closer the pickup is placed to the bridge, the brighter and cleaner your sound should be.  Hope some of my input is helpful.

Another one of my short scale builds. And on another note, be sure you ground the bridge when you do your wiring to prevent the hum you will surely get if it is not grounded.

My second lapsteel everyone who has seen it and had a go seems to like it so I'm happy going back to building CBG's now though
My second lapsteel

The first lap steel I built was out of a 2x4 but I felt that the narrow board didn't balance well on my lap and there was no place to rest my wrist while playing.  I built the one here using a 2x10 and shaped it somewhat like a guitar.  Much easier to balance and play.  I'm new to the lap steel and I'm in the process of learning to play.  I used the 2x4 lap steel kit from C.B. Gitty.  It has everything you need along with instructions on how to build it.  Hope this helps.



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