In the process of sorting lumber for fall and winter builds I came across two pieces of Cherry that looked like they were destined to be a lap steel and that was it. This will be my second lap steel and I had so much fun building and noodling on the first one, I’m excited to get started.
I started by joining the two pieces and cutting the design on the bandsaw. Next I finalize my design: laying out the bridge, pickup, controls, jack and nut locations. From the nut location I can layout the headplate then cut away the excess on the bandsaw, freehand. The top and back of the headplate need to be sanded before laying out it’s shape and tuner hole locations. When the layout is done I can saw the shape of the headplate on the bandsaw and drill the tuner holes. On the first lap steel I placed the control cavity on the back with a cover. This time I decided the top mount the controls to avoid having the cover and screws on the players thigh. Now I can rout the pickup and control cavity and drill the jack mount hole. The body itself is now ready for lots of sanding prior to adding the finger board and hardware.
The next few steps are: building the fretboard, headplate veneer with logo, pickup ring, control cover and nut. I’ve chosen figured hard Maple for these pieces it will make a nice contrast to the Cherry Red I’m aiming for on the body. Starting with the fretboard, cut to length, width and thickness. For fret markers I make a .060” slot and super glue a piece of ‘wbw’ purfling and for the position markers I’m using black plastic dots. The headplate veneer, pickup ring and control cover are made from a Maple about 1/8”and final sanded around 7/64″. It’s tedious but the Maple doesn’t break easily which helps. Final part to make is the nut which I’m making from cold-rolled steel, ¼” x ½” When these parts are finished I’ll do a final layout, drill holes for the bridge, pickup ring, control cover, and jack plate. I’ll temporarily mount my hardware and remove it before lacquer and buffing which helps not to damage the finish, as in no drilling after buffing.
When the lacquer has been sprayed and it’s surface sanded and buffed to a gloss finish I can put this pup together and plug it in.
It’s all done and it works and after setting up the string height at he bridge and setting the intonation it sounds great. You can see this and many other fine hand crafted instruments at