Electric Lapsteel Guitar

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Project by javaboy posted 07-23-2012 03:57 AM 7011 views 4 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was one of my “bucket list” projects. Always wanted to build a guitar, but by the time I felt confident enough to give it a try, arthritis in my fingers made playing a regular guitar very difficult. Then I started experimenting by converting a cheap acoustic guitar to play “lap style” and found that I could play fairly well that way, so I decided to try making a lapsteel guitar. I found a book online published by a man in Germany that had all the important technical details, but the design is my own. I made it from bubinga because that was the most suitable wood in my shop. The fretboard, pickup bezel, and base of the bridge are made from ebony. I am proud of the way the headstock turned out—I wanted to come up with an innovative design for that, and it was very satisfying to figure out how to make it happen in the wood. Carefully placed holes of the right size, drilled out with Forstner bits provided all the radii, then it was just a matter of routing out the waste. The other really critical operation was locating the bridge—it had to be spot on or the guitar would never have the right intonation. It was a very fulfilling but rather nerve wracking project—I put it down and walked away several times before it was finally finished. Unfortunately, now the arthritis has become so bad I can no longer play it. Oh well, it’s one more thing crossed off the list!

-- Sow justice, reap peace

8 comments so far

View SirSalamander's profile


13 posts in 2822 days

#1 posted 07-23-2012 04:47 AM

Wow, what a beautiful piece! I love the headstock idea, going off of the traditional slotted headstock, but instead making it recessed with a step like pattern. I’ve been wanting to take on a similar project myself lately and route channels in the body for some other noise makers. Great work, good inspiration.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30442 posts in 2852 days

#2 posted 07-23-2012 07:23 AM

Very nice work, and a lost art. Welcome to LJ’s.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Rob W's profile

Rob W

434 posts in 4050 days

#3 posted 07-23-2012 12:54 PM

Fantastic job!

-- Rob — I've cut it off twice and it's still too short!,

View drbyte's profile


834 posts in 4576 days

#4 posted 07-23-2012 01:33 PM

Beautiful job with a beautiful piece of wood! I love it. Hope you get to play it some! The headstock is wonderful as is the entire guitar. What scale length? What’s your overall length and width? The bubinga is pretty dense, is it fairly heavy? Steel Away!!

-- Dennis, WV

View Pookwood's profile


41 posts in 2925 days

#5 posted 07-23-2012 01:39 PM

Sweet guitar, Nice work!!

-- Wayne

View javaboy's profile


108 posts in 2648 days

#6 posted 07-23-2012 04:21 PM

Thanks everyone for your very generous comments!

The scale length is 25 1/2” I don’t recall the overall length and width (the guitar is now packed away in preparation for moving—a long story!).

Yes, the bubinga is very dense and heavy. Even though it is a lap steel, I found it kind of heavy and awkward to play on my lap, so I played it on a stand—kind of like a pedal steel without the pedals! I am not experienced enough with guitars (and especially guitar building—this was my first and only!) to comment on the use of bubinga as a wood for guitar. I used it because it was the nicest, most suitable chunk of wood in my shop at the time.


-- Sow justice, reap peace

View Woodknack's profile


12913 posts in 2894 days

#7 posted 07-26-2012 08:33 AM

Beautiful guitar, the headstock is unique and my favorite part.

-- Rick M,

View javaboy's profile


108 posts in 2648 days

#8 posted 07-26-2012 05:02 PM

Thanks! The headstock is my favorite part too.

-- Sow justice, reap peace

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