1950s/2017 Encore Sewing Drawer 5-String Lap Steel Guitar

Update: I added a "coordinator rod" at the rear of the instrument so I've updated the pictures.

Dang, what is going on over there at Jake's? All those rumblers (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5), a partser-parlor electric, and now this insult to lap steels? Well, it's not without provenance -- in 2015 I made one from an old Kay student guitar as I like my lap guitars all in root/fifth configurations and I've been thirsting for a replacement for that (see, Mr. S? I actually do build multiples from time to time) as I'm putting together a menagerie for the next recording effort and I want that sound for backing washes. Still -- the hallucinogenic blog posts will continue into tomorrow, too, so don't get too comfortable as a reader.

I made this one from an outdoor wallhanger guitar's neck -- one of those 1950s United-made parlors in an "Encore" badge -- and a sewing machine drawer from the 1920s. The remaining bits are a 5-string banjo bridge, scrounged old tuners, a P90 single coil pickup living in a humbucker shell, new bone nut, and tiny nods to low-brow bling (a furniture company's badge and an amp "jewel" to give it some class).

Ironically, the neck is dead straight and I almost wanted to make this into a "regular guitar," but my mission -- a quirky and cool lap steel -- was more necessary. It also meant I could whip this up on-the-quick, relatively speaking...

A new, tall, screwed-and-glued bone nut raises the strings for "Hawaiian" height. Note the missing tuner and its hole plugged with pearl. I have this tuned DADAD like open D without the F#. All "modal" stringing means that when you're recording (or playing with folks) and simply following the chords around, you can ignore majors and minors so you don't have to think.

The gauges are something like 56w, 42w, 32w, 17, 13 +/- a gauge or so.

Years outside on our porch means that an already-beat guitar has faded to a healthy "gangrene sunburst" finish.

I forgot to mention that this also has a 25" scale length which means it has 2-4" length extra compared to the average lap steel's scale. I've always liked long-scale lap steels better -- like the old Kay-made Oahus -- as the stretches are more "acoustic" and natural to me.

The strings are spaced directly between the poles of the pickups -- like on a P-Bass. This is an Alnico-magnet P90-style pickup that's housed in a humbucker shell. I'm sure that it's probably made by Artec.

A banjo bridge was an easy drop-in solution that already had the right spacing and height. The metal bit screwed to the bottom of the drawer is a decorative element but is also the bit that I ground the strings to.

The threaded metal rod acts as a stiffening rod and also neck-angle-adjustment gizmo as it's, essentially, the same as a coordinator rod in a banjo.

Three bolts hold the neck nice and tight to the body.

The strings simply pass through from the inside to the outside for mounting.

The decorative "flourish" to the side faces the audience...

...while plain-Jane is for the player.


Unknown said…
just awesome !!!