1930s/2017 Wildwood Ironing Board 5-String Lap Steel Guitar

Update 2018: I put-up new pics and a video as well.

This is one I whipped-up for myself a few weeks ago and finished-off today. It's made from a 1930s pine ironing board, fretboard off of a Hofner archtop guitar from the '50s (it was an utterly destroyed neck), a '60s Japanese-made "monkey-on-a-stick" Olson-branded electric guitar pickup, a funky old "moustache" bridge, and various other parts-bin treasures.

I've given-up on 6-string lap steels and have focused my slide playing on ones like this with 5 strings and tuned to a modal "chord" -- in this case, EBEBE open E tuning. I like that I can just follow along without having to think "major or minor" and then do little fills while following the chord I'm playing. This, of course, sounds primarily a bit bluesy -- but the possibilities for "wash" sounds on recordings with a bunch of fuzz and reverb are, of course, delicious. I'm half-tempted to "chalk-up" the frets with the root note so I don't even have to think at all, too!

The pickguard is off of a 1930s guitar and was an aftermarket bit of fiberloid-style material probably available from the Harmony catalog. The jack housing is, of course, an inverted Strat jack. With a right-angle cord, it's kept tidy.

This lap steel is crazy-lightweight and that makes it a lot of fun to play. In addition the pickup is pretty microphonic so the "feel" reminds me of the more microphonic Gibson pickups of the early '40s where you sort-of hear a semi-acoustic tone. It's weird but good.

The new rosewood nut was quickly anchored with some hefty screws. The tuners are new, Korean-made Kluson-style units.

How about all those mismatched screws? Yes, it was intentional. The leather thong is for hanging it on the wall!

The strings simply anchor into the back of the instrument and come through small holes and up through the bridge.


CM said…

Jake Wildwood said…
LOL -- quite the contrary. It's more work for me to find just the right lap steel to mod on the net than whip something like this up quickly on my off-hours... :)
Brad Smith said…
This is beautiful in so many ways. I love the way the tuning machines form a kind of crown and can imagine generations of future vintage collectors pondering over the significance of those numbers on the backside!
Jake Wildwood said…
I was hoping someone would notice that it looks a bit like a robot with a crown -- in a way. Pretty silly, but no worse than this:


I still have no idea why the ironing board company bothered to drill giant holes on the back.
Unknown said…
I think the giant holes may be for dowel-style legs. I saw one a while back set up that way.