2006 Asher Ben Harper Series II Lap Steel Guitar

Funny things happen in my little corner of the world. I tend to have the luck of -- after thinking about instruments that'd be neat to try -- actually having those instruments pass through the shop for sale to taste-test. Since seeing one of these in the hands of Mr. Harper himself, I've been curious about what they're all about. This one's in via consignment from an owner who's de-electrifying himself, so I got lucky again.

First-off: while the hype for these is steep, the instrument itself is simply a joy to play and its design is very well-thought-out. The neck is thicker than the body itself and this wedge-shaped cut and the way the weight sits in the lap means this instrument handles very well -- not like the usual "lap steel plank" design. Because of its longer scale and wider-than-normal proportions, it actually feels more like playing an acoustic Weissenborn-style guitar (save the ergonomic benefits of a thin body). This is right up my alley because it's the cramped shorter scale lengths of most lap steels that puts my playing out of tune on them. I learned my own (poor) Hawaiian-style playing on 25" scale instruments and above, so once I get into the second octave anything 21" to 23" feels very tight and easy for me to miss the mark.

Second: the fit, finish, and build quality is right up there. This instrument is meant to be styled after a '60s Gibson Les Paul and it feels just as posh -- though modernized in its take on the idea, of course. Asher uses classy wood, classy finish, and a pair of Duncan Custom Shop US-made '59er humbuckers. The hardware is all upscale, too.

As far as the sound: the Gibson-style humbuckers give the guitar a much meatier sound than most lap steels, though if you use an amp with a bright switch or brighter voicing (I turned mine on halfway through the video after the "thumbs-up"), you can definitely score some classic lap tones on it. The extra width of the sound, though, appeals directly to blues or Hawaiian-style players, where one might want a lot more mwah.

So, in short: a great lap steel. I can understand the hype! I'm still hoping someone starts referring to these as a Lap Paul, though. Click here for Asher's own web page on the model, by the way.

Work included: a light cleaning, setup with straight (normal lap steel) compensation at the bridge, and... retuning.

Scale length: 24 7/8"
Nut width: 2 1/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 13/16"
String spacing at saddle: 2 1/8"
Lower bout width: 13 3/8"
Upper bout width: 8 3/4"
Side depth at nut: 1 7/8"
Side depth at endpin: 1 5/8"
Weight: 8 lb, 5 oz
Top wood: solid flamed maple
Body wood: 3-piece mahogany
Neck wood: maple
Fretboard: rosewood

Condition notes: it's been well-kept and played-but-loved. There are three almost-invisible little "bar" dings on the upper bout and a small portion of binding was reglued near the endpin area. There's only the most minor usewear throughout -- it looks like it's brand-new but been in a shop maybe 6 months. Considering the finger-gunk build-up around the neck pickup, it was clearly played a bunch -- but that, fortunately, came right off in cleaning! It's 100% original and ready to go.

It comes with: its original, custom-fit, Cedar Creek case in gator-style wrap. Sweet! There are some scuffs on the case but it's in good shape.