1938 Supro (National/Valco-made) Lap Steel Guitar

I don't often get to see early lap steels in the shop that often. I used to buy them up to fix and resell a lot years ago when I was pursuing lap steel for myself a bit more, but haven't been snagging them lately. This one came in for repair and it's nice to see an earlier, quirky lap steel that's still in good condition. Many of them have faulty pickups or random damage from decades of use and then storage abuse.

The A6429 serial number at the top of the headstock points to 1938 for this Valco/National-made Supro job, and it certainly looks like '38 with a cool, deco look and strange, two-point body shape that echoes early Vega lap steels.

This one has a fairly low-output pickup (about the same output as an old Danelectro) but that's par for the course for the decade it was made in. The pickup design itself is interesting as it's dual-coil but seems to have the coils wound in the same direction as there's no humbucking effect when it's plugged-in -- it reacts like a single coil. The sound is mellow, sweet, round, and very "Hawaiian" to my ears. It sounds a lot like early Hawaiian-style lap steel recordings. I like.

After work, it's in perfect order and even has a more modern (1/4") output jack. Currently it's tuned to open E (EBEG#BE low to high) but it could be strung/retuned however one likes. It has a very cool body shape where the bass side's "lower bout" area is half the thickness of the treble side's. It makes access for putting a cord in the jack but I suppose you could also use the shallow depth to plonk down a few extra fingerpicks and/or bars on it while you're playing.

Repairs included: new volume pot/wiring harness, replacement jack, better ground wire (hidden) for the bridge, cleaning, replacement '50s vintage chickenhead knob (the original chickenhead is stowed in the case but damaged) and setup.

Setup notes: strings are about 50w-11 in gauge.

Scale length: 23"
Nut width: 2 1/8"
String spacing at nut: 1 3/4"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/4"
Body length: ~13 1/2"
Lower bout width: 10 3/4"
Side depth at endpin: 1 3/4"
Body wood: solid maple?
Bridge: steel, wooden saddle

Condition notes: almost entirely original save for new volume pot (500k) and 1/4" jack replacement. Original cord, corroded volume pot, jack, and knob are in the case. It has various light scratches on the top of the body and a few bigger ones on the back and sides, but overall it's in good shape for its age. My replacement (vintage) chickenhead knob has a chip-out to its skirt but it's not obvious at a glance.

It comes with: its original chip case in decent shape.

Here's a photo of the pickup area when it came in. Note ground wire visible to the bridge.

Above is the stock wiring harness -- note the badly-corroded/non-functioning volume pot and the very slim margin of error for the leads coming off of the pickup coils. Also note the screw-on vintage jack.

Here's my new 1/4" Switchcraft jack that just managed to squeeze in place of the old one. That was lucky! The white and black wires are fresh "extenders" for the leads coming from the pickup coils because I wanted a little more slack in the harness in case the volume pot comes loose and the wires twist around it.

Here's the new 500k volume pot and a fresh, hidden ground wire going to the bridge.