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Murray wants a lap steel guitar.
 
I have been thinking about making one for years, so now seems to be the time.

What do we know about lap steels?
Not much, but surfing tells us they usually have a scale length of 22 to 23 inches, the string spacing at the nut can be anything from that of a normal guitar up to the same spacing as the bridge so that the strings are parallel. The spacing at the bridge is much the same as a conventional guitar, about 2-1/16" or 2-1/8".

What else to we need to know?
Not much; it's more a question of what we have to think about. What wood is available? What shape shall we use? What pickups, controls and other hardware?
 
If we take those things in order the project will look after itself.

Timber!
A rummage through the back garage turned up these three pieces of wood. A plank of maple just under ⅞" x 5½" x 47", a plank of mahogany just over ⅞" x 9" x 46" and a piece of rosewood ⅛" x 4½" x 34½". I'm guessing the rosewood was originally inteded for an acoustic guitar side. The maple and mahogany were both for Fender-style necks.
 
The rosewood is too thin for a normal fingerboard, and I'm never going to use it for a side, so it looks a good candidate for a fingerboard for our lap steel. The fingerboard on a lap steel is basically decorative — a pencil drawing would do as long as the frets were drawn in the right place, and this rosewood will give our guitar a bit of class.
 
The maple and/or mahogany will be fine for the body.

Hardware
Some of the pictures I saw of lap steels had machines like those on classical guitars but mounted upside-down so the buttons pointed upwards. That looked like a good idea to me.
 
I have had these in a cupboard for a long time and I think they will be excellent for the job.
 
There is probably a lot of other hardware lying around that will serve. I have at least two bridges that might be of use. We'll have to think about the nut; some makers seem to use just a piece of angled steel. I have a feeling Murray might like Telecaster style knobs, but I haven't asked him yet.

The headstock
I don't much like the look of the head; it seems too big and smacks of 1950s Framus. I think it will be better a little slimmer and symmetrical at the top. The design, I think, should be dictated by the position of the tuner recesses, with 'straight-line' strings being the criterion. The only rules we have to follow are that the recess has to be half an inch wide and the outer wall has to be a quarter of an inch. Starting with that in mind, the head may well design itself. Before we start that we must decide on the string spacing at the nut and the width of the neck.

Sensible head
This is the effect of reducing the angle of the slots and putting them closer together.
 
Am I being a little too precious about this? The winding of the string will move the effective position that it hits the post. On my Macaferri the slots are darn nearly parallel, but that has a significantly narrower string spacing — closer to a vintage strat — also the thickness of the outer wood is a little greater than the quarter inch that we can use.

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