A lovely modern lap steel that has been heavily modified in order to sort out what I felt were a couple of serious drawbacks.
The guitar comes with it’s own legs allowing you to either play it across your lap like a traditional lap steel, or screw the legs in and play it while seated on a chair.
The body is gloss black with a slight gold metalflake, with gold markings.
Here’s what it looked like when new…
… and here are the reasons why I modified it:
- the bridge
- the pickup
- the layout
- the gold frets
As this is a lap steel the strings are never fretted, so it is pointless having an adjustable bridge. As long as the bridge and nut are set at the correct distance apart and are both perpendicular to the strings the guitar will play in tune (depending on your placement of the bar of course…) and as the strings never touch the frets (which are just painted on) there’s no action to adjust so height adjustment is also redundant.
Actually, there’s nothing really wrong with the pickup – it works fine. I don’t think that it suits the guitar though, and something a bit warmer and more powerful would be much better.
Here’s where I think that the design really falls down. The knobs are completely in the way of your hand while playing, especially if trying to palm mute, and unless you use a right angle plug on the lead, that can get in the way too.
The gold frets
Although the frets on a lap steel are non-functional they play an important role as a visual reference, so that you know where to place the bar. Unfortunately, as these frets are painted metallic gold, they become invisible under certain lighting conditions – ie when performing on a dark stage under coloured lights…
In response to the above concerns here’s the solutions I came up with:
- the adjustable bridge has been replaced with a one piece hand built brass bridge complete with matching tailpiece
- the entire scratchplate has been replaced with a new brass one, and the single coil pickup replaced with a much beefier Wilkinson P90 pickup
- the controls have been moved out of the way below the scatchplate and fitted with thumbwheels, similar to controls on a Fender Jaguar
- the jack has been moved out of the way to the end of the guitar
- the frets have been painted white so as to be always visible
While I was at it I thought I may as well upgrade the nut too so the plastic one was replaced with a hand built brass version.
The end result is a lap steel guitar that is much more comfortable to play than it used to be. The volume and tone controls no longer get in the way but they are still (literally) at your fingertips. As well as looking great with all the new brass parts, the Wilkinson P90 pickup upgrade has given the guitar the big fat powerful sound it deserves.