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Steel Guitar Bar: Make It Out Of Plastic?


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Hey everybody! Since I'm going to build a lap steel guitar..i'm obviously going to need a tonebar. I posted an idea on this in my other thread (Lap steel guitar but I've kind of thought it out now.

I want to make a mould out of clay or something like that, then take polyester resin and mix it with hardener , and just pour it in to the mould *maybe with some pieces of metal to add weight* . What do you think of this idea?

There are 2 flaws I can see with this :

1: The polyester will stay in the clay, and i'm not going to be able to get it out without destroying my mould (don't feel like that) . I'd have to use some kind of stuff that can coat the clay so the polyester won't stick to it. What stuff would I need? WD-40? :D

2: I don't know whether plastic tonebars will sound good, but then again, I don't really know what steel bars sound like either :D and it's basically a first attempt.

Well..those are my questions B) a: Is it a good idea to try and cast my own tonebar out of polyester this way, and b: What kind of stuff would I need to coat the clay?

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Try a mold release agent.

What about acrylic instead? Like Lucite?

Or how about instead of casting one, why not get a scrap of Corian and carve it?

ok! that's what I was looking for , thanks :D

err..can you cast acrylic? I don't really know where to find it in the neighbourhood..but I'll look around.

Carving one out of a scrap could be a solution too..but the reason I wanted to use polyester is that I've got some lying around here...ofcourse instead of going with all the fuss of making a mould, I suppose I could also just fill a plastic box with it, and wait for that to harden, and carve one out of that :D ...anyway do you think polyester will be durable enough (if the mixture is correct)?

also..what kind of tone would it produce? has anyone got an idea?

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Not a clue on the tone, but I'd say that the wound strings would start to cut through it leaving little notches (which would start to sound quite nasty after a while if they were to catch).

I'd also build a plug and make a mold out of plaster of paris or latex. Actaully thinking about it, I'd make possibly a 3 piece mold. One for each side and one for the hole up the middle.

I'd also cast some little blocks with various amounts of hardner and rub them over some strings to see if they are OK. Never know until you try :D

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Not a clue on the tone, but I'd say that the wound strings would start to cut through it leaving little notches (which would start to sound quite nasty after a while if they were to catch).

I'd also build a plug and make a mold out of plaster of paris or latex.  Actaully thinking about it, I'd make possibly a 3 piece mold.  One for each side and one for the hole up the middle.

I'd also cast some little blocks with various amounts of hardner and rub them over some strings to see if they are OK.  Never know until you try  B)

hmm..I see the problem with the roundwound strings..but I was intending to put on some flatwounds (when I'm finished that is :D ) just to check out the sound...if I'm correct they wouldn't wear the plastic down that much..wouldn't they? :D

anyway..latex molds sound plausible aswell..would I need a mold release agent (scary word..sounds like a matrix thing :D ) for that? (Another silly idea: bathtub sealer ? they call it silicone kit over here...it's rubber like..would that work? )

Edited by zeegeit
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It's always a good idea to use some sort of releasing agent.

As for the latex molds, just turn them inside out and out pops the item (although nothing is ever that simple).

Remember that if you're casting them that the very top bit of the mold (where the resin touches the air) wont set so you have to make allowances for that.

As for the silicone, I'd leave that for baths and fishtanks :D

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Why are you wanting a plastic tonebar? You won't get the sustain or the sound you will with a true steel. There are a ton of them on ebay. 10-30 dollars - seems to me going to the trouble of building a nice lap steel, then skimpingo n the tone bar doesn't make much sense. By the time you make moulds, buy releasing spray, etc. etc.. you could have just bought a dunlop tone bar.

If I were trying to go on the cheap here, i'd go get a piece of iron pipe from the hardware store and polish it up on one side.. or buy some of their bar stock and grind it smooth. Sometimes a heavy pocket knife works as a slide.. There are a lot of options.. but plastic isn't going to give you the sustain you want with a lap steel i don't believe.

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hey! that looks interesting :D if I order one there now maybe I won't even have to pay customs! great idea!

i'm checking out this one: Dunlop steel bar ..I think i'm gonna order this one(or is a round one not as good for a starter than one of those ergonomically designed ones?) But..what size do you recommend? my hands aren't that small :D

and...what kind of picks should I use? I heard a lot about fingerpicks and such..are they better for lapsteel than normal picks? B)

tnx!

- edit : forgot something -

Edited by zeegeit
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hey! that looks interesting  :D  if I order one there now maybe I won't even have to pay customs! great idea!

i'm checking out this one: Dunlop steel bar ..I think i'm gonna order this one(or is a round one not as good for a starter than one of those ergonomically designed ones?) But..what size do you recommend? my hands aren't that small :D

and...what kind of picks should I use? I heard a lot about fingerpicks and such..are they better for lapsteel than normal picks?  B)

tnx!

- edit : forgot something -

Your hands size shouldn't matter. Your whole hand lays across the strings.. you just have to make sure your index finger is not touuching the strings.. The bar just kinda sits under your slide hand between your 1st and 2nd fingers.

Maybe the medium size for one of those. I play with a stevens style bar. It's easy to keep a hold of.

Picks.. i pick with my fingers.. i'd say your bigtime steel players use finger picks.. but i don't play acoustic or steel with picks.. i alsays use my fingers. You definitely want to fingerpick.. it's just a matter of whether or not you want finger picks attached to your fingers. I personally hate em. They get in my way but to each their own.

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as far as tone goes its hard to tell because Ive never seen one made with those materials, but i believe it was richenbacher made bakelite bars to go with their bakelite steels, and the bakelite steels are some of the best sounding around, so I would think be the tonebar would too.

p.s. i have seen bakelite bars on ebay before. not cheap but they are there.

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