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Lap Steel "nut" And Bridge Idea


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OK,

Another thing that's just bouncing around in my head... I'm not particularly close to making this, but it'll probably happen before the headless just because of budget.

I want to make a lap steel that incorporates string-benders for easier mimicing of a pedal steel. The benders I want to use if I can ever get my hands on a pair are these:

Epiphone EZ Bender

However, they've gone from saying "back in stock April" to "back in stock September" so my optimism is low. As a result, I'll probably have to design my own benders. Either way, it seemed to me that such a thing would work best with roller nut and bridge.

Since a lap steel usually has wider-spaced strings and no taper to the "neck", I thought, "why not just use a roller bridge at the nut as well?" The most economical ones I found were ones like this:

GuitarFetish generic roller-bridge

Then, the bending system could basically just be a lever that presses the string down, behind the nut (but before the tailpiece), and with doubled roller action, I wouldn't need anything too complex for it to work properly.

Any thoughts about using a bridge as a nut, for a lap steel?

Greg

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That's a pretty good idea. I tapered my lap steel a little toward the nut. It's kind of like classical guitar spacing at the nut. Mine's a 7 string, so I also didn't want it too wide, because I play with a slide, not a longer, heavier bar. It tends to catch a little on the strings when moving laterally, so I also put a very slight radius on it. They say steels should be dead flat, but with the slightest amount of pressure I can barre all the strings. I say all this because the bridges you're talking about are radiused.

You could also make a totally cheap nut out of thin brass rod and old string ball ends. You could use nylon bushing as spacers between them, Or you could just line up a bunch of ball ends in a row, so you had one with a string and then two without or something. Anyway, if you want no radius you have to think of something else.

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Crap, forgot about the radius thing. I'd want no or very little radius. 12" radius is a bit too curved for a lap steel.

Thanks for the idea with string ball-ends. I'll peek into that one. :D

Greg

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  • 1 month later...

Well, I got an e-mail notice that the EZ Bender is back in stock. I'm thinking of ordering one before they run out again. I'm still looking for anyone who has any experience or recommendations for a flat bridge. I can make do with a normal nut instead of a 'nut as bridge' though I'd like roller. Since roller doesn't seem possible on EITHER end, I'm going to have to make-shift.

I was thinking of Graph-tech. Not sure what it would take, but I imagine you could somehow file down the LP replacement saddles to give a flat "radius" (ie NO radius). If I used a similar material at the nut, that should be sufficient for B-string bending, no?

Greg

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I seem to have a tendency to self-bump, but you never know who could be looking for this info:

I found the bridge that will work, and it's not too expensive, either! -->

The Schaller one on this page

Noticed it in the latest LMI catalogue. Now I just need either a roller nut, or to make one with ball ends as suggested by Frank. Of course, a Graph Tech type nut would probably work, too, but I'd need to research non-standard options (ie. blanks, classical sizing, etc) to go that route.

[edit: hmm... I might have been reading wrong, I thought it was saying that the individual saddles can have height adjusted, but it might just mean the entire bridge as a whole... research is required]

Greg

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Yup, as I sadly discovered by phoning LMI.

Unless I want to make my own, it's looking like the only options are mucho dinero. ABM makes some bridges with height adjustment. I need the string to be able to mount through the back, though (like on the Hipshot) so that I can use the EZ bender.

Why, oh why couldn't I just know more about fabrication? Jesse James would whip me up a bridge in about 5 minutes. :D

Greg

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Cheers for looking out for me, Frank. After seeing the pic, it occurs to me that the Hipshot-style one wouldn't work either, even if it had rollers. There would be too much friction generated by the string against the rear holes if I use an EZ-Bender.

Greg

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Hey I was at a guitar show Sunday and I thought of you. I bought 6 roller saddles, presumably from a Schaller roller bridge. You could make anything out of these. They have the tune-o-matic threaded hole in there for mounting. You could easily make a custom wood baseplate that would receive them.

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Excellent news! Thanks for thinking of me. Any idea where I could order them online? My local retailer places orders through AllParts, and they've already told me I can add anything to their order (paying retail, of course, but avoiding personal shipping/duty costs) that I want.

Alternatively, I wonder if I could just buy one of those inexpensive roller bridges and pillage the parts. I don't suppose you have a digital camera so that I can see what the parts look like?

Greg

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I assume these were available because someone converted their bridge to piezos at some point. You can buy mine, I got them with you in mind. But I knew if you didn't need them I'd make a cool Ebony or Cocobolo T-o-M style housing for them and use them myself. I think that would be cool to have on a hollowbody.

Edited by frank falbo
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Greg, I have had, for years and years, a brass nut-spacer that slips over the nut on my J-45 and gets me to slide-action, allbeit without pickup-spacing considerations(hey, it's accoustic) and it works but not very easy to change tunings with. Hipshot makes a alternative-tuning bridge assy. that is cool and cheap(if you're a dealer). Give it a look-see.

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I've thought about the Hipshot Trilogy bridge for a lap steel, and I might use one someday. But it doesn't do bends like a pedal steel. But I like the idea of having alternate tunings right there. I always thought they looked silly on a regular guitar, but on a lap steel they'd be pretty cool. Then they have that B-bender alternative that seems to work like the Epiphone bender, just with a drop D added to the low E string.

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I knew about the Trilogy, but it's been a while since I looked at it. It IS surprisingly cheap for what it does, actually! And there's a version made particularly for lap steel guitars. (The LMB4)

I think I'll stick to this simple project with the EZ-bender for now, and then if it turns out that I'm becoming a lap steel monkey, I'll consider an expanded project.

:D

Cheers,

Greg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey here's my lap steel 7-string. I finally got a pic so I'm all excited to share. It's Walnut strips (like a cutting board) and a couple Purpleheart accents. Other than the fretboard it's all scrap wood and spare parts I had around. That's why I had to make the bridge. The "saddle" is fret wire, bent around. It goes down into the body where it's grounded. There's no room for any pitch bending shenanigans. I used fretwire as markers because it's that low/wide fretwire with narrow tangs and barbs. I had it around and was never going to use it. The rest of the pics are here:

http://photobucket.com/albums/v655/gpenguins/Frank/

DSCF0030.jpg

Edited by frank falbo
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Look great, Frank! I'm thinking of rolling mine together before my other project, since it should in theory be easier to do. Haven't decided what to do for a nut yet. Since I hope to do some pitch-bending shenanigans (haven't ordered the EZ-bender yet, mind, but I can always use a stop tailpiece while I'm waiting, since it gets mounted to a stop) I'm still thinking of Graph-tech. Perhaps a bass nut will have enough width for the wider-at-the-nut taper of the steel.

Any ergonomic considerations for holding it on the old lap? I was thinking of giving it fold-down flaps that become almost like 'table legs' (except flat and straight across, not just 4 posts) in order to raise it up on my lap a bit, or even making a folding table to go with it. I've never played lap steel, but I keep imagining that I'll want it higher than my lap proper.

Greg

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I play it on my lap sometimes but most of the time it's on a keyboard stand. I thought about making some elaborate pedal steel type stand, but it's not worth it. Part of the reason I made a half guitar on the treble side was to keep it from tilting. You can't see from the pic but the bass side is tapered like the Ibanez Radius. So it feels comfortable on the lap, too. But mostly I did it because I thought it looked cool.

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  • 8 months later...

A bit of an update, and some questions. First the brief update:

- Found an EZ-Bender on eBay, and it arrived. Cool little unit! It was exactly as I expected it to be-- not entirely super-rugged, but with a very positive and "machined" feel to it.

- Got a pickup and some roller saddles (which will become a nut, I believe!) courtesy of Frank

- Grabbed a tone pot from Dirt Cheap parts

- I will re-use a pre-slotted fingerboard and headplate that I was saving for later, but it didn't suit my plans anyhow (that's aside from the fact that I don't seem to be getting around to it). The headplate will either become a headplate (still haven't decided) or it will just be used for mounting the electronics

- I have some fretwire that's also going unused. So, even though a lap steel doesn't need a truly accurate, pre-slotted, radiused fingerboard OR frets, that's what I'm going to use. At the end of the day, the fretwire seemed the more simple option between that and tracking down veneer or using other jiggery-pokery. I'm used to the "shine" of frets as locators, so it'll be familiar territory anyhow.

- I have extra MOP, so I may make some sort of inlay in the fretboard. Some of you may remember that my last inlay attempt didn't go so well, but this time I'm not planning for instant success and I'm willing to screw it up a bit. :D

- Picked up some wood from a local supplier. I went in expecting to buy ash, alder, or basswood, PERIOD. Given the selection they had on-hand (lots of basswood, but the wrong thickness and I didn't want to pay for thicknessing and wasting all that wood) I went with mahogany. The piece I have is probably thick enough, but I always imagined having a slightly thicker one, so I added a 3/4" thick piece of cherry for the top. Pretty fancy for a "plank" if you ask me. B)

--------

Now, the questions:

Bridge

As I mentioned, I can only find TOMs with a radius.

Option 1: take the actual saddles out of a TOM, and replace them with a SINGLE piece of Tusq, shaped with a dremel tool so that it'd have "tabs" fitting into the slots where the saddles normally go. The Tusq would be filed flat, and then slots added. I'm

Option 2: buy one of these (not available when this thread was started):

Roller Bridge from Guitar Fetish and then re-work it a bit. I haven't decided if the best direction would be to a- mill down the "steps" on the baseplate that create the radius, or b- "build up" the 4 lower steps to match the top 2, thus flattening out the radius.

Option 3: use an acoustic-type bridge, raised enough so that it could angle down to the stop tailpiece. Tusq (or Graph-Tec?) would be used to relieve friction as the EZ-Bender did its work.

Nut

It comes down to either using Tusq or the roller saddles. I like the roller saddles idea, but I just haven't decided how to mount them.

One idea is to craft small 'holes' for them to drop into, in a piece of dense hardwood (like my cherry). But then it probably wouldn't be wise to also take advantage of the screw-holes, since they'd be going parallel to the grain and would want to split it.

Another idea was to find a small aluminum or steel L-shaped "beam" and then screw the saddles into this.

Yet another was to make a "saddle sandwich" in which the saddles would be essentiall wedged between 2 pieces of wood and then screwed in. When I try to visualize this, though, it looks inelegant in my mind's eye.

Any other suggestions?

Tailpiece

Should be simple, right? Just use an LP stop tailpiece, which is what the EZ-Bender is designed for! Well, I bought one at the local guitar shop and ran into a problem. The EZ bender mounts onto the tailpiece with screws that go into the hole that the string would normally pass through. The screws are hollow allen-screws kind of like the ones to adjust the height of standard Strat saddles. The trouble is that the tailpiece holes are a bit "recessed" so that the ball end of the string gets hidden, for a clean look. The tailpiece I picked up has very "deep" recesses, so the allen screw can't clamp on properly.

So, I need either:

a - a tailpiece with a shorter "recess". Are they actually different from company to company, or am I screwed because it's a "standard"?

b - longer hollow allen screws. Are these things available from hardware stores, or at least from some sort of specialty vendors?

Headstock

I'm worried that if I don't angle my headstock, there won't be enough of a break over the nut to keep everything nice and tightly in-place. I was considering angling the headstock with a scarf joint, but if I can avoid it, I'd rather not. Using string trees defeats the purpose of the project because I need to reduce friction at all spots so that the EZ-Bender will work smoothly.

I can fairly easily make a heastock that's lower so that it'll work like a Strat, but I'm worried that the angle from the tuning posts will make awkward string overlap at the "wrap" part of the post. A locking nut would take care of this, but I can't afford the danged things. :D

Basically, my options are:

1. scarf joint

2. normal plane (like in the BuildYourGuitar.com lapsteel plans) and hope for the right break over the nut

3. lower plane and either get lucky with the wraps at the post, or shell out for locking tuners

----

It should be said that I don't even know how much use I'll get out of this thing, and I might suck at it, but I also don't want to do a half-assed job.

I hope to do the final work and assembly in the coming week, so any suggestions or comments on my options (as I see them!) would be greatly appreciated!

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I just had another peek at Frank's guitar, and I'm thinking that his method of mounting the tuners would solve my headstock issues, and also free up my headplate veneer for a control "cavity" (har har, it's tiny!) cover.

The pickup I have is a "Hot Rails"-type of deal, with 4 conductors for splitting. I also have an unused super-generic-super-cheap single-coil tele bridge pickup kicking around. I was originally going to use JUST the 'bucker, but now I'm considering doing a bucker/single-coil thing. I only have a spare 3-way standard Tele switch, though, so I probably wouldn't bother with series/parallel or even coil-split trickery.

Greg

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*bump* to see if there are any last opinions before I start hacking it up.

Updates: I got a GraphTech classical nut, which is wide enough for me. I know lap steels often have the strings parallel, but for the sake of my sanity, this option's probably the best for me. I'm waiting for GuitarFetish to get those roller bridges in chrome since they seem easily modified to meet my needs. In the meantime, in addition to other recent questions, the only thing I'm wondering still is:

- To add the 2nd pickup or not to add... there's lots of room for it. And if I add, to use the Tele bridge pickup in the bridge and the other one more toward the "neck", or vice-versa...

- If I use a second pickup, to mount the switch on the side or on the top?

- Mound the volume knob on the side (like the BuildYourGuitar one) or on the top? Mine is wider than his, so there's room.

Greg

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