Learning to Play
I'm amazed at the number of electric lap steel guitar manufacturers out there. Please send me any additional suggestions or recommendations. (If someone wants me to review your steel guitar-related product, send me e-mail!)
For information about pedal steel guitar manufacturers, visit Bob's Steel Guitar Pages.
I have information on Sachar Amos, Bill Asher, Bales Guitars, Bluestem, Canopus, Chandler, Barron Clarke, Todd Clinesmith, CruzTone, Cougar, Ellie Erickson, Jim Boen, Jim Dyson, Dynalap, Elderly Instruments, Fern's Guitars, GeorgeBoards, Gold Tone, Peter Gosden, Gretsch, Harmos, Hipshot Products, Industrial Guitars, LapDancer, Lap King, Allen Melbert, Melobar, Mighty Fine Music, Morrell, Remington Steel, Sierra Steel Guitars, Sonica, Ville Tyyster, West Coast Steel Guitars, Joseph Yanuziello and the wonderfully named Fuzzy Pedal Steel Guitar Company in Japan.
Melobar is back in business, making a range of lap steels under the Rattler, Copperhead, Diamondback, Viper, Sidewinder, CC-8, SM-8, and Melobro names.
Chandler Musical Instruments, famous for their vintage-influenced guitars and Real Tube effects, makes a very nice lap steel guitar. Their lap steels are a combination of the best of many different steels. The bodies are similar to the Weissenborn guitar in shape; the pickups are influenced by the Gibson Charlie Christian pickup; the bridge is influenced by the Fender lap steel line; the fretboards and overall decoration recall the National/Valco/Supro line of the 1950s.
The Model RH-2 features solid Honduras mahogany construction, through body stringing, art deco/pearl fingerboard, one CC-90 custom lap steel pickup, volume and tone controls. The pickup has plenty of punch, and is very even throughout its tonal range. Gibson style speed knobs make it easy to change tone and volume settings.
There are many additional options available, including your choice of pickups, body binding in pearl, tortoise or ivory, the addition of a Hipshot "Trilogy" bridge (which allows different tunings to be applied), and custom colors.
More information can be obtained from their web site or directly:
Chandler Musical Instruments
Todd Clinesmith purchased the remaining original steel guitar parts—including aluminum patterns, dies, jigs, pickup patterns, vintage spools of copper pickup wire, pickup magnets, the blade pickup pattern, fingerboards, knobs, endplates, endplate handles, pedal components, and more—that were built and used by Paul A. Bigsby in his steel guitars. From the late '40s through early '60s, these were the same components in the steel guitars used by Western Swing and Country musicians such as Joaquin Murphey, Vance Terry, Speedy West, and Bud Isaacs.
He is offering a limited production of Clinesmith Steel Guitars. These are among the very finest electric steel guitars ever built.
Gretsch had two lap steel models, the first by a major guitar manufacturer since the 1970s. The Electromatic Model 2700 is tobacco brown, with a 22.5-inch scale length, single coil pickup, and is made of luan wood. The Jet Mainliner G6147 lap steel is tobacco sunburst, made of mahogany, and has a Gretsch Dynasonic pickup. Both models appear to be discontinued since Fender acquired Gretsch. For more information:
Hipshot Products, makers of the Hipshot Trilogy Bridge and B-Bender, announced the Hipshot Trilogy Steel Guitar. From the image on their web site, it appears to be a standard six string steel guitar, but with the Trilogy tunable bridge, allowing up to 729 different tunings just by flicking a switch. As of this writing, prices and specifications are not available. Check out the web site, or contact Hipshot Products at:
Elderly Instruments carries a whole series of lap steel guitars. They have new electric lap steel guitars manufactured by Morrell (including an 8-string "Little Roy Wiggins" model), Blue Star, and Melobar. Prices range from $160.00 to $300.00 (US), with chipboard cases extra. They also carry a full line of resonator guitars by Dobro, National, Scheerhorn, and Regal as well as an extensive list of used and vintage instruments.
Jim Boen Steel Guitars has been purchased by Jerry D. Knapper, who writes: "I do not know if I will keep the name the same, but for now Boen Steel Guitars will be a subsidiary of Successful Enterprises and I will keep you updated if there is a name change. Jimmy was a personal friend of mine and when Doyle Huff and I moved forward to form the Oklahoma Steel Guitar Association, Jimmy was one I spoke to before contacting Dewitt Scott for assistance. Jimmy offered a good contribution to the steel guitar industry and I hope to follow in his footsteps.
"Having moved from the Tulsa area I am no longer an active part of the OSGA and am looking forward to forming a new association in East Central Oklahoma and West Central Arkansas area."
Joe Morrell Music Distribution is a current maker of lap steel guitars. They have a beginner model available for under $200.00 US, a Joe Morrell Pro 6 six string model and the Little Roy Wiggins eight string lap steel model.
Joe Morrell Music Dist. Co.In Japan, the Fuzzy Pedal Steel Guitar Company makes several different "Jerry Byrd" model lap and table steels, including a frypan model and a table steel (with legs attached). More information can be found on their web site. For more information in the US, contact:
Scotty's Music Inc.In Japan, contact:
FUZZY PEDAL STEEL GUITAR PRODUCTS
Remington Steel, owned and operated by famed steel guitarist Herb Remington, produces eight string steel guitars in single, double or triple neck configurations. They feature four legs (like the old Fender Stringmasters), George L pickups, and Grover tuning keys. They are available in 24-1/2" and 22-1/2" scale lengths, and in natural, black, white, or blue lacquer finishes. For more information visit their web site or contact them at:
Asher Guitars and Lap Steels (a subsidiary of Guitar Traditions) sells a variety of high quality guitars and lap steels including the Electro Hawaiian Model I Lap Steel, whose predecessor is the Asher Ben Harper Model. There is also a Electro Hawaiian Junior, which offers a great sound at a more affordable price - it's perfect as a student model.
Canopus steel guitars are made in Japan by luthier Yas Kamiya. Yas worked at the Sho-Bud factory in Nashville in '70s, then came back to Japan and started making his own steel guitars (both electric and acoustic). The Canopus acoustic Hawaiian guitars are made from several kind of materials --- mahogany, maple, bubinga. There are Weissenborn style hollow necks or Kona style solid round necks with 6 or 7 strings. His guitars are played by David Lindley and Ben Harper among others. His guitars are distributed in the USA through Scotty's Music in St. Louis, Missouri, or through Charles Fukuba in Hawaii - phone/fax : (808) 626-0691.
West Coast Steel Guitars is making six and eight- string models in both 22.5" and 25" scale lengths. They have maple necks and an alder body and come in a variety of colors. The guitars can be played standing up with the addition of a "dobro-type" strap. Bridges and nuts are made of brass. Six string models will accept any strat size pickup and eight strings use a George L 10-L pickup.
Sierra Steel Guitars one of the top pedal steel guitar manufacturers, also makes the fine Sierra 8 String LapTop. The neck is supported by a layer of aluminum which runs the length of the neck. Under the aluminum is another piece of wood. The aluminum is attached at both ends to give the guitar the ultimate in sustain. The strings attach to the aluminum at both ends of the guitar. Happy owners include Bobby Lee, sysop of the Steel Guitar Forum.
Sonica Musical Instruments, a division of Naval Electronics Inc., makes what appears to be a good entry level lap steel. They seem to be offered for auction on eBay and sold directly. For more information visit their web site or contact them directly.
Gold Tone Musical Instruments, best known for their line of banjos, has introduced a lap steel that appears to be very similar to the old Oahu Tonemaster. I haven't seen these instruments personally, so I can't comment on their tone or quality yet..
Harmos Steel Guitars are the most dramatic and unique looking instruments being manufactured. The clear, transparent tone of the Harmos Guitar is immediately apparent to listeners and players. This has to do with the dramatic combination of carbon-fiber material and space frame body design. These attributes yield fundamental natural frequencies not seen before in stringed instruments and are the basis for the Harmos sound.
Loni Specter makes the LapDancer lap steel and a replacement neck for Fender guitars called the RedNeck. These are a maple bolt-on replacement neck which uses your hardware to make a real lap steel out of a Telecaster or Stratocaster. The steel reinforced, oversized square-neck has a 25.5" scale length - somewhat longer than most lap steels, good for slants on higher strings. The flat, wide finger board gives a true steel guitar look and feel sits and balances perfectly on the lap. The RedNeck comes with either a natural oil wood or red stain finish with a raised brass nut, inlaid lines and dots.
Elllie Erickson says on her web site, "I build guitars. Acoustics and electrics, lap steels, both baritone and semi hollow electric, electric harp guitars, electric mandolins and octave mandolins. " Among her many unique creations is the Flying Veissenborn, an acoustic Weissenborn-style squareneck guitar.
Industrial Guitar uses an aluminum/composite construction to create a high tech lap steel. Each instrument is individually built and can be customized to meet your needs. For more information:
Working under the name GeorgeBoards, George Piburn makes a fine series of six and eight string lap steels in the San Diego area. He also has a good variety of instructional CD-ROMs and DVDs. Contact George Piburn directly for more information.
Ville Tyyster is a Finnish luthier making a range of acoustic and electric lap steels. His resonator guitars appear to me to be influenced by Rich and Taylor, and his electrics by Ben Asher. Either way, he makes a beautiful looking guitar. Contact information from his web site.
Sachar Amos is an Australian luthier building acoustic and electric slide instruments including Weissenborn, square neck resonators and electric lap steels. His Flash-based website requires a bit of navigation to get around, but his guitars look very nice indeed. For more information:
CruzTone steel guitars are stylistically influenced by the Gibson Ultratone lap steel. Available in 6, 7 or 8 string models, they feature solid mahogany bodies with aircraft grade aluminum tops and backs for enhanced rigidity. For more information:
CruzTone Steel Guitars
Peter Gosden is an independent luthier based in Devon, England. His speciality is acoustic and electric lap steel guitars. All instruments are truly hand crafted by one man from start to finish. This traditional approach together with a genuine passion for instrument making result in a beautiful and personal instrument.
Fern's Guitars & Parts in the Netherlands crafts a high quality Slide King lap steel, using Seymour Duncan pickups, Schaller tuners, and zebrawood and other fine woods. Check out his site for more information.
Australian based Jim Dyson builds six string electric lap steel guitars out of Victorian ash, using a custom designed brass bridge, his own hand made single coil pickups, and other top quality hardware. The results are impressive - both the Standard and Pro models are fine looking instruments. Jason Mowery of Keith Urban's band is one of his many satisfied customers.
Jim Dyson Guitars
Jason DuMont started his guitar building career working for the Hamer Guitar Company. He now builds the Lap King lap steel guitars, strongly influenced by 1950s automobiles based on the striking looks of his guitars.
Bales Guitars have a Weissenborn body shape and are semi-hollow with tone chambers, hollow neck and sound holes in the top.
They have enough acoustic volume to practice without an amp, and plugged in they really sing. We use only the finest hardware, such as Grover, Schaller & Sperzel tuners, CTS pots, Switchcraft jacks, Hipshot bridges, and Duncan, Lollar, Lace and GFS pickups.
Each lap steel has a 25" scale, string-through body design for lots of tone and sustain, bone nut, high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish flush inlayed maple fret markers and red tortoiseshell binding. The string height and radius is adjustable at the bridge for your playing style. They feature a full 24 fret, 2 octave fretboard.
Terry and Jude Bales
Dynalap lap steels are made by Mark Vinbury in Rhode Island. They are available in partially completed kit form or as fully completed guitar form. Six and eight string models are available.
Rudy Cordle has been an avid experimenter/builder of musical instruments for over 30 years, with his efforts most recently reflected in a line of Bluestem lap steel guitars. Due to privacy concerns, he asks that you contact him through his web site.
Barron Clarke is the owner of Clarke
Guitars, Australia's only comprehensive resophonic guitar repair,
parts and custom building site. He says, "I carry the only comprehensive
range of resonator parts in Australia. I also repair and upgrade
(cheaper) resophonic guitars as well as build Spider bridge guitars
based on original 30's guitars. Whilst my specialty is resophonics
I also build six string lap steels out of solid Australian timbers
and build acoustic guitars by order only.
Allen Melbert lap steels are made by Bob Allen, who writes: "I have been building affordable high quality lap steel guitars for two years under the brand name Allen Melbert. I'd have used my own name, Robert Mel Allen, but there's a Bob Allen everywhere you look so I rearranged my name and came up with something a little more unique. I ship worldwide, have shipped to Japan, Britain, France, Finland, Italy, Canada and USA. Prices range from $300 to $450. Available in Ash, Oak, Maple, Mahogany, Walnut, and Cherry."
If you have questions, suggestions for improvements, or additional information, please let me know.