Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oahu Lap Slide Project!

When I was working on my master's degree, I wrote a thesis project about the Oahu Conservatory of Music, which sold sheet music, lessons and instruments (mostly lap slide guitars) during the depression. They sold most of this stuff through the mail, which helped spread slide guitar all over the world and planted the seeds for dobro, electric lap steel, pedal steel and more. This paper was published in The Fretboard Journal and I also gave a lecture on it at University of Oregon.

Anyway, their cheapest instruments, which were probably made by Kay and Regal, are solid birch and built like tanks. I have owned one of their super fancy mahogany jumbo models but recently sold it. I have one of their electric guitars from the 1950's, but I have been meaning to get one of the cheap ones for an experiment.

First, I got this one off of Ebay for around $50. It had no tuners and several cracks and loose braces. It is OO size with a 24 inch playing scale. The bridge is cast aluminum and the whole thing is birch with a square neck.

Next, I glued up all the cracks, made a bone nut and set it up with the same string set I use for all my electric lap steels. 13-56 nickel strings where I move 2nd to 1st and replace 2nd with an .018 unwound string.

I harvested a single coil pickup, volume knob and tone knob from Leighton's old guitar, got a soldering iron and a book of schematics and went for it!

I put a couple of scraps in the sound hole to mount the pickup. I can use the screw to raise and lower the pickup. I drilled three holes through the top and mounted the rest of the hardware. The tuners came from the project box, and are re-pros of the old three on a plate Kluson tuners.

Lastly, I tuned it up to DADF#AD and gave it a whirl through the amp. It sounds great and puts out about 85% of what my electric does, which is just great. It has more sustain than a reso and less than an electric. Perfect. Also, I am out around $70 for the whole thing!

Oh yeah, I found another bug in the instrument, this time a Japanese beetle. This has happened twice in the last week!

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