Learning the guitar is a heck of a lot of fun, but if you’re looking to make it as a professional musician, you’re going to have a ton of competition. From acoustic folk singers to electric shredders, there are a ton of different disciplines, and it’s important that you can stand out amongst the crowd. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to achieve this, but one of the most effective I have discovered is to learn the lap steel-string guitar.
However, if you want to stand out even further whilst picking up a new hobby, you can take this instrument to a whole new level. Unlike traditional guitars, lap steel string guitars are quite easy to build by yourself, and many companies are helping to facilitate this by selling DIY kits for steel-string guitars. That’s right, you can purchase a kit that contains everything you need to build your own instrument, how cool is that!?
Whether you’ve never heard of lap steel string guitars and are interested in starting by building your own, or if you’ve already started learning the instrument and would like to build yourself a second spare instrument, this guide is for you. Read on to find out my thoughts!
Bottom Line Up Front:
The best lap steel-string guitar kit for buyers on a budget who are looking for a challenging DIY project would have to be the CBGittyCrafterSupply’s 2×4 Lap Steel Guitar Kit. However, if you’re looking for higher quality with less DIY work, the GeorgeBoards Kit may be exactly what you are looking for.
What Is a Lap Steel String Guitar?
If you’ve already begun learning the incredible instrument that is the lap steel-string guitar, you can go ahead and skip this section. However, if you’ve never heard of the instrument and are interested in learning more, read on.
A lap steel string guitar is… well, pretty much what it says on the tin! It’s an alternative form of guitar that uses specially designed steel strings instead of the typical nickel or standard steel strings that are found on traditional guitars. As the name suggests, you also do not play this instrument whilst holding it with a guitar strap – instead, the instrument is placed on your lap.
It must be said that this is not always the case – some lap steel-string guitarists prefer to use a stand for the instrument, choosing to stand up and play the instrument for increased dexterity and stage presence.
There is a variety of additional differences between this instrument and a traditional guitar. Firstly, the shape of the body is very different, generally being designed in a rectangular fashion, appearing similar to a keyboard. The overall tone is more metallic and glossy than the typical warmth of an electric guitar, and the control knobs for pickups, tone, and volume appear in different locations.
The instrument is also performed in a very different manner to electric guitars – typically performers will use a steel slide bar with their left hand (or right, if they are left-handed) to navigate the frets of the instrument. This provides that classic metallic slide technique that is commonly heard in Hawaiian music and 12-bar blues.
So, lap steel string guitars are very unique instruments and are significantly different than regular guitars. As a result, this means that the building process of the instruments is also very different, with the manufacturing of lap steel string guitars being far simpler. As a result, many companies have cashed in on this trend by producing their very own lap steel-string guitar build kits. Let’s learn more about that now!
What Are Lap Steel String Guitar Kits?
Building kits have existed for decades – from DIY kits that walk you through creating electronic instruments such as theremins and synthesizers, to more child-friendly activities such as making your own toys, people have always shown a love for building their own products from scratch.
Whilst there are some electric guitar build kits out there, the production of these instruments is pretty complicated, so the options are limited. However, lap steel string guitars are far easier to produce, hence the prevalence of build kits on the market.
Lap steel-string guitar kits can be bought online as well as in many brick-and-mortar music stores, and will provide you with everything that you need to build the instrument. You’ll get the fretboard, the strings, and every intricate part of the instrument that you can think of, along with an easy-to-follow instruction manual.
Ultimately, these products allow people to own their very own lap steel-string guitar at a fraction of the price of buying a pre-built one. This makes it an excellent option for musicians on a budget, in addition to anyone who is looking for a new hobby. DIY may not be the most popular thing in the world when it comes to household tasks, but trust me – when it comes to building your own instrument, the prospect of the end product makes the experience a heck of a lot more fun.
What Should You Look For in a Lap Steel String Guitar Kit?
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve likely become interested in building your own lap steel-string guitar – that’s great news! However, you will face one major obstacle on the way, which is to find the best lap steel-string guitar kit for you. Give the keywords a quick search online and you will quickly realize that there are hundreds of different brands selling their own lap steel guitar kits, it can feel like an absolute minefield.
Don’t panic though – I’ve done all this before and can tell you exactly what you should be looking for in the best lap steel-string guitar kit. Let’s get stuck into it.
Ease of Build
The first and arguably the most important thing that you should always consider when purchasing a lap steel-string guitar kit is the ease of build. We’ve all been there before – I can remember years ago as a child when I bought a fantastic-looking build kit for a basic synthesizer.
The box made it look so simple, and despite my Father’s hesitation, I insisted that I should buy it. Low and behold that when I opened that box up, it was an absolute nightmare. There were so many pieces, the instructions were terrible, and it was clear that the box had made it look simple to assemble when in reality even my Father struggled to help me.
This was a very sad experience – I was so excited to build that synthesizer, yet the project was never completed. It was simply way too difficult, and ultimately I had wasted my money. Now, imagine that happening to you with a lap steel-string guitar kit, it would be so darn disappointing. Thankfully, this problem can be solved pretty easily by investigating each kit that you find online and trying to get to the bottom of exactly how difficult it will be to assemble.
Luckily, lap steel string guitars don’t have too many parts, and most of the parts are relatively large, so it shouldn’t be too difficult of a project. However, without a comprehensive instruction manual, the task may become significantly more difficult, so it’s certainly something that you should be considering.
The best thing to do is to first check that the instrument building kit comes with an instruction manual, and if possible, try to view the manual online – this will give you a taste of what’s to come. It would also be worth checking the product reviews to see if anyone has had any problems with the kit, and also search for construction guides on YouTube to see if there are walkthroughs if you get stuck.
As long as you can find resources such as these, I’m sure you will have no problem building your lap steel-string guitar!
The next essential thing to consider when shopping for a lap steel-string guitar kit is to check which items are included. Now, considering that these are kits, they should include everything that you need to build the instrument. This should include everything from the fretboard and neck to the strings and pickups, and you shouldn’t have to make any additional purchases to guarantee that you can complete the project.
However, life isn’t always that simple – I’ve come across several brands offering lap steel guitar kits that in my opinion are incomplete. For example, some don’t include pickups, meaning that you can’t even amplify your new guitar. Some kits require the use of expensive power tools that are not included in the box, and this can also be a real blow when the project was supposed to be on a tight budget.
Generally, you’re not going to come across these problems. Well-respected brands will have thought the project through carefully, ensuring that the customer is provided with everything they need to complete the end-to-end build process. However, it’s certainly worth looking out for, and once again, negative experiences with this can usually be found in the reviews section.
There will always be extras to enhance your lap steel string guitar, and, inevitably, these won’t all be included in your build kit. For example, lacquers to add a varnished finish to your guitar or fretboard inlays to spice up the aesthetic are both highly desirable accessories, yet it’s unlikely that they will be included in the kit.
That’s fine, as they are non-essential add-ons and simply function to improve the look of the guitar. However, it’s still worth considering investigating such products, as many sites will provide discounts and bundles if you’re already buying the lap steel-string guitar kit!
The next thing to consider when purchasing a lap steel-string guitar kit is the cost. Now, as you may already know, financial investment generally results in a higher quality product. If you spend $200 on a
This is certainly still the case with lap steel-string guitar kits – the more expensive kits are generally going to include higher quality components, which will result in a better end product. However, this may not be the approach that you want to take.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to buy a lap steel-string guitar kit, it’s probably because you are interested in improving your DIY skills. If you wanted the best quality lap guitar that you could find, it’s certainly going to be a smarter idea to invest a significant amount of money in a pre-built guitar constructed by experts in a controlled environment.
However, if you’re not too fussed about having a truly professional instrument and are instead focused on having some fun whilst learning a new skill and instrument, these construction kits are going to be significantly cheaper and better value options for you.
Do a quick bit of research, and you will discover that lap steel-string guitar kits are pretty cheap, especially in comparison to purchasing the instrument pre-built. However, I would not recommend going for the cheapest option available, as this could result in a compromise in the quality of the components, the instructions, and the overall end product. However, I wouldn’t invest much more than a few hundred bucks, because, at that point, you might as well buy a pre-built one.
The final thing that I would suggest you look into when purchasing a lap steel-string guitar kit is the tonal qualities of the end product. This point is often overlooked – as I mentioned earlier, many people associate these products purely with DIY and hobbies, with the actual sound of the instrument coming second.
That’s fine, and I would always expect a slight compromise in sound quality when building my own instrument, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for something that sounds like trash.
As long as the components that make up your lap steel-string guitar kit are of high quality, you shouldn’t have any problems finding something that sounds good. The most important factors here are pickups, wood, and electronics, and as long as these are of decent quality then your instrument should sound pretty good once it’s been built.
However, much like every other point I’ve made, there’s only one way to figure all this stuff out, and that is to do your research online. Check out the reviews – were past customers happy with the sound of the end product? Is there a video online where you can preview what the instrument will sound like?
I would highly recommend that you go through these steps, because whilst the build process can be an excellent hobby, the instrument should still sound decent when you complete it. Imagine the disappointment if it didn’t!
My Best Lap Steel String Guitar Kit Recommendations
So, we’ve taken a long look at exactly what lap steel-string guitar kits are and what you should look for in them – now, let’s finish things up with a list of my top three product recommendations. Whether you’re looking to build your first lap steel string guitar or this is going to be your second time, hopefully, you can find something here that tickles your fancy!
I mentioned earlier how it is undeniable that higher budgets generally equate to better quality instruments, but I have always liked to focus on the phrase “it’s not the tools that you have, but the way that you use them”. You should never let a lack of finances prevent you from trying your best on a project, and this 2×4 Lap Steel Guitar Kit from CBGittyCrafterSupply’s Etsy store is a prime example of that.
In comparison to the other items on this list, this kit is quite cheap, and that’s mainly because you have to supply your own 2×4 plank for the guitar neck.
That’s not ideal – we discussed earlier how it’s great when a brand provides everything you need to get started with building your lap steel guitar. However, if you’re on a tight budget and have a 2×4 plank knocking about, this is an excellent value for money purchase.
It includes everything else that you’re going to need, two large pages of detailed instructions, and even the electronics, pickup, and jack sockets required to make it electric. For the price, I’m sure you will agree that this is an absolute bargain!
- Very reasonably priced
- Includes everything you need, including the electronics for digital amplification
- Features handmade components
- The instructions are illustrated
- Does not include the 2×4 plank for the guitar neck
- The low price is going to mean that the components are not of the highest quality
The next lap steel-string guitar kit that I would like to recommend is Stewmac’s Dulcimer kit, a fantastic kit with a twist. Give this item a search and you will quickly notice its quirks – it comes with beautifully curved pieces of wood that form the body of the instrument, instead of simply using the standard rectangular plank setup.
I love this and I think it’s a unique kit, providing you with everything you need to build your own dulcimer lap steel-string guitar. The only real downside is the fact that it does not come with pickups or electronic amplification in mind, so you’ll have to be happy with a purely acoustic solution.
- Beautiful curved design
- The wood used screams high quality
- Stewmac is well known for producing high-quality guitar building kits
- A dulcimer is not technically a lap steel-string guitar
- The price may be a little high for beginners
- Does not include pickups or any electronic functionality
The final lap steel-string guitar that I simply had to recommend is the GeorgeBoards S6 Lap Steel Kit. I’ve always been a fan of GeorgeBoards online lap guitar tutorials, so when I discovered that they were making their own lap steel-string guitar kit, I simply had to check it out! Now, it must be said that this is the most expensive kit on this list, but it’s easily the highest quality example too. After all, GeorgeBoards specializes in lap guitars, so that gives them a serious advantage!
Perhaps my favorite thing about this kit is that most of the dirty work has already been done for you – this results in there only being five components to build together, making the setup quick and easy for musicians of any experience level. If you’re looking for a complex DIY job, this might not be the kit for you, but if you simply want to get your hands dirty for a quick and high-quality end product, it’s ideal!
- GeorgeBoards specialize in lap guitar content, so naturally, this product is of very high quality
- Free shipping to the U.S.
- Simple and minimalistic setup
- Includes a humbucker pocket
- Whilst the guitar body includes a humbucker pocket, you will have to supply your own pickup
- The simple setup may not be ideal for DIY enthusiasts
- No strings included
Answer: Lap steel-string guitar kits are DIY building kits that allow purchasers to build their own lap steel-string guitar.
Answer: As opposed to the traditional guitar playing style, lap steel string guitars and generally played on the performer’s lap, and the frets are typically interacted with via a metal slide bar.
Answer: No – whilst some lap steel-string guitar kits are comprehensive, others may require the customer to purchase additional items such as pickups or strings.
Answer: No – whilst many lap steel-string guitar kits provide pickups and jack sockets, some are designed to be used acoustically, although nothing is stopping you from applying your own pickup anyway!
Well, that’s just about everything I have to say about the best lap steel-string guitar kits! Making your own lap guitar can be a rewarding and cerebral hobby, and the end product is just fabulous! If I had to go back and choose a new kit for myself as a
However, if you’re looking for something of higher quality, have the money to spend, and can’t be bothered with complex DIY tasks, then perhaps consider the GeorgeBoards S6 Lap Steel KIT instead. Whichever you choose, I hope you enjoy your lap steel-string guitar journey as much as I have – good luck!