The Sonny Rhodes Custom Lap Steel Guitar

The elder bluesman had been relying on a worn and unreliable Guyatone lap steel as his mainstay instrument for over two decades. I borrowed design elements from a Vintage Gibson EH-150 lap Steel guitar in my personal collection  to design a new, and more compact instrument that would be ergonomically pleasing, and also fit easily into airplane overhead luggage compartments. Chris Martin granted me free access to the Martin Guitar Company’s wood inventory, and within one day I had most of the materials I needed to begin the five month  project. The body would be constructed of aged English flame maple, the top and head stock veneers were cut from a AAA grade, tight grain flame maple dreadnaught back, and the fingerboard was made from a billet of birdseye maple, the fret positions of which were inlayed with ebony strips. My old friend Roger Blake, a machinist and high school shop teacher who makes custom basses in his spare time, graciously fabricated the instrument’s bridge from Bell Bronze.  He also lent a hand during the application of the outer white binding to the lap steel’s body. Step by step sequence photos were taken of most of the construction process with the exception that we were too lazy to photograph  the initial band sawing of the body blank from the maple plank, and we were hesitant to use the camera during the finishing process for fear of damaging the lenses.

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