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How To Build A Weissenborn Lap Steel Slide Guitar

Terry Buddell

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Having played around with various guitars over the last 30 odd years it had always been a secret wish of mine to build one. However, the step from dream to the reality was for me, at least, a very long one coming.

I had on several occasions brought myself to the brink of the momentous event and then studied the smooth perfect forms of each of the guitars that I owned, heaved a deep sigh of regret, and once again slid back from the task.

I kept asking myself, ‘What’s the problem? You’ve built a 42 foot yacht, learned to fly a plane, learned a smattering of languages, became a marine surveyor, but this one’s got you beat!’

It puzzled and irritated me and I thought it was beyond my skills but great things were to happen. Some time ago I went to see one of my guitar heroes, Jeff Lang play. Little did I know but this event changed my whole life. Stunned, amazed and totally dumfounded I watched this guy take a strange fig shaped guitar, lay it across his lap and bring forth some of the best guitar slidin’ howling dog blues sounds that ever slid out of the Delta. My amazement continued as Mr Lang tuned and retuned for more whiny, Orientally inclined Celtic and Asian megarythyms until I was numb. You CAN’T get that sound from a guitar…not possible…. guess what, you can, and he did! I wanted one of these Weissenbourns real bad!

I was hooked, I slunk home now thoroughly depressed. My guitars hid in shame, we ignored each other for days. The die was cast. Come hell or high water, I was gonna get me a Weissenbourn slip ‘slidin’ lap top steel guitar! Three to five grand was out of the question…. dare I try to make one?

Here good fortune struck. Thanks to the great kindness and encouragement of my good friend and incredible Luthier of Tamborine Mountain Kim Hancock and his two boys Sean and Dane, I decided to take the plunge. With Kim’s further help and assurance and the supply of some really beautiful timber in a long box and a great book on how to build guitars, I started the impossible dream. I decided, once and for all to build that damn guitar and what's more, write a book about it at the same time!

Having visited many websites and read a few interesting books on guitar making I realised there were a few different methods of building a guitar from scratch. However, I decided that the safest method for me was to build a mould, an actual replica of the guitar and a work-base that the mould may be constructed on.

The basic job of the mould is to give you a real live 3D model of the guitar you intend to build, literally, around the mould itself. The other function of the mould is to have a very handy and immediate reference to work out front, back and sides dimensions of the precious timber you are about to cut. The work-base is exactly what it says. It’s a flat base constructed from MDF board, two pieces ¾” thick each glued together for strength to form a mini ‘strong back’ to build your guitar on.

The work-base has handy slots cut into it around the perimeter and these are used to slide small clamps into when gluing on the back fitting the sides or even keeping the mould or guitar still.

So, the work-base is your bench, your mould is the basic pattern that your Weissenbourn guitar will be built on and around. Once the basic body of the guitar has been constructed, naturally the mould is then taken away and the build continued…. . are you with me so far? Good, we’ll slide on (pun intended) to how this was to be achieved. . . . . . In fact the whole thing was going to be really awkward for me as I live on a forty two foot yacht in a marina. . . So what? It was going to happen come Hell or high water, literally. to be continued. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Terry Buddell is a freelance journalist and a Marine surveyor, boat designer and shipwright, He lives on board his yacht “The Nicky J Miller’ that he built himself on The Gold Coast Australia and has sailed his yacht up the East Coast to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. He is currently resident in Gladstone Queensland where he is building another boat for his collection of plans for sale on the internet. In his spare time(what spare time??) Terry, a keen guitarist is also building a Weissenborn lap steel guitar! Pictures for most of the articles can be viewed on the website below including some of the building of his Weissenborn guitar. . . now finished!. ! Terry can be contacted on or


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