How To Convert A Sanchez Travel Guitar To A Lap Steel

Terry Buddell

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There is something addictive about guitar playing that just seems to suck you in further than you meant to go. . . a bit like sex, rum, red wine, chocolate someone else's wife, luscious things that don't seem very good for you. . . the only thing is, guitars, especially acoustic lap steel guitars of the Weissenborn kind, are actually positively good, very good for you. . . truly!

You are doing something constructive, quite unlike slugging back half a bottle of Cabernet shiraz in one go, or scoffing down a whole packet of M and M's when you girlfriend isn't around. . . . no, guitar playing is very good for your mental health, disposition, relaxation and manual dexterity( oh. . go on, I had to sling that one in. . . NO?)

Well, anyway since I have relented to the demons in my head that whispered into my shellike ear in the middle of the dark hours, that I simply would go mad if I didn't get one, and pretty damn soon at that, I relented and the upshot of that is to all you would-be phsychologists out there. . . hey I feel pretty damn good now. . . much better than I was! Ever since that fateful night when I was introduced to the great sound of David Churchill's lovely Lap steel that he made for the Devil's advocate of these black arts, Mr. Jeff Lang. . I was hooked. I needed to get one and couldn't rest until I did. I sulked and whined, pouted and flounced around all the guitar shops always going away frustrated, empty handed and in a bad mood. . . " Three Frickin Grand?. . . how in hell's name can I find that kinda dough?" Well, the truth was I couldn't. I tossed and turned tirelessly in the dark blue hour of pre-dawn hatching my plot.

Then, in a flash of blinding inspiration, I had the answer ( which should have entered my numbskull weeks before) I would convert one of my collection! Aha. . sheer genius. But which little innocent would go under the knife in the blinding glare of my headband camping light? The Sanchez travel guitar of course. . it's fate was sealed. It had all the right qualifications, a lovely long neck, strongly built, is it ever! I had bought it intending to use it as, well, a travel guitar, but somehow my beautiful Baby Grand Taylor and I seem to never be able to be apart fo too long, but that's another story!!!!

The more I thought about it, the solution seemed more practical. . . Why did it take so long for that penny to drop ( the lights are on Buddy, but no-one's at home. . . . Der) What would I need to allow the operation to succeed? The list was made. . . A new nut and a new saddle, both out of Macarta bone a great synthetic bone substitute with good acoustic qualities, some resonator type strings . . I dashed off to get some John Pearse Nickel wound G tuning strings for resophonic and steel guitars. What next?

Er, ummm, That's it? no there must be more. . . nope. Yup, a tailpiece small enough, a mandolin one would do!

Oh, yeah, numbskull, a cool, shiny steel bar to play the dang thing with!!! Ok, I resigned myself to the fact that after the conversion was done and when I tuned up again the patients neck would bend horribly and snap like a carrot. . . . we would see!! It would be a sacrifice to the Gods of the Devil's music, I consoled myself to that event! The day came. . . a clean sheet was under the patient, the gruesome tools needed lay in a shiny pile.

files , hacksaws, sandpaper, needle files and a small vice. It's strings were stripped away, a hand inserted through its only orifice, to check the internals to see if they could cope with the operation, an executive surgeon's decision made and we were away. The job was so gruesome so horrible that I had to anethesize myself with copious drafts of medicinal rum from a handy container, namely a glass.

The nut was removed, and the new one measured up and transplanted. Likewise the saddle, a deeper slot painlessly gouged out. . . what next? The next thing was to put the new tailpiece that would support the strings to the back of the guitar. A mandolin tailpiece was chosen, neat, petite and just the right size! Then almost in a flash, it was over! so quickly!

The new strings were anxiously replaced, God they looked too thick!!!! They were tuned to a low open D tuning ( DADFsharpAD )and anxious moments ensued as the guitar took up the new strains. . . . would anything snap? No, it didn't and still ahsn't three months later! It has worked really well and bit by bit, the new style of playing has been tried and tested. Luckily enough, its still small enough to play like a proper guitar and when I'm fed up with trying to play it oacross my lap( a very unnatural pose for a chap who has played normally for twenty years) I shift it up and play it like I know how with a brass little finger slide. . . . . . . . . . . . I have joined the exalted throng and I feel not like a leper!

I also recently completed the building of a proper Weissenborn from Australian Maple and the telling of that epic adventure can be found elsewhere on I will be putting a piccy of my little Sanchez which sounds fantastic and twice as loud as it used to be, on my new site My addiction is complete. . There is no hope for me and counseling would fall on deaf ears! No wonder Johnny Depp owns about seven of them! a cool dude. . . . . good onya Johnny boy!

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 has built a Weissenborn lap steel

guitar and built a websitecalled and even written a book on how to build a quality weissenborn guitar for people with limited tools and resources. Pictures for most of the articles can be viewed on the website below.

Terry can be contacted on or


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