Hey Good People,

the question is fairly simple: does a lap steel need a truss rod or can it be worked out by using sufficiently rigid materials for the body?
My logic says a rigid body will work just fine but my logic has gotten me in severe troubles before so...

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Like most things "It Depends.........."

If you plan to build a three or four string guitar and use a hard wood such as mahogany or maple, there would be no value in installing a truss rod.

If you are building a six string guitar and will be playing slide only, no truss rod should be needed if you use a hard wood and leave substantial material in the neck. Since there is not real advantage to reducing the neck thickness, this seems like a very reasonable approach.

I can think of no realistic situation in which a truss rod would be needed on a lap steel design. The lap body tends to be a very substantial piece and unless you are building a bass, the strings should not put undue stress on the neck.

Pretty much the same train of thought I was on but I never built one before and as stated, I've been betrayed by my own logic before so better safe than sorry.
It will be lap+slide only so it'll be built for it.

Just to clarify, when you say that no truss rod is needed for three or four string guitars, does that go for "ordinary" CBGs, too?

I've built around 40~50 three and four stringers and never used a truss rod. I've built four 6-stringers and always used a truss rod. So, I know there are cases where it is a good practice to install a truss rod, but that doesn't mean a truss rod is needed for every build.

Good hard wood neck and you will have no worries with a three or four stringer (unless you are building a bass).

Clear and to the point, that's what I was hoping for.
Thank you, this has been very helpful :)

How about a 3 string baritone with 30.5" scale? Laminated red oak, 1" thick.

Kool Dog, I would never presume to be the "Truss Rod Whisper" but I would think that it would all depend on how much tension the combined three strings put on the neck.

A typical 24~25 inch scale rig tuned D3 A3 D4 for example would produce the following tensions with the string diameters noted:


30 = 25 lbs
22 = 29 lbs
14 = 25 lbs

These are the string shown in a medium weight set from Gitty.

If the same strings are used on a 30.5" scale tensions become

DAD
30 = 37 lbs
22 = 37 lbs
14 = 37 lbs

That's about a 40% increase in string tension.

For a three stringer with a red oak neck I'm guessing that you would want to have the total tension below below 100 lbs. That may not be possible with the string combination you are planning on using, so the safe route (pun intended) would be to route a 1/4" slot in the neck, fit a truss rod into it and glue a fret board over that. Then you would be sure about the neck stiffness.

Just my thoughts.

Oh yea, there are some nice online string tension calculators that will allow you to figure out what you are dealing with in terms of total string tension on your  neck.

Let us know what you do.

Thanks, this build is actually my first. I have 3 others in various stages of completion. But this one has been a PITA from the get go( figuring out a scale that works on a 17" box, trying to get fret layout template. now this! I'm commited to finishing it if kills me! I know nothing about truss rods let alone how to install and set one up!

Out of curiosity what would I have to lose if I installed the tuners, strings and blocks of wood for mock bridge and nut and tuned it up without the fretboard. Wouldn't that indicate a need or is the damage done? I thought building these were supposed to be fun, but this Damn thing is frustrating as hell!

Building box guitars is fun if you get into it. It is frustrating if you let it be frustrating. Enjoy the challenges and make the damn thing work for you.

So, how do approach this beast?

First, figure out what your tuning is going to be. What is baritone tuning? D2 A2 D3? G2 D2 G3?

Once you know the tuning, use a string calculator to figure what strings will give you 25 lbs or less tension. Remember, a bigger string tuned to a given note will have more tension than a smaller string tuned to the same note. That means you can effectively select your tension. That will give you the baritone sound you want and avoid a truss rod installation.

Here is a good online tension calculator: Enter your scale length (30.5) and a tension target (25 lbs) and the note you want for the string (D2, or whatever). Click calculate and it will tell you what string diameter to use. Do it for each note and you're good to go.

I "plan" on GDg tuning, but haven't got that far yet!(waiting on slow boat from China to drift ashore) so I've been doing busywork to pass time.

A standard guitar runs strings tuned from E2 to E4.

A baritone ukulele runs strings similar to the bottom four strings on a guitar (D3~E4).

If you tuned to G2-D3-G3) that would give you a tone deeper than a baritone uke and slightly higher than the big string on  a standard guitar (E2).

A set of strings of 0.037" w, 0.022" w, and 0.018p or 0.019w would give you your GDg tuning at around 25 lbs tension on each string. on a 30.5" scale. With an actual 1" thick hardwood neck, you should be in good shape.

I think the neck is stronger then a solid piece of oak. Its a recycled 3/4" butcher block door cut into 11/4" strips and laminated side by side. Then shaped and cut to have about a 3° back angle.never actually measured thickness, still have 1/4" fretboard to add yet! I ordered custom fret markers and tuner knobs, which I swear to God were put in a plastic milk jug driven to the ocean by tricycle then thrown into prevailing winds and current for delivery to Florida. Thanks again.

I apologize for hijacking your discussion.

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