4/03/2013

c.1950 National Double-Neck Grand Console Lap Steel Guitar




This beast is a double-neck 8-string (so, 16 strings) National lap steel built in 1950. This is the "Grand Console" model and it certainly is grand! I think it'd take me a long, long time to wrap me head around this instrument's many possibilities in tuning and playing styles. Per the usual double-8 setup, I have the first neck tuned to C6th and the second to E13th using semi-flattened SIT strings.

I'll tell you right up-front, while the hardware is mostly original (the tuner buttons and one Kluson tuner are not), the black finish is not. I received this in really beat-up condition and while all the electronics were fine, there was a lot of home-done wackiness with the finish. See the bottom of this post for "before" pictures.

Long story short, I sprayed the body black with warts and lacquer checking and earlier repainting underneath lending "character" to it in its new form. I think it came out, this way, far more acceptable than if I'd done nothing to it. It still looks righteously old and very cool.


The original Kluson tuners are all there except for one which is a 60s or 70s replacement. I had to re-button all of them and chose some vintage-looking black buttons to do so. The covers for the headstock are missing (as usual) on this guy, hence the holes on each headstock. The cool coverplates for the tuners are there, though!

Also: one bone nut is original, one is new.


The reverse-painted clear-plastic boards are very cool. The colored markers make figuring out where you are on the neck very easy.

Note also that one "string bank" is raised slightly higher than the other. This makes it easier to reach over to in the lap or on legs.


The control plate with the National logo is worn but still good to go.


The stock controls were all good to go, though I did replace the old-fashioned output jack with a new Switchcraft one and replaced a missing tip for the 3-way switch. Controls include a 3-setting tone control (full-on, "mellow" capacitor, and "bass" capacitor switch) and then a regular volume pot. Both the chickenhead and volume knob are original. The 3-way lever is for turning on either neck or both. This is super useful as if you're playing one neck, the other neck may resonate producing ugly overtones.


The single-coil pickups are original and sound excellent. There are 8 individual polepieces on each one. These had plastic covers to begin with but they're long gone. The remainder of the adjusters (bolts with thumbwheels) for mounting the plastic covers were still on these but I removed them so they wouldn't rattle around.




Here you can see those cool National-logo coverplates.



Serial plate. Note the roughed-up finish on the back of the neck parts of the body. The original finish was roughed-up, too, which kept it from sliding off your stand or legs.


Here's that new Switchcraft jack. This makes plugging in a whole lot easier.


I didn't notice this bit of red peeking out on the 2nd neck's back while reassembling it. I guess the black spray didn't want to adhere when I shot it. You can't really see this unless you've flipped the lap steel over and are looking for it.


Here's how it came to me. Originally this would have been an olivey green-brown on the necks and a cream color on the maple body. Most of the olivey green-brown was left but it had been painted-over with black in places and was mucked up by other paintings and bumpings.

The (poorly) stripped body just looked cruddy with its pseudo-finish on it, too.


In the control cavity you can see the leavings of the original cream paint.


The back, of course, was painted (poorly) a hideous red color.

So, since this was modified already, I didn't feel to bad spraying it a uniform black. It's not perfect but it does look a heck of a lot better.

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