7/02/2014

c.1945 Dickerson (Magnatone-style) Lap Steel Guitar




Update Aug 14, 2014: The sound file above and blog post below is now updated to reflect the new pickup. If you'd like to hear the original in action click here for a link to it.

So, trouble happens! This lap steel was perfectly functional "as is" from the 40s up until right before it originally sold when I noticed some fuzz when plugged in. I replaced the volume pot and jack to make sure that was "safe" and it still had the fuzz and the instrument would cut out a little bit. Oh, drat, thought I!

It turned out that at some point someone had tried to get at the lead from the pickup and had simultaneously mucked that up and damaged the coil slightly. The instrument was making good contact only from time to time depending on how it sat in the lap (I hadn't caught that at first). Needless to say I canceled the original sale and went through the tedious process of removing the original pickup (these are little more than a half-round magnet wrapped with wire and then dropped in a cavity filled with a ton of wax). I then asked around about rewinding... and the cost and time involved just wasn't worth it. I dropped in an old flat-polepiece Strat pickup instead and... guess what? It sounds swell. Nothing has changed visually since the pickup is hidden beneath the cover (which also acts as a ground plate).

I've been using it for recording since then and just finished up with that project for the most part so this is now available again (albeit at a much reduced price considering the pickup swapout). Just a note on these Dickersons: the company was sold and wound up becoming Magnatone post-1947 which is why the ones that pop up with the Dickerson name are undeniably Magnatone... in flavor.

This comes with a pretty beat 50s Magnatone chip case for storage.


A 22 1/2" scale and diminutive body makes this easy to carry around and quick under the bar. It only has one volume control, though. Note the curved "deck" in front of the pickup... this gives better clearance for your fingerpicks and there's a raised section on the bass side to also rest your wrist higher up the body than the metal pickup cover.


Both the nut and bridge are these simple steel bent bars which work just as they should... though I moved the 4th string slot over slightly for better spacing.


The "fretboard" is just an applied decal but it looks great.


The string-through-body approach is nice and simple and provides that classic attacky tone. The ball-mounting holes in the rear of the body are slightly chewed up but work just fine.



Most of the original felt covering the back is there, too! Shocking...


...and the original Kluson tuners work just fine.

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