National Lap Steel...Info?

Thass

Gretschie
Dec 29, 2019
100
Palm Desert
Hi All -
Anyone have any knowledge of National lap steel guitars? My buddy has one and asked if I knew anything about them. I never heard of them so I thought I would try tapping into the knowledge of this group. It needs some TLC for sure.
Thanks
T
 

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wabash slim

I Bleed Orange
Feb 10, 2010
18,260
lafayette in
Compared to others I've seen, that appears to be in really nice shape. National was a Chicago company if memory serves, like Valco and others. These were big in the '40s. I'd look into a newer cable, and change the strings, but other than that, it looks ready to play. I'd go with modern strings and save the antique Rick ones for posterity. What's that in the case by the strings" Hopefully it's the steel bar needed to play this. Check EBay for similar units and values. Nice find.
 

Thass

Gretschie
Dec 29, 2019
100
Palm Desert
Compared to others I've seen, that appears to be in really nice shape. National was a Chicago company if memory serves, like Valco and others. These were big in the '40s. I'd look into a newer cable, and change the strings, but other than that, it looks ready to play. I'd go with modern strings and save the antique Rick ones for posterity. What's that in the case by the strings" Hopefully it's the steel bar needed to play this. Check EBay for similar units and values. Nice find.
When I lifted it up the remains of one of the tuning keys fell apart like sand. All tuning keys are now missing. The object by the strings is a tube of some sort. After watching the tuning keys fall apart I was afraid to touch anything else. From his stories I was thinking 40s but thought I’d reach out to this form for intel. Thanks for the quick reply.
 

wabash slim

I Bleed Orange
Feb 10, 2010
18,260
lafayette in
Tuners shouldn't be too hard to replace. Now that I look closer at the head picture, I can see the problem. It's nearly 89 years old, so, that's to be expected. vAll in all, the guitar and case look to be pretty decent for their age.
 

wildeman

I Bleed Orange
May 10, 2015
16,203
norcal
That's a cool steel, definitely from the '40s. You can replace those tuner buttons pretty easily (Stew Mac sells them), you don't need new tuners. If the pickup works well that is a $4 or 500.00 steel.
They sell string sets for various tunings, C6 is basically considered standard tuning on a lapsteel but you can do open E or D too for a bluesier sound.
It looks like a tube in the case, is there an amp too?
 

GHook

Gretschie
Sep 3, 2010
268
wnc
You will have a nice lap steel making few repairs. The market swings wildly on them. $4-500 is a safe bet. They are addicting. What makes them sound so sweet is that supro pickup that is pretty standard on the 40/ 50 era laps. I have two, a Recording King and a Peavy Power Slide. One tuned to Open E, one to G. G is, for me, the most playable overall. The E is great for swampy blues stuff. Enjoy, its a fun distraction :)
 

Thass

Gretschie
Dec 29, 2019
100
Palm Desert
Also, you don't have to stand up to play it. Nice for an old arthritic guy like me.
This never occurred to me! The other guitarist in my band is starting to complain and worry about arthritis in his hands. He can play a lap steel.

Thanks for all the info, I will pass it along. I wonder if he is crazy enough to ask me to fix it AND if I’m stupid enough to do it.
 

wildeman

I Bleed Orange
May 10, 2015
16,203
norcal
There should be a badge with a serial number on it, or it'll be stamped on the tip of the headstock. It's a Valco guitar and will follow those numbers.
 

wabash slim

I Bleed Orange
Feb 10, 2010
18,260
lafayette in
This never occurred to me! The other guitarist in my band is starting to complain and worry about arthritis in his hands. He can play a lap steel.

Thanks for all the info, I will pass it along. I wonder if he is crazy enough to ask me to fix it AND if I’m stupid enough to do it.
Maybe so, but you'll get to play it first.
 

Thass

Gretschie
Dec 29, 2019
100
Palm Desert
There should be a badge with a serial number on it, or it'll be stamped on the tip of the headstock. It's a Valco guitar and will follow those numbers.

I just don’t see a serial number....
 

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Groutsch

Synchromatic
Jun 9, 2018
563
Maryland, US
A side issue here but isn't the brand mentioned in Paul Simon's song Graceland?
Yes, National is most famous for its resonator guitars, which got a reference in "Graceland":

The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar.

"Graceland" came out the year after Dire Straits released "Brothers in Arms," whose cover gave me my first look at a National resonator, though at the time I didn't know what it was.

DS_Brothers_in_Arms.jpg


The current incarnation of the brand makes resonators exclusively, but National had a broader product line of stringed instruments. My National guitar is a 1952 spruce-on-maple 17" archtop like this one:

2099_800.jpg
 


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