Leo Fender and company made Lap Steel guitars before changing the world with the Telecaster. Some of the parts on these old Champion Lap Steel are the same as the early Telecasters (or Broadcasters as they were called in 1950).
Leo Fender starting building these in the late 1940s to cater to the Hawaiian music craze, but they also became favorites of Rock, Blues and Country players as well.
Mostly original except the replaced tuners.
1952 Fender Champion Lap Steel. These old Fender Lap Steel are a bit hard to date accurately. Fender started making this model around 1948 and my best guess using serial number and pot codes is this one was probably made around 1952.
These Champion Lap Steel used the same pickups as the early Fender Broadcasters. It is quite hard to find these intact with all original parts. People snatch the pickups and dome knobs off of these to pick on Telecasters. This one looks to to be all original. Came in a original hard case that is still in great shape.
GE Smith was highly inspired by his very early 1948 Fender Champion Lap Steel and his signature Fender Telecaster shows this. GE had Fender use the same style for the fret markers and mounted the bridge pickup directly into the wood.
I am a horrible lap steel player, but still a fun time trying.
Nice Vintage Fender Champ Lap Steel Demo
Tunings I learned from several sources including Wikipedia
Lap steel guitars are not tuned in standard guitar tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E, low to high). Usually they are tuned to an open chord like G, D, E or even A. Sometimes an extended chord like a 6th, 7th, or 9th. During the 1920s and 1930s, much of the sheet music written for lap steel utilized open A tuning as the de facto standard tuning for the instrument.
Most Rock and Blues players use open G/open A or open D/open E. Joe Perry of Aerosmith uses Open E on his electric lap steel. David Lindley is another player who uses transposed variations of these tunings.
Open G is tuned D-G-D-G-B-D
Open A is tuned E-A-E-A-C#-E
Open D is tuned D-A-D-F#-A-D
Open E is tuned E-B-E-G#-B-E
Bluegrass and Country Dobro players using a square-neck instrument tend to favor an altered G tuning, often called “High-G”, where the 6th string is tuned up to “G” instead of down to “D”, and the 5th string is also tuned up, to B: G-B-D-G-B-D. They also sometimes raise it up to “High-A”: A-C#-E-A-C#-E.
These tunings are possible on a lap steel or square neck Dobro that can take the extra stress, but could cause damage on a round-neck resonator or standard guitar. Dobro players also generally use a set of strings with different gauges than those used on standard electric or acoustic guitars to help them to project more sound and to achieve their higher tunings.
Modified C6 tuning, with a Bb in the bass: Bb-E-G-A-C-E
Western Swing and Country lap steel players generallyy use a C6 tuning. There is no one ‘standard” C6 tuning. A popular one is C-E-G-A-C-E. This tuning is a good for those old Hank Williams records.
The E7 tuning is used when learning with the Mel Bay Steel Guitar Method instructional books.
E7 tuning is B0-D-E-G#-B-E or with the 6th string lowered to the tonic E: E-D-E-G#-B-E
Also see more about Lap Steel and different tunings at Brad’s Page of Steel.