First we need the wood for the body. Ever since I moved into my house, I'd been eyeing up the wooden mantelpiece, Brian May-fashion, but with a view to making a lap steel. The wood looked a lot like mahogany and it actually turned out to be African mahogany, or Khaya Ivorensis, to give it its posh name.
Next, the fingerboard. I checked in the Stewart-MacDonald catalogue and noticed that they sell flat, pre-slotted Dobro fingerboards in ebony and rosewood, 19" long and 2 3/8" wide with a scale length of 25". Since I didn't want to get into the tricky business of fret slotting, I designed my project around this board.
A bit of careful planning was needed. I didn't really want to recreate a classic design, so instead I looked at loads of lap steels on the internet then made a sketch of my own.Next, I had to draw up scale plans. When I'm building guitars I prefer to work with Imperial measurements because the US parts suppliers do the same. When creating scale plans, I simply make 1cm equivalent to 1", so the 25" scale length became 25cm. Once I was happy with the shape and dimensions, I taped together six sheets of A4 paper and drew up the full-scale plans. This is a worthwhile exercise because it reveals errors, and you can even physically arrange parts like tuners on the drawing to make sure that everything fits.
Since I don't have any specialist timber-cutting equipment, I took my plank up to my local joinery firm and they cut it into three strips - 3" wide for the centre block and 1" and 1 1/2" strips for the wings. They also planed the front and back surfaces prior to cutting so I had everything smooth and squared up. At home I sawed the wing strips to length, cut the angles using a mitre saw, and carefully marked out the centre block.