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1952 Fender Champion Lap-top Steel

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Co-worker found out I like to "piddle" with guitars,

we started talking, he described what he had and I immediately

thought about the Champion. He was savvy enough to look up

the serial number on the internet, dates it to 1952.


He says it's been sitting in it's case in the closet for 35 - 40 years,

and that the tuner knobs are crumbling off, and it hasn't been plugged

in for all that time. Sooo, he'll be bringing it to me to look at, test, and

perhaps do a bit of repair work. He doesn't play steel, just wants it be



Follow link for lots of good pics of this 1952 Model:




Anyone out there ever owned one of these?



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Looks like an interesting instrument. Hopefully it is in good shape.

As far as working on it, it doesn't seem to have many adjustments available,

although there might be something under the bridge cover.

You shouldn't have to adjust string height!

And intonation is pretty much by ear, the frets are just a guideline.

The only problem points will most likely be tuners, or possibly the nut or bridge.

The nut looks as though it might be part of the steel plate on the headstock.

Electrically it is pretty much the same as any other guitar.

Although the pickup is anybody's guess, and what kind of strings to put on it.


Good luck and try to take some pics.

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I've already started doing background research -

String types, tunings, locating 3-on-a-side tuners as close to vintage

looking as possible (won't be able to proceed much with that until I can

actually take measurements like center to center, height of post...).

It appears that Kluson and Allparts make "vintage" looking replacements.


Then, I get to open it up for POSSIBLE replacement of pots, depending

on if the originals can be cleaned internally and still work. Hate to replace

vintage parts unless necessary. Will be interesting to see what kind of

pickup is there, supposedly a Broadcaster style flat pole pickup equivalent

in sound to the 1950's Teles. However, I read that over time, some of the

pup magnets can lose some of their "power/magnetism", hence going "dead". Will a

57 year old pup go bad? Hmmmmmmm.....


:- :) :D

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Research show that, yes, a vintage pup CAN lose it's

magnetism, and that Fender wound the pups with the

wires directly touching the magnet, with the possibility

of this being an eventual source of corrosion. Interesting.


I have been able to determine that the wiring for the

Champion Steel and a Fender MusicMaster are the same,

and that there SHOULD be a piece of masking tape inside

the control cavity of the steel with a name and assembly date.


Now just awaiting the "hand-over"... Any input from lap steel

players is welcome.

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Yup. They are really neat little guitars but very' date=' very bright sounding. The best lap steel I have ever played remains a 1950s National Oahu Tonemaster with Surpro strings through pickup. [/quote']


This vid of 1950s Champion has some pretty bright sounds...

I may have to purge my ears with some ROCK!!!!! Pretty cool sounds!!!!

Even a little "island music" twang in there...



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The first electric guitars were lap steels back in the 30's. Leo (Fender) supposedly used the same pups in his early telecasters that were installed in the lap steels of the 50's. I looked at these (Fender lap steels) for months, but never could get a "deal", so I got one of the Gretsch electromatics from a CL user. Let me tell ya, 40+ years of playing conventional guitar did nothing to help me learn this thing...whole different animal! I've had mine for about two months, and can finally play "Harbor Lights". Sounds pretty good played through my tube reverb and tube amp.

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...so I got one of the Gretsch electromatics...



So did I - what strings & tuning do you use? I use a C6 tuning(C E G A C E, low to high) and had to buy 2 sets of electric guitar strings to get the gauges I wanted: .015, .017, .022, .026, .030, .036.

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I've been hoping to find an old Fender, Gibson, or Gretsch for an extra-low price, but never done it. I haven't look terribly hard, either, though.


I'll probably end up building one someday soon. I can do it for about $100, finished, so it would be a good weekend project. I just need to find a loud, mean pickup to stick in it. I have a set of tuners sitting here, and I'll recycle the pots from my Spirit or Casino when I finally get around to re-wiring those. The bridge is the only thing I'll actually need to buy, other than wood and finish.

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So did I - what strings & tuning do you use? I use a C6 tuning(C E G A C E' date=' low to high) and had to buy 2 sets of electric guitar strings to get the gauges I wanted: .015, .017, .022, .026, .030, .036.[/quote']


Bought it from a CL poster...$75 including lap dawg steel. I haven't changed strings yet, but play Harbor Lights in C6.


Pohatu, Dynalap makes a very nice kit, but it sounds like all you need is a nice chunk of Mahogany, or Maple, or Rosewood, or some other nice-looking tonewood.

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While waiting for the 1952 Fender Lap Steel "handover",

I've been doing research for possible replacement parts -

Already found "Vintage" reproduction tuners (Kluson, Allparts,

and StewMac), but what SURPRISED me was that Seymour Duncan

apparantly had/has a STOCK of ACTUAL 1950s Lap Steel pups???


Seymour Duncan link mentions that folks are tossing 'em in Telecasters,

has full pickup specs:




Instrument Pro sells 'em for $66.95:




Interesting..... [biggrin]:-k :-k And, I never realized how many d*mn ways there

are to tune a lap steel...Good God! C6 does seem to be very popular.

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