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Post new topic Benders - a new (old?) approach
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Author Topic:  Benders - a new (old?) approach
Karlis Abolins


From:
(near) Seattle, WA, USA
Post  Posted 24 May 2022 4:17 pm    
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Benders allow a guitar player to accurately change pitch on strings in the same way as do pedals and knee levers on a pedal steel. With few exceptions, benders only allow raising the pitch. The Duesenberg Multibender allows lowering the pitch.

The single most apparent issue is ergonomics. Gene Parsons and Clarence White solved it by linking the raise mechanism to the shoulder strap. Most of the other benders are operated with levers located above the bridge. If you hover above the benders with your hand so that you can quickly operate one or more levers, you are limited to the tone you can get at that position. Most guitarists like to vary their picking location to alter tone. So if they move up the neck, they have to jump back to the bridge for a lever and then back to where they were playing before. You can see this technique in almost all youtube videos of benders whether they are on a regular guitar or on a lap steel.

Regular guitar players have no recourse but to jump to the benders and back. For lap steel players, I see an alternative that has not been utilized yet - which is to move the levers to the bottom of the guitar and operate it with a knee. This requires the lap steel to be mounted on legs or on a stand like early console steels. Doing this frees up the guitarists right hand.

Conceptually, I see a mini changer with raise or lower capabilities integrated with the bridge much as on a pedal steel but with more limited functionality - single raise or lower. When I say mini, I am referring to the size of a Certano or Duesenberg mechanism.

If you have experimented with this idea, I would like to hear your results and opinions about the feasibility of this concept.

Karlis
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D Schubert

 

From:
Columbia, MO, USA
Post  Posted 25 May 2022 8:00 am    
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I have not experimented, but....

The mechanical setup you're describing could be similar to Phil Baugh's pedal/cable six-string bender. Built by MSA, custom-installed on a Peavey T-series guitar.
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Michael Lee Allen

 

From:
Portage Park, Chicago, Illinois
Post  Posted 25 May 2022 5:41 pm    
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The Phil Baugh unit was profiled in Guitar Player magazine's October 1974 issue. "Power to the Pedal, Phil Baugh's New Invention" A six pedal floor unit attaching with flexible cables. Raised and lowered any string. Changer did not interfere with picking positioning and was low profile enough that the instrument it was installed on would still fit in it's standard case.

In the late 1960's both Teisco and Guyatone in Japan made eight string console guitars with similar looking pedal systems, each had four pedals attached to the body with flexible cables.

And there are a few copies of the Baugh system that were made. At least one was advertised here on the SGF.

Also the 1930's Harmolin acoustic steel had two knee levers with all mechanism on the neck and headstock. No interference. There was a seven string version with a palm lever that raised or lowered the seventh sting into or out of playing position that was a problem for right hand positioning. Either model would fit into a standard case.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania and Gallatin, Tennessee
Post  Posted 25 May 2022 7:28 pm    
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I have yet to dig up the bender threads and move them over here. Just got back from Nashville a few days ago, I'll get on it.

There are quite a number of threads discussing the MSA / Phil Baugh system. In the 90s, I was actively looking for one of these, in lieu of learning to play pedal steel. It may well be that if I had found one then, I might have never taken up pedal steel. In fact, I'm grateful I never found one back then.

Here's the thread where Darvin Willhoite sold his T60 with the Phil Baugh system on it, about 10 years ago - https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=229507 - I though hard about buying this, but I'm a confirmed steel player now. I'm really not trying to emulate pedal steel on guitar anymore. Smile
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Karlis Abolins


From:
(near) Seattle, WA, USA
Post  Posted 26 May 2022 6:36 am    
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In looking for info on the Phil Baugh unit, I found this video by MSA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbUR6wI5w8s.

I'm not really looking for a floor pedal unit for guitar. I am more interested in a 2 knee lever bender for lap/console steel.

Karlis
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Bill Hatcher

 

From:
Atlanta Ga. USA
Post  Posted 26 May 2022 11:04 am    
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Karlis Abolins wrote:
In looking for info on the Phil Baugh unit, I found this video by MSA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbUR6wI5w8s.

I'm not really looking for a floor pedal unit for guitar. I am more interested in a 2 knee lever bender for lap/console steel.

Karlis


easy enough to adapt a hip shot bender for one of the knee levers. the original has a rod attached that you activate with the hip on a standard guitar. if you put that on a lap guitar and lay it in your lap, the hip rod now can be activated with the knee.

i have made a lap guitar with a home built knee rod. to balance the movement, i attached a T anchor over on the left underside of the guitar and then screwed a long bolt in it. when i pushed to the right for the bend, the long bolt rested against my left outside knee and gave me something to keep the guitar from moving. finished playing...just unscrew the bolt and put it in the case.

im making a 6 string lap right now with a home built lower, a hipshot knee raise and two hipshot palm lever raises.

here is my lower i made. aluminum and a stainless steel kitchen utensil for the handle.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VztAko0sGAg
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Michael Lee Allen

 

From:
Portage Park, Chicago, Illinois
Post  Posted 26 May 2022 1:27 pm    
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The OP is looking for "a 2 knee lever bender for lap/console steel" which is what the above mentioned Harmolin had about eighty years ago. If you or your library has back issues of Guitar Player magazine you can see it in the November 1988 issue, page 127, Richard Smith's "Rare Bird, Origins Of The Pedal steel Guitar: The Harmolin". If not I can make you a copy on my next print run and mail it to you.

The Harmolin knee lever mechanism turned up on some Vol-U-Tone lap steels also. I've only seen two but Vol-U-Tone was a pretty small operation. So it was used on an actual electric lap steel as well. Made my metal shop guy think it's a totally do-able thing so he's going to plot it out as an upcoming project. I have to get him a donor body and tuners and pickup/electronics and the rest he will make from scratch. Your D tuning and changes in your other thread here would be a good starting point.
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Ian Worley


From:
Sacramento, CA
Post  Posted 26 May 2022 1:57 pm    
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Something akin to the Glaser B bender type mechanism could be adapted to what you're proposing Karlis, and could remain fairly compact and unobtrusive. https://www.glaserbender.com/about

It would be less bulky externally than a Duesenberg-type system, and more compatible with knee levers that are remote from the actual changer mechanism, as is the case on a PSG. The Glaser bender uses a cable to make the pull but lightweight pull rods like those in R/C plane linkages would work too. I've been pondering something like that for a regular six string bender, not a lap, but a bender with both raise and lower capability on multiple strings. On a six string the fingers would be mounted individually on saddles to allow intonation adjustments. On a lap it could be just a simple axle for all strings like a PSG. The Glaser system is really cool to me, just because it's so compact and efficient. It has a small finger mounted in the bridge saddle like a P/R PSG, but it's raise only. With a little finagling you do something similarly compact that could lower also like a P/R. A bigger radius would probably be better for string life. The cutout wouldn't need to be much different than the slot and spring pocket on a typical Strat.



Michael Lee Allen wrote:
...what the above mentioned Harmolin had about eighty years ago...

Would love to see that mechanism if you can post an image here
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Karlis Abolins


From:
(near) Seattle, WA, USA
Post  Posted 28 May 2022 5:52 am    
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Great info here! I think making a "mini" changer/bender is doable. It occurred to me that a universal raise-lower mechanism might be envisioned as a single-action bender that is reversible so that you only have to turn it around to change the function. I am mostly interested in the lower function of the bender.

Karlis
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Michael Lee Allen

 

From:
Portage Park, Chicago, Illinois
Post  Posted 28 May 2022 3:32 pm    
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OK, the Harmolin had one lever giving a half tone raise and the other a half tone lower. Knee lever linked to a rod that linked to the "tensioning member". Pivoting the "member" down to lower or up to raise. Everything on the neck, headstock, and nut. Nothing on the body or bridge at all.

My guy thinks it can be done without a lot of time or money/parts involved. I have the "donor" pickup and electronics sorted out and maybe a body lined up. There are other "projects" ahead of it though.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC
Post  Posted 31 May 2022 1:34 am    
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Karlis is correct in that the traditional Benders do not lower strings , like on a B Bender or G Bender guitar.

If we change our fingering, (voicing) something we cannot do on a Steel guitar, and RAISE the pitch with the Bender at the same time, we can now release the Bender which LOWERS the note.

Seasoned Bender players do this all the time. We can LOWER a note but its not in the traditional sense. This is extremally difficult to do on a 6 string Bender guitar that is not STRAP actuated as Karlis pointed out.

On a Steel guitar played with a Bar, I can certainly see the value of a Bender lever which allows lowering. That would be pretty good ! But some would say, why not just play a Pedal Steel that raises and lowers notes ! And that solves the problem of HANDS being too busy ! Very Happy
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K Maul


From:
Hadley, NY/Hobe Sound, FL
Post  Posted 31 May 2022 5:25 am    
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I took stray parts from MSA, Sho~Bud and a Miller pull-release and made a single 10 with three knee levers and no pedals. A true Frankenstein but a light weight, easy setup. I play 50s-60s Honky Tonk and Swing with it in an E13 type tuning. I even set up a primitive counter lever that lowers a couple strings. It works well, though. Sorry but I don't have any pics of the underside available.


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Fred


From:
Amesbury, MA
Post  Posted 24 Jun 2022 9:48 am    
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K Maul wrote:
I took stray parts from MSA, Sho~Bud and a Miller pull-release and made a single 10 with three knee levers and no pedals. A true Frankenstein but a light weight, easy setup. I play 50s-60s Honky Tonk and Swing with it in an E13 type tuning. I even set up a primitive counter lever that lowers a couple strings. It works well, though. Sorry but I don't have any pics of the underside available.


Could you share how you have that set up? I've been thinking along those lines for a while.

Fred
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Wade Black

 

From:
Arkansas, USA
Post  Posted 19 Aug 2022 12:31 pm     Knee levers on a lapsteel
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I think I might understand what you are thinking. (First of all, this is my first post on the forum. I am a new pedal steel owner and very grateful to have the opportunity to learn from everyone here.). The instrument in the picture is one that I just finished. It is a prototype lapsteel tuned GBDGBD utilizing our 3Bender. The knee lever bends both B strings to C and the D string to E. So, you get an IV chord on the bend along with having a vim and vim7 available to you. It is not exactly what you describe…. I think multiple levers are possible and have plans to pursue a few more options.

A few other notes:
- Other tunings are possible. We have already proven that Open D DADF#AD and Open E EBEG#BE work well. And we are eager to try a few others.
- No legs are required on this version. We stabilize the lap steel in your lap by providing a fold down hinged lever to brace the guitar with your other leg (the one that is not actuating the knee lever.)
- I am not a lapsteel player and, therefore, there were a few things that I think might have been more obvious to me during the design/build if I were one. Now that I have built this one, I see several things I want to improve in regard to ergonomics, design and production.
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Karlis Abolins


From:
(near) Seattle, WA, USA
Post  Posted 20 Aug 2022 5:36 am    
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Wade, That is a fine looking guitar. Your adaptation of your 3Bender to a lap steel with a knee lever is well done. The fold-down lever for the other knee eliminates the need for a stand. Great job!

Karlis
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