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Welcome to Bluestem Strings!
Bluestem Strings mission is to provide information related to the design and construction of various musical instruments, particularly the lap steel guitar and open back banjo. I have been an avid experimenter/builder of musical instruments for over 30 years, and it is my hope that this site will provide those who desire to construct a professional grade lap steel, open back 5 string banjo, or other type of instrument some of the inspiration to do so. You'll find lots of free information here, including free detailed plans for several instruments.
Playing an instrument built by your own hand is a particularly rewarding endevour that I wish everyone could experiance, and perhaps this website may serve to encourage or enable you to do that. As Martha would say, "...and that's a good thing."
The menu system at the top of each page is designed to easily guide you through the wealth of information available on the website. You'll find information here for lap steel guitar, banjos of various types, electric violin, upright bass, the mandolin family, and ukulele as well as a bit about related interests such as home recording.
Use the upper menu to select the particular flavor of instrument that you are interested in; each instrument catagory selected will display a further sub-menu to guide you to more specific topics relating to the selected type of instrument. Try it, you'll like it!
The web is a great way of passing along a bit of what I've learned, although it isn't possible to present it all on a few web pages so I provide ordering information if you wish to purchase one of the more detailed construction guides for various instruments. Most feature a full size printed plan, detailed notes, and several hundred sequential photos detailing the entire construction process of the instrument. For a small fee you get to watch over my shoulder as I go through the entire building process.
A bit of Bluestem Strings history...
I have played music continually from the age of 10, inspired initially by my dad, who played guitar and traveled extensively through the southeast as a member of "Arnold Lester's Mountain Ramblers". He is visible at the 1 o'clock position in the photo below, taken in a California Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the late-30's.
I have maintained a website since 1999 with free plans and construction guides for various musical instruments (see link at the bottom of this page); that site is advertisement-supported and quickly reached the limit on the amount of "free" space it provided. The original Angelfire site continues to serve as a valuable source of information, and this site builds on the original site concept by providing information relating to musical instrument construction without the annoying pop-ups or banner ads. This site sees an average of 250 megabytes of daily use with over 1400 page views per day, so obviously some folks are finding it useful. The sale of lap steel, banjo, and low-tuned mandolin CD construction guides serve as a way of covering the expenses of providing advertisement free information for prospective builders. Hopefully you'll appreciate the ad-free nature of this site.
If you appreciate the information I've provided here, PLEASE drop a few bucks in the donation jar at your local humane society! They can't say thank you but I will.
If you desire to contact me: rcordle (substitute the at symbol here) fastmail (substitute the dot here) fm
Please include "Bluestem Info Request" in the subject line.
Please visit my other website for assorted information on musical instrument construction. There are free plans, construction tips, and a plethora of aggravating pop up ads. You have Angelfire.com to thank for that...
Rudy's Sketchbook of Musical Instrument Plans, Ideas, and Inspiration