I’m very proud to introduce you to the Koyl Kustom 8, a custom-made lap steel built for me by industrial luthier Chris Fouke.
The idea behind ordering this steel came from the realization I had no proper instrument to play live. Resonator guitars are too fragile, dependant on external conditions and require extra gear. Electric lap steels are easier to handle but the only one I owned was my on-the-edge of breaking Squier Stratocaster which I converted for slide playing.
At that time, I was also dabbling with new tunings that would allow me to play a lot more chord types in any key but it was often leaving me wishing for some extra lower strings on the guitar to further extend the possibilities.
When I saw the new Freedman8, an 8 strings custom model, I knew something in this vein was the answer. I owned a Fouke lap steel in the past (the Indy Rail model) and loved the sound of it because it had this “aliveness” wooden steels don’t have.
So I contacted Chris and he proposed to build me a custom model. 3 months and about 100 emails later (not kidding !), here it is !
Kustom 8 specifications:
22.50″ scale length
3/8″ parallel string spacing,
SP Custom Trinity pickup
2 piezo discs inside the body and neck
Large momentary on/off kill switch
Stereo output jack allowing to route the magnetic pickup & piezos on separate outputs
Chrome Grover mini Rotomatics
Polished aluminum nut and bridge
Rear panel control access plate
Black Fender Mustang knobs
Removable rubber feet on back plate
We collaborated on this original design so the guitar would have the best balance and stability possible (Something I always had a problem with on standard shaped lap steel).
After exchanging ideas and a bit of explanations from Chris about what was possible, I started experimenting with guitar designs in photoshop. I used several guitar shapes that I like and try several mash-ups. I ended up using the lower side of an 59 Airline guitar (famous for being Jack White’s main guitar in the White Stripes), and mirrored it to create a symmetrical body shape. I liked the angularity of it and it went along with the idea of giving the guitar a flat bottom so it could rest on the floor and against a wall or table.
Here’s what I sent to Chris:
Chris experimented with the tubings he uses to make the frame of his lap steels but the angles were a bit too steep so he proposed me this shape:
And we went for this design.
Choosing a shape was the easy part, making decisions about the characteristics that would influence the tone (front & back plate thickness, bridge & nut material etc…) revealed to be trickier. Chris was of great help explaining what the consequences of each possible choice would have but it still felt a bit like shots in the dark: you don’t really know if you took the right decisions until you actually hear the guitar. Now that I have it, I’m pretty happy with the choices I made.
All the discussions and planning took a lot of time but the built itself was pretty fast.
Chris went the extra length by adding weights in the body in order to get the balance just right.
The guitar was shipped without electronics because I wanted to integrate piezo discs and had special switching/signal routing options, it was simpler to do it myself.
Saying that I’m happy with this lap steel guitar is an understatement: The tone is great and very versatile, it’s very comfortable to play and the form factor is ideal for travelling… it also looks pretty badass ! I can’t wait to explore its many possibilities live and in the studio. You’ll get to hear it a lot in my next releases for sure.
Working with Chris was a delight, his helpful explanations and attention to details made the creation of this guitar possible despite the fact that we’re not living on the same continent.
Don’t hesitate to pay him a visit at to see more of his great sounding and looking instruments.