First we will start with a couple of definitions : a lap guitar is a guitar which we play put on the knees.A lap-slide is an acoustic guitar whereas a a lap-steel is an electric guitar. The most famous lap-slide Ben Harper uses is of course the Weissenborn, a specific section is dedicadted to the Weissenborn and I invite you to read it for more details. Then he uses as a lap-steel a Rickenbacker Electro from the 30's as for example on the song "Less". However most of the time on stage he uses two guitars especially designed for him, te first one by Maton , an australian firm and the second one by an american luthier Bill Asher, who created the Bill Asher Ben Harper Model.
About the Maton model, there is a very good article written by Emmanuel and I invite you to read it if you are interested in : http://www.swer.net/english.guitars.maton.html . You can learn that the conception has been done by computer and that the guitar is done with three different australian species of timber.(You can also look at Maton's website: http://www.maton.com.au )
Then the Bill Asher Ben
Harper Model : Ben Harper
: "Since a long time, I had the idea to
make build a guitar between a Les Paul and a Weissenborn. People said
me that this luthier in Santa Monica (Bill Asher) could probably do
that (he makes and repairs vintage guitars since 1983). We started
from my idea, from sounds that I would like to obtain and I should
say that the result is good. I control volume, sustain and feedback
like with a solid body. I can also filter the echo of the hollow elements."
Ben Harper :
"Manufacturing is similar for an Asher and a Weissenborn,
but a little thicker.The body is Honduras Mahogany (like the old Les
Paul). Solid body in the middle and hollow body on the sides -there
are eight honeycomb hollow chambers- capped with Koa.This is the main
difference between an Asher and a Les Paul, echo is deeper.Bill Asher
had built several prototypes, with and without graphite inside. It
seems that graphite allows a better vibrations transmission from the
neck to the body.It's a fretless guitar but there are maple fret lines
on the neck. Fretboard is in Koa.The important action (of strings)
allows to obtain a better slide sound. The Asher, like the Weissenborn,
has a 25 inch scale, while traditional Lap-steel have a 22,75 inch
scale.Pickups are custom single-coil. The pickup selector allows to
switch between low, medium and high pickups and to make combinations.
Sound is more agressive than on a Weissenborn but stays very melodious.
Bill Lawrence pickups avoid feedback. The sound crosses a vintage
pedal Ibanez tube screamer. I experiment all the time. I've no definitive
configuration. I experiment in studio trying to find the better sound."
For more details, you can also look at the "techniques" section. Finally here is Bill Asher's website : www.guitartraditions.com/benh.html
And the interview done for Guitar Player Magazine about this guitar :
(Guitar Player Magazine)The
Musical diversity of your youth still seems to drive you creatively...For
instance, your feedback-laced, Weissenborn-through-Marshall riffs
have given way to an even heavier distortion.
Some pictures for you to see these guitars :