Epitome Lap Steel
DENNY'S REPORT: Epitome Steels were originally manufactured for Musical Institutions that were very popular during the Hawaiian Music craze from the 1930's to the 1950's. Most of the Institutions sold musical instruments door-to-door and hired local music teachers to teach the students in their homes or at a local music school. The students typically started on an acoustic Hawaiian Steel Guitar, then with the advent and popularity of electric Hawaiian Steel Guitars by the mid 1930's, students could graduate up to an electric such as this Epitome (or started on electric if the student desired to gamble the investment upon him/her being able to learn to play).
The pickup in the electric Epitome is a DeArmond "motel soap bar", famous in Harmony Stratotones being affectionately rediscovered by an increasing number of Players. These pickups have wonderfully compressed and warm tones (and really crank under higher amplifier gain). They were wound to about 6,000 turns with very fine wire. The fine wire gieves the pickup higher resistance which gives them their characteristic warm compressed tone. The DeArmond design was also for the coil to be shorter and wider to cover more of a guitar's strings sound characters more dynamically, and indeed it does.
The Epitome Steel Guitars were made by a now little known violin and piano company who thus worked expertly with very good woods. Ironically, the standard paint finish put on these was a krinkle / "cracked" white with gold rubbed into the Krinkle / "cracks". This guitar was later stripped of it's paint by some subsequent owner and oiled instead, revealing what appears to be a walnut wood body-thru neck piece winged by what appears to be "spruce" or "maple" bouts. The oil (likely tung oil) gives it a darker tone of color. The original tailpiece has been removed and it's mounting holes filled in; A Bad-ass type Music Man bridge with 3/8" string spacing was then installed accurately to the scale length. This Steel Guitar sounds and plays wonderfully.
Although this Steel plays and looks just fine, and I would not hesitate doing so at all; It has been modified and is no longer in original configuration; Thus it would also be a good for someone's desired custom work, as it actually is now from someone's pretty darn good work; Or a good platform to perform R&D with.
It is also compact and meaningful for Steelers who travel. In a keyboard gig bag it would fit into an airliners overhead bin. ------- Contact me for instructions on how to rather easily make an excellent reinforced gig bags for lap Steels.