Steel Trappings

Hot Steel

The Joseph Kekuku Replica Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar

January 3, 2024 • Daniel TremblayInstruments and Luthiers

Aloha to all. This is a follow-up to a blog I made a while ago.

I was asked "How to" convert any standard guitar to a KĪKĀ KILA. I will describe how I do it. I have done about 30 [conversions] at the time of writing this, where some were donated to schools we visit, some sold to people I teach lessons to (now at the Waikīkī Hyatt Regency on Kalākaua Ave. Thursdays from 2-3pm), and some auctioned off at steel guitar festivals.

I also keep one that I use when I do my Hands-on Experience to demonstrate what Joseph did when he invented the first steel guitar.

Any 6 string guitar can be converted. Only 6 string guitars can be used because the only nut extension I have found is for 6 string. Guitars can be electric or acoustic. It does not hurt the guitar and if you decide to convert back, that can be done at any time. Just remove the nut and change the strings back.

To start you will need the parts seen in the picture below:

Required Parts

I use a pencil to rub on the grooves of the nut extension. The graphite from the pencil lubricates the grooves and helps prevent the jumping around when tuning that sometimes happens. See below. I also lubricate the tuners on the guitars, they tend to be dry and can be hard to tune otherwise. I use 3-in-1 oil, just wipe off excess.

Lubricating Parts

I use an inexpensive guitar I purchase on Amazon when they are available. When the one I usually get for $43 is not available I have tried others but like the $43 one best. [Ed. note: the preferred Joymusic guitar used here has a 38-inch neck.]

I recommend taking a picture of the turners and the bridge before you start, and then you can refer to it when reassembling. At first I didn't do this and made many mistakes restringing.

Tuners and Bridge

On the Joymusic guitar I get, I remove the pick guard by gently and slowly peeling it off. See below. If the decal pulls off, I reattach using some of my wife's clear nail polish which worked great. Any glue residue can be removed with rubbing alcohol.

Removing the Pickguard

I have found that you do not need to change the first 2 strings on the new guitars I get as they are a good gauge for steel. I just loosen them and sneak the nut extension under them; smaller groove goes to smaller gauge string. I remove the rest and replace with the John Pearce strings saving the lighter gauge John Pearce strings for later use.

Retaining the first two strings

I have in the past replaced the tuner that came with the guitar, but lately found that it must have been improved because it seems to be working, I tune mine to C6. Tune it up after stringing making sure nut extension is centered and the bridge is centered as it can move since it's only held in place by string pressure. Also make sure strings are equally spaced on the bridge as there are no grooves to insure spacing on the guitars I get.

That's it, now you have a Kīkā Kila which you can enjoy anywhere. I use mine in my condo so as not to bother my neighbors. The original problem with the acoustic steel guitar is that it is not too loud, of course unless you add a pickup and amplifier. I also add some tape along the frets and number the frets as an aid to beginners using tablature.

The finished product



February, 2024
January, 2024
December, 2023
November, 2023
October, 2023
September, 2023

Complete Issue Archive
Complete Series Archive

Education and Training
Festivals and Conventions
Instruments and Luthiers
Steel Guitar History
Author Index

2024 Festivals and Workshops
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali‘i
February 17, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM HST
Ka Makana Ali‘i Shopping Center, Kapolei

Kona Steel Guitar Festival
April 4-6, 2024
Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, Keauhou, Hawai‘i

Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival
May 11, 2024 – 12:00 Noon - 4:00 PM HST
Kukui Grove Center, Lihue, Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 8, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
Windward Mall, Kāne‘ohe (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week (July 10-15, 2023)
July 8-13, 2024 – 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM HST
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
July 12, 2024 – 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
July 13, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī (O‘ahu), Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Keiki Kine at Kahala Mall
August 17, 2024 – 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM HST (tentative)
Kahala Mall, Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Maui Steel Guitar Festival
October 19, 2024 – 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM HST
The Shops at Wailea, Wailea, Hawai‘i

2024 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts

Facebook LiveYouTube
All broadcasts originate from the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Facebook Page and YouTube Channel.

Kona Steel Guitar Festival
April 6, 2024 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 12:00 Noon - 3 PM and 5 PM - 8 PM HST

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
July 12, 2024 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
July 13, 2024 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 11:00 AM - 2:30 PM and 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM HST

Other Events
2024 AISGC Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival *
July 25-27, 2024 – Towne Square Community Center, Winchester, IN
* Registration Fee Required

Copyright ©2024 by Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences, Inc., and Cyberventures Unlimited.Terms of Use

HIMELE is a Hawai‘i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.