How to Install a Certano Bender on a Inexpensive Lapsteel

Installing a bender to a lap steel is a simple, effective way to add some pedal steel style sounds to your instrument without the overwhelming complexity of finding, purchasing and learning a full-on pedal steel. All you need is an inexpensive lap steel and a bender mechanism. I was gifted a Gretsch G5700 lap steel and after happening upon some Luke Cyrus Goetze videos on Youtube, I knew I needed to add a bender to it.

I quickly found the Certano Bender and they not only sell benders, they sell rolling bridges, nuts and even a fully equipped lap steel guitar. If you are thinking of buying a cheap lap steel and adding a bender to it yourself, I'd seriously consider purchasing the full instrument from Certano. I have not tried one out, but Certano makes great hardware and I'm sure their instrument is high quality, likely much better quality than you'd get by buying a $500 Recording King or Gretsch and retrofitting it, but I digress.

I ended up purchasing the nut, bridge and bender from Certano as a package. It arrived quickly and was well packaged. I then set it aside for over a year and didn't touch it. It's a hell of a lot easier to see a project you want to build and purchase the materials for it than it is to actually do the project. Finally, I had some time in my schedule where I could sit down and start the project and so I began.

Getting started

The first thing I noticed when evaluating the materials is that the nut that I purchased is actually too wide for the Gretsch G5700 lap steel. This was a little disappointing simply from the standpoint that I didn't consider that aspect of the mod when ordering the parts. I'm certainly not saying you can't install the nut on a Gretsch G5700 lap steel, it would just involve considerably more effort. You'd need to cut some mahogany strips, remove the finish around the nut, glue the new pieces of mahogany, clean it up and then install the nut. This was more work than I wanted to take on at the moment, so I decided to focus on installing the bridge and bender and return to adding the nut at some point in the future. As a side note, I don't think you can simply get the bender and install it with the stock bridge on a G5700, because the factory bridge is too short to get a proper break angle with the bender, so if you are working with a G5700, I'd recommend purchasing the bridge and bender.

Scale length and location of the bridge

The scale length on a Gretsch G5700 is 25.5 inches. It is important to maintain this exact measurement when you are replacing your bridge and that it is square to your nut. This is to say, both the treble and bass side of the bridge should break at exactly 25.5 inches from the nut. The scale length sets the tuning of your instrument across the "fretboard" and wavering from this measurement could cause your instrument to have poor intonation or make your fretboard not designate the proper area to achieve the proper pitch.

I have seen some videos illustrating the installation of the Certano bridge where they guess where the bridge should be and gloss over this step completely. This certainly does make the bridge easy to install, but trust me, this detail is absolutely crucial to ensure a reliably tuned instrument.

The good news is that this is relatively easy to accomplish. The Certano bridge is nearly identical in width and string spacing to the stock Gretsch bridge, so before I did anything, I took two pieces of painter's tape and attached them to either side of the bridge. I then removed the strings and set a combination square ruler right in front of the stock bridge and drew a line on the tape on either side of the bridge to give me a reference point that I would use later. The stock bridge string break position is right up at the top of the bridge, but the Certano break is more towards the center of the bearing mechansim, this means that the Certano bridge needs to be installed slightly forward of the stock bridge, but having that reference line will allow you to use the included install template/guide to match the line perfectly.


After I had clearly marked and reliably identified the proper placement of the bridge, I could disassemble the stock hardware. I removed the pickup first, simply to get it out of the way. In hindsight it would have been smart to remove the wiring assembly as well and get it out of the way, but it isn't absolutely necessary.

Removing the pickup identified an important thing to keep in mind. There is a ground wire that goes from the pickup to the underside of the bridge. If you replace the bridge, you will need to be aware of the location of this wire and ensure it makes good contact with the new bridge when you reassemble everything.

Bridge Removed

I unscrewed and removed the bridge and set it aside, then took a small sliver of electrical tape and just taped the very edge of the ground wire in place, so it would hold in the same position but still make contact with the new bridge once installed.

Bridge placement

I took the template guide illustration that came with the bender and using some more painters tape, matched the red line that denoted the bridge break point up with the line I had struck on the painter's tape.

Template In place

Then I set the bridge down on the template matching it from side to side and up and down as perfectly as I could. I noted that the template drawing of the bridge was just slightly off and didn't match up exactly with the dimensions of the bridge. This is not a huge deal as you can kind of understand the proper location of the bridge and line it up without fully relying on the template to be exactly identical. The only thing that really matters is getting that break point to match up as closely as you possibly can.

Once I observed the bridge on the template and made a mental note of where I would want to place it, I used some more painters tape to make the tape "double sided" by using a tape loop, and attached it to the bottom of the bridge, then carefully placed the bridge in the exact location I wanted it to be on the lap steel, on top of the template.

Now, some people might say to just drill the holes as best you can at this point and hope that you somehow fell ass backwards into locating the drill holes in the center. But, seriously don't do that. The bridge has countersunk holes to perfectly hold the screw heads in the right position when screwing it in and the bridge will skew if you do not drill them perfectly in the center. How do you drill the holes perfectly centered? I'm glad you asked. You need what is referred to as "vix" or "Vicks" or "self centering" bits. Here are the bits that I purchased for this step. I used the 5/64 bit specifically.

These bits allow you to set the bit directly in the countersunk screw head holder of the bridge and drill a perfectly centered hole to accept the screws. I took a few scrap pieces of mdf and some clamps and used them to anchor the bridge in place as best as I could. You may be able to sneak by with just using tape in this step, but years of woodworking has made me paranoid, thus I wanted to make absolutely sure the bridge would stay in place while I was drilling and not drift out of alignment.

Screwing In Place

I set the 5/64" self centering bit in the countersunk holes and drilled to the approximate proper depth. It was quick and easy. I then went ahead and attached the bridge with the screws over the template. I still had to remove the template, but screwing the bridge in at the proper placement means you can disassemble it after and when re-installing the bridge will go right back to where it was installed previously.

After removing the screws, I moved the portion of the template that had been under the bridge out of the way, leaving it in place behind the bridge because it also designated the ideal placement of the bender assembly. I re-installed the the Certano bridge, carefully ensuring that the marks from my painters tape on either side of the bridge lined up where I expected them to be and that the bridge made good contact with the pickup ground.

Bender placement

Although you can diverge from the standard placement of the bender front to back however you want (as long as it lines up with the strings coming off the bridge) I stuck fairly close to the template placement, only moving it back an eighth of an inch or so because the G5700 has enough spare space and I wanted the levers slightly more out of the way. I then repeated the above process of drilling, screwing, removing the bender and then finally removing the template and then screwing back in.

Fully Installed

Stringing up and adjusting

With the bridge and the bender firmly in place, I took out a new set of strings (I use D'Addario XL medium for my lapsteel). I then installed the non-bender strings as I normally wood and got them properly tuned. I use a "D over G" tuning on my lap steel: GBDF♯AD. This tuning in combination with the bender set to a raised semi-tone on the "G" and a whole tone on the "B" is very versatile and major/minor chords as well as a wide range of interesting pedal steel type phrases can be achieved with this tuning/setup.

Then, I strung up the bender, but was very careful with tuning, adjusting as I went. The bender is shipped having been set for transport, so you have to adjust the bender screw positions quite a bit to make it usable. You'll need to be cautious of inadvertently adding too much tension to your strings, so take it slow and easy.


The bender has three screws you can adjust. The one closest to the bridge is for stiffening or loosening the palm levers. I like to keep mine movable but relatively firm, so they can be moved out of the way, but mostly stay in a pretty fixed position. The next screw adjusts how far down the lever can be compressed and thus the pitch of the string when fully depressed. The final screw sets the initial position of the bender when tuned up to a standard pitch. I have this set so the levers stay pretty far up off the strings, but this took some trial and error to get to where it felt comfortable. I'd recommend starting fairly high and then setting the depressed position properly and trying it out a few times, adjusting both screws carefully to get the right placement and pitch.

The only thing left to do is plug it in and give it a go.

Final Thoughts

I've had the bender installed on my lap steel for a few months now and I couldn't be happier with it. It adds an incredible amount of versatility to your instrument, it isn't hard to install, and it makes some pretty convincing pedal steel style sounds.

Once you have your bender installed, I'd recommend closely studying the aforementioned Luke Cyrus Goetze to learn some chords, tricks and interesting moves you can make with the bender steel. It is just plain fun to pick up my lap steel now and take it straight to pedal steel land with a simple wrist twist.

I'd also like to highly recommend the Certano bender in particular. I am not in any way endorsed by or affiliated with Certano, I just like their products. Their bridge/bender is inexpensive, but high quality. I found the installation itself to be reasonable and it added a new dimension to my lap steel that unlocked some very cool new possibilities.