I was in a shop of Chinese Antiques, and there was an ancient chinese stringed instrument on display. I picked it up and it happened to be tuned in 5ths so I played Bye Bye Blues on it and at the end everybody clapped.
Yes, it's an 8-string lap steel made by the one and only Jason Burns. (He makes wonderful instruments including some of the finest open back banjos I've ever seen.) Check him out at www.burnsrepair.com
NYC is right. Mine is indeed tuned to an open chord (though people tune their steels in all kinds of ways). My is in A6 tuning (F#, A, C#, E, F#, A, C#, E low to high) I use Tribotone tone bars and a Polytone Minibrute II amp from the mid 80s.
If you want to hear some great steel playing, check out Marian Hall, Noel Boggs, Joaquin Murphey, and Jerry Byrd from the historical past and Jeremy Wakefield, Bob Hoffnar, and Cindy Cashdollar from the present. These players are (for me anyway) the steel versions of 4-string banjoists like Narvin Kimbell, Don Vappie, Eddy Davis, and (of course) Cynthia Sayer. The inspire me with their talent and creativity almost as often as they make me want to hide my instrument under the bed for my lack of talent and creativity.
To sort of bring things full circle, I had a lap steel dream last night. I was playing steel in one of those classic Bob Wills bands back in the 30s or 40s. I was playing really well, and the band was killing! I think we were doing "Right or Wrong."
From a Russ Columbo short called "That Goes Double". There's one that's not on YouTube where he does "Farewell Blues" in a 4-way splitscreen on banjo, uke, lapsteel and guitar that has been called the first commercial use of overdubbing.
There's another from 1932 of him playing "Little Grass Shack" on his steel Gibson that's just jaw-dropping.
I just noticed that these are available from Elderly on DVD.