1965 Danelectro Convertible Hollowbody Electric Guitar

Touted as a "two-in-one" guitar that can play electric and acoustic, the Convertible was an odd duck in the mostly-semi-hollow Danelectro line. It follows the same poplar/pine rims with masonite top/back construction but does away with the center block that supports the bridge on a "proper" Dano electric. The acoustic tone tends to be so-so and the electric tone is usually clean and clear like a Dano should be (due to those lovely lipstick pickups and their trademark balance), but they often sound a little darker and less satisfyingly-Dano.

I sussed that out, however, during repairs, and this one chimes and sparkles like a Dano should. It also has a very useful acoustic tone as well -- something like a better-sounding Stella from the 60s but with more sustain and sweetness and less volume. I would not be embarrassed to record said tone for a more "rocky" track. It's even and sort-of chunky.

When I bought this, it was missing its original bridge and pickup, but all the rest was there and it was actually in phenomenal shape, all things considered. While I waited for it in the mail, I ordered a replacement (Korean-made) Alnico lipstick pickup of the right dimensions, measuring a healthy 4k ohms (rather than the ~3k of the originals). Before I even started a level/dress of the frets after it arrived, I set about installing my new pickup.

The original baseplates for the pickups in these Convertible models is a lot wider than a "reissue" Dano pickup, so I made a custom plate from some copper plumber's strapping and fit it to the new pickup. The next bit was to get it wired into the original harness.


...after yanking the original harness out (above), I found a number of frustrations: it was in beautiful condition (as it was taped-up in copper-surfaced shielding material), but the pots were 100k values (rather than even the 250k found on Fenders) and it wasn't grounded to the tailpiece at all.

The issue with 100k pots is that they roll off a bunch of high end. A typical Dano (update: I've been corrected here -- apparently they used 100k on the volume -- though I've had a couple of '50s Danos that had 1 meg pots in both positions) actually uses 1 meg (1000k) pots which let all the sparkly treble and chime of those lipstick pickups shine through. I'm assuming Dano used these to "mellow-up" the lipstick pickup so it'd sound more "acoustic." Another criminal enterprise along these lines involves Harmony and Kay archtops from the 50s/60s which made the same blunder via either low-value pots or putting a "muddy" capacitor right behind the signal from the pickup going to the controls. Ick!

So, my solution was to just wire-up a new harness which uses 500k pots and a proper ground to the tailpiece. I fit it all into the "shielding box" that was original to the guitar, too.

After sorting-out the pickup and harness, I then gave the guitar a fret level/dress, cleaning, installed a new archtop-style adjustable (in height) bridge compensated for wound G, and set it all up. It plays effortlessly (hair-under 3/32" low E and 1/16" ADGBE at the 12th fret action) and has a set of D'Addario, wound G, 49w-11 strings on it.

The thinking here is that "acoustic" tones sound awful with an unwound G and I really wanted this to have a useful "acoustic" sound as that's what was intended when it was made. If I didn't care about that, I would've installed a Gibson-style TOM bridge and been done with it.

Back to the guitar, though -- tain't that a sweet thing to look at? It's so retro it hurts. The masonite top and back have a "faux-grain" veneer to them and the poplar/pine "rims" (sides) have been covered in the usual "tape" seen on Danos. I think the "economy of means" on these is great, by the way, with the sanded-off masonite edges making "binding" in contrast with the top.

This instrument has a 25" scale, nearly 1 3/4" nut width, quite modern-feeling slim (front-to-back) C-shaped neck profile, a very light radius to the (Brazilian rosewood) fretboard, and it's also lightweight to boot. Double cutaways give great access and the neck itself is dead straight due to two big steel rods buried in the neck in typical Dano fashion. I love how stable these necks tend to be.

This has the "Coke bottle" headstock with brown Dano lettering. The original aluminum nut is screwed-in.

These New Jersey-made Danos have a big advantage over much of their "low-budget" peers in the fact that the necks are often so very, very, very playable.

I think the replacement pickup looks darn authentic.

The new (compensated) rosewood bridge is adjustable for height. Note the ever-so-cool "top-mounting" of the tailpiece.

The knobs are the originals and this has vol/tone controls. The jack is a new Switchcraft unit.

Despite the looks of these tuners, they work quite well.

The neck actually has micro tilt! That little hole in the bottom has access for a hex-adjusted bolt that, if you loosen the lower bolt, allows for back-angle adjustments on the neck just like a micro tilt Fender neck. By the way -- micro tilt came in on Fender is the 1970s -- this Dano is a '65! The company was always thinking.

In the neck pocket you can see the micro tilt adjuster towards the bottom (and also the "Totally Shielded" advertisement sticker I took off of the headstock and stuck in the pocket for safe-keeping).

The 4055 stamped in the heel reads XXX5 where 5 = 1965 as we know this certainly wasn't made in 1955 as the model hadn't been made yet.

1 comment:

silbertinfl said...

Nice... My uncle just gave me his 65 danelectro convertible no wiring at all even has the little covers that came with it, looks like i'm going to have to set mine up that way. it plays great btw.