Danelectro Projects

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Project #1
The Danedetto Project

by Verne Andru

For some strange reason I’ve always been attracted to guitars, even before I saw the Beatles perform live on the Ed Sullivan show. By the time I was 14 I had been through more than a few and had developed a propensity to pull them apart to move the necks, bodies and electronics around to see what new and interesting combinations I could come up with. Some worked better than others but by the time I hit my twenties I had focused my attention exclusively on developing my drawing skills and, even though a guitar always seemed to follow me around through life, I never really paid much attention to them until recently. 
To make a very long story short, I became reacquainted with the beautiful tone you can get out of a Danelectro/Silvertone guitar with lipstick tube pickups and embarked on a quest to track one down. I was lucky to grab this Danelectro re-issue 12-6 double-neck.


Certainly a great guitar, there were a few things I figured could use a bit of “improvement” and I found myself falling back into my old pattern of pulling guitars apart and putting them back together in new and interesting configurations. To get rid of the 60-cycle hum, I swapped the bridge pickups* on both necks for a Seymour Duncan RWRP lipsticks so it humbucks when bridge and neck pickups are both engaged. I wired up a stereo TRS output jack so the bridge pickup on the 12 side is always on, allowing me to play both necks simultaneously. The rosewood bridge on the 6 side was replaced with a metal intoneable one that dramatically improves the tone. I fashioned a “seal” shaped pickguard out of plexi to add that vintage vibe and provide better protection for the body. And, which is where this fits into the Danedetto story, I replaced the 6-string neck with a baritone/bass VI neck. The result is a beautiful sounding and playing double neck guitar that is an absolute gas to play.








But this left me with a bit of a problem – now I had a brand new Danelectro 6-string neck with nothing to attach it to! I always liked the funky body shape of the Danelectro Longhorns and snagged this archtop body off eBay for $71 just before Xmas ’05.

Unlike other Danelectro guitar bodies, this one isn’t made from plywood and masonite. It’s a “real” archtop guitar made with real wood. After some searching I was able to piece together this blurb that provides some illumination on its pedigree:

Vinnie Bell – a great session guitarist of the day – offered innovative design ideas in his wild creations for Danelectro, which were marketed under the Coral name. Coral Vinnie Bell signature guitars and basses were produced from 1967 to 1969. They were different from other Danelectro models in that Kawai, one of the world’s finest piano manufacturers, rather than in the company’s New Jersey factory, manufactured the hollow bodies in Japan. Instead of particleboard semi-hollowbodies and vinyl covering of the “normal” Danelectro and Silvertone models, Coral instruments were made using conventional materials – in other words, “real” wood and traditional construction methods.

The book American Guitars mentions Vinnie Bell was responsible for having the Longhorn archtop bodies made for Coral. These pre-finished, handmade arch-topped and arch-backed longhorn guitar or bass guitar bodies feature a vintage sunburst finish on a hollow body constructed with a spruce top and maple back and sides including a superb multi layer binding on both sides (front & back). They are extremely high quality, traditionally manufactured bodies that originate from MCA's divestiture and liquidation of Danelectro's Neptune, NJ facilities during 1969/70.

After checking some forums and doing some research into archtops I decided to keep it as pristine as possible. Benedetto is the best of the best so I used their designs as a model. Absolutely nothing was to violate the soundboard [top of the body] and all the pieces were to be in ebony to ensure the best transfer of string vibrations to the body as possible. This is also where it’s name, Danedetto [Danelectro meets Benedetto], comes from.

I took the body and neck to local luthier Paul Iverson [Bryan Adams original bass player, luthier to people like U2, David Gilmour, Sarah McLaughlin, etc. and all around nice guy] to get the neck attached a week before xmas. During some email dialog he mentioned he could make a custom bridge, tail piece and fingerrest. All the stuff I found that was pre-fab was either crap, or wouldn't fit the body - a descent tailpiece was particularly problematic. So I told him to go ahead and make the pieces out of ebony.

After the holidays [during which his shop burned down] he spent a couple of weeks trying to track down some ebony. With ebony in hand the project got bumped again because he had a panic job doing working on a couple of guitars for U2 who are just starting their new tour. The nerve – LOL.

The first step was to remove the Danelectro silkscreen logo on the headstock. We decided to go with an ebony laminate.

Paul had some Larrivee machines left over from a previous job [silky smooth with great gear ratio] that he graciously donated to the project. [Yeah, he was getting intrigued by what I was on about.]

Next came attaching the neck to the body. When he first tried the center-block inside the body had become so weak the body started to break at the seams. After the panic settled, we decided to flood the inside joints with glue. Many of the 50s and 60's archtops suffer from necks and other bits coming off due to the quality of the glue [and possibly craftsmanship] used at the time and, after all, this is a Dano. As luck would have it, the glue trick worked [imagine trying to glue all around the inside of an archtop through f-holes] and we're back on track. As you can see he had to route quite a serious angle in the heel to get the neck to sit right.

Because there were some holes left over from a previous neck attachment we had to cover over, he made an oversize plate out of brass.  





With the neck attached, he sculpted a Benedetto style tailpiece and floating bridge out of ebony and attached the tailpiece with a small hinge unit. You can’t see it here, but he also installed a piece of metal under the string holes of the tailpiece and ran a wire to the hinge so the strings ground properly. 

Next came the electronics. Tone wise I was looking for something that would give me a nice acoustic sound but also a jazz-box vibe so I chose to go with piezo’s and a Kent Armstrong floating humbucker. You can’t see it in the pictures, but I installed 4 piezo transducer mic’s [package of 10 for $4 at my local electronics shop] to the underside of the soundboard inside the guitar. Paul mounted the floating humbucker on a Benedetto style ebony fingerrest [that’s what the jazz guy’s call a pickguard]. The challenge here was to ensure nothing attached to the guitar body keeping the soundboard free to vibrate as much as possible.

Here’s a view of the fingerrest where you can see the volume and tone thumbwheel pots that I’ll get to in a bit. They mount so they poke out the bottom of the fingerrest just enough so you can turn them but not enough to be noticeable. I went with this configuration so there would be no knobs or switches to get in the way while playing. Notice how he fashioned the fingerrest so it matches the body cut-away at the neck pocket. 

Here is the fingerrest removed from the body. We wired it with a connecting harness so the fingerrest can be completely removed from the guitar with 2 screws. I’m making a dummy plug so without the fingerrest it can still be used as a piezo electric sans volume and tone controls.






To make the fingerrest “float” off the soundboard, Paul fashioned a mounting bracket from brass that attaches to the heel of the neck.

The fingerrest itself holds the humbucker plus a subassembly I put together for the volume and tone wiring for piezo’s and the humbucker. One of the last things to do will be to put some copper foil on the backside of the fingerrest to provide shielding for the electronics.


Paul is very meticulous and made sure the humbucker wing attachment was set into the ebony so it’s totally flush mount. 

The electronics PCB is attached by 2 screws with stand-offs.





The electronics are pretty straightforward. I found some 500K thumbwheel pots that I used throughout, .022 mf cap for the humbucker tone and a .067 mf for the piezos. Mogami shielded wiring is used throughout. 

The electronics feed to a Fishman PowerJack that doubles as an endpin jack. The PowerJack has a JFET preamp built into it and provides a stereo feed through its TRS jack. The piezo’s are wired into the preamp then run out to the fingerrest, through the volume and tone pots, then back to the PowerJack and out the TS portion of the jack. The humbucker runs out the RS side and isn’t affected by preamp.

Notice how the hinge is in direct contact with the endpin jack providing grounding for the strings while the endpin jack holds it firmly in place. We needed somewhere to put the preamp battery, so Paul fashioned a neat little battery holder beside the endpin jack inside the body.

There were some holes left over from where a previous tailpiece was attached and, as you can see, with the hinge and the battery compartment things were getting a bit messy. Paul tidied it all up with a nice ebony dress plate that neatly hides the mess and holds the battery firmly in place while matching the look of the rest of the guitar. 

Aside from shielding the back of the fingerrest and finding some black screws, the Danedetto is done!

As far as tone goes, this thing is a monster. I initially tried some jazz flatwounds but didn’t like how the low E and A have a dead thud to them, so Paul installed a set of DR Zebra strings that are alternate wound nickel and brass. It is simply the best sounding electric guitar I’ve ever played or heard. It goes from a deep mellow jazz to a huge, and I mean huge, acoustic tone. Unplugged it’s got a really nice and complex tone you expect from an archtop – not hugely loud, but definitely loud enough for what I’m looking for. Paul also did a top-notch fret-dress and setup [same as he does for U2 and Gilmour] and I must say it plays like a dream.

It's been a ton of fun and hugely educational yielding a beautiful and unique instrument I hope follows me through the rest of my years. Oh yeah, luthier Paul Iverson rocks! 

Verne Andru / verneandru.com



Project #2
Custom U1 Thinline turquoise
by Ken S.

Here are some photos of my custom U1 Thinline turquoise.
I found a inexpensive turquoise korean reissue and cut a f hole in the body with a Dremel tool. The paint is rattle can metallic copper with clear. The finish came out like the vintage color which I find nicer than the reissue copper which looks like putty to me. Pick guard is repo from ebay. If any one wants to attempt their own, I recommend going undersize on the fhole because you will have a lot of delicate sanding to smooth it out and things happen faster than you would expect with a dremel. It sounds slightly louder unplugged now.
Ken S.

Project #3
Coral Longhorn 6-string Gold Edition project

by Andy Gilmore / Amesbury, MA

I first saw a Coral longhorn 6-string guitar in a band while I was in college in 1967. I had owned a Dano longhorn bass a few years earlier, but this was something really unusual. The guitarist let me fool around with it for a few minuets between sets and I was really impressed, but when I went into a Sears back home several months later, I discovered they were much too expensive for my college budget.

I never saw another Coral longhorn 6-string again until I stumbled upon a listing on eBay for one of the Longhorn bodies. There were two, in fact…one completely untouched and the other all drilled and routed for electronics and neck. I bought them both.

Now the question was…what exactly do I want to do with them? I had seen many examples of interesting…and in a couple of cases, really beautiful…hybrid guitars made from whatever the guitarist wanted to incorporate onto the body. Verne Andru’s project is by far the nicest, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon another musician living near me who had an original Coral that I knew what I was going to do. I decided I would re-create one, just as it would have been finished by Danelectro, except I was going to have all the hardware gold-plated!

I visited the guy’s studio and took many pictures and measured every inch of his Longhorn.


Then I started looking around for people who would be able to faithfully re-create the various parts such as the pickguard, tailpiece, pickup rings and jack plate. I was able to purchase a new set of gold-plated lipstick pickups and electronics, a nice set of gold-plated Grover tuners, and a genuine Danelectro bridge which was exactly the same design as the Coral except for the color.

It took me all of 2010 to make mechanical drawings on my computer of the various parts I needed fabricated…


The neck came from New York state, the Coral logo pieces on the headstock and tailpiece came from Canada, the pickguard came from New Jersey, and the tailpiece frame came from my daughter’s next-door neighbor who owns a metalworking shop…in short, a lot of very generous craftsmen took the time to re-create the individual pieces so that I could have my very own Coral Longhorn 6-string.

Finally, my son-in-law’s uncle, Jim Mouradian of Winchester, Massachusetts assembled everything. Jim is one of the finest luthiers in the Northeast, and was pretty excited to see the Coral body, and the results were spectacular. If Dano had actually produced the Coral Longhorn 6-string in a Special Gold Edition, this is what I imagine it would have looked like…and what a sheer joy to play!


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