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.


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.
jhward said…
I am adding a lipstick pickup to a Dano Convertible a friend gave me about 25 years ago.

This Dano does not have the screw holes to mount the pickup in the top. I assume it was originally purchased without the electronics.

My friend said that he took the back off and installed the pots, cap, jack, and hot glued a p90 in the sound hole, then reattached the back on.

My lipstick pickup has a DC resistance of 4.7K, and I will be using 500k pots.

I have a couple of questions:
1) How far apart on center are the screw holes in the top to mount the pickup?

2) What is the value of the cap you used?

John H.Ward, Jr.
silbertinfl said…
well unless the lipstick tube pickup was made specifically made for the convertible the hole will not match up(just like in the blog) i had to make a plate to use the holes, the holes on the pickup were too close together. the wiring i used from http://dennysguitars.homestead.com/DanoGuitarSchematics1.html
section under danelectro 1448 wiring. If your dano has no holes(mine had the holes with little covers over them) i would wait till you got your pickup and see if the pickup holes are compatible with the front of the guitar. the holes on mine are 4.06".
silbertinfl said…
also i added a ground wire from the string holder plate to the back of the pots
Officers said…
How did you ground the tail piece?
silbertinfl said…
on mine i put the ground underneath the string holder plate over to the back of the pots, the back of the pots is ground.
Officers said…
silbertinfl, yes, but I was wondering how to get the wire inside to connect it to the pots.
silbertinfl said…
One of the pictures in the blog above shows the volume tone and output jack. if yours are already installed you would have to drop them out the sound hole remove the string holder put a small hole next to where the screw is but under the plate insert a wire thru that hole run it out the sound hole to solder the wire to the back of the pots. then the fun begins... getting the electronics back to the proper holes( i think i used a fine wire run thru one vol pot hole to the threads of the pot to pull it back into the guitar and get it close to the holes)once you get electronics remounted you then pull the wire near string plate holder to shorten strip the end and make it loop under the string plate to make contact with is and you're then grounded there. good luck
silbertinfl said…
its been so long since i did this, i believe the plate screws go into the body wood so i had to tilt the drill towards the hollow body so i could thread it through the guitar.
Officers said…
Thanks, that worked well.
Unknown said…
I know I' a Johnny-come-lately but was just wondering you "yanked out" the electronics from inside the guitar. The only access I can find find on y Dano Convertible is the sound hole.