1967 Danelectro (Coral Scorpion/Hornet) 12-String Electric Guitar

I barely ever stalk guitars in the wild for myself anymore, but I had to leap on this when I saw it come up. I'm a Danelectro fan -- it's very, very true. I've been lucky enough to have played a Coral Hornet (the 6-string, normal-branded version of this instrument) before and three of the "Silvertone Hornet" variants, but I've never had a chance to play a 12-string version of the Hornet like this guy. Despite the fact that I can't hold onto it (we just bought 10 tons of heating fuel -- wood pellets -- so I'm broke again), I took the plunge because, you know -- the hunt! If you give up on the hunt, you give up on happy fingers and fiery synapses.

Now that you've gotten through that nonsense, maybe we can get down to business? Danelectro made a higher-end line of guitars in the late '60s branded "Coral" and a number were endorsed by Vincent Bell. The "Hornet" model was basically the 6-string version of this thing with a more-Fender-like headstock shape and the "Scorpion" was the Coral-branded version of this 12-string. It's interesting (and really strange) to find one of these with Danelectro branding at the headstock and also a 12-string. I've never seen the former and the latter is just really rare in general.

Cool features compared to other solidbody Danelectros include a a crazy-but-wonderful wiring harness mounted to a metal plate for all of the controls and jack, a psychedelic pickguard that does "eye tease" stuff as you tilt the guitar, twin lipstick pickups, a second, smaller, clear finger-rest/pickguard with springs to raise/lower it as you please, and amazing body contours. This thing is sculpted much like a surfboard or old Teisco Sharkfin guitars with thin outer edges and a radius/arc to the whole body. It fits beautifully into the lap. It also has a 3-bolt neck with a "micro-tilt" neck angle adjuster. That helps a lot for overall setup changes on-the-fly.

The neck is typical of the offset-style Danelectro builds -- with a wider 1 3/4" nut, flatter fretboard radius, and slim-to-medium, C/D-shaped neck profile. It's got two-bar steel reinforcement in the neck itself which does a ton to reinforce the neck, but it's a design suited to 6-string guitars. I find that if you want to tune vintage Dano 12-strings up E-to-E standard, it's best to be kind to the neck and so use Ernie Ball electric 12-string sets with 8s as the high E. Currently this one's wearing 46w-9s so I have it tuned down D-to-D a whole step, though I do have a freshly-delivered set of the 8s stashed in the case to restring E-to-E.

Anyhow, the neck plays fast and has tighter spacing than modern 12-strings. It feels a lot like the spacing on old Rickenbackers -- you've gotta be accurate when chording. You can hear in the video when I fudge it here and there. A few of my buddies played it in the shop through the week, though, and did a far better job of it than myself, hah hah.

As far as the sound? Oh, it's great. It's got that clean, clear, lively, almost acoustic-ish jangly Danelectro sound. The 12-string format only accentuates it. In addition, it's got a plethora of controls to shape the tone. The three knobs seem to be (from endpin to nearest the switches) master volume, master tone, and pickup blend (not entirely sure on that last one, but I'm pretty sure as the sound goes from full/warm to jangly/trebly/dry).

The four switches seem to be (from pickguard to knobs) series/parallel wiring with both pickups on, on/off for perhaps the bridge pickup (not quite sure if that's accurate), in phase/out of phase or bass cut, and mud switch for instant "dead" tone. Once you start getting used to all of this, tons of sounds are available for sculpting what you want out of it.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, cleaning, full individual compensation of the bridge saddle for normal plain-G electric 12-string sets, and setup. It was actually in really good order to begin-with, and just needed the basics to play its best.

Setup notes: action is low and fast with 1/16" height overall at the 12th fret. The neck does get a hair of relief when tuned-up and because of the thinner gauges, best results are achieved with a light touch. I like to use a very thin, floppy flatpick so I don't bang the strings too hard into one another and have them buzz against themselves. On the higher notes on the neck, it's easy-enough to attack too hard and get a thwacky sound. All in moderation! That's my advice for any electric 12, though. Of course, one can just knock the action higher if they're heavy-handed. Current string gauges are 22w/46w, 14/36w, 11/26w, 8/17, 12/12, 9/9. It'll come with a set of 8s that run 42w-8, however, which suits E-to-E tuning better.

Scale length: 25"

Nut width: 1 3/4"

String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"

String spacing at bridge: 2 1/8"

Body length: 19 1/2"

Lower bout width: 13 1/4"

Side depth at endpin: 1 1/2" (tapered much thinner at edges)

Body wood: poplar, maybe?

Fretboard: rosewood

Bridge: original steel-plate w/rosewood saddle, freshly compensated for each string

Neck feel: medium C/D shape, ~12-14" board radius

Neck wood: poplar w/2-steel-bar reinforcement

Weight: 6 lb 15 oz

Condition notes: it's entirely-original save a replacement strap button and, while showing plenty of finish weather-checking and various minor scuffs, scratches, and the average wear you'd expect to metal hardware, it looks great. The controls all worked perfectly as-is -- I didn't even need to spray them out with cleaner. The "skate key" Dano-style tuners always feel a little loosey-goosey in operation, but they actually hold well. Just like most vintage tuners (and modern ones, for that matter), you have to detune and tune back up if you skip-up too sharp when you tune.

It comes with: its original hard case. It's in good shape on the outside, but the inside neck-holder that crosses the middle of the case is damaged and missing its felt. I can be repaired, however, and made more practical for regular use via adding some cushioning -- though the case serves nicely for storage or light use as-is.


Rob Gardner said…
I played this the other day when I was dropping off the Gretsch for a binding transplant and you were back in the shop with another customer. First of all, it kind of jumped off the wall because it looks so cool, but what was astonishing was how easy it was too play, something 12 strings never are for me. The nut was a little cramped for my fat fingers, but what a cool guitar. Since a number of the hip kids here in the valley seem to e taking up 12 strings, it really caught my eye. Very cool guitar.
sigh said…