Friday, January 22, 2010

The Silvertone Amp in Case Guitar

In 1963 a fellow named Joe Fisher was the musical instrument buyer for Sears and Roebuck.

Sears was based in Chicago, so Joe had a lot of sources. Chicago was home to CMI/Harmony, makers of guitars and other musical instruments and The Kay Musical Instrument Company. There were a lot of importers of cheap Asian produced instruments too.

Nat Daniel, the founder and owner of The Danelectro Guitar Company. Fisher contacted Daniel and ask if he could produce a cheap electric guitar that came with a matching amplifier. This was done before by the Valco Company.  Daniels was building amplifiers years before he came up with the guitar made of Masonite.

And shortly after the request Nat Daniels came up with the Silvertone Amp-In-Case Guitar Combo.

Daniels came up a design that had a 3 tube amplifier and speaker built into the case, thus eliminating the need for both a case and a separate amplifier. A hinged case was manufactured out of medium density fiberboard and was covered with the same gray fabric he used for Silvertone amplifiers. One side of the case was routed out for the speaker and grill cloth was put in place. The case could then be opened and set on its end to get the sound up to ear level.

Nancy Sinatra plays one!
The guitar bodies were made of a plywood frame. The sides of the frame were wrapped with vinyl binding tape which was stapled in place. Pre-cut Masonite forms to match the guitars shape was glued to the guitars back.

A plywood block was strategically glued and screwed onto the back piece of Masonite to anchor the chrome plated adjustable bridge piece.

The bridge was merely a piece of rosewood that was glued onto the bridge piece at a slight angle for compensation.

Another sheet of preformed Masonite was cut a set aside to be glued on the guitar to form the guitars top. The older Danos had the plywood block going from the neck pocket to where the bridge attached.

The top was also pre-cut that had been routed for the pickups, toggle switch, volume and tone controls. A white pick guard was added to highlight the guitar. Daniel used concentric stacked potentiometers on double pickup models. This way there were only two controls, with the bottom stack controlling the tone and the top controlling volume.

His one pickup models utilized the same template. This was more efficient way of production. The wiring took place and the Masonite top glued to the frame.

Nat Daniel invented the lipstick tube pickup. It was an inexpensive method to create pickup housings. Rather than purchase plastic or metal covers, he discovered that the tubes used as lipstick containers were the right size to house the single coil pickups that his company made inhouse. They were cheap, shiny, cost-effective and at the time most people had no idea they were lipstick tubes.

Ingeniously, on two pickup guitars, he wired the pickups in series instead of parallel, as were found on most electric guitars of the day. By using this method his pickups had a hotter output due to doubling the ohm rating.

The model of guitar that came with the amp-in-the-case was designed with long, sort of Strat shaped horns and a dip in the bottom of the body.

The poplar neck was painted with a glossy finish and contained an adjustable trussrod. The fingerboard was Brazilian rosewood. The bridge was made of nickel. The tuners did not have a brand, but were most functional. The neck attached to the body in a pocket in the neck and was held in place by two large wood screws.

The Masonite used for the guitars top and back were black and contained a sparkly design. Other models came with a sunburst finish.

Back in the late 1960's I was in high school and paying more attention to playing guitar than academics. My buddy Ralph came over to my house one day with a new acquisition.

He had  just gota a Silvertone electric guitar with an amplifier that was built right into the case. Compared to my Deluxe Reverb, his amp was not very loud. It was essentially a student amp that was comparable to a Fender Champ.

The first version of the amp was 3 watts and came with a five inch speaker. The amp had 3 tubes, a rectifier tube, a power tube, a preamp tube and 3 (count them!) guitar inputs. This version came with a single volume (gain) control.

The in 1963 the amp was updated to 5 watts and came with volume, tone and a tremolo section with speed and intensity control. Both were Class A amplifiers just like a Fender Champ or a Vox amplifier.  In those days it was under appreciated as were Fender Champ amps.

These days the amp in a case is a wonderful tool for recording and just playing at home.

Note that some of the pictures show speaker with different baskets. I am not sure if this was a design change or Danelectro just chose whatever 5" speakers were cheap and available.

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