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I love making guitars, but quite frankly, the effort involved in making bodies is a real deterrent, both in terms of the mess, the space needed, and the stink (I don't always have the best ventilation). There is also a lot to learn in terms of working with finishes.
This led me to consider using the same fabrication technique as is used by Danelectro guitars (a much higher-tech version is also being used by Reverend guitars these days). This used what was essentially a "garbage wood" core, with a masonite top and back glued to the core. While softer, lighter woods can sound pretty decent, they don't hold up well to use (I had an all pine "Les Paul" years ago and can vouch for that). Masonite (the very fine pressed particle board that is partly wood, partly glue) provides a nice smooth, durable, and *inexpensive* surface. It also takes a paint finish very easily because it is essentially nonporous.
Although Masonite is much heavier than actual wood, use of a core and solid covering means that the weight issue can be offset by taking big chunks out of the core and "chambering" the body.
Why not just BUY a Danelectro, given how cheap they can be? Good question. Well, they always come with lipstick pickups, and I was interested in other sorts of instruments that haven't been made by Danelectro techniques yet (next up is a fake Vox Phantom!). So I stuck on the pickups of my choice on the body shape of my choice.
Since part of my mission was to sidestep spraying finishes, I used plain old formica to cover the top and back, and white edging to do the sides. Danelectro also uses a white plastic edging but not the same type. I used stuff from Home Depot that is preglued with heat-softened glue. Just line it up, fire up your heat gun and press it on, then trim away the excess.
On top of a masonite surface, the formica is pretty durable....and pretty, too. I've included a shot of a "Dano-Caster" in progress to show how nice some of the wood-grain formica can look. Closer inspection of the LP clone will reveal some cosmetic flaws around the edge, but that is more a testament to my desire to make this in a hurry for a road trip, than any indication of what is and isn't possible with the technique. It would be nice to use a router and install some creme binding along the edge to complement the pickups. Maybe later.
The total construction time for the red guitar was maybe 20 hours in all, spread over a few weekends and evenings, but I imagine someone with the proper tools (a band saw and sanding drum would have helped) who knew what they were doing could do it in less time. Much of the time was spent on correcting mistakes. Obviously having a finished neck and other parts sped things up.
For now, it plays pretty good, though I think neck angle needs to be worked on a bit. Happy to put that Bigsby to work, though. It's been in hiding for a good 10 years.
I included a picture of my new "Dano-Paul" next to my very overhauled, but much beloved, mid-60's Epiphone Coronet.