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This started as a hobby – I was simply making suitable replacements of my favorite vintage guitars that I could take on the road without worry. It morphed into a business in about 2008. I want guitarists to think of their Danocaster as a “friend,” a companion, “their go-to guitar” and a tremendous VALUE that has met or exceeded their expectations.
I have always loved older things. I still listen to mostly vinyl, I love vintage hi-fi, etc. and I’ve always been fascinated by vintage guitars. I was in a band traveling and was worried about taking my old guitars on the road – not fear of wear and tear as much as losing them altogether.
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So I started messing around and assembling some guitars from parts. They were good – but it was clear that to really do this well, I would really need to go much deeper. I really started examining my vintage guitars and seeking out parts and pieces that were much closer to my own originals. Some I was able to find – and some I had to have manufactured for me. I was/am a tweaker and it just got refined over and over. And they continue to get better every year as we find little tweaks that are worth pursuing.
Honestly, the LOOK of the “aged” guitars wasn’t what I was after so much at first. I was chasing the feel, resonance, and liveliness of my favorite vintage guitars. Eventually, I wanted the older look, too – but that was never the genesis.
Probably my “Single Cut” model – which is based around a Telecaster style. That’s my first love, the first electric I ever owned, and it’s also pretty popular right now. But I also do quite a bit of “Offset” models (based on the Jazzmaster/Jaguar). I really do love them and many other builders modify the model’s “problem areas” to the point where it only LOOKS like the offset body shape – but the bridge, tremolo, and pickups (which contribute so much) are omitted. I embrace those quirks – and do what I can to work with them so the offsets play and sound fantastic – but keep that unique character.
I’ve become friends with many of the other builders and it’s a great community. Something that really helps is that I own some really fabulous gear and am not referencing pictures when I build these – but the real deal. When I’m aging maple necks, I have a real worn original Telecaster sitting right next to me. When I plug in my Danocasters for a test run – its also being directly compared to an original that has survived countless “gear purges” over the years and has floated to the top as a “really great example.” So I’m very fortunate to have the original models for comparison.
Also – I come at these as a PLAYER first. I played professionally for years and when I sit down with a finished guitar, I’m really digging in and putting it through the paces – through a great collection of cool old amps and pedals. It doesn’t just come off a bench where it was set-up “according to specs” and packed up for shipping.
I would say the neck is one of the things that attracts so many people. The neck is your connection to the instrument and so many old guitars have these fabulously worn necks that feel like your favorite pair of old jeans, just smooth and broken in. I worked for a very long time, trying different approaches, until we came up with our current hand-rubbed finish. It’s pretty time consuming – but worth the effort. The necks just feel like “home” – at least that’s the goal.
Wow…so many lessons learned. First would be that “the same parts don’t always equal the same sum.” Two nearly identical bodies or necks – both with nearly exact specs – can SOUND vastly different. Surprisingly so. For this reason, I generally ask people what TONES they are after – rather than what pickups they like, for instance – because we may need to take a different road getting there than I would for another nearly identical build. Each build is a little different and it’s not uncommon to try several different pickups in a guitar – just looking for the perfect match!!
Also – it IS a business. It’s very important to respect your clients and respond as quickly as possible with any concerns or questions they may have. I really enjoy the direct contact with my customers – which is one of the reasons I have chosen to not really have a dealer network. About 80% of my sales are direct and my sole dealer, LA Vintage Gear, does a nice job of showcasing them for guys that “need one now” – or just wanna check them out in Los Angeles.