Airline 8512 Tribute
An Airline 8512 was my very first guitar amplifier. I bought it used along with a used Danelectro U1 guitar back when I was probably 11 years old. The 8512 was made by Danelectro for Montgomery Wards and mine was likely made in the 1950s and originally purchased from the Wards catalog. See the shrunken down picture from the 1959 Christmas catalog below - only $39.95!
The original had 3 tubes - preamp, power and rectifier and was a 5 watt amp with an 8" speaker. I foolishly sold my 8512 after just a year or two to pursue the next best thing, but when I recently started getting back into vintage amps, I wished I still had it.
I had recently bought myself one of the cheapest and best sounding modern real tube amplifiers - the Monoprice 5 watt with an 8" speaker, but absolutely hated the looks of it. Sickeningly colored blonde Tolex covering and a stupid looking control panel with a no name Stage Right logo on it. So I started thinking, what if I could transform the Monoprice 5w into an Airline 8512?
I needed to re-cover it in something close to the 8512 brown, create the traditional beveled edges around the speaker grill cloth and tone down that garish control panel and move it from the front of the amp to the back. In order to accomplish this, I ripped off all the blonde Tolex, ripped out the wood strips that were holding the old baffle and back panels in place and created new strips in the appropriate places, created a whole new speaker baffle that went to the full height of the amp, mounted the speaker baffle in what used to be the back, moved the amp out flush with the old front (now the back), created the beveled edges using wood trim covered with canvas that I aged, spray painted a metal grill I got from Amazon, printed out a black vinyl covering for the exposed part of the chassis and put it all back together in the new way.
So now I've got a real tube 5w amp that looks like my old Airline 8512. It sounds great and is pretty nice for practicing at home. One of the more modern features of the Monoprice 5w is that it has a 1w versus 5w switch that you can use to cut down the volume without sacrificing that saturated tube tone. Next to it is my recreation of my original Danelectro U1 guitar, but that's a topic for a future article.
Amplifier: 5 watts tube
Controls: Volume, Tone, 1w vs 5w power selector
Speaker: 8" 8 ohm 15 watts
Inputs: 1/4" guitar in
Outputs: 1/4" external speaker jack
Power supply: 120v AC 3 prong
Dimensions: 12" height x 12" width x 8" depth