Levin Model 32
I recently got this old 1946 Levin Model 32 from an eBay seller in Vienna. The guitar has clearly seen better days but I felt she deserved a second chance in life so I got her home, dolled her up and now she is playable again. I had no idea what model it was when I got it and I was actually hoping that it would be a Model 30 from the late 1930’s, they look very similar but it turned out to be a Model 32 from the mid 1940’s instead, which isn’t bad. I guess I just wanted to have a Levin that was older than my 1942 Levin Model 65. It’s pretty close to my 1951 Levin Royal in sound and feel but with a more casual appearance. I guess there was a shortage of tonewoods all over Europe during the war so they used what they got. This one has a hand carved 3-piece Romanian spruce top and you can even see a couple of knots around the f-holes. I don’t really mind, together with all the cracks it’s just adding to that old worn archtop look and feel. The back is really beautiful though and the neck feels great, really fat and chunky as I like. It also has a quite different sunburst compared to what Levin normally used in 1940-50’s. Levin used to copy Gibson’s tobacco sunburst but this one has more of a cherry sunburst.
Levin Model 32
Non-cutaway. Body width: 420 mm, body length: 510 mm
Hand carved Romanian spruce top, mahogany back and sides
Single-bound top with unbound f-holes
Single-bound back, unbound pickguard and unbound headstock
Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlay
Nickel plated hardware, sunburst finish and ten years warranty
Available between 1940 – 1947
Levin Model 32, here between the model above, the beautiful Model 27 and the slightly cheaper Model 35. I love that the case option offered in the bottom of each ad is a plain textile bag with a zip, really, textile? The list price for the guitar in 1946 was 285 SEK, around 30 Euro. The Royal listed that year at 575 SEK an the top of the line, the Deluxe at 1000 SEK. Taken from a 1946 Levin archtops catalog, thanks to Vintage Guitars Sweden
First I had to deal with the crack that was running along the whole bottom side, from the upper bout to the endpin. There was also another crack, or hole, that the previous owner had glued in perhaps not the most discrete fashion.
I have never attempted to glue anything this big before but there is a first time for everything. I noticed that there was a piece of wood missing so I started with making the hole square and then I fitted a little piece of wood in the exact same size. The main problem I had was that the guitar had been cracked for so long, with the tension of the strings I think, so the whole side had kind of warped. In parts the crack was overlapping in one way then suddenly changed to go the other way. Which meant that when I was trying to close the crack it didn’t line up, at all. I did my best and with a bit of force and a lot a clamps I managed to get it to close at least, even if it didn’t line up perfectly. I know that the correct way of doing this would have been to glue cleats on the inside and perhaps a string coming trough that you can tighten from the outside or even better, magnets, but unfortunately the crack was just over the kerfing which would have made it hard to glue any cleats on top of the kerfing. I also couldn’t figure out a way of getting any magnets inside an archtop, there wasn’t really any way of getting my hands in there.
It went ok for being my first time and it seems to be very solid after letting the fish glue cure for 48 hours, I added some extra glue over the old crack too just to be on the safe side. I sanded everything smooth and then lacquered with shellac, I was trying to match the original lacquer but it turned out to be impossible to copy the sunburst. Maybe I can figure out a way and redo this part but at least now the guitar is playable. I buffed up the old lacquer and made it blend with the new shellac by polishing it with metal polish, that always works great on old guitars. It’s the same technique I use for the back of the necks, filling the dents with nitro lacquer and then sand it smooth and buff it up with metal polish. The original machine heads are pretty wonky but they work fine and cleaned up nicely, just like the tail piece, so I decided to keep the guitar all original.