Claescaster

Category: Acoustic guitars

LR Baggs M80

LR Baggs M80 installed in a 1968 Levin LT-18LR Baggs M80 installed in my main guitar, the 1968 Levin LT-18

Finally, that took freaking forever. I ordered a LR Baggs M80 via eBay from the US, which first got stuck in customs and cost me 84€, then it turned out that it wasn’t a LR Baggs M80, it was LR Baggs M1A in the box. I guess it could be worse, at least it was the active M1 and not the normal. Since it would cost too much to return it and I wouldn’t get the custom fees back I decided to keep it, I paid for it and they sent me the correct pickup instead, which also got stuck in customs but this time it only cost me 23€. So it took more than a month for my LR Baggs M80 to arrive, I got a LR Baggs M1A that I don’t need and I had to pay twice as much as I was hoping for. Anyway, the LR Baggs M80 sounds pretty damn good, fuller and warmer than the LR Baggs M1A, with a lot nicer highs. Perhaps it wasn’t such a big  difference that it was worth all the money and drama that it cost to get it to Spain but now when it’s here I really like it.

Claes Anderson Band

Claes Anderson Band recording in Slim Studio Bcn 2017-04-21Claes Anderson Band in the studio, I took out my 1960 Levin LS-18 for the first time

Last Friday we got to record two tracks, Coming home and Standing tall over the ones that have fallen, with the Claes Anderson Band. It was our first time in the studio but things went pretty smooth so I think we will be back for a full album soon enough. I played on my 1960 Levin LS-18 and my 1966 Goya T-18. Now we just need to mix and master the songs and then I will post them here.

Claes Anderson Band recording in Slim Studio Bcn 2017-04-21Claes Anderson Band recording in Slim Studio 21st April 2017

Levin LM-26

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1963Levin LM-26, Made in Sweden in 1963

Two weeks ago I got myself another Levin LM-26. My previous one was built in 1958/59 and feels a bit fragile, it is also in a pretty good state for taking out gigging. So this 1963 Levin LM-26 felt perfect to fit a LR Bagg M1A in and take out and enjoy on stage. Guitars are meant to be used and played, even vintage ones, so in a way I would be happy to take any of my Levin’s out of the house. It’s just that some of them feels a bit too well kept for the dangers of having them in bars around drunk people, and myself slightly intoxicated hitting them harder than I should because I play with a loud band and can’t hear myself properly and such, you all know how it is. Anyway, now I have a great backup acoustic for playing live and I was missing something in sunburst to match the Claescaster I put together four years ago.

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1963
Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1963I had to do the normal work to it, reset the neck by sanding down the heel. Fill all the dents and marks on the back of the neck with Nitro lacquer and then sand it smooth. Take the machine heads apart and clean them properly before I greased them up and put them back on. Cut a new bone saddle and then paint both the saddle and nut to match Levin’s original squirrel coloured Galalith parts. Polish frets, clean and oil the fretboard and then a general good clean of the whole guitar. If you want see pictures of any of this than have a look at how I restored the old Levin LM-26.

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1963

Levin LM-26 / Goya M-26
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Metal truss rod cover with a star and “1900”, nickel plated tuners
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with centred pearl dot inlay, rosewood bridge
Sunburst finish and ten year warranty

Marketed by U.K. distributors as Goliath Model 1795

Claes Anderson Band – Standing tall over the ones that have fallen, The Cavern Club, Terrassa 17th March 2017

Levin LT-18

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966

When I bought my first Goliath sized Levin guitar back in September 2013, a 1966 Goya T-18, I was amazed by the sound of it. They aren’t that easy to come by so I have pretty much bought every Levin LT-18 I got my hands on. Now I’m the proud dad of seven, 3 Levin LT-18, 1 Levin LS-18, 1 Goya T-18, 1 Goya T-23 and 1 Levin 174, they are all the same model with the same specifications, it’s just small details that have changed over the years. They have an X-braced alpine spruce top with flame maple back and sides. I first thought I was a mahogany back and sides type of guy, then I believed that rosewood was really my thing, when the truth is that I was a flamed maple guy all the time, who would have guessed? It’s a pretty odd tone wood, we have classics like the Gibson J-200 and quite a few of Guild’s jumbo models that are built with maple back and sides, but not that many dreadnoughts and especially not in the 1960’s. To my ears the Levin LT-18 is the love child of a Gibson J-45 and a Martin D-28, it’s somewhere in between, a perfect mix and I just love them.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin LT-18 / Goya T-18
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound ebony fingerboard with bass side pearloid block inlay
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Ebony bridge, natural finish and ten year warranty

Marketed by U.K. distributors as Super Goliath Model 1855

Levin LS-18 (1960), Levin LT-18 (1963), Levin LT-18 (1966), Levin LT-18 (1968), Goya by Levin T-18 (1966), Goya by Levin T-23 (1966)The Goliath sized Levin collection so far: Levin LS-18 (1960), Levin LT-18 (1963), Levin LT-18 (1966), Levin LT-18 (1968), Goya T-18 (1966), Goya T-23 (1966). I didn’t include my 1972 Levin 174 in the picture since the head shape is different and it didn’t really match the others, even though it’s technically the same guitar.

Claes Anderson Band

img_7979-copy3Claes Anderson Band at Legends Dance Hall in Terrassa 4th February 2017, photo by Meritxell

We had a gig last weekend and it was great fun. It was our second gig ever, actually our first one with a drummer so things are still a bit shaky. Jordi from Rodeo Rose has joined us on drums and it feels like we are slowly finding our roles in the band. I got a chance to play electric guitar on 8 out of 19 songs which was great fun, I haven’t played electric for 2-3 years. I played on my 1968 Levin LT-18, like last time and my 1977 Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N which sounded pretty great. I’m already looking forward to our next gig, I think we will play in Barcelona in the beginning of April. Thanks again to Toni from Legends for booking us without actually knowing what he got himself in to, we really appreciate it.

Levin Model 2

Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914
Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914

In the year of our Lord 1914 a terrible war broke out in Europe, at the same time this beautiful guitar was made in Sweden. I finally found myself an old Levin parlour, a 1914 Levin Model 2. When I sold the Levin Model 65 back in December I promised myself to find another Levin parlour, but older, and nicer. I did, it took 10 days. I was super lucky and managed to win this Model 2 on an auction the day before Christmas, perhaps that’s why the competition wasn’t so fierce. It’s in pretty decent original shape for being 103 years old, no real damage to it. It looks like the back has been removed and glued back at some point so I guess someone has re-glued some lose braces. I can’t see any signs of a neck reset but since it’s so playable after 100 years I assume that someone has done that too. I love the original machine heads with their bone buttons and the brass medallion on the back of the head is just beautiful. It sounds way better than I expected. I’ve had a couple of early German parlours at home and they have sound very thin, weak and boxy somehow. This Levin is loud, clear and warm at the same time, even though it’s ladder braced. For being one of Levin’s cheapest models I think it’s an amazing guitar and it looks stunning in it’s simplicity.

Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914
Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914
The back and sides are made of birch that is painted to look like Brazilian rosewood. I would have preferred the real deal but I guess it was both expensive and hard to come by exotic woods at the time.

Levin Model 2
Body width: 315 mm, length: 460 mm, depth: 78 mm
Spruce top with ladder bracing, birch back and sides
Unbound walnut fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlay
Triple wood bound top, unbound back and headstock
Brass frets, brass tuners, pyramid bridge, bridge pins and strap button with mother-of-pearl inlay. Rosewood finished back and sides with an orange finished top.

Introduced circa 1900

Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914The stamp on the right side is from Frälsningsarmén, The Salvation Army in Stockholm. I assume a lot of songs about Jesus has been played on this guitar over the years.

The old Levin factory on Norra Larmgatan 4 in Gothenburg, Sweden 1910-20The old Levin factory on Norra Larmgatan 4 in Gothenburg, Sweden, around 1920. Taken from Vintage Guitars Sweden

 

 

Martin SWDGT

Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004

Last weekend I adjusted Sr. Chinarro’s 2004 Martin SWDGT. It’s a really nice guitar and it reminds me a lot of the Martin SPD-16R I got for Christmas. These Martin SWDGT or Sustainable Wood Series are constructed in an ecologically responsible way with alternative woods. It has a really nice coloured sitka spruce top with non-scalloped X-bracing, back, sides and neck are cherry wood and the fretboard is made from katalox. It’s constructed with a simple dovetail neck joint, gold machine heads and a faux tortoise binding all around, just like the Martin SPD-16R, the only difference is that the SWDGT has faux tortoise headplate as well. The Martin SPD-16R has rosewood back and sides and it feels like the cherry wood in the SWDGT is adding more bass, depth and warmth, I really like the sound of it. I’ve always been a big fan of fancy exotic woods, especially Brazilian rosewood, but if you can build guitars this good from woods you can find in your backyard, then perhaps that’s the sustainable way for the future. I have to add that I hate the future and prefer to live in the past with my fancy old exotic woods but we can’t all do that, that wouldn’t be very sustainable.

Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004
Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004I love the colour of the top, so much nicer than the new made Martin D-18 and D-28.

Levin LS-18

Levin LS-18 Made in Sweden 1960Levin LS-18 Made in Sweden 1960

I finally got my hands on a Levin LS-18. Around Christmas 2015 I was offered to buy a Levin LS-16 that I’ve loved since the first time I played it. Therefore I’ve been really curious to hear what a full sized LS sounded like. These guitars seems to be fairly rare, I’ve seen one or two up on eBay in the last year but they have both gone for upwards of a £1000. I’m not sure why there aren’t more of these around in Europe, perhaps people refuse to sell them or they all got badged like Goya S-18 and shipped off to USA. The Levin LS-18 was introduced in 1958 and replaced by the LT-18 in 1964. The only difference sound vice that I’ve noticed between the LS-18 and the LT-18, both of them have flamed maple back and sides, is that the LS-18 seems a bit deeper in the bass. Perhaps it’s just this guitar, or the year, or the wood, it’s impossible to know without trying ten others. Other noticeable differences is that the LS-18 has thicker neck profile, different machine heads and centred pearl dot inlay instead of the LT-18’s bass side pearloid block inlay. It basically looks a bit more 1950’s and I love it.

Levin LS-18 Made in Sweden 1960Levin LS-18 Made in Sweden 1960There was quite a lot of work to do on this when I first got it. The action was so high that I couldn’t even get it in tune properly, the intonation was way off. I reset the neck and cleaned it up and now it both sounds and plays great.

Levin LS-18 / Goya S-18
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound ebony fingerboard with with centred pearl dot inlay. Nickel plated strip tuners with plastic buttons. Ebony bridge, metal Levin truss rod cover, natural finish and ten year warranty

Marketed by U.K. distributors as Super Goliath Model 1855

Martin SPD-16R

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999
Martin SPD-16R, Made in USA 1999

Before Christmas I got myself my first Martin. Like most acoustic guitar players I’ve always dreamt of getting a really old Martin D-28 but since they are so ridiculously expensive I settled for a more modest Martin, a 1999 Martin SPD-16R. I have to say that it’s an amazing guitar for the price, I think these cost between $1500-2000 when they were new in the late 1990’s. One of the problems I have with modern Martin guitars is the Richlite and other weird wood substitutes they use on the Martin 16-series nowadays. I also think that most new Martins look pretty bland and boring, hence why I liked the SPD-16R so much with it’s fancy snowflake inlays and abalone rosette, it even has gold hardware. Unfortunately for me, I’ve realised that I’m not a Martin guy, I feel like I’m cheating on my Levin guitars every time I pick another guitar up so I’ve decided to put this Martin SPD-16R up for sale.

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999

Martin SPD-16R
14 fret Dreadnought with spruce top and Indian Rosewood back and sides. Forward shifted scalloped X bracing. Performance taper, low oval mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard and bridge. Snowflake inlays, abalone rosette and a D-45 style back strip with gold Martin stamped machine heads. Produced in USA between 1996-2001. SPD-16R stands for Special edition, Dreadnought, 16-series in Rosewood.

Player Reviews, taken from Dream Guitars:

“The SPD-16 series offers a lot of guitar for the money. Solid woods, abalone markers and rosette and gold hardward were all standard. Great tone is standard also. This is a true Martin guitar with the punch and wonderful midrange Martin fans will enjoy.” – Paul Heumiller

“This is a great dreadnought for the money. This Special Edition Martin has that vintage look and appears to be a cross between a D-18 and D-28. Pretty darn nice.” – Al Petteway

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999

Levin LT-18

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1963 Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden in 1963

2016 might have been the worst year ever when it comes to good musicians dying, last out was Leonard Cohen who meant so much for me in my late teens. Having said that, 2016 has also been the most amazing year ever when it comes to me getting my hands on some mighty fine Levin guitars. I’ve been trying to find another Goliath sized Levin for the past 3 years without much luck, except for the lovely 1968 Levin LT-18 that I found a couple of weeks ago. The full sized Levin guitars don’t come up for sale that often, especially not in Sweden or Germany where people seem to keep them until they die. The 1966 Goya T-18 that I bought back in 2013, which started my obsession with the Levin brand, was imported from USA and they seem to be quite rare there too. I have seen a couple on eBay in the UK but the sellers always want £1000 for them which for me as a Swedish collector is way too much. I was raised with this brand, my first guitar was a Levin and even though they might be worth what they deserve in the rest of Europe, the cheaper models can still be found on yard sales in Sweden for close to nothing. We have to remember that Levin had produced 500,000 guitars by 1970, something that C. F. Martin & Co completed in 1990, so there are still quite a few lying around in peoples attics in Sweden. I must have done something right lately because I’ve been very lucky when it comes to guitars, both these Levin LT-18 was actually offered to me, the sellers had seen my blog and contacted me to see if I was interested in buying them and of course I was. You feel a bit honoured too, when someone offers you a guitar because they know you will restore it, take care of it, play it and cherish it for years to come. This 1963 Levin LT-18 has spent it’s life in Ireland and came to me from a guy called Fintan. It has had some repair work done to it, apparently by a luthier in Dublin about 10 years ago. The pickguard was replaced and a new bridge was cut and for some reason screwed down to the top, madness if you ask me. I just adjusted the neck a bit, cleaned it up and it was ready to go. The guitar sounds pretty damn amazing, not as strong in the mid-range as the 1968 Levin LT-18, especially not after I changed the bridge to ebony, but the highs are great with really nice overtones.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1963
Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1963

Levin LT-18 / Goya T-18
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound ebony fingerboard with bass side pearloid block inlay
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Ebony bridge, natural finish and ten year warranty

Marketed by U.K. distributors as Super Goliath Model 1855