Claescaster

Category: Claes Collection

Levin LM-26

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959Levin LM-26, Made in Sweden in 1959

In the end of March, about 2-3 weeks after I bought the 1963 Levin LM-26, I was offered a 1959 Levin LM-26 that I couldn’t resist, even though I already had one from that year. The seller Ian was quite persistent that I added his guitar, that he had owned since his 14th birthday in 1976, to my Levin collection so I of course complied. The guitar has been used playing anything from jazz, Mississippi blues to Celtic folk and now country, read Ian’s guitar history. Now I have one Levin LM-26 built in 1963 and two from 1959, well they actually both has a body stamped in 1958 but with a 1959 neck, not sure if they did a lot of bodies one year and necks the next. I have some Levin LT-18 that has a Goya serial number stamped inside and a completely different Levin serial number on the head, I guess these things happens at a guitar factory. This 1959 Levin LM-26 seems to be completely original, it even has the cheap looking machine heads that Levin used in the late 1950’s on the LM-series. On my other 1959 Levin LM-26 the machine heads were replaced by open back Grover’s by the second owner back in 1965 and I think I might have to do the same on this one. I like the ones they used on the Levin LS-18 at the time, they are rounder and look more Gibson like, these square ones look like something from an Egmond or a kids guitar. The guitar plays really nicely and sounds great, really full and warm as could be expected of an all solid Swedish built guitar from the late 1950’s.

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959
Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959

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

Levin LM-26 Made in Sweden 1959

 

1979 Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtailFender Stratocaster, Made in USA at the Fullerton plant in 1979

Yesterday I sold my 1979 Fender Stratocaster, which felt a bit sad. I’ve had the guitar up for sale for two years so it was no surprise that sooner or later she would leave me. Then again, when it actually happened I missed her a bit. Well guitars comes and goes, that’s the circle of life and she needed to make room for her sister, my new 1978 Fender Telecaster. Last Sunday I got to use the Stratocaster one last time when we had a gig with the Claes Anderson Band. It sounded great, really twangy even through my solid state Levin amp from the 1990’s.

Claes Anderson Band – Tell my tale when I am gone, Legends Dance Hall in Terrassa 14th May 2017

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.

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

Greco TE-800

Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981Greco TE-800, Made in Japan by FujiGen 1981

I finally found my “Nancy“, this has taken forever or at least four years. I used to have an amazing sounding and looking late 1980’s Japan made Fender Telecaster TL52-75, a great ’52 re-issue that I could never get used to the thin neck on. Then I found myself a 1979 Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500, equally great sounding but not in a mint state like the Fender, same problem there the neck was way too thin. So since 2013 I’ve been trying to find a nice Japan made ’52 re-issue with a thicker neck but without any luck. I don’t have large hands or anything, it’s just that since I mainly play old Levin acoustics from the 1960’s I’m kind of used to thicker necks than what’s standard on Japanese electrics. The solution turned out to be a an early 1980’s Greco TE-800 since they came with a pretty decent V-neck. It’s not the thickest neck I’ve seen or anything, it’s actually quite shy in thickness even though it’s a V-profile, but it’s far better that all the other Japan made Telecaster necks I’ve tried from the 1970-80’s. I’ve seen a few Crafted in Japan Fender ’52 re-issues from the mid 2000’s that has nice V-necks but nothing before that. The USA made Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster didn’t have it’s fat U-shaped neck until 1998 either, so this seems more like an 1980-90’s problem than purely a Japanese problem. I blame all the slick fast playing guitarists in the 80’s that wanted super thin necks, the ruined everything for the rest of us. The previous owner of the Greco TE-800, a really nice German man called Lennart, and I have had quite long mail conversations regarding this mythical creature, the unicorn of necks, the V-neck on Japan made Telecasters. In his expertise the V-profile appeared on the high-end Tokai, Greco and Fernades models around 1980-82. Something that I have had confirmed from early 80’s Tokai’s, both Strats and Teles I’ve seen for sale on eBay. This Greco TL-800 lost it’s original bridge at some point, with the serial number, but according the Lennart it must be from 1981. He has had a few other Greco TL-800 in his life and they apparently stopped with the V-shaped necks in 1982.

♪ ♫ ♪ Roy Buchanan – CC Rider

Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981
Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981I really don’t mind how worn this Greco TL-800 is, it’s so beautiful in my eyes. Everything from the chipped fretboard to the cigarette burn on the back of the neck, I’m not sure how someone managed with that. The only part I don’t like is the Wilkinson bridge, it’s actually what I use on the Claescasters but on this guitar I would have preferred something older, more worn and perhaps Japanese. The Greco TL-800 has, beside the V-neck, Nitro lacquer and a Maxon neck pickup and the legendary DiMarzio Pre B-1 in the bridge. I’m not 100% sure that the DiMarzio is for me, it seems a bit too hot for my liking but I will try it with the band first and see how it works in a louder setting.

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.

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

 

 

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