Claescaster

Category: Levin

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 3

Levin Model 2 Parlour Made in Sweden 1914
Levin Model 3 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 3. 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 3 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 3
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

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

How to… carve a bridge

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden in 1968

I decided to carve a new bridge for my 1968 Levin LT-18. The old bridge needed to be re-glued anyway so I thought it was a good time to create a new one in ebony instead. I did this once, I carved a new bridge for my 1973 K. Yairi YW-1000. This was a pretty similar job, both ebony and roughly the same shape. I’m really happy with the sound of this guitar now, so much richer than with the original bridge.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968First step was to remove the old bridge with a heated spatula and then copy the bridge and drill the holes.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Then shape it as close to the original as possible using my Japanese saw rasp and different files.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Last step, fit the bridge and glue it down. Once the bridge was in place I could check the intonation to get the saddle slot in the perfect spot. Unfortunately I cut the slot 1 mm too wide so the bone saddle got a bit fatter than I had planned. Perhaps that gives tonal qualities I would have missed with a thinner saddle, let’s hope so. I also installed a LR Baggs M1A so I can use the guitar for gigs.

Before: with the original rosewood bridge and the individual height adjustable plastic saddles

After: with the ebony bridge I carved and a bone saddle

 

Levin LT-18

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968
Levin LT-18, Made in Sweden in 1968

I’ve tried my best not to buy more guitars, hence why I’m selling most of my Japanese acoustics. Having said that, if a Levin LT-18 shows up on eBay and the seller contacts me via email, after a couple of shamefully low best offers from my part, and I happen to lie at home with pneumonia, it was just impossible to resist. I’m so weak for these top of the line Levin flat tops from the 1960’s, they sound amazing and they are pretty rare to find, people tend to cling on to them until they die, and then their kids will sell them. It’s also quite rare to see a Levin branded LT-18 for sale, I already have a Goya T-18 which is the same guitar but branded Goya for the US market and they tend to be a bit easier to come across. I always prefer early to mid 1960’s Levin guitars, before they opened the new factory in Lessebo in 1965, having said that, most of my Levin guitars are actually from 1965-1966 and they sound pretty damn amazing. This one from 1968 is pushing it a bit, I thought it was from 1967 until I got it home and could check the serial number properly. The problem after 1967 is the new invention of Levin, the individual height adjustable plastic saddles, I hate them. I will have to carve a new bridge in ebony, to match the fretboard, and cut a slot for a real bone saddle.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968
Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968
Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968

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 LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968There were two things that I couldn’t stand with this Levin, first the lack of lacquer on the back of the neck, and then the rosewood bridge with the individual height adjustable plastic saddles. I’m not sure how they managed to loose most of the lacquer on the back of the neck but that was easily filled in with a couple of layers of Nitrocellulose lacquer. The second part, with the rosewood bridge and the plastic saddles is something we are going to have to deal with. The sound is not terrible with the plastic saddles, it ads a kind of 1960’s Gibson bass to it but it lacks a lot of clarity in the trebles and I always prefer a bone saddle. I also don’t like the look of a rosewood bridge to a ebony fretboard, they should match. I will try to carve a new bridge in ebony as soon as I get time.  

the-big-three-at-the-cavern-decca
This Levin LT-18 was apparently owned by Brian Griffiths from The Big Three, a Liverpool band that was active during the days of The Beatles. However, since the guitar was made in 1968 he must have bought it long after the Liverpool glory days were over.

Here is the guitar in action when we played at the Cavern in Terrassa last weekend

Goya F-11

img_7029-2Goya F-11, made in Sweden by Levin in 1963

Back in May I bought a 1963 Goya F-11 from a pawn shop San Diego, California. It’s my 18th Levin so far but my first steel stringed classical guitar, or it’s actually more of a Flamenco shape than a normal Spanish guitar. It’s an awesome little finger picker with a wide nut and pretty small body, very comfortable to play in the sofa. The sound is very different, I guess because it’s a steel stringed but fan braced and built like a classical guitar. These type of guitars got really popular in the mid 1960’s during the folk boom in the US and Levin built quite a few under the Goya brand to compete with the Gibson F-25 and other concert sized steel stringed folk guitars of the time. I have never played anything like this before and really like it, even though it doesn’t sound as good as a Goya T-16 for chord playing, it has something almost ladder braced like in the sound that makes it pretty unique.

levin-goya-f-11-1Levin Goya F-11 Made in Sweden 1963Levin Goya F-11 Made in Sweden 1963A 1963 Goya F-11, worn, bruised and beaten but still very beautiful, I love the flamed back. It’s fun that half the logo has been removed to read Joy instead of Goya.

Goya F-11
Concert size: Body width: 360 mm, body length: 465 mm, body depth: 98 mm. Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm. Spruce top with fan bracing, birch back and sides, 4-ply bound top, unbound back. Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod. Unbound rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlay. Rosewood bridge, double pickguards and nickel plated strip tuners.  Matte natural finish

Goya Catalog 1964Taken from a 1964 Goya catalogue

Goya T-16

Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966

I found another Goya T-16 that I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure why I love these so much, if it’s the sound, shape or the fact that my dad’s old Levin LT-16 was my first guitar. This one seems to have had a crack in the lower bout on the bottom side and when that was fixed they gave the side a light burst to cover it and then lacquered the whole guitar. Back in the 1960’s when these guitars left the factory in Sweden, the Levin LT-16 came with a really nice satin finish and the Goya T-16 with a high gloss that cracked over time. The previous Goya T-16 was sanded down and this one had an extra coat of lacquer so I guess people weren’t entirely happy with the finish on these. They both sounds very different, the old one sounds more woody and dry and this one has a clearer snappier sound, I presume because of the lacquer. I really like the look of the top, more orange and pre-war Martin looking than the normal Goya T-16.

Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966I bought this 1966 Goya T-16 from an eBay seller in Illinois but I guess it first landed at Lynn’s Guitars in Knoxville Tennessee when it came from Sweden in the 1960’s.

Levin LT-16 / Goya T-16
Grand Concert size: Body width: 380 mm, body length: 480 mm, body depth: 98 mm. Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm. Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back. Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod. Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with bass side pearloid dot inlay. Rosewood bridge, nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons. Matte natural finish and ten year warranty

Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966I removed the bridge and pickguard, scraped of the lacquer and then re-glued them. I also adjusted the neck angle by removing the bolts inside and then sanded down the heel a bit with a sandpaper, just like I did on the old Goya T-16.

Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966The headstock had some fine cracks that I filled with fish glue and then polished up. I cut a new bone saddle that I painted to match the old Levin Galalith saddle and then I cleaned up the fretboard and polished the frets.

Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1966My collection of 000-sized Levin guitars so far, from left to right: Levin LS-16 (1963), Goya T-16 (1965), Goya T-16 (1966), Levin LT-16 (1966), Goya GG-172 (1970)

 

Old Levin Parlour

Old Levin Parlour, 1907 Levin catalogTaken from a 1907 Levin catalogue, thanks to Vintage Guitars Sweden

I have been trying to find a 100-years old Levin parlour for some time now, something built before 1920 and with a pin bridge. If anyone has one that they would like to sell then please get in touch, claesgellerbrink@gmail.com. I would also be interested in any guitar that came out of the greater Chicago area built by Swedish builders, like an Ideal by August Carlstedt or a Maurer or a Prairie State built by the Larson Brothers, if I could afford it. It doesn’t really matter if the guitar is playable or not.

 

ARTEC MHFC93

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946, Artec MHFC93-CRLevin Model 32 made in Sweden by Levin in 1946

I’ve finally received my Artec MHFC93-CR from EY Guitar, the order got lost and took 3 months to arrive. Last weekend I got around to install it on my 1946 Levin Model 32 and I’m pretty impressed with how good it sounds for being so inexpensive.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946, Artec MHFC93-CRUnfortunately I had to remove the pickguard, well it was actually quite annoying and always in the way when I played so it was more of an aesthetic loss. I also installed an old vintage strap button while I fitted the pickup so now the guitar is ready to be gigged.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946, Artec MHFC93-CRThe installation was pretty straight forward in the end but it took a bit of figuring things out so I completely forgot to take more pictures. First I made a small hole under the fretboard extension on the right side, where the cable from the pickup could enter the body without being visible. Then I drilled a hole for the endpin jack, just like a do when I install the endpin jacks for my LR Baggs, with a 1/2 inch or 13 mm flat spade drill bit straight through the end block. I measured two cables from the endpin to the f hole, fished them up before I cut them and then soldered them to the endpin while taped to the top for not disappearing inside. Once the cable from the pickup was fished up I checked which was which and then soldered them together and stuck them to the top on the inside with a little clip on the bottom side of the f hole so they can’t be seen. 

Artec MHFC93-CRArtec is perhaps not the worlds fanciest brand, especially not if you judge them by their website, but I like them and they sound very good for being so cheap.

I will get a video up as soon as possible