Claescaster

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

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

Rickenbacker 330

Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000A Rickenbacker 330 in Fireglo, Made in USA April 2000

Last week I had Sr. Chinarro’s Rickenbacker 330 at home for some minor work. This was actually the first Rickenbacker guitar I’ve ever played, I tried a Rickenbacker 4003 Bass ones but that’s all. I’m not sure why I haven’t been more interested in the brand, they look amazing and a million awesome musicians plays Rickenbacker. Perhaps I got lured in to the Telecaster cave early on and never managed to find my way out. The Rickenbacker 330 was introduced in 1958 and it really feels like it was built in an old fashioned way, perhaps not entirely in a good way. I mean when the electric guitars came in the 1950’s all the different brands had to figure things out for themselves for not infringing anyone else’s previous patents, hence why saddles, pickups and constructions varied so much in the beginning. There are a few solutions on the Rickenbacker that feels a bit weird, like the saddle, pickguard or the fact that they have lacquer over the rosewood fretboard. The problem with this guitar was that it had groves in the fretboard that I had to fill in with lacquer, scrape and then buff out with sandpaper and metal polish, which worked really well in the end. I think I will stick to my Levin orchestra guitars when it comes to hollow bodies but I really enjoyed having this Rickenbacker 330 at home so I could finally try one out. I loved the neck, both thickness and the feel of it and the pickups sounds really great, it’s a very versatile guitar.

Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000
Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000