Claescaster

Tag: acoustic guitars

Harmony H-162

Harmony H-162, Made in USA
Harmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

I finally put the second Harmony H-162 back together. I got two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 acoustic guitars about 2-3 years ago and it has taken forever to actually find the time to re-set the necks on them. The first one I put together back in November and that one was sold straight away. This one is reserved for a friend of mine but if he decides to get one of my Levin guitars instead then I will put it up for sale. They are really nice these Harmony guitars, wide neck, strong tone and great wood. Harmony used the same wood supplier as Martin back in the day. These were called folk guitars which is a grand concert size, the exact same size as a Martin 000. The Harmony H-162 was produced in Chicago from 1940-1971, this one is most likely from the late 1960’s looking at the headstock. Even though it was an inexpensive guitar at the time they were built with all solid woods, back and sides of selected quality mahogany with a resonant spruce top. It’s a surprisingly well sounding guitar for being a mass produced ladder braced guitar, way better sounding than any Gibson B-15 or B-25 I’ve heard and it cost a third. The neck is pretty wide which makes it extremely comfortable for finger picking. Considering the price of a late 1960’s Martin 000-18, or even a Gibson B-25, the Harmony H-162 is a bargain for a USA made all solid wood vintage guitar.

Harmony H-162, Made in USAHarmony H-162, Made in USAThe Harmony H-162 was missing machine heads, nut and saddle so I cut new ones in bone and added machine heads and some ebony bridge pins.

Levin W-30

Levin W-30 Made in Sweden 1979
Levin W-30, Made in Sweden in 1979

Sometimes I feel like a recovering Levin-oholic who keeps falling off the wagon time after time. I promised myself, and my wife to stop buying Levin guitars but just seems to be unable to. I recently found this beautiful and very unique Levin W-30 in Sweden that I couldn’t resist and had to buy. Now I’ve realised that I probably shouldn’t have. I’m running out of wall space for guitars and I could do with the money for other more pressing family related things, apparently guitars is not a high priority in the joint family account. Therefore I’ve decided to put it up for sale. I believe this guitar to be a rare one off, most likely built by one of the Levin builders for himself and outside of the normal production. They stopped making the Levin W-30 in 1975 so that’s the first sign that this is a unique one. The previous owner bought a lot of parts, material and finished guitars when the Levin factory closed down in 1979, actually a an old man called Friis did who had a music shop in the north of Sweden. When he died and closed his shop the previous owner bought parts of his left-over Levin stock and this guitar was one of them. He claims that it was built in 1979, otherwise it wouldn’t have been around when the factory closed, which makes perfect sense. The original Levin W-30 came with block inlays while this has beautiful snowflake inlays in the bound ebony fingerboard instead. The alpine spruce top and the rosewood back and sides are bound with a five layer wood binding which looks really classy. It’s also treated with a thin layer of lacquer instead of the heavy clear coat that the mid 1970’s Levin W-30 came with. That gives a really open and beautiful sound, very Martin like. The guitar is in very good state but has some small marks around the body. The neck is in perfect condition and so is the frets. The spruce top has had a dry crack professionally repaired, these type of cracks are very common on Levin guitars because of the dry winters in Sweden. The guitar is equipped with an under saddle pickup and ready to play with live. This is a unique 40 years old hand built Swedish guitar for a third of what a vintage Martin would cost.

Levin W-30 Made in Sweden 1979 Levin W-30 Made in Sweden 1979

Levin W-30
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 with 5-ply bound wood binding and 4-ply bound three-piece rosewood back. Mahogany neck with adjustable truss rod. Bound ebony fingerboard with snowflake inlays. Bone nut and saddle. Nickel plated individual Levin stamped tuners. Ebony bridge, natural finish and ten year warranty

LR Baggs Lyrics

Martin HD-28LSV 1999 Made in USAMartin HD-28LSV, Made in USA in 1999

Last week I changed the pickup in my new Martin HD-28LSV. It came with a LR Baggs Anthem SL installed which sounded good but I had a feeling that a LR Baggs Lyrics might sound even better. I’m also not a big fan of having things stuck under the saddle, when I installed the LR Baggs Anthem SL in my 1966 Goya T-16 I felt that the tone died a bit. I’m sure there might be some other pickup system out there that is even better, but for me, nothing beats the Lyrics for the dry and woody sound that I am after. Now I have the LR Baggs Lyrics system installed in my 1981 Sigma DR-41 and my 1968 Levin LT-18, my main guitar for the Claes Anderson Band. I really enjoy this new Martin HD-28LSV and will use it for our gig tonight at La Sonora de Gràcia but I think I will stick to the 1968 Levin LT-18 as my main guitar for playing live, it’s Swedish and just looks nicer on stage. Here is a quick comparison of the LR Baggs Lyrics and the LR Baggs Anthem SL.

LR Baggs Lyrics

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

I recently installed a LR Baggs Lyrics in my 1968 Levin LT-18 and I’m well pleased with the result. This has been my main guitar for the past year and I’ve already tried a LR Baggs M1A, M80 and now a Lyrics. I’ve had a LR Baggs Lyrics installed in my Japan made Sigma DR-41 for about two years but I never really use that guitar since I have so nice Levin guitars to play on. The Sigma sounds fantastic with the Lyrics so I decided to leave it there and buy a brand new one for the LT-18 instead. The LR Baggs Lyrics sounds similar to the LR Baggs M80 but better, more natural and woody. I’ve also had a lot less feedback issues with the Lyrics, the M80 has been a nightmare with a full band on stage. Here you can compare the LR Baggs M1A, M80 and Lyrics fitted in the same guitar, a 1968 Levin LT-18.

Harmony H-162

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

Two years ago I came across a couple of Harmony guitars, two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 acoustic guitars and a late 1950’s Harmony Monterey H1325 archtop guitar. I sold the archtop pretty much straight away since I got two Levin archtops at the same time. Both of the Harmony H-162 were in desperate need of a neck reset and were unplayable so they got packed away for the first year and a half and then in April I got around to remove the necks and now last week I finally managed to reset the first of the two. This Harmony H-162 feels a lot like my 1965 Goya T-16, but of course ladder braced instead of X-braced. These were called folk guitars which is a grand concert size, the exact same size as a Martin 000. The Harmony H-162 was produced in Chicago from 1940-1971, this one is most likely from the late 1960’s looking at the headstock. Even though it was an inexpensive guitar at the time they were built with all solid woods, back and sides of selected quality mahogany with a resonant spruce top. It’s a surprisingly well sounding guitar for being a mass produced ladder braced guitar, way better sounding than any Gibson B-15 or B-25 I’ve heard and it cost a third. The neck is pretty wide which makes it extremely comfortable for finger picking. Considering the price of a late 1960’s Martin 000-18, or even a Gibson B-25, the Harmony H-162 is a bargain for a USA made all solid wood vintage guitar. This guitar is now for sale.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sOnce the neck was reset all the hard work was done. The rest was just cleaning, polishing frets, oiling fretboard, repairing some binding, installing machine heads and creating a new truss-rod cover.

Harmony H162, 1959 Harmony catalogue
I got myself two late 1960’s H-162 so now I will start on the second one and get that neck reset as well. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue

How to… reset a neck

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

This is a project that could have been done in two days but has taken two years. I guess it’s partly my fault, I wasn’t really sure how to reset a neck so I kept putting it off. I also have a 1.5 years old daughter and she is like a black hole when it comes to making time disappear. Anyway, now it’s done and everything worked out pretty great. I steamed off the necks back in April and then I had a lot of gigs and moved house in the middle and then last week I finally managed to get the guitar back together.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I drilled a small hole under the 14th fret and tried to steam it off that way but it worked really badly so in the end I got frustrated and just removed the fretboard and got the neck off that way instead. I glued the fretboard back straight away so I wouldn’t mix the parts between the two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 that I had lying around at home. Once the neck angle was corrected I glued the neck back with Tite­bond 506/​4 classic wood glue.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
The late 1960’s Harmony H-162 in parts, it was actually quite easy to reset a neck. It’s pretty worn but the solid woods are really nice, mahogany back and sides with a two piece spruce top.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I cleaned up the dovetail and heel with a chisel and then adjusted the neck angle with a file, it felt less risky than doing it with a chisel. I didn’t have to remove much for getting the action down and making it playable again.

 

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

 

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.