Claescaster

Tag: Bjärton

Levin

I made a post about my Levin guitars back in 2011 when I started to collect them but it feels like it’s time for an update. Here they are:

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

Levin Goya F-11 Made in Sweden by Levin 1963Goya F-11 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1963

Rondo Model 29 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1960Rondo Model 29 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1960

Levin LT-14 / Goya T-14 Made in Sweden 1965Levin LT-14 Made in Sweden 1965

Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965
Goya T-16 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1965

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

Levin LS-16 Made in Sweden 1963Levin LS-16 Made in Sweden in 1963

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

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

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

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

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966Goya T-18 Made in Sweden by Levin 1966

Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966

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

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

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

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970Goya GG-172 Made in Sweden by Levin 1970

Levin Goya 163 Made in Sweden 1968 #307008Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden by Levin 1968

Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972

Levin Model 3 Royal Made in Sweden 1951Levin Model 3 Royal made in Sweden 1951

These Levin guitars used to be a part of my collection but I had to sell them to make space for other Levin guitars:

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946Levin Model 32 made in Sweden in 1946

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950

 

Hagström Western 6

Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978Hagström Western 6 Missouri, Made in Sweden 1978

Last week a new Hagström acoustic arrived from Sweden. Just like my 1975 Hagström B-60 this was made by Bjärton in the south of Sweden.  Hagström / Bjärton guitars feels pretty different from Levin, a bit more boxy somehow, less refined. Having said that they are very well sounding guitars with a pretty unique tone, not quite the Gibson bass but that’s the best comparison I can think of. This Hagström Western 6 comes with more or less a Hagström Swede electric guitar neck. Same head shape, inlays and ebony fretboard, I love ebony. These actually came not only with ebony fretboard and bridge, they had ebony nut and saddle too. Mine has a rosewood bridge for some reason but it doesn’t seem to have been re-glued so I assume that someone at the factory took the wrong bridge or just preferred rosewood. Everything can happen in a guitar factory, hence all the mismatched mystery guitars that doesn’t exactly match the catalogue images. I really like this guitar, it looks awesome, sounds great and has something quite Swedish Country about it, a bit like me I guess.

hagstrom-western-6-made-in-sweden-1978-1
hagstrom-western-6-made-in-sweden-1978-2
Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978The guitar has quite a few battle scars, I presume it has lived through a Swedish midsummer or two. The head has been glued at some point, looks to have been done a very long time ago. There are quite a lot of scratches on the top and the back of the neck had some dents but I filled them so now you can hardly feel it. Notice the double sticker inside, one for Bjärton and then a Hagström on top.

Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden catalogue 1978Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978Hagström Western 6 in a 1979 German Hagström catalogue

Hagström Western 6
Specifications:  Body width: 410 mm, body length: 510 mm, body depth: 120 mm, scale length: 630 mm. Spruce top with X-bracing, mahogany back and sides. 4-ply bound top and bound back. Unbound ebony fingerboard and ebony bridge, mahogany neck.  Matte natural finish and 10 year warranty.  Offered in two versions: Fully acoustic (Western 6) or with pickup and controls (Western 6 EL).  Marketed in Germany as Missouri.  Introduced around 1977.

Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978Hagström Western 6 and 12 in a 1979 Hagström catalogue

I tried the guitar last night at Alfa en Viu and it sounded pretty good, even with just a cheap removable Belcat pickup

 

Happy New Year!

It’s been a great year for the Levin collection. Let’s hope that 2016 will be even better. Happy New Year everyone!

Levin CollectionLevin LT-14 (1965), Levin Goya T-16 (1965), Levin Goya T-18 (1966), Levin Goya T-23 (1966), Levin Rondo Model 29 (1960), Levin LT-16 (1966), Levin LS-16 (1963), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1942), Levin Model 13 Ambassadör (1950), Levin Model 32 (1946), Levin Model 3 Royal (1951), Levin W 12-36 (1978), Levin Goya Model GG-172 (1970), Levin Goya Model 163 (1968), Levin Model 174 (1972)

Hagström B-60

Hagström B-60 Made in Sweden 1975Hagström B-60, made in Sweden by Bjärton in 1975

I guess people might have noticed that I’m quite obsessed with Levin guitars, but there are actually other Swedish guitar brands that I care about too, like Hagström Crafton, Bjärton and Lugnås. I recently found my first steel string Bjärton, I have had a nylon string since my mid teens but never actually played on a steel string Bjärton until now. This is an awesome looking Hagström B-60 or Bjärton B-60 as it was called in Sweden, it’s the same guitar but since Hagström was more famous abroad they used that name for the export models. They were built by Bjärton in Bjärnum in the south of Sweden. It’s a pretty great guitar, loosely modelled on a Gibson J-50, Bjärton made a legendary Gibson J-45 copy in the Sixties called Hagström H-45 or Bjärton J-45 which was used by David Bowie and a lot of others. That model came with or without factory installed pickup and they even made a 12-string version. This Hagström B-60 is slightly more modest and looks pretty basic. It’s a nice sounding guitar, even though it has a bolt-on neck which should kill the tone completely, I guess the solid woods and massive neck block is helping with the sound.

Hagström B-60 Made in Sweden 1975Hagström B-60 Made in Sweden 1975

Hagström B-60 / Bjärton B-60
Body width: 410 mm, body length: 510 mm, body depth: 120 mm
Spruce top with X-bracing, mahogany back and sides
Mahogany bolt-on neck, unbound rosewood fingerboard
Single-bound top and back, rosewood pin bridge
Van Gent machine heads, natural finish and 10 year warranty
Introduced: ca 1972, available for export under the Hagström brand

Hagström B-60 Made in Sweden 1975The guitar was in pretty good shape when it arrived. I did the normal cleaning, polished frets and oiled the fretboard and then installed a bone saddle and ebony bridge pins to improve the sound

Van Gent tuners, Hagström B-60 Made in Sweden 1975My main challenge was to try to get the Van Gent machine heads clean. The guitar smells like it has spent the past 40 years in the company of an old pipe smoker so I assume that’s actually tar and nicotine that has built up over the years. I’m an old ex-smoker myself so to me it smells like pure heaven.

Levin

Goya GG-172 (1970), Levin Model 13 (1950), Goya Model 163 (1968), Levin Model 174 (1972), Levin Royal (1951), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1942), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin LT-14 (1965), Levin LT-16 (1966) The Levin family back in the days, from left to right: Goya GG-172 (1970), Levin Model 13 (1950), Goya Model 163 (1968), Levin Model 174 (1972), Levin Royal (1951), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 65 (1942), Goya T-18 (1966),  Levin LT-14 (1965), Levin LT-16 (1966)

Last week I managed to become the proud owner of two new, or rather very old, Levin guitars. With some persistence, a huge dose of luck and some money changing hands I managed to get them both here safe and I already love them. I have always been a huge fan of Hagström, also built in Sweden, but didn’t know how much I loved Levin until I figured out that my dad’s old guitar was actually a Levin. It doesn’t have any markings on it but you can read about my Levin epiphany here. The problem with old guitars is that they quite often forgot to mention the model anywhere, so you have to do a lot of detective work. Luckily for me there is an awesome guitar shop, Vintage Guitars Stockholm, that has more or less everything Levin has ever made listed on their Levin information pages. They also have some info on Hagström and the brands built by Bjärton, and the rest of the brands built by Levin: C. F. Martin & Co, Clangiton, El-Goya, Goya, Kay-Tone, Klangola, Torres, Zandelin, Nivello, Rondo. I managed to track mine down to a Levin LT-16, Levin Model 65 and the amazing Levin Model 13 Ambassadör. These Levin guitars are a bit thin sounding compared to other guitars, well I don’t have any other guitars that are 70 years old, but still. Then again they aren’t full sized so no wonder that they lack a bit of bass compared to a dreadnought, but they are very light and extremely resonant in the higher register so they are perfect for finger picking. Either way I’m super happy to have found four so old and amazing guitars that have been built in the country where I grew up, Sweden.

Maybe I should add a little disclaimer here, this was originally posted back in August 2013, the Levin collection and my appreciation and understanding of the brand has grown a bit since then.

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

Levin Goya F-11 Made in Sweden by Levin 1963Goya F-11 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1963

Rondo Model 29 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1960Rondo Model 29 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1960

Levin LT-14 / Goya T-14 Made in Sweden 1965Levin LT-14 Made in Sweden 1965

Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966Levin LT-16 Made in Sweden 1966

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965
Goya T-16 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1965

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

Levin LS-16 Made in Sweden 1963Levin LS-16 Made in Sweden in 1963

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

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

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

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

Levin Goya T-18 Made in Sweden 1966Goya T-18 Made in Sweden by Levin 1966

Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966
Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966

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

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

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

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970Goya GG-172 Made in Sweden by Levin 1970

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden by Levin 1968

Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972

Levin Model 3 Royal Made in Sweden 1951Levin Model 3 Royal made in Sweden 1951

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946Levin Model 32 made in Sweden in 1946

These two Levin guitars used to be a part of my collection but I had to sell them to make space for other Levin guitars:

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950

Herman Carlson Levin was a young furniture maker that moved from Gothenburg to America and got a job at a guitar manufacturer in 1888. He soon started his own company in New York building instruments and while he was back visiting Sweden he realised that the demand was even higher there. He moved back home and in 1895 started Herman Carlssons Instrumentfabrik in Gothenburg. They were only five instruments makers in 1903 when they built their 1000th guitar but they soon grew bigger and bigger. The factory was one of the best in Europe and between 1904 and 1912 Levin received many awards including the gold medal in Madrid in 1907 for best guitar as well as the exhibition’s Grand Prix price. By 1936 the 100,000th instrument had left the plant and Levin was marketing a successful line of archtop guitars, like the world famous Levin De Luxe 1938. Shortly before 1940 Levin employed a crew of 45 in facility of a 1000 m². In the 1950s, Levin launched a line of inexpensive guitars intended for schools and novice guitar players. These guitars were of lower quality than the rest of the Levin line up. In 1952 Jerome Hershman a guitar distributor from America noticed Levin guitars at a trade show in Germany and convinced the Levin company to let him market their guitars in America under the name Goya, Levin apparently sounded too Jewish. He also got Hagström to make some fine electric guitars for the US market as well. These nylon stringed Levin / Goya guitars got quite popular in the late 1950’s and especially with the folk singers in the 1960’s when they started to produce steel stringed guitars on a typical nylon stringed body. When Goya was sold in 1968 the Goya export was approximately 70% of Levin’s total production. They had a huge contract with Goya that they lost in this sale, something that took really hard on Levin and they had to close down the second factory they opened in Lessebo and let half of its work force go. A lot of companies got bought and sold over the next few years, Kustom bought Goya, Dude bought Kustom and in the end C. F. Martin & Co bought them all. In 1973 when Martin bought Levin, it became the headquarters for Martin Guitars and their Japan import brand Sigma Guitars in Europe, as well as actually producing a run of some 200 Martin D-18 acoustic guitars, which were labelled “LD-18 – Made In Gothenburg, Sweden. These are quite rare and expensive today. The last “real” Levin built in Sweden left the factory in 1979, they are still building nylon stringed Levin guitar in Sweden to this day. In 1982 Svensk Musik AB bought the name Levin and the remaining stock from C. F. Martin & Co and in 2000 they changed their name to Svenska Levin AB. They are now producing steel stringed guitars in the far east and have a small batch of nylon stringed guitars being built in Sweden. Here is the whole story about Levin together with some amazing photos, Levin History.

Django Reinhardt at the Aquarium, New York City, 1946
Django Reinhardt is playing Fred Guy’s Levin De Luxe backstage at the Aquarium in New York City 1946. © William Gottlieb

Nick Drake playing a Levin guitar
Nick Drake playing a Levin guitar

Hootenanny Singers
Hootenanny Singers sure liked their Levin guitars. Björn Ulvaeus, the guy on the far right got a bit famous later on with his next band, ABBA.

Levin was pretty much the main brand for acoustic instruments in Sweden back in the days. We also had Bjärton but they mainly made nylon stringed guitars and of course Hagström but they were more famous for their electric instruments, even though they built some really nice acoustic guitars together with Bjärton like the legendary Hagström J-45.

Levin guitar factory
I’m not sure if it was the handsome chap to the left that built my Levin Model 13 Ambassadör. The Levin guitar factory on Kvillegatan 9 in Gothenburg in the late 1940’s.

Levin catalogue 1968
Taken from the Levin catalogue 1968

In 1972 negotiations between the C. F. Martin & Co. and Levin results in that C. F. Martin & Co. purchases Levin in June 1973.
In 1972 negotiations between the C. F. Martin & Co. and Levin results in that C. F. Martin & Co. purchases Levin in June 1973 and Levin got to make some 200 Martin D-18 acoustic guitars, which were labelled “LD-18 – Made In Gothenburg