Claescaster

Tag: floating bridge

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

Levin Model 46

Levin Model 46, 8-string mandolin, Made in Sweden 1949Levin Model 46 Classic, 8-string mandolin, made in Sweden by Levin in 1949

A couple of weeks ago I found a little Levin Model 46 Classic, 8-string mandolin. This is one of the less fancy ones that Levin made in the 1940’s but it’s still a great little mandolin. Someone has unfortunately changed the machine heads on one side during it’s life but the rest is original. I had a cheap Thomann mandolin before and this is a world of difference, I wonder how good Levin’s top of the line mandolins sound if a simple one like this could be so strong and powerful.

Levin Model 46 Classic
8-string Mandolin, flat back
Body width: 225 mm
Spruce top with birch back & sides
Single-bound top and back, unbound headstock
Unbound walnut fingerboard with pearloid dot inlay
Nickel plated tuners, sunburst finish, one year warranty

Levin Model 46, 8-string mandolin, Made in Sweden 19491949 Levin Model 46, 8-string mandolin, Made in SwedenNow I just have to learn how to play mandolin properly

Levin Model 32

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

I recently got this old 1946 Levin Model 32Levin Model 32 from an eBay seller in Vienna. The guitar has clearly seen better days but I felt she deserved a second chance in life so I got her home, dolled her up and now she is playable again. I had no idea what model it was when I got it and I was actually hoping that it would be a Model 30 from the late 1930’s, they look very similar but it turned out to be a Model 32 from the mid 1940’s instead, which isn’t bad. I guess I just wanted to have a Levin that was older than my 1942 Levin Model 65. It’s pretty close to my 1951 Levin Royal in sound and feel but with a more casual appearance. I guess there was a shortage of tonewoods all over Europe during the war so they used what they got. This one has a hand carved 3-piece Romanian spruce top and you can even see a couple of knots around the f-holes. I don’t really mind, together with all the cracks it’s just adding to that old worn archtop look and feel. The back is really beautiful though and the neck feels great, really fat and chunky as I like. It also has a quite different sunburst compared to what Levin normally used in 1940-50’s. Levin used to copy Gibson’s tobacco sunburst but this one has more of a cherry sunburst.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946

Levin Model 32
Non-cutaway. Body width: 420 mm, body length: 510 mm
Hand carved Romanian spruce top, mahogany back and sides
Single-bound top with unbound f-holes
Single-bound back, unbound pickguard and unbound headstock
Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlay
Nickel plated hardware, sunburst finish and ten years warranty
Available between 1940 – 1947

Levin Catalog 1946
Levin Model 32, here between the model above, the beautiful Model 27 and the slightly cheaper Model 35. I love that the case option offered in the bottom of each ad is a plain textile bag with a zip, really, textile? The list price for the guitar in 1946 was 285 SEK, around 30 Euro. The Royal listed that year at 575 SEK an the top of the line, the Deluxe at 1000 SEK. Taken from a 1946 Levin archtops catalog, thanks to Vintage Guitars Sweden

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946
She looked a bit sad when she arrived, but there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946
First I had to deal with the crack that was running along the whole bottom side, from the upper bout to the endpin. There was also another crack, or hole, that the previous owner had glued in perhaps not the most discrete fashion.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946
I have never attempted to glue anything this big before but there is a first time for everything. I noticed that there was a piece of wood missing so I started with making the hole square and then I fitted a little piece of wood in the exact same size. The main problem I had was that the guitar had been cracked for so long, with the tension of the strings I think, so the whole side had kind of warped. In parts the crack was overlapping in one way then suddenly changed to go the other way. Which meant that when I was trying to close the crack it didn’t line up, at all. I did my best and with a bit of force and a lot a clamps I managed to get it to close at least, even if it didn’t line up perfectly. I know that the correct way of doing this would have been to glue cleats on the inside and perhaps a string coming trough that you can tighten from the outside or even better, magnets, but unfortunately the crack was just over the kerfing which would have made it hard to glue any cleats on top of the kerfing. I also couldn’t figure out a way of getting any magnets inside an archtop, there wasn’t really any way of getting my hands in there.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946
It went ok for being my first time and it seems to be very solid after letting the fish glue cure for 48 hours, I added some extra glue over the old crack too just to be on the safe side. I sanded everything smooth and then lacquered with shellac, I was trying to match the original lacquer but it turned out to be impossible to copy the sunburst. Maybe I can figure out a way and redo this part but at least now the guitar is playable. I buffed up the old lacquer and made it blend with the new shellac by polishing it with metal polish, that always works great on old guitars. It’s the same technique I use for the back of the necks, filling the dents with nitro lacquer and then sand it smooth and buff it up with metal polish. The original machine heads are pretty wonky but they work fine and cleaned up nicely, just like the tail piece, so I decided to keep the guitar all original.

Levin Royal

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

I’m so excited about my new gal, last week I received a 1951 Levin Model 3 Royal. I got it fairly cheap from Jam, a guitar shop in Stockholm and managed to get it to Spain in one piece in less than a week, very impressive. This is my 9th Levin, number 8th was a Goya GG-172 that I received back in June but haven’t had time to fix up yet. I tried one of these Levin orchestra guitars when I was back in Sweden in May and felt both confused and intrigued by it, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to play it like an acoustic or electric guitar. Now I know that you can play pretty much anything on it, it sounds as full and rich as my other acoustic Levin’s but with the playability and feel of an hollow bodied electric guitar. I was actually really surprised how good the bass response was, perhaps because of the hand carved Rumanian spruce top and walnut back, it’s my first guitar with walnut and I really like it. Levin Royal is the 3rd fanciest orchestra guitar that Levin made during the 1930-50’s, with the De Luxe and Solist above it. The De Luxe is massive so I was worried that the Royal would be really big too, Levin Model 1 De Luxe (Body width: 475 mm), Levin Model 2 Solist (Body width: 445 mm) and Levin Model 3 Royal (Body width: 420 mm), but it’s just 2 cm wider than my Levin 174 and the other Goliath sized acoustic Levin’s I have. I’m really happy with it and will definitely look in to the possibilities of electrifying it, without ruining it, so I can use it live with Chest Fever.

Levin Model 3 Royal Made in Sweden 1951
Levin Model 3 Royal Made in Sweden 1951
It’s in pretty good state for it’s age and almost all original, the pickguard is missing and one of the pearloid block inlays on the fretboard has been replaced with a plastic one. The only thing I had to do when I got it was to raise the action, it was way too low for me, polish the frets and even out the ebony fretboard a bit, some of the inlays was sticking up. The neck is pretty straight, it does have a  T-shaped duraluminum truss rod inside but it’s non-adjustable so there isn’t much you can do without heating and reshaping the neck but that’s not needed yet.

Levin Model 3 Royal, Vintage guitars SwedenLevin Model 3 Royal, Vintage guitars Sweden
Taken from a 1948 Levin archtops catalog, thanks to Vintage Guitars Sweden

Levin Model 3 Royal
Body width: 420 mm, body length: 510 mm
Hand carved Romanian spruce top with mahogany or walnut back and sides
4-ply bound top with double-bound f-holes, 4-ply bound back, triple-bound pickguard
Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod
Triple-bound headstock with perloid music sharp sign inlay
Single-bound ebony fingerboard with pearloid block inlay
Grover Sta-Tite style tuners, gold plated hardware
Sunburst or natural finish and ten year warranty

Django Reinhardt at the Aquarium, New York City, 1946
This is how awesome I think I look with my new guitar. Django Reinhardt is playing Fred Guy’s Levin De Luxe backstage at the Aquarium in New York City 1946. © William Gottlieb

How to… carve a bridge

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

Last weekend I decided to make a new bridge for my 1940’s Levin model 65. I actually did the same thing about a year ago but with less success, you can read about it here. This time I had more tools, better material and at least some knowledge of working with wood.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942I started with a rosewood blank that I carved roughly to the right height with my trusty old Mora kniv, a cheap Swedish knife that solves most of my guitar related problems. Then I carved the shape of the edges, I just marked where to start and then carved it in to a rounded slope. I got the top in to a nice triangle shape with a narrow chisel and then cut out the arch in the bottom with a round file. I compared it to the old bridge to get the string spacing right and then just made little groves with a small triangle file. After a bit of lemon oil I was ready to try it out and it worked perfectly.  

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942The final result, a new bridge for not only the oldest Levin I own but the olderst guitar I’ve ever actually had in my hands.

Levin model 65

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

Last weekend I decided to try to improve the playability a bit on my little parlour Levin model 65 from 1942. It doesn’t have an adjustable trussrod, few guitars did before the 1960’s, and would probably benefit from a neck reset but I thought I should start with the easy things first. Like making a new bridge that is a bit lower and that way get the action down and it worked really well. The easiest would have been to just file down the original bridge but I felt I rather make a new one than mess with the old one.

Update: July 31, 2014
I actually carved a new bridge from scratch, you can read about it here: How to… carve a bridge, that worked out ten times better.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Levin Model 65
Body width: 315 mm
Spruce top, birch back and sides.
Unbound top, back and headstock.
Unbound walnut fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlay
Rosewood bridge, brass tuners, nickel plated tailpiece
Dark brown finished neck, back & sides.
Sunburst finished top and one year warranty

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
Since the strings were off I thought I mights as well even out the fretboard a bit and polish the frets. I cleaned the edges of the frets with a toothbrush and then oiled up the fretboard with lemon oil. I managed to cut through the old glue with a razor blade and that way get the old bridge off.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
I think this bridge has been re-glued a couple of times since 1942 and that’s why some of the nitro lacquer came off. It’s hard to tell, it might have looked like that for 60 years under the bridge, who knows. Either way there isn’t much to do about it so I will just try to ignore it for now. If I can’t stand it I can always put the original bridge back. I got a cheap replacement rosewood bridge from eBay, straight from China for 3.50€. Now I just had to get the angle right, Levin always has their floating bridges in an angle, maybe it’s the same for all floating bridges. I copied the old bridge to get the angle right and started to make it as low as possible. Of course I cut my thumb after about 12 sec and had to rethink my methods of getting the bridge lower. In the end it was a combination of knife, a Swedish Morakniv of course, and sandpaper before I oiled it up with lemon oil to get it dark and nice. I read on Swedish forum that a great trick to get this parlour guitars to sound less jangly or rattly is to mute the tail piece. Apparently the main reason why these small bodied guitars sound like they do is because of the rattling tail piece. I muted mine with half a black sock that I tucked in so you can’t see it and it really made wonders to the sound. It’s a lot warmer and more woody now.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
I copied the string spacing from the old bridge, made a notch with a knife and then filed it down with folded fine sandpaper and a round file. I also realised that since I had to take so much off in the bottom on the high E side, the bridge looked really unbalanced so I cut of a chunk on the other side and rounded off all the edges to try to create a nice looking bridge.