Tag: guitar

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)


Levin LS-16

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

I was offered to buy a 1963 Levin LS-16 from a Swedish collector just before Christmas last year. Of course I jumped on the chance, not only is it a really rare bird, most of them were branded Goya S-16 and sent off to the US, but I had also been looking for another guitar like my dad’s old 1966 Levin LT-16 for quite a while. Unfortunately this Levin LS-16 got stuck in Sweden for a year, my mum didn’t want to send it so I couldn’t bring it back to Spain until I went back home for a funeral now in November. In the time of it’s absence I managed to find and restore a really nice sounding 1965 Goya T-16  so now I suddenly have 3 Grand Concert sized Levin guitars from the mid-60’s. Not that I complain, I really like both the sound and the playability of these guitars and this last one is probably the best sounding of all of them. According to Vintage Guitars Sweden, the most resourceful site about Levin guitars, the main difference between the Levin LS-16 and Levin LT-16 is the bracing pattern. The LS is supposed to be ladder braced but mine is X-braced just like the LT-series, I think that became standard in the early 1960’s. They also have different machine heads, dot inlays in the fretboard and I think that the LS-series have a bit more V-shaped neck profile.

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

Levin LS-16 / Goya S-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. Metal Levin truss rod cover with a star and “1900”. Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with centred pearl dot inlay. Rosewood bridge, nickel plated strip tuners. Natural finish and ten year warranty


Goya T-16

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

I finally managed to get another Levin LT-16, just like my dad’s old guitar that I learned to play on as a kid. His is a 1966 Levin branded one and this one is from 1965 and has the Goya logo on the head stock. These guitars normally don’t come up for sale that often, I guess because they are really well sounding and perhaps the 000-size is very sought after too. It took two years but finally I managed to get my hands on one, in bad shape when it arrived but now fully playable again.

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

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

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965There was quite a lot of work on this one. First I re-hydrated the guitar for a week, just a wet sock in a bowl inside, which made the cracks close up quite a lot. I removed the bridge and the pickguard and glued all the cracks on the top and reattached the back that was coming loose. I also flattened the top, it had a bit of a belly that I managed to get down with a flat piece of wood covering the top that I clamped down for a couple of days.

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965I re-glued the bridge and replaced the 10 cm of missing binding. Someone had also sanded down the neck, which I hate, so lacquered it with a couple of coats of Nitro and sanded it smooth. 

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965Levin guitars normally lack side dots for the 9th and 12th fret, which always confuse me while playing, so I added 3 dots. I reattached the pick-guard and cleaned up the original Van Gent machine heads. Levin uses a rather clever bolt-on neck system which makes neck-resets very easy. You just loosen the two bolts inside and then you can sand down the heel, it takes time but it was easier than removing the whole neck.

Rubenca, Zaragoza

Rubenca Spanish Guitar Zaragoza 1960'sRubenca Spanish Guitar made in Zaragoza in the 1960’s

My guitar playing days started with electric guitars and I never really cared much for acoustics until I moved to Spain in 2010 and now acoustic guitars are my main passion in life. Another thing I never used to pay much attention to was Spanish guitars but after moving here I have occasionally come across some that I really liked, especially my Francisca Montserrat but also the Juan Estruch I got for my friend Rafa. This is one of them, a Rubenca Spanish guitar made in Zaragoza most likely in the 1960’s. The only info I found about the brand is that Rubenca is music store in Zaragoza that is still in business so I assume these guitars were made somewhere in the area and sold as their own brand, unless they made guitars themselves back then. Like most Spanish guitars from the 1960-70’s it has some parts that is way above what you expect, like all solid woods, how well they sound and especially the fancy mother of pearl inlays around the soundhole on this Rubenca. At the same time I’m always surprised how cheaply looking the fretboards tend to be, why they never bothered to smooth out the frets, why the braces seems to be cut with a freaking axe or why the machine heads never work after 50 years. I found this Rubenca when I was down in the south a couple of weeks ago to see my wife’s family. I bought it for the fancy inlays, I’ve never seen anything like that on a Spanish guitar before, but was straight away taken by the the sound and quality of the guitar. The original machine heads still work, the neck is straight and the action is still ok for a guitar that lacks trussrod. I actually didn’t have to do much more than to give it a good clean when I got it. This guitar is for sale, even though I like it a lot, but I can’t justify having more than one Spanish guitar since I hardly play them.

Rubenca Spanish Guitar Zaragoza 1960'sRubenca Spanish Guitar Zaragoza 1960'sThe Rubenca has it’s wear and tear, like a glued crack in the side, but still, the beautiful inlays and the patina makes it’s all worth it

Guitarras de artesanía, Artículos J.A.R.

Guitarras de artesanía, Artículos J.A.R. Mataró 1970'sGuitarras de artesanía, Artículos J.A.R. Spanish guitar made in Mataró outside Barcelona 1970’s

I found this guitar in a Cash converters last week and felt so sorry for it. It had a broken head, a cracked brace, loose back and looked so sad that I felt I had to save it and bring it back to life. A week later she is up and running and sounds pretty damn sweet.

Guitarras de artesanía, Artículos J.A.R. Mataró 1970's

I couldn’t find any info about the brand so if anyone knows anything more about it then please get in touch. It has a solid spruce top and what looks to me like solid maple back and sides. It says “Guitarras de artesanía” which should indicate hand crafted but I’m not sure, quality wise it feels pretty much like the Juan Estruch I got for my friend Rafa’s birthday. Perhaps all Spanish guitars were more or less hand crafted back then, the big business guitar factories hadn’t really kicked in yet. I have put this guitar up for sale since I mainly play steel string acoustic guitars and on top of that I have a Francisca Montserrat that I really like.

Guitarras de artesanía, Artículos J.A.R. Mataró 1970'sFirst I had to try to clean her up, I have never seen a top with that much grease and grime. I used a normal furniture spray and a toothbrush, it worked like a charm. When I had cleaned the fretboard I polished the frets and oiled up the fretboard with lemon oil. She came out looking pretty descent after that.

Guitarras de artesanía, Artículos J.A.R. Mataró 1970'sNow I just had to take care of the broken head and glue the back. I have actually never glued a head on before but I assumed that you do something like this. I used to thin pieces of wood on each side to stabilise it and keep things in place, and also for not damaging the head any further with the force of the clamps. I guess it could have worked with normal wood glue too but I used my trusty old fish glue that I use for pretty much everything when it comes to guitars. It came out looking very solid after being clamped for 48 hours. I also glued the open back and a cracked brace, which was pretty straight forward. The machine heads was broken on one side so I replaced them with the leftovers from the Juan Estruch I fixed last year. They don’t match exactly but at least they are from the same time and region, that’s close enough for me. Compared to the state I found her in I think she is looking pretty good. More images can be found here.

How to… strip a guitar body

How to strip a guitar, Sripping a guitar body

I never got around to mention this but a few months ago I helped my friend Wolf to strip his black Fender Squier Strat body. Everything went fine and it wasn’t too hard, well to be honest it was rather tedious and time consuming but the result was at least good in the end. We were pretty surprised that the body looked so good stripped with nice grain and all, I expected 8 pieces glued together and a lot of knots and crap and that’s why they chose to lacquer it black, but clearly not. Now he is going to burn in some nice country inspired patterns and then we will just ad a coat of clear lacquer.

Sripping a guitar body
The heat gun worked pretty well for the black top coat, but there was a red coat under that was almost impossible to get rid of. In the end I used my Japanese Shinto saw rasp for getting through it, especially on the sides, no other rasp or file seemed to bite on it. Once we got rid of all the lacquer it was just down to a lot of sanding and reshaping the edges a bit that I occasionally went a bit hard on with the saw rasp. If you are tired of the colour of your guitar body it could be an idea to strip it but please be aware of the effort involved and that it will smell like burning napalm and toxic poly lacquer that will make you dizzy and freak out the cat. This way of using a heat gun and saw rasp works pretty well but it would probably have worked fine without the heat gun too and that way we would have skipped the unhealthy plastic fumes.


How to… reglue a bridge

Francisca Montserrat, Barcelona
Francisca Montserrat Barcelona, Spanish guitar 1960’s

I recently reglued the bridge on my Francisca Montserrat and just wanted to show how easy it is if anyone out there feels a bit scared of doing it yourself. It’s very straight forward and only takes a couple of minutes.

Francisca Montserrat, Barcelona
Heat a spatula on a normal clothes iron, it’s good to keep a finger on it so it doesn’t get too hot and scorch the lacquer. Insert the spatula under the bridge, start with the edges and work your way to the middle to loosen the bridge. I prefer to reheat often instead of working with a really hot spatula from the start, less risk of damaging the top that way. Be careful when you do the last push so you don’t break it off, it’s supposed to come off without any direct force if the spatula is warm enough to loosen the glue. Once the bridge is off, clean the guitar top and the bottom of the bridge with some sandpaper to get a smooth surface. I earlier thought that it was good to scratch the bottom of the bridge with a knife to get something for the glue to grip to but have later been told that’s an old myth and it’s better to keep the surfaces smooth. Apply plenty of glue on both the guitar top and the bottom of the bridge, I always use fish glue for my guitars. Put the bridge in place, apply some pressure with your hands and remove all the extra glue that comes out on the side and then apply a couple of clamps to keep it in place over night. I recently got myself a couple of deep throated, 200 x 195 mm, Klemmsia clamps from German eBay that worked great.

Francisca Montserrat, Barcelona

Paul Bigsby

Paul Bigsby
Paul Bigsby died on June 7, 1968. While most guitarists know him because of his wildly popular Bigsby vibrato, most are not aware that Bigsby is widely considered to have crafted the first true solidbody electric guitar. Bigsby was a motorcycle mechanic during the 1940s in Southern California. He became friends with noted country star Merle Travis when the two met at a motorcycle racetrack. Travis discovered that Bigsby was a notorious tinkerer, and asked Paul if he could fix a vibrato tailpiece on a Gibson L-10. Bigsby ended up replacing the vibrato with a better one of his own design. Travis then asked Bigsby in 1946 if he could build an entire electric guitar, complete with pickups that wouldn’t feed back. Using a design from Travis, Paul created what may have been the first solidbody electric guitar. The guitar had a single cutaway and a headstock that featured all the tuning pegs on one side instead of the standard three per side arrangement. This was similar to a design used a centrury before by German luthier Johann Stauffer. It would later show up in a very similar form on the Fender Stratocaster.
Taken from National Guitar Museum

Merle Travis Paul Bigsby guitar
Merle Travis guitar built by Paul Bigsby in 1946, the first guitar that Bigsby built

If you want to read more about Paul Bigsby there is plenty of info at Premier Guitar, or you can by the book.

Update: December 18th 2014, I just found this pretty cool video about Paul Bigsby’s third guitar he built in 1949 for “Butterball” Paige

Hondo II P-bass

Hondo II P-bass
It took 3 months but now it’s finally ready, Verushka’s Hondo II P-bass

We had such a bad luck with the pickups we ordered for Verushka’s Hondo II P-bass. First we ordered a set of Artec P-bass pickups my favourite Hong Kong store EY Parts, but they never arrived, we waited for more than two month and finally got refunded instead. Then we decided to order from Custom World in Holland but that took ages too. Now we got everything we needed, full sized 250K Alpha pots, Orange drop cap, cloth covered wire, new jack and the Artec pickups. I put it together the other night and got it to work fine. I’m still really impressed with these Hondo II basses, the electronics and hardware are pretty cheap but that’s easy to change, and it’s so worth it for these amazing necks.

Hondo II P-bassIt was pretty straight forward to change the electronics. I checked the Seymour Duncan’s wiring diagram for P-basses and followed that instead of the old wiring.

Hondo II P-Bass
Hondo II P-Bass
I really liked the look of the Hondo II I got for Dani but this is ten times better for Verushka, all black just like her

How to… fit a LR Baggs M1

Morris W-40 1973 My new Martin D-45 copy, a Morris W-40 Made in Japan by Terada in 1973

There was a bit of work that needed to be done when I first got my Morris W-40. First of all I polished the frets, cleaned her up and oiled the fretboard. Then I needed to take care of the action which was too low, imagine that on an acoustic guitar. There was a slight forward-bow on the neck which made a bit of rattle when I played solos in the middle of the neck, at least when I hit the strings hard. I adjusted the trussrod and gave her a slight bow the other way, meaning that cowboy chords still sound beautiful and the action is still very low for being an acoustic around the 12th fret. I changed the machine heads to a pair of Grover tulip copies in gold, maybe not the best ones but it looked so much nicer than the original plain ones in chrome. Then I fitted a strap button in gold, I can’t stand having to tie the strap to the head of the guitar. I’m still waiting for the Nitrocellulose lacquer I ordered so I can fill in the three dents on the back of the neck, which is going to be a new adventure since I have never done anything like it before. Last step was to fit my new L.R. Baggs M1 soundhole pickup. I’m getting pretty used to fit endpin jacks on acoustic guitars now so it was pretty straight forward even though it was a bit more hard work on this one. I’m not sure if it was because the wood is older, or the type of wood used in this, it’s Brazilian Rosewood and maple in the 3-piece back, Now it plays and sounds amazing, I’m really pleased with it.

Fitting LR Baggs M1
I prefer to fit the endpin jacks by hand, with a small round file and then even out the hole with sandpaper when it’s big enough

Morris W-40 1973
Morris W-40 1973

Morris W-40 Made in Japan by Terada in 1973, just look at that Brazilian Rosewood and maple 3-piece back