Claescaster

Tag: Levin Goliath

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

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-14

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

It has been an extremely good Christmas, not only did I manage to find a 1979 Fender Stratocaster, I also received a little Levin LT-14 from 1965. It’s the smallest of the 1960’s Levin guitars and is roughly like a Martin 00 in size. I bought it about two weeks ago from a guy in Heidelberg, Germany and then it got stuck in some warehouse over Christmas until the Spanish post service could be asked to deliver it. It’s an awesome guitar, pretty much like my dad’s old Levin LT-16 but a tiny bit smaller and with a bit less bass but with more clarity in the upper register. It’s also ladder braced instead of X braced which is not necessarily a bad thing in this case, it gives it a pretty great sound. The weirdest thing is that it’s so well kept for being 50 years old, close to mint and it can’t have been played much in it’s life. Well that’s going to change now because I really like it, especially for finger picking and I’m sure it will mature and sound better and better the more it gets played. This is my 10th Levin, or 11th if you count a Levin LS-16 that I have waiting for me in Sweden. Perhaps it’s time to stop buying old Levin guitars but I can’t, they are just too good to turn down. I have liked some of my Levin guitars less and then one day they surprise you and just sound amazing. I guess the more you play them, the better they sound.

Levin LT-14 / Goya T-14 Made in Sweden 1965 It’s the first time I get a 50 years old guitar home and I have to do nothing to it. There are actually no scratches to the top, that’s just in the grain of the spruce.

Levin LT-14 / Goya T-14
Grand Concert size: Body width: 360 mm, body length: 465 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
Unbound rosewood fingerboard with bass side dot inlay
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Rosewood bridge, matte natural finish and one year warranty

Western gitarrer, Levin / Goya catalogue 1965 Now I actually have all three, the Levin LT-18, well it’s a Goya T-18 but close enough, my dad’s old Levin LT-16 and this new little Levin LT-14. Taken from a 1965 Levin catalogue. Thanks to Vintage Guitars Sweden

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 at the moment, 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)

Goya GG-172

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

I feel really ashamed, I’ve had a beautiful Levin at home since June without fixing her up. There was a lot of things to got in the way, me building a Telecaster from scratch being the main one, but also that I had a lot of different ideas of what to do with this guitar that in the end never happened. This is my 8th Levin, or actually it’s number 9 in the collection since I got my 1951 Levin Royal after. It’s an old worn Goya Model GG-172 from 1970, according to Vintage Guitars Sweden. You can check how old your Levin / Goya is here, Levin serial numbers / Goya serial numbers. It plays very well now after my little restoration and starts to sound better and better, I have a feeling that no one has played this for a very long time. The Goya GG-172 is grand concert sized Levin, the same size as my dad’s old Levin LT-16. They are 38 cm wide just like a Martin 000, they are 15″ which is 38.1 cm. It’s a very nice size to play, slightly smaller than a normal Dreadnought but with decent bass from the solid mahogany back and sides. I bought the guitar via eBay from a pawn shop in Browns Mills, New Jersey, I freaking love the internet. I used the Global Shipping Program which worked fine this time as well, it took 2 weeks just like it did when I bought my Goya 163. I really wished that the Japanese sellers would start with this as well since it was such a mess when I bought my K.Yairi TG-40, it took 40 days to get through customs, with the Global Shipping Program you pay all the import taxes and charges straight away so it just goes straight trough customs without any delays. It’s a really nice little Levin but since I have 9 of them now and actually another on the way, I might have to consider selling it to make some room. If you are interested send me an email to claesgellerbrink@gmail.com

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970

Levin Model 172 / Goya Model 172 / Goya GG-172
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 with individual height adjustable plastic saddles
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Matte natural finish and ten year warranty

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970 I started with taking the guitar apart. The neck needed a reset, the pickguard was loose and the previous owner had bolted the bridge to the top. I used a spatula that I heated on a normal clothes iron, worked like a charm.

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970 I filled the holes in the bridge and then glued it back. I filed down the heel to get the neck angle correct and get guitar playable again. I re-glued the pickguard and reshaped the top on the saddle screws.

How to… install side dots

Francisca Montersat
Francisca Montserrat with her new side dots

I get really confused when I play on guitars without side dots. You are playing your cowboy chords and everything is fine and then suddenly you want to play a bit of solo up on the 12th fret and you realise that there are no markers above the 5th fret and you have to guess where to put your hand. Well on a 14th fret acoustic guitar you know roughly where the 12th fret is, 2 above where the body and neck joins but say that you need to quickly find the 11th, or 9th fret. For me position markers, or side dots, are essential. Flamenco guitars seems to never have any side dots at all and a lot of Spanish or Classic guitars seems to have forgotten them too. I guess if you are used to it, if you have played your whole life without them maybe it’s fine but I come from the world of electric guitars with clear indications where you are on the neck. My Levin guitars only have side dots up until the 7th fret, it’s just my Goya T-18 that has markers up to the 12th fret, so I decided to change that. I had to order some new Jescar frets from my favourite eBay luthier supplier in the States, Philaluthiertools, so I got some 2mm side dot position markers in black as well. I was a bit scared to drill in to thin strip of binding on my 40-50 years old Levin guitars but after practising on my Francisca Montserrat I felt ready and just did it. It went pretty well, no real drama. It was interesting to see what the fretboards was really made off when you saw the sawdust. Some of the Levin’s had normal rosewood freatboards but the Levin 174 has a ebony fretboard, how fancy pants is that? My dads old Levin LT-16 is supposed to have a rosewood fretboard but I think that sawdust looks very dark for being normal rosewood.

Francisca MontersatFirst I installed 3 side dots on my Francisca Montserrat just to warm up. There might be some Flamenco purists saying that I’ve ruined this guitar now but I think it was a fairly discrete modification that will make it hundred times easier for me to play it. I just drilled a 2mm hole, same as the plastic side dot, about 3-4mm deep. I didn’t use any ruler, I felt that my eyes would be the best judge to make a visual estimatation and get them to line up. I made a little mark with a black pen and then when I was happy with that I made a little pilot hole with a nail so the drill wouldn’t slip. I put some super glue in the end of the side dot stick, stuck it in and then cut it off with a pair of pliers. I got it smooth with a razor blade and then sanded it down with 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit paper, the same technique I use for repairing lacquer damage.

Levin LM-26, Levin LT-16
All my Levin’s got new side dots installed, here is a 1959 Levin LM-26 on top and a 1966 Levin LT-16 below. I have to say that the dots I put in on the 9th and 12th fret on my dads LT-16 looks better than the original one on the 7th fret that was installed 48 years ago at the Levin factory in Gothenburg.

Levin 174

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

My latest acquisition, a 1972 Levin Model 174. The story how I got this guitar is pretty amazing. I wrote a post about Levin guitars back in August 2013 when I had just started to collect them. In the end of the post I mentioned that I would love to find a Levin Model 174, it’s basically a Levin LT-18 but with a massive head. There is something about that huge head that I find very appealing, I guess it reminds me of old an archtop guitar from 1930-40’s and it’s almost a bit Art Deco. Three months later, in the end of November, I got a comment from a Danish guy called Orla saying that he had one for sale. We started to email each other and he told that a few days earlier he had seen a guy about to throw a guitar case in a skip so he had gone up to him and asked if he could have it instead. Orla took the case home, opened it and found a 1972 Levin Model 174 in pretty good shape inside. He Googled the name and model and pretty soon found my blog post saying that I was looking for one. Since Orla doesn’t play guitar himself, he just wanted to save it from a certain death, he contacted me and offered me to buy it and I’m very grateful that he did. It was a bit scary to buy a guitar from a guy I didn’t know who had contacted me through my blog, it felt a bit fishy somehow. A part of me thought it was a Nigerian email scam in disguise and another part said that I should trust the good in people, especially a Northern neighbour like Orla. In the end I decided that it was an offer I really couldn’t turn down, especially since most of the 174’s I had seen for sale were all Goya labelled and made later in the 1970’s. It took some time to get the guitar down to Spain, we had some logistic issues but finally it arrived about two weeks ago and I was stunned. Since Orla doesn’t play he couldn’t give me any info about what state the guitar was in, he had sent me some pictures but it’s pretty hard to get an idea if it’s even playable from just that. Luckily it was in a really good state and it both sounds and feels great.

Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972

Levin Model 174 / Goya Model 174
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 headstock with mother-of-pearl inlay
Single-bound ebony fingerboard with bass side pearloid block inlays
Rosewood bridge with individual height adjustable plastic saddles
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Natural finish and ten year warranty

Introduced circa 1969 as a replacement for LT 18

Levin Model 174 Made in Sweden 1972I didn’t have to do much to it, the action was really good as it was. Which was very lucky because this 174 doesn’t have the Levin bolt-on neck system, they stopped with that in the early Seventies. The original Van Gent machine heads had been changed at some point, probably in the 1970’s, to Schaller’s and I really don’t like these type of buttons so I changed them for Wilkinson WJ-309 in gold, to make it look even more Art Deco. I also installed an endpin jack so I can use it live with my LR Baggs M1. I had to clean it a bit, polish the frets and oil the fretboard but overall it was pretty good from the start. There was a note hidden under the trussrod cover saying, Her blev sedlen lagt 4th of February 1995. I assume that’s referring to that the nut was raised a bit 19 years ago, something I need to redo at some point because they seem to have used some paper like material instead of bone.

Goya Model 163 (1968), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin Model 13 (1950), Levin LT-16 (1966), Levin Model 65 (1942), , Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 174 (1972)The whole Levin family, Goya Model 163 (1968), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin Model 13 (1950), Levin LT-16 (1966), Levin Model 65 (1942), Levin LM-26 (1959), Levin Model 174 (1972).

Goya 163

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968
A very early Goya Model 163, they were introduced in 1969 but the serial number puts this one to 1968. That would make it the earliest known example on the Vintage Guitars Sweden site. Levin serial numbers / Goya serial numbers

I thought I might as well post some images of the Goya 163 I received back in January. There was some work to be done, actually quite a lot. First I had to reset the neck to get the action down and then I had to remove the bridge and redo the saddle screws. I cut a new pickguard over the weekend, well it’s not perfect yet, I’m still looking for a better material but it will do for now. I bought this Goya from a girl called Marilyn Moser in Maynard, Massachusetts. She had used the guitar for some live gigs in the New York area but gave up on it because of the high action, it was fairly unplayable when I got it. The guitar came with a nice handwritten note to me, the new owner, that’s why I got curious to find out a bit more about her. Here are links to some of her music and her awesome 1960’s blog.

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

Levin 163 / Goya 163
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 rosewood fingerboard with bass side pearloid dot inlay
Rosewood bridge with individual height adjustable plastic saddles
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Sunburst finish and ten year warranty

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968
I still haven’t found a good pickguard material. Well the red plastic that I happened to find in the street is actually perfect but who wants a red pickguard. I’ve managed to find 0.8 mm thick matt black plastic but I need something around 1-1.5 mm and preferable in high gloss jet black or even better in red tortoise.  I fitted a strap button in the usual place, and then I painted the new bone nut orange to match the original Levin Galalith nut.

Levin Goya Model 163 1968
Update: March 21, 2014 The pickguard material I ordered from China looked a lot classier than expected so I cut in to shape and put it on

How to… remove a bridge

Levin / Goya 163 individual height adjustable plastic saddles
The old plastic saddles before I removed the bridge on my Goya Model 163 from 1968.

I recently had to remove my first bridge on an acoustic guitar, after removing my first neck it just felt like a natural next step. It turned out to be both harder and easier than I first thought it would be. I needed to do this for two reasons, first because the bridge started to come loose, it felt like the glue had dried up and started to fall apart. Second, I wasn’t too excited about the extremely low individual height adjustable plastic saddles, as Levin calls them, that the previous owner had left me. They were too low to adjust and made some strings sound muted and dull. I watched a Youtube clip before I started with Julyan Wallis, who happened to be working on a Levin guitar as well, and learned a few good tricks. He was heating up the spatula on an normal clothes iron and that way managed to loosen the old glue under the bridge. It worked extremely well.

Goya 163 bridge removal
I heated up the spatula on a normal clothes iron and touched it with my fingers to make sure it didn’t get too hot, I was scared to scorch the lacquer. As soon as you loosened the corners and worked your way around the whole bridge you can keep the tip of the spatula quite hot if you are quick to get it in under the bridge and not resting it on the lacquer. This could have been such a smooth and and easy job if I would have realised earlier that that saddle screws went all the way through and was actually screwed in to the top as well, something that kept the bridge secure even when all the glue was loosened. I tried over and over and even managed to damaged the lacquer in two places in my desperate attempts to get the bridge off. Since I couldn’t get a grip of the saddle screws, two was filed down smooth and the others were too low to hold on to with any pliers. I had to heat up a screwdriver on a candle, I should probably have used the clothes iron, and then melt the tip in to the saddle and that way get a grip and unscrew them. Once all the saddle screws were out the bridge came off straight away. It could have been a cleaner removal if I had realised that the saddles were attached to the top but still, I’m pretty pleased with the result for being my first time.

Goya 163 bridge removal
I painted the wood where the finish had come off and then added a bit of nitro lacquer to seal it. Since I had to burn the tip of the saddles to get them out I thought the best I could do in order to save as much material as possible was the flip them over and reshape the bottom instead. I used a normal hand file to shape the saddles, I made the tip both higher and wider to get a better grip with the pliers when I adjust them. Once the shape was good I rounded them off with my fret crowning file. I glued the bridge back in place with fish glue and a couple of clamps and let it set for 24 hours. It worked pretty well, the tone is better and I can now easily adjust the string height like Levin intended 46 years ago.

How to… reset a Levin neck

Levin LM-26 1959A fairly unplayable 1959 Levin LM-26 before I reset the neck

I’ve been very lucky and managed to get my hands on a couple of really nice Levin and Goya guitars over the last year. I would probably have thought twice about getting any random 50 years old acoustic since the action is normally a bit of an issue but with Levin it’s quite easy to reset the neck. They have been using a bolt-on neck system since the 1950’s which makes the job pretty manageable.
How to reset a Levin neckRemove the two bolts that attach the heel with the neck block, you can see them if you look inside. A normal Philips no 2 screwdriver fits if you don’t have a square Allen key. The heel is normally not glued in so you will feel it loose as soon as you remove the bolts. If not, apply a bit of pressure upwards to loosen the heel. Now you will be able to fit a sanding strip under the heel and can start to sand it down and that way change the neck angle and lower the action. Apply a bit of pressure on the neck and just pull, it might take 40-60 pulls on each side so so be patient. Check the neck angle with a straight edge once in a while so you don’t take it too far. As long as the straight edge doesn’t go over the bridge it should be fine. I have done the sanding strip trick on two guitars so far, my Goya T-18 and a Goya 163. On my Levin LM-26 I felt it was better to remove the whole neck so that made the sanding process even easier.

Goya 163 neck removal
Update: January 27, 2014
I needed to sand down the heel a bit further on my Goya Model 163 and realised that the fretboard started to come loose. It looked and felt just like the bridge, like the glue had dried up and started to crack and fall apart. I tried a new trick that I learned on Youtube, to heat up the spatula instead of heating the neck, like a did on my Levin LM-26. My God, this was so easy and quick, I think it took me 7 min to remove the neck. When I had sanded down the heel a bit further I glued the neck back with some fish glue and a couple of clamps.

Levin bolt-on neck