I have been trying to find a 100-years old Levin parlour for some time now, something built before 1920 and with a pin bridge. If anyone has one that they would like to sell then please get in touch, email@example.com. I would also be interested in any guitar that came out of the greater Chicago area built by Swedish builders, like an Ideal by August Carlstedt or a Maurer or a Prairie State built by the Larson Brothers, if I could afford it. It doesn’t really matter if the guitar is playable or not.
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.
Unfortunately 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.
The 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 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.
Rondo, built by Levin in Gothenburg Sweden in 1960
Today is wife’s birthday so tried to be a good husband and got here an old guitar. I found her a little Rondo, a mail order guitar built by Levin in the late 1950’s. I have actually never seen one of these before so I was quite exited when it arrived. It surely feels, plays, smells and sounds like a Levin. Rondo was made by Levin for Musik AB Westin & Co, a music store and publishing company in Stockholm with a large mail order business. It looks pretty similar to a Levin 119 and was made for both steel and nylon strings, this was pretty common on smaller Levin guitars in the 1950-60’s. It’s a very nice little guitar to play and it has more volume and sounds sweeter than I expected, perhaps because it’s fan braced instead of ladder braced. My wife seemed very happy with it too when she got it this morning.
Non-cutaway. Body width: 320 mm, body length: 455 mm
Body depth: 95 mm, scale length: 595 mm
Spruce top, maple back and sides, fan braced
Single-bound top, unbound back, unbound headstock
Unbound rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlay
Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod, rosewood bridge, stainless tuners
Natural finish, one year warranty
It was in pretty good shape when it arrived. I had to glue a couple of small cracks, polish the frets, oil fretboard and machine heads and give her a good clean but that was it. The only problem was that this had to be done when my wife wasn’t around so I’ve been a guitar repairing ninja for the last week.
Finally, it took two years but now I’m at last the proud owner of a lovely Goya T-23. When I bought my first Levin back in the summer of 2013 I started to search Vintage Guitars Sweden for different models to study and learn everything I could about Levin. There was 3-4 different guitars that I fell in love with straight away, Levin LM-50 with all it’s bling, Levin De Luxe the king of archtops, Levin 174 which I later found, and of course Levin LT-23, the cowboy version of Levin LT-18. I love my 1966 Goya T-18 so I was pretty sure that this Goya T-23 would sound pretty sweet too, but it sounds even better than I could have imagined. My friend Wolf and I had a little jam last Saturday and it seems like the T-18 and T-23 were made to be played together, I will try to sort a video. I love everything about this guitar, the ebony fretboard with it’s block inlays, the flamed maple back and sides, the amazing cowboy pickguard and plastic details, the bridge shape and most of all, the sound. It has a Gibson like bass response but with a Martin like mid and treble, kind of the best of both worlds. It was well worth the wait, the next holy grail to find would be a Levin LM-50.
I haven’t done any work to this guitar yet, I bought it from a seller in Franklin, Indiana, USA and since it seemed really dry when it arrived I wanted to wait and see how it reacts to the subtropical heat of Barcelona first. Most likely I will have to sand down the heal a bit to get the action down and perhaps even remove the binding on the neck and file down the frets since the fretboard has been dry and shrunk so the frets are poking out a bit. Hopefully the humidity here will help a bit and if not I will sort this issues after the summer. It’s very playable as it is and almost in mint condition with minimal wear.
Levin LT-23/ Goya T-23 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 X-bracing, 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
Levin catalogue from 1967. Now I finally have all four of them, the two top as Goya and the bottom two as Levin, but mine are from 1965-66 so they have a proper saddle instead of the adjustable saddle screws. Goya T-23 (1966), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin LT-16 (1966), Levin LT-14 (1965). Taken from Vintage Guitars Sweden
It arrived with the original Goya hang tag, an unused 1960’s leather strap and this awesome looking black alligator hard case that I think is original too. Taken from my Instagram
Last week I went a bit bananas and got a 12 string Levin. It wasn’t really planned but sometimes you make a best offer on eBay when you are slightly tipsy and then occasionally you become the new owner of some old guitar, like a 1978 Levin W 12-36. I wasn’t even sure if I liked 12 string acoustics or not, I mean they do make a terrible loud noise and seemed a bit too hippie / folk for me, but then I remembered David Crosby who really likes 12 strings and I really liked David Crosby, so that was it. I got it last Friday and played it quite a lot over the weekend and I think I really have grown to like it. I mean you can’t really play it like a normal guitar since it makes too much noise and the notes tend to just eat each other, so you need to space out your strokes a bit. Once you get a hang of it it’s a pretty powerful and interesting instrument to have in the arsenal even if you wouldn’t use it everyday.
I bought the guitar from a German eBay seller,with a name in Spanish, compravender. I’m not sure if he had fixed it up himself or if it came straight from a luthier but the frets were polished and it was well set up so I didn’t have to do anything to it when I got it. The only downside is that the guitar has suffered a broken headstock at some point but it’s really well repaired and seems solid enough.
This Levin W 12-36 was made in 1978 and seems to be the latest knows to Vintage Guitars Sweden. This is also the “newest” Levin I have, they stopped making them in 1979. I haven’t seen the Martin Organisation label before, or the CF Martin trussrod cover.
Levin W 12-36
12-string, non-cutaway. Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm, fingerboard width: 52 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top with X-bracing, mahogany back and sides, 5-ply bound top, single-bound back, mahogany neck with two adjustable truss rods
Black plastic truss rod cover, unbound headstock with decal logo, unbound rosewood fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlay, rosewood bridge.
Black and chrome plated individual Levin Schaller tuners
Natural finish and five year warranty
I recently got this old 1946 Levin 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
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 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
She looked a bit sad when she arrived, but there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed
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.
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.
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.
The documentary film about Levin that Andreas Brink has been working on for the last couple of years is finished now and can be bought from Anakron film. The cost, including shipping to Europe, is 22€ and I think you just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy, he could probably ship outside Europe too if you ask. There are a few people in the film that I half know via the internet, we hang on the same Swedish acoustic guitar forum. I’m sure it will be an hour of pure Levin galore.
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.
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
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