Claescaster

Tag: rosewood bridge

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

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

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.

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.

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.