Claescaster

Tag: Sweden

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 13 Ambassadör

Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950
Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950

I have decided to thin out my Levin collection a bit, I have 12 at the moment, so the first to go will be my beloved 1950 Levin Model 13 Ambassadör. It was restored a few years ago by GammelGura, a great luthier in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. With new bronze frets, a neck re-set, cracks glued and a new bridge was created to improve the intonation, the rest is all original. It even has the sticker on the back of the head from the guitar shop in Örnsköldsvik where the guitar was bought 65 years ago. If you are interested in the guitar send me an email or give me a call, all info can be found on the For sale page.

Levin Model 13 Ambassadör Made in Sweden 1950

Levin Model 13 Ambassadör
Body width: 400 mm, body length: 480 mm, scale length: 640 mm
Spruce top, walnut back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with 18 frets and pearloid dot inlay
Single-bound headstock, rosewood bridge, nickel plated individual tuners
Sunburst finish and 10 years warranty

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.

Chest Fever

Araceli and Claes, Chest Fever session, Barcelona 29-04-2012 © Claes Gellerbrink, photographs can't be used without permission

Last Saturday Araceli and I had another gig with Chest Fever. We recently bought a Bill Lawrence A-300 pickup so Araceli could play her favourite little Tanglewood Premier TW133 guitar and I fitted my L.R. Baggs M1 in my 1968 Goya Model 163 and was very pleased with the result. You can listen to the whole gig on Youtube.

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.

National Day of Sweden

Kung Carl XVI Gustaf 1973Today it’s the National Day of Sweden so let’s celebrate with a picture of the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf from 1973

Hagstrom Viking

Hagstrom Viking, Tobacco Sunburst 2008Hagstrom Viking, Tobacco Sunburst 2008

It’s with a heavy heart that I have decided to part with my Hagstrom Viking. I bought the guitar back in 2010 and have unfortunately not had time to play it as much as I wanted, some Japanese Telecasters got in the way. I had three semi-hollow bodied guitars at one point and kept this the longest, I sold the other two last year. I guess the more guitars you have the more you realise what feels good for you to play. For me, fat necked Telecasters feels really nice to play, I’m a bit gay for old Greco Telecasters from the 1970’s. If you are interested in inherit this Hagstrom Viking from the Claes Collection then get in touch. You can read more about it here for sale, or in Spanish here.

Update: April 4, 2014 The Hagstrom Viking is now sold to Rafa from Cobarde.

Hagstrom, or Hagström as we call it back home, was founded in 1925 by Albin Hagström in Älvdalen, Sweden. They made amazing electric guitars from 1958 to 1983, played by guys like Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Joe Walsh, Dweezil and Frank Zappa to name a few. I have played on a lot of Hagstrom guitars and amps during my teenage years back in Sweden and learned to play bass on my stepdad Sten’s Hagstrom Jazz bass from 1976. I have an fairly mint Hagström HIIN OT from 1975 back in Sweden that I really like. I guess it was out of national pride that I got so excited and bought the Hagstrom Viking when they started to make them again in 2004. They have a few models that are made in the EU, but not in Sweden, and the rest is made in China. I have actually only played my Viking from 2008 so I can’t really comment on the quality of the Chinese Hagstroms today but mine is very well built for the price. I would say that they are better than Gretsch Electromatic, Epiphone and the Ibanez semi-hollow bodied, all in roughly the same price range.

Zappa plays Zappa, Hagstrom ad

Levin information pages

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)Levin guitars, from left to right: 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), might be the greatest Levin collection in Spain.

If there is anything you would like to know about Levin guitars, then Vintage Guitars Stockholm is your best bet. They have the Levin information pages where you can find pretty much every model Levin ever made, serial numbers, history, photos and information. Rikard who runs the place just put up photos of my three latest Levin guitars on their site so now you can find all seven online. Here are the links: Levin Model 65, Levin Model 13 Ambassadör, Levin LT-16, Goya T-18, Levin LM-26, Goya Model 163, Levin Model 174.

Vintage Guitars Stockholm Sweden

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.