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1942 Levin Deluxe
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Serial #: 134(x4x), stamped on top edge of headstock
Body size at lower bout: 18 5/8" (475 mm) Scale length: 24 3/4" (630 mm) Nut width: 1 10/16" (42mm) Body depth: 3 3/8" (85 mm)
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid Romanian spruce top; solid bookmatched curly black walnut back and sides; solid mahogany neck; ebony fingerboard with scribed mother of pearl block fingerboard and peghead inlay; 5-ply body, neck, head and pickguard binding, triple bound f-holes; solid bone nut.
Hardware: Original gold hardware includes engraved trapeze tailpiece, open back Grover Sta-Tite style tuners, adjustable compensated ebony bridge. Vintage correct aged bound tortoise pickguard.
Notes: We have often wondered why, out of the plethora of steel string guitar factories in postwar Europe, the instruments produced by the Levin company of Sweden stand out head and shoulders in terms of quality, construction and design. Now we know. Seems that late in the 19th century, company founder Herman Levin spent a number of years perfecting his craft in the US, eventually opening his own factory in New York. But unlike his fellow countrymen, the Strombergs and the Larsons, Levin returned home in 1900, bringing his New World instrument designs and production methods with him.
By the end of WWII, the Levin company offered a full line of fretted instruments, including at least ten different models of archtop guitars, which they had been building as early as 1929. By the time the company officially closed a half century later, Levin had produced over 30 different archtop models, establishing themselves as the premier European builder of orchestra guitars.
This rare example is the Levin Deluxe model, the firm's top-of-the-line offering, which made its debut circa 1937. A super jumbo orchestra guitar comparable to the Gibson Super 400 or Epiphone Emperor, the Deluxe was carved of all solid European tonewoods, ornately inlaid with scribed pearl position markers, and fitted with engraved gold hardware. With its massive 18 5/8" lower bout, the Deluxe is exceeded in size only by the fabled and costly Stromberg Master 400.
This scarce wartime example is from 1942, and is a rare version of the Deluxe, with back and sides of solid black walnut. A hard, dense tonewood particularly noted for its brilliance and clarity, black walnut is similar in tonal response to Brazilian rosewood. Costly and challenging to work, black walnut was used on prewar Epiphone Broadway and Spartan models, both famed for their exceptional projection and headroom. This gleaming guitar is also one of the first in its series to feature a neck of solid mahogany, whose strength and light weight have long been preferred by builders such as Bob Benedetto. The parallel braced soundboard is carved to exceptionally fine tolerances, and is beautifully bookmatched of solid Romanian spruce. The neck has a fine full C profile, solid in the hand, with fine pro frets, smooth low action over a solid ebony fingerboard, and pearl block inlays hand inscribed in an ornate floral motif.
Maintained in superb condition, the instrument is remarkably free of pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear. The deep sunburst finish is all original, and the hardware includes the elegantly designed engraved trapeze tailpiece, and a vintage correct bound tortoise pickguard, fabricated from an original template. A single tight grainline crack near the treble bridge foot has been neatly cleated years ago, and the top centerseam resealed in the tailpiece area, with two short cracks at the back waists both rock solid as well.
At just 6 lb. 43oz. (2.84 kg) the guitar is phenomenally lightweight for a super jumbo body, with a deeply resonant voice, excellent balance, and sparkling natural reverb in the treble register. Perhaps the most iconic portrait of the great Django Reinhardt shows him playing an earlier example of this very model, loaned to him for his 1946 US tour by Duke Ellington guitarist Fred Guy. So rare a guitar is the '42 Deluxe that even the invaluable Levin Information Pages of Stockholm (for whom we are indebted for much historical information above) lists only one other reported example at this writing, a fully refinished guitar from this model year.
An exceptional opportunity to own and play a stunning piece of transatlantic musical history. One only: call now.
Setup: This instrument is strung with medium gauge nickel strings (.013-.056). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 5/64" to 6/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.
Case: Original Levin fitted plush lined hardshell case.
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