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1948 Levin Model 1 Deluxe
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Serial #: 204882, 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) Neck depth: .926/1.06, 1st/10th fret
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid Romanian spruce top; solid bookmatched curly black walnut back and sides; solid mahogany neck; ebony fingerboard with scribed pearloid 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 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 learning 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 Model 1 Deluxe, the firm's top-of-the-line offering, a cutaway model which made its debut circa 1947, replacing the previous non-cutaway version. 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 pearloid 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.
Built in the second year of production, this impressive guitar is carved 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 vibrant guitar is also features a neck of solid mahogany, whose strength and light weight have long been preferred by builders such as Bob Benedetto.
Of particular interest is the soundboard, which is braced with a single tonebar running directly underneath the center seam, similar to the single diagonal brace of the legendary the Stromberg archtops. The top is carved to exceptionally fine tolerances, and is beautifully bookmatched of solid Romanian spruce. The neck has a fine full C profile, with smooth low action and a fresh high-precision setup over the solid ebony fingerboard, with pearl block inlays hand inscribed in an ornate floral motif. The gold hardware is original as well, including the elegantly designed engraved trapeze tailpiece, with the addition of a vintage correct bound tortoise pickguard, fabricated from an original template.
At a scant 5 lb. 8oz. (2.52 kg) the guitar is astoundingly light in weight for an instrument with its massive super jumbo body, and is wonderfully balanced on the lap or the strap. Well played and well loved, the instrument is without apparent cracks, and shows a deeply ambered original blonde finish, with scattered pick wear consistent with a long and vigorous career. Played-in over many decades, the instrument is phenomenally open and clear, with simply thunderous bass response and volume to burn: a true horn killer. Finally, the guitar is fitted with its original tan canvas-covered hardshell case. Secured with long leather straps, it's the only one of its kind we've ever seen.
Built only until 1958, the Levin Model 1 Deluxe is an instrument of surpassing quality and peformance, and an exceptional find for the player and collector alike. One only: call now.
Setup: This instrument is strung with medium gauge phosphor bronze strings (.013-.056). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 4/64" to 5/64" 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.
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