5/09/2013

c.1963 Levin-made Goya S-18 Dreadnought Guitar




Whoosh! ...this thing is a cannon!

This is a dreadnought made in Sweden by Levin and sold in the US under the Goya name. The most common guitars seen over here made by Levin are the classical line of Goyas with G-10s being in abundance. It's far rarer to see the steel strings and even rarer still to see one of these big old dreadnoughts (though Levin called it a "Goliath" shape).

I finished this up in-between packing boxes for shipping and answering unreturned calls and emails and am happy I did because I got to take it upstairs for song-time with the family after the shop closed.

Over on the European market these guys are getting to be somewhat valuable and for good reason. This thing eats the vast majority of D-18s I've played for breakfast, while also cutting in on a J-45's turf of sweet fingerpicking/folk strumming goodness. It's a curious instrument, braced and built with the outward appearance of a D-18 but sporting features akin to 1940s Gibsons. The straight bridge evokes J-35s, the 24 3/4" scale is spot-on for Gibson, and the upper bout shoulders are a little more rounded than the usual Martin. This definitely gives it a hybrid tone that gives it tremendous oomph for bluegrass picking yet intimate, sustained sweetness for fingerpicked singing.


The top is solid spruce and is free of cracks. It's bellied-up behind the bridge a bit, but how many 60-year-old guitars aren't? And fortunately, that belly is stable strung with 12s.

The back and sides are solid flamed maple and I'm pretty sure this explains some of that Gibson-y tone leaking out of this guitar's Martin edifice -- maple is intrinsic to that J-200 tone and provides lingering sustain and a sweeter overall balance to the tone.


Rosewood-veneer headstock with cool Levin metal trussrod cover and "Goya" branding at the top. Isn't that shape lovely?

Original plastic nut.


The bridge is ebony and has a bone saddle that is (lightly) glued in. The front edge of the bridge has a repaired hairline crack to it that doesn't go through. I replaced the (non-original) plastic pins with a set of ebony ones.

Also, the bridge was reglued (per the fellow who sold this to me) some years back and is stable in service.


Isn't that soundhole rosette wonderful? That's the original pickguard, too.



The fretboard is ebony and is bound with side dots. Ironically, the face dots are faux-pearl rather than the real stuff.


The truss works great and the action is 3/32" at the 12th fret on the bass and 1/16" on the treble -- perfect. This guitar also has a bolted-on neck with two bolts adjustable at the neck block on the inside. This makes any reset needs a breeze and has kept the neck-angle perfect over the guitar's lifetime (there's plenty of saddle and string height over the top of the guitar).

I forgot to mention the work done to the guitar, which included: cleaning, fret level/dress/setup, new bridge pins, and cleating of a seam separation on the back lower bout (more on that below).


Here you can see some of that gorgeous flamed maple on the sides...


The neck profile is fast and furious: a mild C shape that recalls late-50s Gibsons blended with 60s Martins. It's super quick and sports a 1 11/16" nut.



Ah, maple beauty!


The original Levin tuners have been lubed and work great.




Here's a 4-5" hairline crack on the back. At its bottom (where it meets the edge) there was a small seam separation which is probably why this crack happened. Curiously, the crack actually doesn't go through the wood at all (it's like a stress fold in a surface) and when I addressed the seam, I also drop-filled the crack with some glue, then clamped it all up. It's come out of that perfect and stable.


Overall the guitar is fairly clean, though it does show some buckle-wear on the back and small scuffs and scratches here and there.


The flamed maple used all over is so nice.

Original strap button... but also, everything on this guitar is original save those new bridge pins.


S-18 label with 15xxxx serial that dates it to 1963.

1 comment:

Diamond Eyebrary said...

Robin Williamson's psychedelic painted guitar was a Levin drednought. Incredible String Band!