The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1
    Well I finally found a Levin archtop floating around my area and was able to pick it up at what I think was a fairly decent price!

    After talking to the seller, it turns out the guitar has been in his family since 1944 and was passed down two generations until it sat in its case for the last 20 years or so. This doesn't mean the guitar is in great shape, but it's pretty neat when you can trace an instrument back to its origin.

    The fretboard has some pitting, but surely not as bad as the last guitar I almost bought. Frets will need a fret level or perhaps replacing. The bridge had slots that were terribly deep and the high e and b strings were choking. After a thorough clean to get rid of all the gunk on the fretboard/frets, a new set of strings, and filling in the string slots using the baking soda/super glue trick, the guitar now sings!

    The guitar has some scars - a gouge on the top, some holes from previous pickups, and the pitted fretboard, tuners are not original, but all-in-all I'm very happy with the purchase. I'm going to need to find a way to get a working pickup installed. And it would probably be nice to have a pickguard installed. The guitar came with the old pickguard and pickup that are in pretty bad shape.

    I was entertaining the idea of slapping on a Dearmond rhythm chief somehow and finding an appropriate pickguard with hardware. Does anyone have any experience they would like to share or general advice for an endeavor of this sort, or where I could find a pickguard in the EU?

    As a side note, this guitar has a wonderful acoustic sound and is loud! I don't have much experience with vintage archtops, but I have played a few now - some old L7's, a 30's Epiphone, and a few German archtops, and this thing hangs with the best ones I've played. And for less than 1/10th the price I'm seeing these old Gibsons go for!



    1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134539-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134546-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134642-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134534-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134527-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_124031-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134517-jpg1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-20220519_134507-jpg

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  3. #2

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    A DeArmond pickup should certainly work, if you don't like the original, or if it doesn't work. I would fill the holes in the sides of the neck, using small dowels and glue, although you could leave a couple if they fit the De Armond rod holes and they aren't too big. If they are too big, you can use wooden toothpicks glued into the holes to make them smaller and usable. Probably, filling all of them and adding new ones in the proper places would be better. Or you can just mount the pickup with putty such as Blu-Tack, without using a rod.

    I don't know of a good source for a pickguard, because I don't like them on archtops. I prefer using thumbwheel controls mounted inside the f hole with mounting tape, instead of having them on a pickguard. I use some Blu-Tack to hold the pickup in place, otherwise it flops without a pickguard to hold the end opposite the rod. But if you prefer having a pickguard that's up to you, but I don't have source.

    The tuners are certainly replacements, and not the original style, but they should work. Whether you change them out for the period-correct tuners is up to you. I don't know exactly what Levin originally used. I don't see this as a pressing need in the short term, but it's not my guitar.

  4. #3

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    Looks like the one sold from Lund, if so congrats and indeed a very reasonable pricing

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    A DeArmond pickup should certainly work, if you don't like the original, or if it doesn't work. I would fill the holes in the sides of the neck, using small dowels and glue, although you could leave a couple if they fit the De Armond rod holes and they aren't too big. If they are too big, you can use wooden toothpicks glued into the holes to make them smaller and usable. Probably, filling all of them and adding new ones in the proper places would be better. Or you can just mount the pickup with putty such as Blu-Tack, without using a rod.

    I don't know of a good source for a pickguard, because I don't like them on archtops. I prefer using thumbwheel controls mounted inside the f hole with mounting tape, instead of having them on a pickguard. I use some Blu-Tack to hold the pickup in place, otherwise it flops without a pickguard to hold the end opposite the rod. But if you prefer having a pickguard that's up to you, but I don't have source.

    The tuners are certainly replacements, and not the original style, but they should work. Whether you change them out for the period-correct tuners is up to you. I don't know exactly what Levin originally used. I don't see this as a pressing need in the short term, but it's not my guitar.


    That sounds like a good idea with filling the holes first on the neck. I'm not particularly set on using a DeArmond per se but it seems like a period-appropriate solution that would also sound ok. The original pickup has some issues - the cable is frayed and is about to snap off for one, and the output jack is some strange threaded connection from days past. I figured it would be easiest to find a different solution.

    I like the idea of using putty. Who needs more holes? I also saw the monkey-on-a-stick solution for the DeArmond pickups which seems pretty neat. I don't have any experience with installing electronics on guitars so I have to figure out where to mount the output jack and controls in a way that looks nice. Do you have your output jack in the endpin using the thumbwheels?

    I think I'll hang onto the tuners for now, they work and stay in tune. I'm mostly interested in getting this thing playing well and with a pickup so I can gig with it. I'm also a little ambivalent regarding the pickguard, but I thought it could be a way to mount the controls and output jack. I haven't yet found a place to source one and I can live without one if it ends up being costly.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    Looks like the one sold from Lund, if so congrats and indeed a very reasonable pricing
    Thanks! That's the one. Not too many archtops pop up down here and I was happy that this one did. So nice to try out a guitar in person compared to holding your thumbs on an internet purchase.

  7. #6

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    I prefer an endpin jack, but there are many ways of getting the job done. There are small endpin jacks available which externally are the size of a normal endpin, using a small 1/8" (3.5mm) plug, as well as the standard size. I'm not completely convinced that the 3.5mm connection is strong enough for reliable use, but some people do use it. There are other installation methods, though, and they mostly work, better or worse. It's mostly personal preference.

  8. #7

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    Congratulations, and play it in good health!

  9. #8

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    Congrats, these Levins are among the best European guitars of their time !
    The higer models I have seen used Grover tuners, lower grades had Van Ghent

    1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-levin-royal-jpg

    Your pickup is the model usualy fitted at the factory

    1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-1950_levin_wingtone_catalog_page-jpg

    I don't know where you live but it would not be difficult to find a skilled luthier in Europe to make you a repro of your pickguard . Franck Cheval made me a perfect repro for the Recording King of my avatar.

  10. #9

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    Wonderful and congratulations on the lovely guitar. My main squeeze is a 1952 Levin Royal - these guitars have their own voice that I adore.

    Mine also came with some serious battle scars - but I love the thing.

    I had a pickguard made by a local luthier, and was planing to use it for pretty much the same purpose you are - but ended up enjoying the guitar more with the pickup arrangement as shown below. It's lying around and not getting much use - and I'd be happy to send it to you, but mine is a later cutaway model, so a slightly different shape.

    The pickup is a Rautia guitars slimmy jazz, mounted on by putty, like sgosnell suggests. I tried it as a temporary solution to check out how it sounds and it worked so well I saw no reason to drill any holes. And very stable even in a gigging environment. The mounting hardware is the "panique jazz" assembly, which is based on the old dearmond control box. The knobs are some temporary ones I had lying around, which I find hideous, but will replace soon . And the bonus of such a set up is that I can take everything off/on and have the guitar either be a fully acoustic instrument, or electrified within 20 seconds flat.

    For what it's worth - this pickup is actually loosely based around your wingtone. I reached out to Rautia to make a repro of the kjell pickup originally, but he struggled to make it work, so suggested something based on the wingtone. Air coil pickup, if I remember correctly. Sounds absolutely beautiful.
    Attached Images Attached Images 1944 Levin Royal - pickup/pick guard tips?-img_20220521_195607-jpg 
    Last edited by sys; 05-21-2022 at 03:36 PM.

  11. #10

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    And one tangential but experience based tip - if you ever have to have any work done on that nut - make sure it's cut pretty deep and reeeaaallly well. The odd shape of the headstock is beautiful, but creates a fair amount of pressure in all directions, which threw a couple of guitar techs who worked on my guitar off. I had some annoying binding issues at the nut until I figured it out - but a well cut nut and some pencil graphite and the thing works perfectly.

  12. #11

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    What a beauty! The shadow of the old tuners on the back of the headstock looks like individual open gear Grovers, as shown in the photo above from JFranck. You can get modern reproductions of them and they should fit right in.

    That pickup, however, is a classic in its own right and would be worth seeing if it could be repaired and brought back to life, assuming it does not work now.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    What a beauty! The shadow of the old tuners on the back of the headstock looks like individual open gear Grovers, as shown in the photo above from JFranck. You can get modern reproductions of them and they should fit right in.

    That pickup, however, is a classic in its own right and would be worth seeing if it could be repaired and brought back to life, assuming it does not work now.
    I agree with Cunamara to try as much as possible to restore the Wingtone which is the most historically correct .
    And especially (at least for me !) according to this article it was created by Anderson and Wärngren to reproduce the tone of Charlie Christian !

    Scandinavian vintage archtop guitars by Mikael Jansson – Schlaggitarren

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by sys
    Wonderful and congratulations on the lovely guitar. My main squeeze is a 1952 Levin Royal - these guitars have their own voice that I adore.

    Mine also came with some serious battle scars - but I love the thing.

    I had a pickguard made by a local luthier, and was planing to use it for pretty much the same purpose you are - but ended up enjoying the guitar more with the pickup arrangement as shown below. It's lying around and not getting much use - and I'd be happy to send it to you, but mine is a later cutaway model, so a slightly different shape.

    The pickup is a Rautia guitars slimmy jazz, mounted on by putty, like sgosnell suggests. I tried it as a temporary solution to check out how it sounds and it worked so well I saw no reason to drill any holes. And very stable even in a gigging environment. The mounting hardware is the "panique jazz" assembly, which is based on the old dearmond control box. The knobs are some temporary ones I had lying around, which I find hideous, but will replace soon . And the bonus of such a set up is that I can take everything off/on and have the guitar either be a fully acoustic instrument, or electrified within 20 seconds flat.

    For what it's worth - this pickup is actually loosely based around your wingtone. I reached out to Rautia to make a repro of the kjell pickup originally, but he struggled to make it work, so suggested something based on the wingtone. Air coil pickup, if I remember correctly. Sounds absolutely beautiful.

    Beautiful guitar! I am a little envious of the cutaway, still getting used to not having one.

    Thanks for all the tips! It sounds like it might be a good idea to give a go with the Wingtone pickup. The wire is hanging on for dear life so I will probably need to open it up and see what's what. I don't have any experience with instrument electronics. Maybe it's time to buy a soldering iron...
    And yes, the string angles coming into the nut are pretty wild. I will keep that in mind when it's time to work on the frets and fretboard as I will probably go for a new nut then as well. Thanks for the heads up! And thanks for the offer on the pickguard. I'm aiming for the cheapest route to get this thing amplified and playing well so the pickguard might wait until last.

    Neat control box! I'll have to give my compliments to the maker next time I see him - had no idea he made these over the years I played in Panique. Probably a lot cheaper than an original DeArmond!

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    What a beauty! The shadow of the old tuners on the back of the headstock looks like individual open gear Grovers, as shown in the photo above from JFranck. You can get modern reproductions of them and they should fit right in.

    That pickup, however, is a classic in its own right and would be worth seeing if it could be repaired and brought back to life, assuming it does not work now.
    Thanks! I was able to find some Grover tuners now that look about right and I will bookmark the page for when it's time. It sounds like I should probably try to get this wingtone pickup a chance. I might have to watch some youtube soldering videos!

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by JFranck
    I agree with Cunamara to try as much as possible to restore the Wingtone which is the most historically correct .
    And especially (at least for me !) according to this article it was created by Anderson and Wärngren to reproduce the tone of Charlie Christian !

    Scandinavian vintage archtop guitars by Mikael Jansson? – Schlaggitarren

    Nice article thanks! The consensus seems to be to give this wingtone a chance, I'll see if I can take it apart and see what's wrong with it!

  17. #16

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    Very cool guitar and a worthy project! Congratulations on your new guitar!

  18. #17

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    Congrats Nick! A fine guitar for a fine player. May she inspire your playing for many years to come.

    Years ago, I had a Levin classical that was a superb instrument. I have played a few of their archtops over the years and they have their own vibe to be sure. I would restore the old pickup and have a new pickguard made (there are a few guys who do that sort of thing including our own Deacon Mark here in the USA ). Putting on a set of Grover repros seems cool as well. A worthy addition to your stable!

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by littleknicky
    Nice article thanks! The consensus seems to be to give this wingtone a chance, I'll see if I can take it apart and see what's wrong with it!
    If you do take it apart and have time, it would be nice with a picture of the inside. I didnt manage to find any online, and they are not so common.

  20. #19

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    If you have no soldering experience, I would strongly advise you to practice on something else, whatever metal pieces and wires you can find, different sizes and gauges, until you can reliably repeat it. It's very easy to damage a pickup beyond repair with bad soldering technique.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by littleknicky
    Neat control box! I'll have to give my compliments to the maker next time I see him - had no idea he made these over the years I played in Panique. Probably a lot cheaper than an original DeArmond!
    Ahh small world.! Yes, he was a delight to deal with.

    Good luck with the guitar! If you are so inclined, give us an update when you get that pickup going

  22. #21

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    That is a beautiful guitar. I have a humble Levin 335 acoustic, which was basically a student model. Despite that it has great projection and tone acoustically. I have a Dearmond 1100 reissue fitted on mine. If I had your guitar, I'd be inclined to put the same on. They sound really good.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Congrats Nick! A fine guitar for a fine player. May she inspire your playing for many years to come.

    Years ago, I had a Levin classical that was a superb instrument. I have played a few of their archtops over the years and they have their own vibe to be sure. I would restore the old pickup and have a new pickguard made (there are a few guys who do that sort of thing including our own Deacon Mark here in the USA ). Putting on a set of Grover repros seems cool as well. A worthy addition to your stable!

    Thanks Marc! I'm still on the lookout for an ES-175 but this will hopefully keep me busy for a while.

    Yes, restoring the pickup sounds like the best route. If I don't like it, I can always swap it out. I'm looking forward to seeing how it sounds amplified.

    The hard part is waiting around, my luthier is out of town and I'd really like to get these frets leveled and get a proper setup.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    If you do take it apart and have time, it would be nice with a picture of the inside. I didnt manage to find any online, and they are not so common.

    Will do!

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    If you have no soldering experience, I would strongly advise you to practice on something else, whatever metal pieces and wires you can find, different sizes and gauges, until you can reliably repeat it. It's very easy to damage a pickup beyond repair with bad soldering technique.
    That's good advice. I haven't soldered anything in a while - I might just get the parts and ask a local guitar tech to do it. If I do go for it, I will practice a bunch for sure.

  26. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by entresz
    That is a beautiful guitar. I have a humble Levin 335 acoustic, which was basically a student model. Despite that it has great projection and tone acoustically. I have a Dearmond 1100 reissue fitted on mine. If I had your guitar, I'd be inclined to put the same on. They sound really good.
    Thanks! I'm sure the 335 is great too! If the original pickup isn't to my liking, a DeArmond is definitely going on.