After training as a cabinet maker in his native Sweden, Herman Levin* learnt his instrument craft in the United States, where he had moved in his early twenties. Around the time he turned thirty he established his own instrument company in New York, filing a patent on a guitar-mandolin of his own design not long after. At the turn of the century, and now in his mid-thirties, Levin moved back to his home country, opening a small factory in Goteborg, (Gothenburg). Within a very short time Levin instruments were winning awards for excellence across Europe and the UK, and by the time this fine six-string lute was completed in 1914, Levin’s company was employing over thirty craftsmen and on the way to producing well over half a million instruments by the early seventies, when they were bought out by CF Martin & Co. (Much speculation surrounded the Martin purchase, but with Levin’s reputation for having some of the best seasoned instrument timbers in the world, it’s likely Martin saw the move as a shrewd way of getting their hands on some premium timber, some of which was over 300 years old!
Swedish built Martins!
During the fifties and sixties, alongside their own products, Levin had also manufactured many of the famous Goya-branded guitars for US distribution, and, for several years following the Martin takeover, some Martin models were entirely Swedish-built Levins!
Flattop and archtop guitars, banjos, lutes, mandolins – the Levin company expanded to produce most stringed instruments of the day, with much of their Scandinavian distribution handled by Youth Star publishing house, (Ungdomsstjarnans Forlag – see pic # 3). We have been unable to identify the exact Levin catalogue item, but, as a six-string model it’s clearly from the last of the glory days of lute-making, with the historic instruments by the early twentieth century presenting no hardship whatsoever to the guitar player.
All solid timbers; Mahogany neck and body with a fine-grained European Spruce top – now at least one century old, possibly as much as four hundred years – and a Rosewood fingerboard. We received the lute with steel strings fitted, and the pictures show that we restrung it with a set of Red Brand extra-lights, however a couple of knowledgeable musician friends recommended either full nylon or silk & steel strings, for a more authentic lute sound and we have since changed the strings to a set of Ernesto Palla concert quality silk & steels by Ernie Ball, which now definitely impart a more traditional tone.
A year short of its seventieth “birthday”, the lute left its home in Sweden, relocating to Australia, and now, in its 100th year, is proudly presented for sale by Just Guitars. (Pic # 4 shows the lake in southern Sweden where the lute spent the first part of its life, the house just fifty metres or so back from the water’s edge. Superimposed is the Levin medallion from the rear of the headstock) This was a much-loved family instrument and while there is light play wear visible here and there, the overall condition is Excellent.
Sting and Jan Akkeman
This is a prime opportunity to join the list of modern names associated with the lute, including Andreas Martin, Julian Bream, Sting(!) and the legendary guitar virtuoso, Jan Akkeman of Focus.
There was no case, but we have found a gig bag which does a good job of carrying and protecting the lute. And, as with all Just Guitars instruments, shipping is FREE to any address in Australia. ($100 to New Zealand, $175 to the USA, Canada, UK and mainstream European countries)
*Herman Levin was born Herman Carlson, but in keeping with Swedish tradition at the time, added a new last name at the completion of his apprenticeship. Levin may have been his mentor, a family friend, or simply a name that he liked the sound of. The practice was phased out from around 1904