PA Anderberg around 1905 with the world's first drawbar

It is not often you get to work with a historical instrument. This parlor guitar made by Pehr A. Anderberg in the USA is one such. It has a fully functional drawbar that was patented by Anderberg as early as 1894 before Gibson patented its variant of drawbar in 1926. Pehr passed away in 1910 and the patent was invalid when Gibson received his patent. Here is Anderberg's patent from 1894.

In the patent, in addition to the drawbar, there was, among other things, a tricky stable that actually resembles the one I invented for my very first "renovation" (which I am now a little ashamed of)! Several flies in one go. The "drawbar" in the patent is actually not a rod but a wire.

It all started when my friend Farre (who has been an apprentice in the room twice) sent a link to a phrase that was for sale on a Swedish auction site, Ekenbergs Auktioner in Karlshamn in Blekinge. The auctioneer had taken very nice pictures and the guitar was very interesting, I wrote "Buy it!" in the reply email.

After a bit of googling on Anderberg, I found this information in an old magazine, The Music Trade Review, from 1904 and also the patent.

 

WILL MAKE MANDOLINS AND GUITARS.

[Special to The Review.]

Boston, Mass., Jan 12, 1904. PA Anderberg-, who formerly made guitars and mandolins for John C. Haynes & Co., of this city, now merged in the Oliver Ditson Co., has formed a co-partner-ship with his son, Ralph H. Anderberg until recently a mandolin and guitar manufacturer of Mt. Vernon, NY, for the purpose of making guitars and mandolins. At present the factory of the two Anderbergs (father and son) is located at their home on Cottage street, Chelsea, Mass., But they contemplate moving their workrooms to Boston, in the near future.

 

By a lucky coincidence, I received an email from Bruce Cowan in the US asking for details on the Bauer guitar from the 1890s that Farre and I renovated during one of his visits to the venue. Quotes some of his emails.

 

“George Bauer was a manufacturer, and I do not think he was a luthier. He came to Philadelphia around 1890 as a young salesman for the Boston company John C. Haynes, manufacturers of Bay State instruments and many others.

He started marketing his own make of guitars and mandolins in 1894. His luthier was Ernest Anderberg. In 1898, Bauer partnered with SS Stewart the banjo manufacturer, and then Stewart died. In the catalog linked on your site it shows two lines of instruments, the Monogram and more expensive George Bauer line.

He supplied a Monogram equivalent to the Sears Roebuck catalog company through 1903 or so. They were labeled Acme Professional, and I see one on your page. In 1898, Ernest left the company and his father Per Anderberg came to help ramp up production, as he had done with Bay State guitars in Boston. Per (usually spelled Pehr) was born near Malmo and learned the trade there. I've been in touch with Kenneth Sparr about that… perhaps you know him, as he is a Swedish guitar scholar.

(There were other Swedes at Bay State who went on to form Vega guitars and became VERY successful. Earlier, Per's brother Erland Anderberg started a factory in Mount Vernon New York. By 1900 it had 50 employees. I have not yet found out what labels went on them, but there must have been thousands! It continued until 1915. There's probably another article in these Swedish makers from the Boston area.)

Bauer had a lot of business trouble in 1901 or so, when he cut out the Stewarts, and the company reformed again in 1904 with his brother Emil at the helm. I think the company was gone by about 1911 or so. Emil was involved in the Keen-o-phone phonograph company, and it was gone by about 1914.

I found that Bauer died in 1946 in an insane asylum in Pennsylvania. I found other evidence of mental illness, and it may explain the business trouble in the early 1900s and why he disappeared from the music business. ”

 

In addition to details about the Bauer guitar, I mentioned the Anderberg guitar in the conversation with him and it turned out that he is probably the one in the world who knows the most about Pehr A. Anderberg! He was one of many in a whole collective of Swedish immigrants to the USA who made guitars of high quality, he was probably one of the most skilled and was hired as a craftsman by several large manufacturers. This is how Bruce writes in an email (where he included the auction guitar, the only one marked PA Anderberg that he knows of).

 

“I think I need to complete the Bauer story before I tackle the Anderberg story. With the Anderbergs I could look at other Swedish makers of that time in Boston, like the Nelsons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vega_Company 

I have never seen an Anderberg labeled guitar. This is a rare object. Here's the basic PA Anderberg information I've researched. I did not include the footnotes, but I have marked the sources.

Per Andersson Anderberg was born May 21,1838, in Tygelsjo near Malmo, Sweden (Swedish reference). He was an apprentice in the cabinet shop of Carl Johan Bergman in Malmö during the period 1854-1860. (Reference from Kenneth Sparr). He came to America in 1864 (1900 US Census, Ernest's account). He made guitars for C. Bruno, the well-known Manhattan manufacturer and retailer. (Son Ernest's account).

In America, he was known as PA Anderberg or Pehr Anderberg. Records show that Pehr Anderberg married Hulda Elfrida Huppner (b. Sweden, 7 June 1851) in 1872 in Brooklyn. (footnote church record).

The 1873/4 City Directory for New York lists a Peter Anderberg as a guitar maker working at on Pearl Street, in Manhattan, and living in Brooklyn. The directory shows no music retailers or manufacturers listed at that address in that era.

Pehr's brother Erland came to America in 1873 (later passport app), and the two of them made guitars in Mount Vernon, New York and the adjacent settlement of Washingtonville. Ernest Alfrid Anderberg (DATE) and Rolf Hugo Anderberg (DATE) were born at Mount Vernon. Erland manufactured guitars and mandolins there until about 1915.

Pehr and his family moved to Malmo late in the 1870s, where his son Edvin was born in 1880. Pehr had a retail store there (Ernest, Swedish source?) The family returned to the United States in August, 1882 (immigration records).

On their return they lived in the Boston area. PA Anderberg supplied guitars to the John C. Haynes & Co. From about 1888-1891, he was the foreman in their factory.

After that Anderberg went into business for himself in Chelsea, near Boston, manufacturing fretted instruments for August Pollman, a New York retailer. In 1894, he received a U.S. Patent 516717A, an improvement on guitar design, an adjustable stiffening wire that was the forerunner of the truss rod. The only guitar this author has seen with Anderberg's name on it is likely from this period, and it has this improvement. It was sold at auction in Sweden in January 2021.

Around 1898, PA Anderberg began working for Stewart & Bauer in Philadelphia following the merger of banjo manufacturer SS Stewart and George Bauer, a maker of guitars and mandolins. Production was ramped up to supply “Acme Professional” instruments to Sears Roebuck & Co. (Anderberg's son Ernest, who had learned luthiery at his father's side, had been making guitars for Bauer since about 1893.)

In 1904, Anderberg was back in business in Chelsea, either as a repairer, maker, or both. In the summer of 1907, Hulda and Pehr visited Sweden. In April, 1908, Anderberg's shop was destroyed in the Chelsea fire.

Per Andersson Anderberg died in Chelsea on March 18, 1910. By then, his son Ernest had returned to Chelsea, and he continued working there as a repairer for a few more decades.

ATTACHED are a couple of screen shots from the main source. It is not completely accurate. I hope to visit Boston and see the author's papers. Also, the fire is out of historical sequence. I used a lot of maps and other resources.

The main source is viewable here: https://archive.org/details/contributionstoa00ayar  Searching the text does not connect with the table in the back of the book.

Anderberg had built "Tilton patent" guitars when he worked for Haynes, and knew that having a popular patent could pay off over the long run. Tilton came up with some interesting innovations, mainly a solid wood rod that was an extension of the neck running through the body to the end pin, taking some stress off the neck joint. These often had a metal disk badge floating in the soundhole, attached to the rod. They also had tailpieces. On a few, the wood grain ran diagonally.

The Anderbergs and Bauer had factories with maybe 30 employees. I see pictures of a three-story brick building. Then the Chicago manufacturing took off with huge plants, and that ended Bay State and Bauer and Erland Anderberg.

Pehr's son did not spend much time in luthiery, as I've seen him in city directories doing other work, but the mention of his work in Mount Vernon seems to indicate that he worked with his uncle Erland at least briefly. It is the only indication I have of a connection between Pehr and Erland after 1880 or so. The son was young at this time (20s) and Pehr was old (66).

Attached is death certificate for 1910.

Pehr's brother Erland Anderberg had a patent too. An adjustable bridge. https://patents.google.com/patent/US282147A/en Erland had a factory in Mount Vernon, New York from 1882-1915. In 1900 he had dozens of employees. He must have made thousands of instruments, but I can not find out who put their label on them. Probably one of the big New York City retailers. I have not seen any instruments attributed to him ”.

 

A really fantastically detailed account to say the least, a big thank you to Bruce Cowan!

Pehr and his brother were clearly very knowledgeable and skilled craftsmen and made many of the most beautiful guitars made in the United States around the turn of the century 1900 under different names. This guitar marked PA Anderberg was most likely manufactured between 1904 and 1908 before his workshop in Chelsea burned down. Maybe Pehr brought this guitar to Scania during his visit in 1907, the auction in Blekinge is not far from Scania. Unfortunately, Farre did not get hold of those who sold the guitar, the only thing he learned was that many in the family for the estate were sailors. Probably the story had cooled down and the guitar hung as a wall decoration with its previous owner.

I promised Farre to repair it if he bought it, luckily he sent it home for SEK 8500. There was a bidding war with another buyer, otherwise it would have gone for less money. It will fit well next to his equally fine Bauer guitar which was perhaps built by Pehr's brother! Well. After a number of weeks, I got the guitar home in a Gator 3/4 case in which it was just possible to get the guitar down. A size comparison with Farres Bauer guitar and a Levin parlor. The shape was very similar to the Bauer guitar.

The guitar was in good condition but not without problems. The stable was loose and the bottom had a crack in the middle joint and the bottom had dropped to the side in some places. The lid was deformed around the stable and the bottom of the oak sunk. The tuning screws were very strange and as it turned out later unusable when they cogged around when trying to tune. The neck was bent, the reason was that the drawbar had not been tightened and it had probably been kept unplayed with tuned strings for many years. The neck had been re-glued with carpentry glue, there was also carpentry glue in the middle joint of the bottom and at the edge of the bottom. Two brass nails had been nailed into the neck foot… The end block later turned out to be cracked in the middle. The side had received some almost invisible stab wounds in two places, they could easily be glued together with hot skin glue.

I was very curious about the construction of the drawbar, as the neck had to be changed if the step was not far to loosen the fretboard to really be able to study the drawbar and make it easier to loosen the neck. It turned out that the neck had a "Levin attachment" without dovetail, it had probably gone well to loosen the neck without taking off the fretboard first.

The drawbar was not a wire as in the patent, instead it looked pretty much like a normal Gibson type drawbar. I guess it did not take long before Pehr realized that a rod works much better than a wire! The drawbar has its problems as it protrudes into the fretboard at both ends. The attachment at the neck foot is strong, the bar has been bent 90 degrees, which can be seen in the pictures, but the nut can not be tightened too hard as it only rests on the upper saddle in the ebony and the end wood on the fingerboard. On this particular guitar, the drawbar does not work so well as the wood of the neck is both strong and hard. The most important thing is that it is tightened and not loose, you can not bend back the neck relief more than a little grand. I specially made a fixed 8 mm wrench to access the nut which was very tight. A crescent-shaped hole for the drawbar was recessed on the underside of the upper saddle.

It was easy to loosen the bottom. The ribs at the bottom were relatively loose, the glued spruce to oak does not sit as well as spruce to spruce. However, the ribs sat in the lid like the mountain! I like the ribbing in the lid, it is similar to the one I use in my GammelGura. I actually got some inspiration and nowadays I stick the ends of the ribs under the kerfing on GammelGura guitars and have modified the stable plate so it goes over the entire lid.

It is noticeable that it was a skilled craftsman who built the guitar. An extremely beautiful stable and end bud, nicely and sensibly put together otherwise.

As I said, the lid was deformed around the stable and also the bottom, tried to get it in some pictures. The bottom still curved more when it was loosened from the side, the oak had shrunk and the glue in the bottom ribs held up.

To flatten the lid and bottom, the ribs were removed from the bottom and around the stable in the lid. The lid and bottom were soaked thoroughly and put under pressure for a few days.

The result was good.
The original ribs at the bottom were deformed and bent in the wrong direction, I replaced one that I did not get loose whole with a replica with the same dimensions, but with a radius in the other direction. The other original ribs were ground on the underside to a radius in the right direction. An extra center stick was fitted to hold the center joint together.
Two of the ribs in the lid cracked along the grain when I tried to loosen them due to run-out. They were replaced with new replicas of the same size. I could not really hold on but replaced the stable plate and the two reinforcements in thin maple with spruce. Round maple holes were glued around the string pin holes as reinforcement. I also made the stable plate a little wider for possible future installation of a KK mic. With the new ribs, the lid had a slight bend upwards, especially the new rib under the fingerboard was good as the neck angle to the stable got better.

The bottom could be glued without major problems, part of the edge of the bottom had to be scrapped away in the narrowest place as usual. The shrunken bottom has a smaller circumference than the side, a simple solution is to push the side in a few mm in the narrowest place for the best fit.

The fretboard was glued back without any problems.

Because the drawbar stuck up front and back, I could not sand my neck straight. Instead, I tried to warm and bend back the neck with a loose drawbar and about 90 degrees heat (most of it I probably used to not melt the varnish on the back of the neck). It got better, but not quite right. The neck, in some kind of fruit tree or possibly maple, was stiff and hard and did not want to bend back.

The neck was glued on. Despite all the measurement, it was not perfectly glued in, the biggest reason was that the fretboard was not completely flat. When the straps were removed, I sanded the board that had a 10 ″ radius plane. Unfortunately I had to grind at the top but also at the 12th band. When the board was straight, the string height of the 12th band became half a mm too high. I glued the neck a second time and got to the angle perfectly. A strap at the top of the stable instead of a stable leg places high demands, there is virtually nothing to correct if the neck angle is not perfect.

The stable, still with its original sticks, was re-glued with hot skin glue. The stable's string pin hole had deep worn notches from the strings, they were also not centered in the hole. Used tape as "resistance" for superglue and sanding dust of rosewood that filled the grooves. It worked well!

 

The fretboard, which was ground flat, was re-banded with new and higher nickel bands. The originals were saved on a "smatterband", they were soft not of the best quality. The lighter parts of the fretboard are the areas that were not sanded down.

To intonate better, the strip groove is filled in the stable again and a new strip was mounted 2 mm further down on the bass side and 1 mm further down on the treble side. Some previous damage around the stable was hidden with golden brown stain, the scrapped edge of the oak base was repaired with spirit varnish with a thin brush. New Golden Age tuning screws with black knobs were fitted.

All replaced parts are included in the case for the guitar. After four days of vibration, it is open and loud with soft Newtone Heritage 0.11 strings and tones well on the 12th band. Compared to an GammelGura with all the features, the tone is more brutal and more primitive than I am used to. The stable strap and the upper saddle in ebony are some reasons, the body in oak, on the other hand, is more resonant than expected. 100 years of drying will probably do its thing!

Improved bracing in the top

I have been thinking a bit about how I brace up the top in GammelGura guitars. It was time to improve my methods.

As I recently made a go-bar jig, new possibilities have opened up. Among other things, I can glue braces and spruce tiles to a surface that is bent in both directions, both across and along the guitar. With my old cauls, I got the right bend only across the guitar. Which is optimal for the large braces, but not the tiles with a larger adhesive surface. You can also glue several complex pieces at once as the go-bar has bars that take up less space.

I am renovating a rare PA Anderberg parlor from around 1905 and the USA. Some original braces were glued to it and I noticed that it was actually easy to put the ends of the brace in recessed holes under the kerfing. A big advantage is also that the brace is attached without glue while measuring the location of all the details of the top. Above all, it was nicer than my previous stop blocks on the ends of the braces! The guitar also had a thin bridgeplate in maple across the top that tapered on either side of the bridge, like the one in a Levin parlor but done better.

Another detail that I have considered is the mandatory cracks in the top on one or both sides of the fretboard. The edges of the fretboard almost always end up along an annual ring in the wood of the top and become an point where a crack can occur. When the wood of the fingerboard shrinks more than the wood of the top (especially if it is ebony) and / or when the neck begins to rotate towards the sound hole from the tension of the string, you get cracks in the top at the edges of the fingerboard.

The six GammelGura in the ongoing batch have received a new variant of the bracing pattern. Here is a picture of one of them with unglued and untrimmed braces and plates.

I numbered the different parts with a pencil. The yellow tape on the spruce plate at the top is to protect the spruce plate from smudges of hot hide glue.

All ends of the transverse braces have been inserted under the kerfing. It is not difficult to cut small gaps with a knife, chisel and scrape out the wood with a curved scraper knife that is otherwise used to clear saw tracks for frets in a fretboard. It is actually less work than gluing everyone on the small stop blocks I used before! The ends of the bridge plate wings, on the other hand, are not tucked under the kerfing but are thinned down to nothing at the end so as not to tie up the top unnecessarily

All braces and plates are made of spruce with standing grain. The underside of all braces and spruce plates is given a small 30 ″ radius on the underside, the same radius as the bowl in the counter in the go-bar.

Spruce plate 1 (with the yellow tape) is 1,5 mm thick and has the grain across the grain of the top. As the oblique edge passes several of the top's annual rings and also the edges of the fretboard, there will be no stress point for a crack in the top. As the fingerboard shrinks, the tension is distributed over several of the grains in the top, hopefully it will not result in the obligatory cracks with time. In order not to pre-tension the top when gluing the fretboard, I also use Old Brown Glue (hot hide glue with added urea) instead of hot hide glue as before between the fretboard and top. OBG does not shrink when it dries as hot hide glue and fish glue do.

The A-frame braces 2 and 3 are rectangular and 6 x 6,5 mm. Both have been jacked out 1,5 mm on top of spruce plate 1, which means that they are 5 mm thick above brace 4. Spruce plate 1 must be intact to do its job in the best way.

Brace 4 is rectangular and is shaped from a blank that is 8 x 15 mm. The ends are thinned down from 6 cm from the end to about 1 mm thick at the far end. I make two gaps on the underside of the brace that exactly fit the A-frame braces 2 and 3

Brace 5 is triangulated from a blank that is 8 x 15 mm. The ends are thinned down from 7 cm from the ends and small outlets are made to insert the ends of the A-frame ribs.

The unnumbered spruce plate between braces 5 and 6 is 1,5 mm and thinned to nothing at the edges. The edges of this plate also pass several grains in the lid so as not to give a stress point for a crack.

Brace 6 is triangulated from a blank that is 8 x 15 mm. The ends are thinned down from 7 cm from the ends.

The spruce plates 7-9 for the cross shaped bridge plate are all in 3 mm thick spruce. The wings 7 and 9 have the grain across the grain of the top, while the central plate, about 8 x 6 cm, under the bridge has the grain along the top for best rigidity. The wings are 3 cm wide up to the edge of the bridge where it narrows to 1 cm. My hope is that the guitar top responds faster when playing as vibrations travel about 4 times faster along the grain than across. The wings also hold the top together and reduce the risk of cracks in the edge of the bridge ends, especially if it is a pyramid bridge with a straight edge.

Brace 10 is 3 mm thick and about 0,5 x 20 cm, the length varies depending on the top shape. On some European parlor guitars it is not needed as the bridge is close to the end block.

The bridge plate with its wings is glued together separately with hort hide glue, the joints are ground at 45 degrees to make them stronger. After about 20 minutes, it can be roughly shaped, the underside sanded to a radius and the edges chamfered. The central plate is given a shape similar to the profile of an aircraft wing.

All braces and plates can be glued in a single session in the go-bar jig. I use abutments so as not to crush the soft spruce and distribute the pressure from the go-bar ribs, they are placed in the right order before I start gluing. The abutments for larger surfaces have a soft 4 mm yoga mat in rubber on the underside to distribute the pressure over the entire surface. Special aluminum brackets are made for the triangular ribs and the sloping ends of the ribs. The large abutment on the aircraft wing-shaped central part of the bridge plate has been traced to be extra flexible. The flat and thin brace 10 has only a strip of transparent plastic on top.

The A-frame braces are guided in from the side through the holes in the brace 4th. There will be a lot of smudges with the hot hide glue, which is why I protect the spruce in plate 1 with low-tack tape. I always use a thin damp cloth, a table knife and a thin palette knife to wipe off excess glue.

It will be a whole forest of go-bar sticks when you are done! My bars are 8 mm birch sticks that are flattened down to about 6 mm with the help of my drum sander. Each part that is glued is heated with a heat gun, set at about 300 degrees C, to extend the gluing time. Previous glue can also be reheated, one of the many benefits of hot hide glue.

It remains to be seen whether the extended wings on the bridge plate gives the desired result, if nothing else, the extensions helps to hold the fibers of the top together.

Braces shaped and sanded.

Suction table

A very important detail for the best sound in an GammelGura is to make sure that both the top and the bottom have the right thickness. Levin parlor guitars in particular usually have too thick tops and bottoms. The top can sometimes be 4 mm thick, the bottom is typically 3,5 mm but can be 4 mm as well. European and American parlor guitars almost always have the right thickness, but it happens that some European guitars have a 3,5 mm thick bottom and American for a thin top of 2.0 mm.

With each new batch, I thin out thick tops with small planers and a sanding mouse. Thick bottoms I thin with my drum sander. I recently bought a larger and wider drum sander that I used for the first time last batch. It was about to end in disaster when some of the bottoms got stuck… luckily it was possible to repair the mistakes with inlays of 0.6 mm maple veneer. It also turned out that the drum sander grinds more on the ends of the bottom when I feed it in. There are two steel rollers on either side of the large roller with sandpaper to press the object down against the conveyor belt. When the bottom is only pressed down by one roller, the bottom springs up and the sander removes a few tenths mm more, which makes the bottom a bit too thin at the ends.

That was a problem. I thought about it and the solution was to make a suction table. With a vacuum from my industrial vacuum cleaner, you should get enough power to keep the bottom flat and safe in the drum sander. Instead of buying an expensive suction table, I made one myself, as I did not know if it would work in practice.

A strong wooden plate was made, the ducts inside were made of strips of wood that were glued in at regular intervals and which were then milled the other way to get a grid of air ducts.

Powerful vacuum hoses and handy nipples were available for purchase in a shop in town, the hoses can be easily disconnected by pressing the orange hat on the nipple. To make the flow greater for the vacuum cleaner and distribute the suction, I mounted 5 hoses, I do not know if it was necessary.

An aluminum plate had a whole bunch of small 1,5 mm holes drilled, the holes end up in the middle of each intersection between four squares. Since only guitar bottoms are to be run in the drum sander this way, the pattern was made in the shape of a guitar body. It was a bit of work to drill all the holes! I also made a rubber mat with punched holes. A feature is that the vacuum around each small hole is evenly distributed as a suction cup in the small volume created by the rubber mat.

To connect the vacuum cleaner to the five air hoses, I bought a plumbing connection with two lids at a local hardware shop. A large hole was drilled in one lid for the vacuum cleaner hose and five more nipples was mounted in the other lid.

This suction table was already made during the Christmas weekend, but only came into use now in the ongoing batch. Two Levin and two European guitars had too thick a bottom. They were all about 3,5 mm thick, the ideal measurement is about 2,5-2,7 mm for a maple bottom. Then you get the best sound but basically the same strength as a thicker bottom.

I had bought some cardboard which I cut as a mat around one of the bottoms. The idea was to cover all the holes that ended up outside the bottom. It was a failure when the air leaked in between the bottom and the cardboard. The solution was to use tape to cover all the holes outside the bottom.

The next problem was that the bottom was not flat but bowl-shaped by the braces glued in with a radius. I got the bottom to attach by pressing hard all around, but the vacuum suction could not hold the bottom in place. I felt like it would not work. BUT. By really soaking the bottom, the wood swelled and the bottom became both more flexible and flatter. It sat like a slap in the vacuum table and it was impossible to loosen it without turning off the vacuum cleaner! When it attaches, the sound of the vacuum cleaner changes and it has to fight harder. A rough vacuum cleaner is not cooled by the air that is sucked in but by a separate fan, so I think it should withstand 10 minutes of hard driving without breaking. Remains to be be seen.

Then it was just to test it all. I first fine-tuned the drum sander so that it took evenly over the entire surface. The hoses protrude on the open side in the drum sander, it was very easy to grind the bottom to the thickness I wanted. By turning off the vacuum cleaner and loosening the bottom from time to time, I was able to control the thickness.

The result exceeded expectations. No problems with thin ends and no drama. Almost perfect thickness on the entire bottom. This bottom was thinned almost 1 mm, but you can still see where the braces were glued.

Another bottom caused problems as it was full of hide glue that clogged the sandpaper in the drum sander. But it was possible to loosen the sandpaper and clean it with water and a dish brush.

It turned out that the tape was just like the one on rubber so I switched to the yellow low-tack tape instead of the packing tape. If you have several bottoms, you start with the largest and then supplement with tape for smaller bottoms where new holes end up outside the bottom.

I am very happy with my suction table and will use it in the future.

General repair

After disassembling all the objects in the current batch, the next step is to fix all the bugs and cracks. Unusually many in this batch are in need of creative repair. Here are some examples.

The guitar with the decoration in the sound hole needed several rounds of gluing. The sides needed to be glued to the end block and the entire lower part of the top needed to be glued to the sides. In addition, parts of the top's purfling were missing. Instead of remanufacturing the purfling, it was replaced with solid rosewood. It usually looks really good. The outer edge of the top was picked from an old leftover top to match the grain

As usual, the top's in the Levin guitars was about 3,5-4 mm thick. Maybe good for strength, but not good for the sound. The tops were thinned to just under 3 mm with the help of small planers and a sanding mouse. It is one of the things you actually have to work hard on!

The other Europeans had top's that were all about 3 mm and did not need to be thinned out. Except the old guitar with the monster bridge which had a top that was only about 2,3 mm thick. The top was deformed and had lots of cracks. To make it all work, I glued a plate in 1 mm thick spruce with the grain in the same direction as the top under the entire large bridge. It is tricky to glue such a large plate, to get pressure on the entire glue surface, I used a cut soft 4 mm yoga mat and a 4 mm thick piece of birch veneer as support for the clamps. The plate was glued to a curved surface, you do not want the top to be completely flat.

One Levin parlor guitar had some long and 2-3 mm wide cracks in the top. To fill in the cracks, I cut triangular sticks from another old top with about the same color in the paint as the guitar. A board is perfect as a base for cutting with a carpet knife. It is a bit of a chore to grind in the sticks so they fit in the cracks before the actual gluing.

GammelMando 173, Levin 1959

It happens that I buy old interesting guitar wrecks from customers who come by the premises. It can be one of two and the other one will be an GammelGura. On one of those occasions, it was a simple Levin school mandolin that was bought up for a cheap penny - actually I got it for free. It had its problems when a shrunken bottom and the sunken top, the tuners were not intact with a couple of knobs missing. The bottom had a small crack between the bottom halves. But it was still in good condition in the paint and the fretboard was in beautiful dark rosewood. I took it on in the last batch a bit like an experiment and as a side job waiting for some glue to dry, how good can it be?

The smaller size of a mandolin makes most steps easier and not as laborious as a guitar. The shrunken bottom was easy to crack loose. Inside was the usual ladder bracing in the top, one of the braces was cracked and that explained the sunken top.

The neck had a small banana bend, so the fretboard was loosened and the neck was reinforced with a solid carbon fiber rod, I think it was 5 × 5 mm. My usual milling jig for the carbon fiber rod does not work on a small mandolin, so I had to make a temporary jig with some wooden planks and clamps. It all went well and the fretboard was glued back.

Both the top and bottom were unnecessarily thick, the top was thinned with small planers and a sanding mouse on the inside. I thinned the bottom with the drum sander. The top and bottom were thinned to just under 3 mm, the bottom a little thinner than that. A center stick was glued in over the middle joint at the bottom and new slimmer braces were glued. In the top I made an X-bracing where the two cross braces passed under each foot of the bridge. For some reason I missed taking pictures of the finished result, but it all looked good.

Because the bottom was shrunk, it was not possible to glue it to the sides and get a perfect fit. I decided to mill a binding much like the one on the top. It turned out really nice if I may say so myself!

The fretboard was re-fretted with EVO Gold frets, a new bone nut was made and new tuning screws mounted, Stewmac Golden Age. The original bridge got a hatch on the underside and two legs, they usually sound a little better that way. The original string holder was simple but without faults with only a screw that fastens it. A coat of thin spirit varnish was applied to the body.

I think it sounds really good after a few days of vibration. It can not compete with my Gibson from 1929 which has a fuller bass, but I think it sounds really good for a school mandolin. It is also a stable player with its carbon fiber rod and X-ribbed.

It is sold at Östmans Musik in Örnsköldsvik for 2995 SEK.

Carpenter glue

The best thing I know is an old guitar that has not been repaired before. Then you can be sure that it is assembled as expected and with correct glues and varnish. Old repairs are seldom done right and sometimes in unexpected ways.

Some classics are that carpenter glue was used to repair cracks or glue the neck. Screws and nails are not uncommon, typically there may be screws in the bridge, through the neck foot or the fingerboard. Sometimes in other unexpected places, e.g. the screw through the neck foot may have been hidden behind the cover plate on the tip of the foot. Nails are less common but they occur. In worse cases, the guitar has been sanded down or sprayed on with a plastic varnish. There is really nothing you can be surprised about in an old repair. Sometimes, however, a repair is professionally done with the right glue and varnish, then it is mostly a violin maker who has done the job.

In the current batch, there are some that have been repaired before. The worst one is probably the one with the monster bridge. The sides are cracked from the neck block to the bottom block on both sides and the top has several cracks too. Everything glued with carpentry glue. The bottom had also been re-glued with carpentry glue, when I loosened the bottom I had to sacrifice the top of the neck block so as not to ruin the bottom. A neck block can be spliced ​​without it being visible, a damaged bottom can not be hidden away.

Carpenter glue is a nuisance, but perhaps also the reason why the guitar still exists. But unlike epoxy glue, which is completely hopeless, there is a trick you can use. By soaking the glue joint with a wet kitchen paper for half an hour or so, the carpenter's glue can be saturated with moisture. Then the glue becomes white and clearly visible, also softer and can be scraped off with a knife or scrubbed away with a hard brush. You can also heat and soften the glue with a hot air gun or hair dryer, but it is important to be careful with lacquered surfaces.

I soak the glue on both sides if possible, the glue becomes white and easy to both see and remove. The long glue joint on both sides took some time to clean.

The same thing was done for some of the cracks in the top.

Here you can see how the glue changes color to white. With a sharp spatula and a knife you can push the tough glue from the crack, with a strong pig brush (preferably with dried hot hide glue) the last glue can be rubbed off.

With the wooden surfaces properly cleaned, you can then glue the cracks together with hot hide glue and various wooden patches and inlays.

The damaged neck block must be repaired with a piece of new spruce. With a simple jig and a dremel, I mill off the top layer of the neck block.

A fitting piece in spruce is glued on hot hide glue. The new piece can be easily planed down and the bottom gets a new flat surface to be glued to.

Levin 1910 with oak in the bottom and side

Today I got to see something I have never seen before, a Levin parlor with oak in the side and bottom! It was from 1910 with the charming serial number 12222. Did not even know that there were such!

It might be a project for the future.

There is a Model 22 with American oak (included in the 1907 catalog), but that model was expensive and lavish with fine inlays and bindings. This is an ordinary simple Levin, maybe it got oak in the side and bottom by mistake. It has colored lacquer as usual on top of the nice wood.

GG170, Levin 1927

I should always have a ready-made GammelGura for sale, but for the most part the ones I do are already ordered. This Levin from 1927 has no buyers yet and can be tested at Östmans Musik in Örnsköldsvik.

There was a misunderstanding when I started up the last batch, it was another guitar from the waiting room that was to be used, and I already had this one in pieces. It had to finish it off. The guitar was in pretty good condition without major problems. This was one of the last to be made with a slotted head. Somewhere around 1929, Levin began to phase out the old models. That it is later can be seen in the dark red color of the body, the plaque on the front of the head and that the neck is in birch / maple and not in poplar as in most older Levin guitars before 1920.

The guitar was disassembled without any problems. Both top and bottom were thinned when they were about 0,5 mm too thick as they usually are (made to to keep!). The fingerboard and bridge were replaced with new ones in Madagascar rosewood, the tuners were in poor condition and were replaced with new ones. A K&K pickup was mounted. The neck got its carbon fiber rod and the neck pocket, that chipped up during loosening of the neck, was covered with a 2 mm thick maple plate. The neck also got a wood screw from the inside through the neck block.

I took some pictures while gluing the bottom. The bottom gluing jig came into use once again. I first spread the clamp abutments more or less evenly around and adjusted the pin between the bottom and neck block so that the bottom fitted perfectly lengthwise to the side at both ends. If the bottom protrudes somewhere, another abutment is placed to push in the bottom, it is a great advantage that you can place the abutments wherever you want on the plywood board. This is the second plywood board I use, after 4-5 years it is too perforated by all the screws and needs to be replaced. Since the bottom has always shrunk in width, you can never get a perfect fit around the whole bottom, but you can get a perfect fit around the two rounds, the sides in the narrowest place ends up a little further in. When the bottom is glued, the edge of the bottom is scrapped at the narrowest point where it protrudes from the side.

I use hot hide glue on the two blocks and fish glue along the rest of the perimeter. You have to be quick to clamp the bottom to the blocks, for the rest of the bottom you have plenty of time to clamp as the fish glue has a long open time. I use special cauls in the form of fitting pieces on both the top- and bottom side that I made from plywood and spruce connected with knot wire.

When all the clamps are in place, it's time to release the guitar from the jig. I use an extra long screwdriver to unscrew the brackets in the plywood board. It is important to wipe the side clean from fish glue in particular, if it gets dry it can pinch off small round pieces of the varnish! The entire package of clamps and guitar is set aside on a flat surface and the jig is cleaned and stowed away until the next time. The whole thing is allowed to dry overnight.

For some reason, the nut intonation became unusual on this one, I had to test the strings several times when I measured, but got the same result every time. Apart from the fact that the neck is a bit fat (which is common on newer Levin parlor guitars) everything felt good with the guitar. It sounds like it should!

It is now sold.

GammelGura showcase

Check out this video made by Andreas Brink, the man behind the TV documentary about Levin. A very good showcase for an GammelGura. This one was made a couple of years ago before I came up with hardwood plugs, but it has an early segmented saddle, the nut intonation and a bridgeplate in spruce. This one is also a little more original than usual with the original bridge in black painted maple :-)

New batch

I still have some laggards in the previous batch, mostly those that have not been sold yet. But I went through my queue this weekend and five guitars in turn are in the shop and will start working on. As always, it's a mixed bag with Levin and European parlor guitars. Some in good condition and others genuine "wrecks" that require a little more glue :-)

GG174 Levin 1920, fixed bridge

This is one of three Levin 1920 parlors from one and the same customer with serial numbers in a row! One has already been given a simpler renovation, but the other two will be real GammelGura. This one was in good condition and equipped with a fixed bridge.

GG175 Levin 1920, floating bridge

The second of the three in sequence was not in as good condition, to say the least. It will be easy to take it apart when the bottom is already loose! This one had a floating bridge and a "mickey mouse" tailpiece.

GG176 European

The one in best condition was this one. Probably German and made around 1910, but it may be older than that. It has "wrong-turned" tuning screws, ice-cone heel and a typical mother-of-pearl rosette. The bridge is a bit more unusual as it is very straight and simple and not a mustache bridge that is usually the norm. Nice maple in the bottom!

GG177 European, No. 23 from the waiting room

This guitar is probably not as old as it looks, I may be wrong. It was a period in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany when they made guitars in the old style with e.g. mustache stall and ice cone heels. Sometimes even a fingerboard at the height of the top and wood tuning screws to imitate Renaissance guitars. This one has a very nice sound hole decoration, old tuning screws and mustache bridge, but also an adnustable saddle that breathes 1930s. At some point, it has probably been in water or received a proper blow to the end plug. This one will also be easy to take apart :-)

Addendum: Got the guitar apart and I think it is really old, about 1900 or even. 1800s. Beefy tuners, no bridgeplate and visually old hot hide glue and wood make me change my mind. The adjustable intonation plate on the bridge is original, but the time around 1900 was also the time for many inventions on guitars where metal was used in many ways. The decoration in the sound hole is a separate piece of wood that has been carved out and glued to the inside of the top.

GG178 Parlor with ornate bridge

The oldest guitar in the collection is probably this one, I guess in the 1890s. Could be Swedish made, I recognize the natural color neck from other old Swedish parlor guitars and the slightly clumsy body shape. The surprising bridge can be thought to be original, it is at least the same spirit as the KB guitars from the turn of the century 1900. It can also be a later addition. Even if the bridge is not optimal for the perfect sound, it must be allowed to remain. I have to do what I can and adjust the bracing accordingly!

Addendum: It was not visible in the pictures, but the lid is really deformed where the stable rotated in. That it is old is no doubt, no stable plate and the third bar placed behind the stable instead of in front as it should. The lid was also unusually thin, about 2,5 mm. The decoration at the stable is a whole piece of wood with the rectangular stable glued on top.