GG139 Ola Ivarsson Leira about 1935

It was a surprise to bring in an interesting guitar made in Norway, a country that historically has never excelled in producing acoustic guitars of good quality. Most factory manufacturers have used plywood and made very simple and cheap guitars. Of course, slightly better instruments were made by individual guitar makers, but not many can be considered quality instruments. What you can not complain about, however, is the creativity of the Norwegian builders! Browse the page, there are many strange creations to look at 🙂 An example is Asbjörn Henriksen who built such guitars in the 1930s.

One of the Norwegian guitar makers in the 1930s was Ola Ivarsson Leira and it was one such guitar that came in for Old Gurafiering.

Cracked it without major problems. The ribbing inside was not directly made with good wood, on the contrary probably more true 🙂

Some pictures halfway after gluing new ribs and mounting the carbon fiber rod.

  • Total length: 95 cm
  • Top (upper round, waist, lower round): 25,5 - 21 - 34,5 cm
  • Side (neck block, waist, end block): 7,5 - 8,5 - 7,5 cm
  • Neck: C-shape
  • Upper saddle: 43 mm
  • 12th band: 53 mm
  • Sticks: 57 mm
  • String length: 63,5 cm
  • Paint: Spray
  • Weight: 1302 g

Directly when I felt the guitar I was surprised. This was a really good guitar. Even though it was Norwegian. The body that had fine proportions was entirely in mahogany, it had an unusual stall in black painted maple / birch similar to those used by Joseph Bohmann in the United States in the 1890s and a head that was tastefully designed. Both the lid and the bottom were curved and the materials had the right thickness. The black painted neck was a bit clumsy with an uncomfortable U-shape. Grip board in thin rosewood glued on top of maple. The upper saddle was in legs and the stable was a metal band. But what stuck out was that the neck was adjustable. I have written more about the adjustable neck in one earlier blog post, but this variant on a Stauffer attachment is very good!

Inside the guitar was a note that said: "1 prize w / silver medal Valdres trade fair 1933". There were also indistinct ink stamps, I think it says "Bronze medal Gjøvik 1910". On the middle stick is an ink stamp with the name of the builder: "OL Leira St., Valdres Guitarværksted og Strenge"

The customer wanted to make an Old Gura out of it and also round off the back of the U shaped neck. The flat and worn fretboard was replaced with ebony and got a 16 ″ radius. I was able to keep the stable after modification as there was plenty of room for an intoned stable leg.

The condition was perfectly OK, there was a single crack on the lid. The bottom, on the other hand, had several cracks, a bit on the cheek was completely loose when the ribs were released. The craftsmanship in details was rough and primitive, but it is noticeable that the builder put his focus on making the guitar both playable and good and not on details and appearance. Quite right I think.

The tuning screws were special. Apparently the guitar was intended for nylon strings, tuning screws were used for steel stringed guitars with narrow poles and mounted on heavy brass cylinders outside the poles to make the poles wider. Weighed three times as much as they should! Not good. They were replaced with modern tuning screws, 10 mm plugs just enough to plug the old holes.

Everything had not gone as it was when the guitar was manufactured. In the neck block there was an extra unfilled hole for the wood screw in the adjustable neck attachment which apparently ended obliquely. The hole used for the screw ended up about 2 mm too far down. Instead of plugging and drilling the hole in the right place, the solution was to jack out the lid about 2 mm and fold the grip board which was glued on top of the lid. It posed a problem when I was going to loosen my neck, the glue joint was not level with the top of the lid.

I plugged both holes in the neck block and drilled a new 2 mm higher up and filled the hole in the lid under the grip board with mahogany tabs. Made use of my stealth angle to drill the hole in the neck block at the same angle as the hole in the neck foot had 🙂

The holes in the stable were plugged and new smaller holes were drilled up. A problem with stables in maple / birch is that the wood is a little too loose for a stable leg in a frozen ditch. The wood yields at the front / rear edge of the stable leg and slopes forward despite having a press fit when stringing up. The solution is to fold a piece of hard wood (ebony) around the place where the leg of the stables should end up. Then the stable leg causes a hard surface on both sides to rest against and the stable leg stays straight even when loaded from the strings. The stable was obliquely glued to the lid, but in the right way to intonate better. Think that was the point!

The back of the neck was shaped into a round C shape and a carbon fiber rod was glued. The neck was painted with several coats of black spirit lacquer after an initial staining with "indian ink", a pitch black ink that contains shellac just like the spirit lacquer (used in printing presses). The ebony board received brass bands and side markings but was left clean from pearl mortars (the original had 4 round pearl mortars).

Did neck turn as usual and adjusted the neck foot so that a straight grip board ended up on a fairly high stable leg with a reasonable string height at the 12th band. Even though it ended up very well, it felt luxurious to be able to make a fine adjustment with the screw in the neck foot and get the string height perfectly without having to grind the leg! The coarse wood screw has a good pitch, which means I only need to screw a few minutes on a dial on the screw to adjust the string height. The small adjustment you need to make at the neck foot almost does not bend the grip board at the 12th band at all. Little genius. A guitar band knob was mounted on the neck foot.

A few pictures before the bottom gluing. You will see an extra 1-1,5 mm thick fir plate with the vein in the same direction as the lid between the two ribs under the sound hole. Make the lid stronger without affecting the tone other than for the better.

It got all the specials with oversadeloning, brass bands, spruce plate, plugs and segmented stall legs. Suitable size and comfortable to play on with its curved bottom. The mahogany in the lid gives it a slightly different character, a bit more brutal sound with powerful attack and shorter sustain than with a spruce lid. Smooth in tone, high volume and maybe a little more treble than usual but not without bass. The lightweight construction makes it open and easy to operate. Suitable for finger play.



  1. Hey
    It is now over 3 months. since Leira and the levin guitars came in.
    You have transformed these old and honky wrecks into resonant, well-sounding and easy-to-play instruments.
    The levin was about as I expected. soft and nice sound with a little muted bass strings. Perfect when played electrically with the K&K pickup. I often find that these become somewhat "boomige" on larger guitars.
    I play the Leira guitar every day. I usually prefer instruments with spruce lids. But there is something about this old mahogany box that I can not fully explain. As you said, it's a bit "murky" in the midrange, but I'm pretty sure the guitar has developed quite a bit in a positive direction. It has opened up, and is good for all kinds of games. The neck was very good, and then it was really cool that you liked Leira's adjustable neck. The perfect sofa guitar with its slim and rounded body. I`m in love.
    These are small and light instruments with a warm and "sophisticated" sound that can be used for most things. But if I were a hard-hitting blues guitarist, I would probably miss some of the "honken"
    Thanks for the great work you do!
    The intonation you make is not perfect, but among the very best I've heard.

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