handmade acoustical guitars

Ken LeVan and LeVan banjos is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways series “North American Banjo Builders”


© LeVan Banjos  email ken@levandesign.com

LeVan Banjos and Guitars are made in the USA from sustainable, non endangered materials.

Guitars and Banjo Lutes
Construction & Detailsconstruction_and_details.html

I can make guitars and other stringed instruments in various sizes.  The pages below show more details

I designed and built my first guitar in 1962-1964

I was studying industrial design at Pratt and a classmate introduced me to John D’Angelico.

At the time I didn’t realize what a pioneer D’Angelico was,

and that there was nobody building steel string flat top guitars by hand in the tradition of luthiers.

All the steel string flat tops were made by Martin, Gibson, Guild et al.

I also talked to William Del Pilar in Brooklyn who built classical guitars by hand.

I assumed there were lots of independent people building steel string guitars.

Here is the prototype guitar I built back then.

Adirondack spruce top, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, rosewood fingerboard and pickguard,

I used a double-X bracing for the top, something I haven’t forgotten about,

but now use that system to make resonant backs.

During my education in the musical instrument world visited the Martin factory in Nazareth many times—

it was a factory where they still did things by hand, but in a serial production assembly-line fashion.

I actually applied for a job there and at Vega in Boston after graduation, but they didn’t need any designers.

I realized the guitar and banjo world didn’t want any design help,

so I had a long career as a product and graphic designer

working for large companies like Corning Glass, Dansk, Lenox, Waterford Wedgwood, Pfaltzgraff

Baldwin Brass, W. Atlee Burpee, Kirk Stieff, Wilton Armetale, Oneida, Walt Disney etc.,

where I learned a lot about large-scale manufacturing in glass, wood, ceramic, metal and plastics.

In the mean time I never lost my interest in guitars and banjos and wanted to put what I knew about

manufacturing to work as a hand craftsman, so after retirement as an industrial designer,

I started designing and hand-building instruments in a professional way.

Below are the types of guitars and other instruments I make

For information about guitar construction, go to the construction & details pageconstruction_and_details.html