Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
centurian2

Boyd Wheatstone Concertinas

Recommended Posts

Trying in some way to find out or establish how many Wheatstone Concertinas were made for

Harry Boyd? In particular, how many were 48 key. Does not to be very much information written,

researched, or reported about this subject.

I would like to find out how many readers on CN own or know of 48 button English's. I personally

know of only 4, two in the USA, and two in England.

Over the past 20 years, in talking with dealers in 2nd hand instruments, they had said they they

were on the rare side, and most were 56 button. Thank you in advance

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No one else seems to be jumping in here, so I'll toss out my opinion. It might inspire others to disagree with me if nothing else.

I have two Boyds, a 48 button Wheatstone from 1912, and a 56 button Lachenal from about 1900. That certainly doesn’t make me any sort of expert, but I do pay close attention when I see one come up for sale.

My completely unscientific opinion, based only on watching the various auction sites and dealers’ pages, is that it’s about half and half between 48 and 56 key instruments, slightly more Lachenals have turned up over the last few years, and Lachenals tend to be 56 key while Wheatstones are more likely to be 48. The Lachenals also seem to date a bit earlier, so my guess is that Boyd started out favoring Lachenals and then switched to Wheatstones later.

That said, the numbers are so small that drawing any real conclusions is next to impossible.

As far as the instruments themselves, my Lachenal is a very nice New Model, but I don’t think there’s anything special or unique about it. If you played it blindfolded you certainly wouldn’t say, “This is a Boyd.” The Wheatstone, on the other hand, is super responsive snd quick to speak, VERY loud, and has a really distinctive sound—harsh isn’t right word, but it’s much happier playing hornpipes than it is playing hyms. Good luck trying to play it softly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An interesting topic but perhaps it would get more interest if it was not tucked away down in the "public news & announcements". Could have been better in the history section ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good point Geoff! I'll get it moved over there.

 

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My 56 key Boyd was my first concertina. I was lucky to find it near Newcastle, where it was first sold.

I had 7 fold bellows fitted - now I can play 16 bars of a tune on one bellows-stroke...

As far as I know, Alistair Anderson plays a 56 key and Wim Wacker a 48 key...

I must have seen quite a lot of Lachenal-Boyds over the years,but only one Wheatstone!?

There was one for sale here for a long time - and David Robertson has one right now!?

 

By the way: Alistair plays a new interesting small 8-sided instrument on his latest youtube. I would guess that it is a Dipper??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Robert, are you saying that David Robertson is selling a Wheatstone Boyd ?

 

Could you provide a link to Alistair's youtube video please?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
By the way: Alistair plays a new interesting small 8-sided instrument on his latest youtube. I would guess that it is a Dipper??

 

 

That's not exactly "small". Looks to me like a standard 56-button Aeola. And from both the size and where his fingers are as he's playing, I'd say it's an extended-treble, not a tenor-treble.

 

Or maybe the one at the top of the page here http://www.alistairanderson.com/

 

And that's an amboyna Wheatstone Aeola that Alistair has had for decades.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as the instruments themselves, my Lachenal is a very nice New Model, but I don’t think there’s anything special or unique about it. If you played it blindfolded you certainly wouldn’t say, “This is a Boyd.” The Wheatstone, on the other hand, is super responsive and quick to speak, VERY loud, and has a really distinctive sound—harsh isn’t right word, but it’s much happier playing hornpipes than it is playing hyms. Good luck trying to play it softly.

Being illiterate on the subject just a curious question...is it just this ( being particularly loud) that is expected to make the Boyd instruments special? If so - is it documented that they were made on special order to be particularly loud and then , can someone tell what technically characterizes them? Harry Boyd was a retail dealer as far as I understand. Did he have customers generally asking for extra porwerful instruments? Other parameters being the same.. extra "strong" reeds do not respond as easily at low pressure ( that is what Jay says above is it not?) and if so - delicate, sensitive, playing is expected to be harder to achieve. What is the point with them then - except only reaching a larger audience outdoors? Is this what Boyd fans want to do today also or is it firstly a matter of prestige....since AA got one...so?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The main technical characteristic of all the Boyd models I have seen is the smallness of the reed chambers. Especially the 56k models, where more reeds are crammed into the 48k size instrument. So, the reed chambers are almost as shallow as possible . This allows air pressure to build up more quickly in the chamber when the key is depressed and thus the attack at the begining of each note is enhanced. That more pressure is available in the chamber helps to increase the output volume. Combine this with fairly open (metal) fretwork and plenty of Pad lift and the resulting power is remarkable in comparison to the normal 'Victorian' models that pre date the Boyd. I imagine that Harry stipulated he wanted the best of materials and craftsmen.

 

Personally I am not keen on the tone of the metal ended Lachenal New Models but I do have an early metal ended Wheatstone , that would be contemporary with the Boyd period, and it has similar 'shallow' reed chambers , great volume but retains a certain sweetness of tone. Perhaps the difference between the tone of the Lachenals and that of the Wheatstones can be attributed to the wood used.

 

Your mileage may differ and every instrument should be judged on its individual merits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Geoff, some questions come up:

-Smallness of the reed chambers. The width must be the same if you compare 48 key models with each other or compare 56 key models respectively. The length likely being the same also when having chamber partitions, or do you mean that the Boyd partitions are generally closer to the reed tip than with other similar instruments? Remains variation of chamber heights. I checked a few metal ended sixsided Wheatstones from 1920s and either having same height chambers or tapered heights they seem to be about "as shallow as possible" i e without making larger reeds hitting the action board at full amplitude. Are you sure the Boyd instruments generally have more shallow chambers? I also wonder about the effect from shallow chambers on loudness in general. Intuitively it seems likely that initial tone response might be faster, but loudness?? As soon as steady state pressure is achieved it is hard to see any cause for different loudness. Has this been explored? Aeolas I believe always have tapered chamber height and those for the larger reeds are generally deeper than those of the said sixsided ones but neither response nor loudness seems to be less.

I have two contemporary, exactly alike, 56 key TT Aeolas except for one being remarkably loud and the other on the contrary fairly mellow. The reed pans are interchangeable and the difference in loudness - which is really great - obviously is a reed issue.

So....IF those Boyd instruments are particularly loud is that possibly a reed matter with them also? Open fretwork...if strikingly so...of course may contribute. Pad lift I guess originally with all instruments is expected to be high enough so that it does not reduce air flow through the pad *hole*. Is the button travel significantly greater with Boyd instruments?

What period are we talking about? What Wheatstone serial numbers? Are the "Boyd instruments" possible to identify in the Wheatstone ledgers?

Sweetness of tone...is it possible to make an extraordinary powerful reed which also has a delicate response at low pressure and simultaneously a mellow tone i e less "harshness" (which likely is a result from more or stronger overtones). Something for reed makers among the readers to comment upon! How ? is that achieved in such case? I have a feeling that some of these qualities are counteracting each other.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have two contemporary, exactly alike, 56 key TT Aeolas except for one being remarkably loud and the other on the contrary fairly mellow. The reed pans are interchangeable and the difference in loudness - which is really great - obviously is a reed issue.

Goran,

 

I'm not going to get into a point by point with you, but here's a couple of things.

In your example above you state a clear conclusion but there are six tone, response and volume modifiers in a reedpan; the chamber sizes, the valves, the reed profiles, the reed clearances, the nature of the connection between reed and pan and the nature of the wood. Yes the reeds are a strong potential contributor but if you want to state it as proven, swap a number of the reeds only.

Sweetness of tone...is it possible to make an extraordinary powerful reed which also has a delicate response at low pressure and simultaneously a mellow tone i e less "harshness" (which likely is a result from more or stronger overtones). Something for reed makers among the readers to comment upon! How ? is that achieved in such case? I have a feeling that some of these qualities are counteracting each other.

The model I work to (which is not the same thing as a fact) says volume and sweet tone are incompatible. For the concertinas I want to build I must strive for the best possible volume and response in reeds and then find ways to filter out the less attractive higher partials I have generated through wood choice and construction methods. Also, generating the loudest possible fundamental helps as it can aid in drowning out the higher partials.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well BW77,

 

obviously the 56key versions having the same size of Hex do have narrower chambers than the 48k's but having shallow chambers is a big factor. Those that I have seen, dating from the 1890's have flat reedpans with chamber walls of about 5 or 6mm in height. A few years ago I had two ostensibly similar Wheatstones, an 1898 flat reedpan 48 and a 1920 model 22 which had the canted ( tapered) chambers. Both superb instruments of their type but the attack and strength of the lower octave and a half of the flat reedpan model was evident. I will say that the later Model 22 was a much nicer instrument, fully developed , easier to play and having a far better tonal balance throughout .

I believe it is partly the attack, commencement of the note, that stays with the listener and directs the senses to some extent in the way the note is perceived, and the attack, at least over the lower octave of the flat reedpan model has this kind of effect. At the time, Chris Ghent was visiting with us and I played the two instruments for him to judge this. The early metal ended 48 ( 22,000 series) is the instrument I use in a very noisy dance band... but I almost never play it at home as my dog hates it with a passion.... says something about the bite of the notes and about the upper partials I would say.

 

My memory of the Boyds is from 35 years ago and I cannot recall how deep the action of the buttons was. I have maximised pad lift on my 1898 flat reedpan Wheatstone, such that the buttons almost arrive level with the ends at max extent and the guide pins are almost out of their ports when the buttons are at rest. The ends of some of the levers almost tap on the metal fretwork when the buttons are fully depressed such is the extent of their travel even though it is not really quite enough to alleviate all Pad dampening of certain notes... there just is not enough space in this early design. Having said that the power of the little beast is about the strongest I have observed whilst retaining a pleasant tone on an EC.

 

Many Lachenals, have Pad boards of Mahogany and this gives a quite distinct tone that I rather like...

 

But as I said before; each instrument has to be tried for its own merits...... different people making reeds, different woods, some pieces of the same wood will have better musical qualities... hence the Luthier holding a piece of Tone wood between finger and thumb and tapping it to listen for it's resonant qualities. I doubt the casework cabinet makers employed by the concertina factories selected their timber like this. I have had Aeolas that I did not care for and other that were sublime, this does give rise ( perhaps unfairly) to preferences for certain periods of production. One MacCann Aeola that had the most beautifull tone I have ever heard from a concertina, which I put down to the 'Brittania Metal' ends, was also, made during my prefered golden year. Could it have been the reed quality, or something else?

Edited by Geoff Wooff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many thanks Geoff ! Let's keep on trying to sort it out....I got two metal ended 48 key sixsided 1920s Wheatstones to examine.They both have flat reed pans and ca 6mm depth. Sound...? well, rather loud and rather rough to my ears. Response fairly good. A six sided 48 key raised wooden ends 1906 Wheatstone with tapered reed pan however is even more shallow, ca 4 mm at the top and 6mm at the low end I actually don't believe you can go less than that..) It has good response, is not particularly loud and got a fairly "round/mellow" tone generally speaking, much different from the said metalended ones. Seems as no concluions regarding effect of chambers for loudness to get here but not speaking against effect for response either. Maybe that's it? Reducing chamber volume facilitates response? This seems to be supported by the effect from adding or removing the chamber partitions. They may be more or less needed for making highest reeds speak and did not most Victorian instrument have top chamber partitions while the rest of the chambers did not...and the routine adding cork partitions to older instruments may have been based on the interest to influence response AND amplitude. When amplitude is increased from adding partitions it may be a result from reduced absorption of high overtones. This ought to be possible to confirm/reject and document rather easily by comparing tone spectrums.

 

Now pad lift. What you say sounds a bit extreme. Although I agree that the available space for best lever motion sometimes seems at the limit or even too small something is wrong with the construction if the pad lift doesn't secure non influence on air passage. Maybe from misunderstandings some players actively reduce button travel ( believing "action gets faster") and thus get a choking effect from pads opening too little. It is fairly easy to calculate the necessary pad lift assuming that the mantle shaped area between the circumferences of the pad and the hole should be larger than the hole area.

 

Reading old posts there has been a lot of debate regarding possible effects from different kinds of wood and possible resonance.

Theoretically there is little reason ( if any...) assuming that resonance phenomena related to the materials has any importance at all concerning squeezeboxes contrary to instruments with true resonance chambers or boards like string and bow instruments.

Old accordions makers used to speak for instance about "resonance board" but that is hardly justified.

 

Although not able to match cats and dogs human ear has got great capacity for judging these matters but for understanding what we speak about more lab tests ought to be carried out with means to substantiate findings... but maybe your dog will tell anyway if some Boyd enters the house..

 

Yes, some tone quality differences are really sublime. Some people evidently do like the overtone spectrum and others don't. In general free reed sound is rough/harsh due to the lot of (irregular) overtones and mostly a softer/nicer/mellower tone is achieved by absorption/filtering of these overtones that is for sure. What makes the rest of a "nice tone" is more obsure...but it would be of interest sorting out what the reeds are responsible for. What about the question regarding Boyd orders and Wheatstone ledgers?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall some entries in the ledgers which include the name H. Boyd... one just has to trawl through , but unfortunately the very critical 1890's to 1910 period ledger is lost . I am sure that ledger would show more references about Boyd. We can know the right periods for Boyd by checking the serial numbers of the extant instruments.

 

Tapered reedpans and flat ones appear during different periods, I think, because the tapered variety were initially reserved for the high quality models.. so it could be that a Model 21 might have a flat reed pan at the same period that a Model 22 or 24 will have the tapered type... So, I think my flat reed pan 48 from 1898 was a top of the range instrument at that time meant as direct competition for the Lachenal New Model. Not fully developed and that could be why there is not enough space above the pallet board ( even though the ends are 'Raised') and not enough possible button travel. Luckily mine has the original pads, I think, which are quite slim... If I had to replace them with new ready made pads there would hardly be enough space.... and certain fingerings can be difficult when the button heights are so low.

 

A currently enjoyed Lachenal New Model with Rosewood ends and Mahogany pad boards has a beautifull tone and fine volume is a delight to play , no Boyd name either... but the previous owner ( rightly) wants to buy it back... oh well !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A pity with the ledgers...what then is known anyway about the relevant *Boyd* serial numbers? If all Boyd instruments have a "Boyd" label on them it should be fairly easy to find out what serial number sequence we speak about. Anyone knows?

Concerning tapered reed pans you expect these to be contemporary with "longer scale reeds" ( i e those used for Aeolas for example when these were introduced) - since longer reeds are expected to need more height in the reed chambers not to hit the "ceiling". Or?

IF so - it ought to be easy to find out for example if sixsided Wheatstone 48 key treble models with tapered reed pans have longer scale reeds than those with flat reed pans. If not there may be some other factor involved. My sixsided ones mentioned before do not have the same reed scale however as some contemporary Aeolas. The question arises then if these later sixsided instruments also originally belong to the same quality range as the Boyd instruments and that your 1898 one does also. Nickelplated metal ended Wheatstones generally belong to the "top" or "next to the top" models don't they? When raised ends were introduced one more "top range" category appeared so rather than assuming that your flatended sixsided was meant as direct competition for the Lachenal New Model maybe it would be a better guess that the similar but with raised ends might have been that competitor - or maybe the reverse depending orn which came first.

This rasies a question in itself...in what chronological order did the Wheatstone sixsided raised ends, the Lachenal New Model, the Wheatstone raised ends Aeola and the Lachenal raised ends Edeophone appear on the market?

 

Summing up so far it seems ( due to missing ledgers or other documents) as if we have no documented support that the Boyd instruments were any different from contemporary same model products. I get a feeling that reputation itself plays some part here.

Maybe Boyd did order selected instruments or maybe rather that he managed to market them as special made. Just putting an individual label on them may be such a method ( seems like other dealers did the same). Maybe the ordering time and batches of instruments happened to coincide with extra good reedmakers or maybe extra hardened reed steel was used on special demand in order to offer extra loudness for open air playing or whatever. If any of this makes the assumption justified that they would be better generally than other same model instruments like the rumour seems to say is another question. They obviously belong to the period of production before WW1 which often is regarded as the "golden era" and that may be the essence of it all, and in that case maybe not being different from contemporary instruments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure where you got the impression that my 1898 model has flat ends but it does not, they are dommed , not raised in the later style where there is a pressed circular area in the centre of the ends, but bulged out gradually in a curve which begins just after the edges are folded down to enter the frames where they are screwed in place on the insides in the fashion of later Wheatstones. The lack of space is more due to the lack of height of those wooden frames . The buttons had four felt washers on their guide pins , I have removed three on each button to increase pad lift untill I get an instrument that is loud enough to cope with the on-stage noise of a dance band ... just so's I can hear myself.

 

So, coming back to the topic; it appears there are far more Lachenal Boyds about and it also appears ( please correct me if wrong) that Lachenal's were making metal ended ( LOUD) instruments for a while before Wheatstone's took up the challenge of providing its customers with more volume.. It may well be that Boyd was stocking these metal ended EC's for preference due to a late victorian fashion amongst the working classes in the North East of England for playing dance music... perhaps Miners who did not have the delicacy of touch to play the Violin but had the wages to afford a concertina that might compete with the fiddle for volume. Market trends encourage Wheatstone's to produce concertinas with Nickel Plated ends but as I see from the one I have it is not yet fully developed in 1898. By the time Harry Boyd begins to stock the Wheatstone models with his name in the fretwork... we are perhaps well into the 20th century ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×