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What Tools Do I Need To Tune Reeds?


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#1 anglobox

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 11:31 AM

Im building my own tuning table. (bellow for air control) not a vacuum 

 

But I need peoples opinion on what tools i need to modify the reeds. Scrapers, grinders, metal support, or w/e.   Ive no intention of going past amature. But regardless, I am still trying to learn how to repair these instruments for myself.  I do have plenty of garbage reeds to start to learn on.  also what do you use for holding the reeds in place? both accordion style reeds and concertina reeds.

 

I'm taking plenty of pictures of this rig, and hopefully ill beable to document it, for free, so other people can learn how to do it for themselves.... or at least learn from my mistakes.



#2 anglobox

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 07:18 AM

Im still designing my small table. This is what im thinking about for the bellows... I want to keep this as cheap as possible.... Ive even read about people using the metal on 3.5" floppy disks to hold the reeds in place.

 

 

 

 

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#3 Dana Johnson

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 06:56 PM

You can try that bellows, but I had trouble with a similar one getting reeds to speak using it. Rich Morse used to bring something about that area, but only 2 or three folds between two boards that worked fine with concertina reeds. You'd only lift one end of the board to sound the reed. ( I think the huge volume of the accordion bellows creates a kind of acoustic black hole for the reeds. Not really sure except that one thing worked well and the other didn't work at all.). You could find a crappy east European concertina and use the bellows from that. Geoff Crabb had a good pic of the simple set up the Crabb's used with a old concertina bellows. You don't need anything fancy. It is in some thread here, can't remember where. Looked like you clamped the board it was fastened on to to a table, with the bellows out board. Don't know how they had it rigged, but I'd use a weight to pull the bellows down and a foot pedal with a pulley and cord to pull it closed. That way the force in operation is pretty constant and can be adjusted with weights. The Crabb's had one slot in the board adjustable for different reed sizes, and a second fit the corresponding master reed so both could sound together.
I use a small tuning box over the suction end of an adjustable speed blower. It has three chambers underneath the reed port to cover a range of reed sizes. Small reeds don't work well with a large chamber and vis versa. You can use a tuner, but you need to measure the reed in the instrument first and adjust it on the tuning bench by the amount it is off, not to a absolute pitch. Most of the time reeds have a different pitch in the box than out of it. Mostly we make a tuning chart and use that as a reference when deciding how many cents to move the pitch. For large reeds I may use a file if the pitch is far off. Large reeds don't change without a bit of metal removal, or placement if you are weighting them to lower the pitch. For mid range or high pitch reeds, I either use a fine 600 grit diamond file, or one of 320, 400, or 600 grit edm stones ( about 3/16 inches square inch in cross section and 3-4 inches long) to rub off a little metal. High reeds can change by a lot with just the lightest touch, so I avoid files there in favor of the fine stones. Even then it is really easy to overshoot the pitch you are after. I use a few different sizes of shim steel supports I can slip under the reed to support it while working on it or to change the reed "set". I start witha short strip of .015" shim stock and grind one end tapering in thickness to a nearly sharp edge to slip under a reed that might only have a tip gap of one or two thousandths of an inch.
Dana

#4 wayman

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 03:36 AM

You can try that bellows, but I had trouble with a similar one getting reeds to speak using it. Rich Morse used to bring something about that area, but only 2 or three folds between two boards that worked fine with concertina reeds. You'd only lift one end of the board to sound the reed. ( I think the huge volume of the accordion bellows creates a kind of acoustic black hole for the reeds. Not really sure except that one thing worked well and the other didn't work at all.). You could find a crappy east European concertina and use the bellows from that. Geoff Crabb had a good pic of the simple set up the Crabb's used with a old concertina bellows. You don't need anything fancy. It is in some thread here, can't remember where. Looked like you clamped the board it was fastened on to to a table, with the bellows out board. Don't know how they had it rigged, but I'd use a weight to pull the bellows down and a foot pedal with a pulley and cord to pull it closed. That way the force in operation is pretty constant and can be adjusted with weights. The Crabb's had one slot in the board adjustable for different reed sizes, and a second fit the corresponding master reed so both could sound together.

 

Dana, you've just about exactly described the Button Box set-up as well, and the sort of thing I plan to build for myself when I have the time. An old concertina bellows under a board hanging over the edge of (and clamped to) the workbench; a solid bottom end and weights inside the bellows so it drops nicely. A small hole in the board, over which we put an adjustable jig for hybrid reeds or a different jig that holds several sizes of concertina reeds. We didn't have a separate slot for a master reed. That's clever! Instead we used a tuner on a little stand that let it sit at a good spot just near / over the reed but out of the way of tuning scrapers / hands.

 

Most of us just pushed the bellows back up by hand or knee, but Judy eventually built the very sort of foot pedal system you envision. Great minds ...  :)


Edited by wayman, 19 June 2017 - 03:36 AM.


#5 Dana Johnson

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 03:39 PM

Here's a link to Alex Holden's thread on the subject with a nice pic of the result. http://www.concertin...862#entry178231
It is very much like the Crabb set up.

Button box is lucky to have Judy! Well everybody there as well. Some of my favorite people.
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#6 alex_holden

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 12:08 AM

Unfortunately allowing the weight to lower the bellows by itself doesn't give me a constant pitch, particularly on low reeds, because the resistance of the bellows varies. I try to lower the bellows at a constant speed, but it isn't an exact science. I've been considering going to an electric blower, though lack of workshop space is an issue for me.

#7 Theo

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 03:00 AM

I use a foot operated bellows and with practice I am able to achieve a steady airflow.   There is also an big advantage of being able to vary the pressure on demand as it allows you to easily identify reeds where the pitch is less stable than it should be.



#8 wayman

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 03:01 AM

Low reeds were problematic in that way (my recollection is that with the BBox set-up and hybrid reeds, "low" started around the F below middle C? but this is a hazy recollection). The reed would be a little slow to speak and flat, and then the pitch would move up gradually over the course of the five-ish seconds that the bellows dropped.

 

Two ways to mitigate that somewhat. One, for the low reeds, instead of letting the weights drop the bellows (somewhat inconsistently/unevenly) pull down evenly and firmly on the bellows just as if you were playing the note, which gives a much steadier reading on the tuner. Two, after a while, you can get a pretty good knack for where/when to take the tuner reading for your particular tuning set-up, which gets you pretty close; then you're just fine-tuning it towards perfection once it's in the instrument (same as all the other reeds). But tuning low reeds on their own, on the tuning bellows, was never an exact science.

 

Lack of workshop space may have been a factor in the BBox not using a blower. I don't know -- we never talked about it in the six years I was there. It may also be that Bob (a piano tuner by training) is just really good at tuning and never felt a blower would make things better.



#9 Dana Johnson

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 03:49 PM

One problem tuning is that reeds change pitch depending on the openness of the bellows. It is not because of the change in airflow, but the volume they interact with. An adjustable speed blower helps to get around this while tuning, but the reed is still affected when you put it back in the instrument. A good flexible bellows should be pretty even over its range, but the reed will still only be accurate at a given extension no matter what method you use. It is just part of the nature of the instrument, and judging the best point to asses the pitch of the reed in situ, is part of the art. Near the beginning and towards the end of extension, say the first and last quarters, you see the fastest change, while the middle section is closer to uniform. Lower notes seem most affected, possibly because they eat more air, so the bellows extends faster?
The issue is trying to get the reeds to behave close to the same so they stay in tune at least with each other. The master reed method shines here, because it changes along with the reed to be tuned regardless of pressure (more or less) and bellows extension.
Rich Morse looked into a blower at one point early on, but was thinking along the lines of an organ blower. Probably more of an expense than it was worth and Bob prevailed.
Dana




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