Posted 12 September 2013 - 03:07 PM
Just a few rambles on this subject.
It is extremely unlikely that it was or is possible to stamp out concertina end plates with traditional fretwork patterns for a myriad of reasons.
Some of these are:
The cost of the press tools (one pair for the left side and another pair for the right), if possible to make because of the complexity, would be unimaginable. It must also be considered that a separate set of tools would be required for each type and model of instrument available.
Checking the accuracy of the tool setting between each pressing would be an onerous but necessary task to avoid irreversible damage to the tools.
A press capable of generating the force (tonnage) to stamp a top would be have to be huge and the space to accommodate such a monster let alone the cost would have been beyond the resources of most makers.
Of coarse, with current technology and the advancement in precision cutting methods it is possibly more convenient and less labour intensive to use these than the methods of the past.
By the old method using a hand frame, the best blades available and no interruptions it should be possible for an experienced piercer to fret cut the standard John Crabb pattern in a pair of nickel silver tops in about four hours, two hours per side.
95% of Crabb fretwork was pierced in-house, but like some of the other makers, during the late 1800s, at periods of heavy demand, this work was put out to others who professionally specialized in this type of work. If this was done, Crabb tops were nearly always sent out with the paper patterns attached.
It has been noted that some fretwork designs that appear on instruments of various make are similar but have noticeable differences.
Like today, it was very difficult to control the use of a design once it left the workshop. In a bid to avoid designing and drawing patterns, it is probable that some makers borrowed the existing designs of others and it is almost certain that some of the aforementioned outside parties, if approached, would pierce concertina tops to a known design. Unfortunately, copies of the designs in this case, were generally obtained by taking rubbings of the last tops pierced. Depending on the accuracy of these rubbings, the skill of the piercer and the quality of the saw blades used, the reproduced fretwork was rarely a true copy of the original. It is easy to imagine that as this process was continued, any deviation in successive rubbings and piecing could eventually result in tops being considerably different from an original design.
Of course, some makers may have requested minor changes or additions to known designs to personalise them and it is known that professional piercers would even design a pattern from scratch if requested but that was usually not cost effective for the smaller makers.
I have written a draft paper describing the Crabb method of making metal concertina tops. Due to the size constraint of attachments I have split it into four parts. Parts 1 & 2 are attached below. Hopefully parts 3 & 4 will follow in a subsequent posting.