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Advice On Repairing Fret Ends?


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#1 RossDubois

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 10:57 PM

Hello!

Ive been lurking on this forum for a bit now, as Ive been familiarizing myself with concertinas and their workings.

Ive become rather obsessed with their construction and operation and as I am an instrument maker and mechanic by profession, it fits me rather well Id say!
I bought David Elliots book and have been studying it for some time, as well as hunting for any and all information pertaining to construction and repair I could lay my eyes on

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Anyway, to the point of this post.
I recently acquired a sort of beat up Lachenal and while the inimitable model looks most similar to this, I cant seem to find anything exactly identical. The serial number seems to be 24568. Any ideas what this is per se?
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I would like to restore it to its original condition. At least, thereabouts. It doesnt need to be perfect, but certainly better than its current state.

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It has similar tooling on the bellows as the inimitable does, which are in rather good shape, surprisingly. One small leak, which I will patch from the inside.

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There are some pivot posts jumping out of their holes when a button is lightly depressed, which is a new occurrence for me as my Anglo has never exhibited these same issues before. I havent been able to find much information on that particular subject here, apart from using a very very fine shim to press back in with. Ideas?

The best part about this concertina find is that it is very well in tune, surprisingly. For the many other horrible physical issues it has, it checks out in the sound department. I need to replace 8 small valves however, all on higher notes, in order to restore complete functionality.

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(Note the missing valves)

The worst issue, which I need some advice on, is how to repair either fret end. They are in rough, rough shape. The cracks are large and pronounced and the boxed sides are separating in some areas while others are stressed/squashed by over torquing the bolts.

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Im not sure what the best way to approach repairing this would be. Should I cut thin sheets of card, pasted with plastic wood and fill the cracked areas, maybe add reinforcement like the underside photo shows.

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(It looks like someone added these rosewood gussets at some point, but it could be a common practice Im not aware of)

I would prefer to avoid that method and would sooner moisten the wood enough to compress back into shape and use a jig to keep the pieces compressed... but I think that is probably easier said than done, due to the elaborate fret work and lack of structural strength.
The body of each fret end is concave toward the bellows, also likely due to whatever climate issues caused the cracking in the first place. Its a mess, but still pretty.

The ends, in as poor cosmetic condition theyre in, still fit the sizing of the bellow ends just fine. If I try to rejoin these damaged fret bits, it may make that part even more difficult

I suppose i could have someone produce some ends for me? But that would be rather expensive Id imagine.

Ideas and approach tips most welcome and encouraged!

#2 alex_holden

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 02:44 AM

The missing valves on the top notes is probably correct. They aren't essential with very small reeds and can have a muffling effect on the sound. It looks like maybe somebody tried fitting them at some point, then changed their mind and took them back off again.

#3 lachenal74693

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 02:53 AM

The missing valves on the top notes is probably correct. They aren't essential with very small reeds and can

have a muffling effect on the sound...

 

I queried the 'missing valves' on these top notes when having an instrument re-furbished by

Dave Elliot earlier this year - he said exactly the same thing as Alex.

 

Roger


Edited by lachenal74693, 19 December 2017 - 02:55 AM.


#4 SteveS

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 04:33 AM

This is a very brief overview of how I might effect a repair to the ends

 

- strip off the finish

- glue strips of rosewood veneer into the cracks ensuring the ends are level - use hide glue - (some support under the cracks may also be needed, use more veneer for this)

- lightly sand the ends to get a smooth finish

- refinish the ends

 

metalwork may need to be removed before the above



#5 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 05:40 AM

Hi Ross,

 

your instrument looks very much like an Inimitable to my eyes - possibly even better as the Inimitable shouldn't have long-scale reeds (like the ebonised Excelsior and the Nonpareil, fitted with Amboyna) as this one appears to have.

 

However, albeit the reeds are looking not too bad at first sight, some of them seem to be seriously damaged at the tip. Furthermore, several reedshoes are quite loose and may just be pressed back, but in some cases the bay where they should slot in is worn, thus some more woodwork is likely to be done.

 

And it's debatable that one small patch will do it for sealing the bellows I'm afraid...

 

Anyway, the (both re the looks and soundwise) beautiful instrument might well be worth it.

 

Best wishes - Wolf



#6 malcolm clapp

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 05:42 AM

I've been working on an identical model recently, no.25152. Luckily, the ends on mine are not as badly cracked, despite a slight concave to both ends.

 

Quote:  "...and while the inimitable model looks most similar to this, I cant seem to find anything exactly identical....Any ideas what this is per se?"

 

I was under the impression that the rosewood "Inimitable" model had less fretting than both yours and mine; the fretwork is more akin to that found on the ebony ended  "Excelsior" model, so I'm as mystified as you regarding the model name (if any). "Inimitable with Excelsior-style fretting",  or perhaps "rosewood ended Excelsior" might be suitable descriptions...or not!  I'm not sure what features other than the fretwork and the finish distinguished these models apart; old Lachenal price lists seem to specify little else.

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#7 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 05:45 AM

I've been working on an identical model recently, no.25152. Luckily, the ends on mine are not as badly cracked, despite a slight concave to both ends.

 

Quote:  "...and while the inimitable model looks most similar to this, I cant seem to find anything exactly identical....Any ideas what this is per se?"

 

I was under the impression that the rosewood "Inimitable" model had less fretting than both yours and mine; the fretwork is more akin to that found on the ebony ended  "Excelsior" model, so I'm as mystified as you regarding the model name (if any). "Inimitable with Excelsior-style fretting",  or perhaps "rosewood ended Excelsior" might be suitable descriptions...or not!  I'm not sure what features other than the fretwork and the finish distinguished these models apart; old Lachenal price lists seem to specify little else.

 

Malcom, cross-posting  :)

 

So we might have to say: Inimitable with Excelsior-style fretting and reeds - however, since my own Excelsior looks just like this specimen in black, I've seen pictures of other Excelsior models with lesser fretwork as well.

 

Best wishes - Wolf



#8 Theo

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 05:50 AM

My approach would be broadly similar to Steve's.   Sometimes with less severe cracking one can take a more conservative approach, retaining the original finish and stabilising the cracks with glue inserted form inside and cleats across the cracks if necessary.   I don't think that would work here.    

 

Check that the support posts are not missing or too short.   There should be one where each long screw goes through from the outside to the action board at each thumb strap and finger rest.

 

Fish glue is a good alternative to hide glue.  It doesn't require heating and has a longer open time which can be important when gluing small fiddly parts.  Its also reversible with moisture like hide glue.

 

The reeds have been cleaned and possible tuned.  If it wasn't you somebody else has been at them recently.



#9 malcolm clapp

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 05:50 AM

Think I'll call mine a Lachenal Palindrome on account of its number, though I'm sure there are many other examples around. First I've come across though....



#10 Dana Johnson

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 09:28 AM

I don’t know when solid ends were replaced by multi layered veneer ends, but this looks like the former. Part of the cracking comes from the differential shrinkage of the ends vs. the end frames which shrink very little. ( still, the glue seperation at the corners is a likely result of the same phenomenon.). I made an emergency repair to. DA Wheatstone with solid ebony ends using a backing sheet of 1/64 inch (remember inches?) birch plywood using fish glue both to glue the sheet on and to glue the cracks. Once dry, I used a exact knife to cut through and trim the ply to reestablish the fret pattern. I also repaired the posts which had been replaced with pieces of pencil. The repair worked very well, but the cracks were the result of brittle wood and poor hand rest support under strong playing and not shrinkage. Simply compressing and gluing the ends may not be possible on yours since the end frames are now larger than the end attached. Moistening the wood prior to repair would be unlikely to hold since the wood cracked because it was too moist relative to the end frames in the first place.
People should also be aware that this concertina reed pan is a good example of the corrosive effects of alum tanned (naturally white ) valves. While it has good valve properties, they are corrosive to the metal they are near. You can see on the larger reeds where the brass is still bright below the valve, but with progressively more dark patina next to the valves.
Dana

#11 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 09:37 AM

Although again not answering your question how to approach the woodwork, regarding the matter of Inimitable asf. I notice flat (metal) buttons whereas my own Excelsior as well as others pictured on the internet hat domed buttons (which I personally find preferable).

 

Best wishes - Wolf


Edited by Wolf Molkentin, 19 December 2017 - 09:37 AM.


#12 RossDubois

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 12:57 PM

Interesting information, thank you All.

First about the valves; I now see the reasoning in the little ones missing, but there are a number of other valves missing as well. When I replace the larger missing valves, shall I omit the smallest ones then?

I initially blamed the missing valves for this sound I was getting from one. It was an airy... wind. Barely any kind of musical tone. High pitched. But now that the damaged reeds have been pointed out to me, I might blame that as the culprit and not so much the valve.

I’m on the Rhode Island/ Massachusetts border so button Box isn’t too far from me. One of the clay suppliers we use is out in western MA so it might be worth dropping by with those damaged reeds, you think? I would enjoy doing that work myself, but as I’m trying to have one totally usable concertina between the two I own, it isn’t a worthy investment financially or in terms of time. I can’t tear myself away from my business long enough to produce bellows for testing reeds :/
I’m limited to woodwork here.

That said, what’s the general consensus on what I should do about these fret ends? If anyone makes ends, how much would I expect to pay? I could make fine ceramic ends that would mate perfectly... but that would be just sort of silly, heavier and more fragile. There is something alluring about finely detailed high fired translucent porcelain ends though.

I can likely fix the reed pan well on my own. It looks like someone tried to gouge the reeds out at some point, but who knows really. The reeds are well tuned, except for the damaged ones which is what makes the assembly and ‘repair’ work that’s been done to it so bizarre. Maybe someone was decent at tuning but terrible at everything else.

Regarding the ambiguity of this model- so it’s like a strange place between the excelsior and inimitable? Curious. I’m glad that Malcom seems to own the same model, does yours have long reeds also?

Anyway, the TL;DR
What should I do about these ends and what would you do if you owned this concertina and you were able to execute most of this work?

#13 Don Taylor

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 01:13 PM

I am a bit reluctant to make this suggestion for fear of the ancient gods of the concertina descending upon me and striking me down for blasphemy... 

 

But, how about removing all of the old finish, repairing the cracks and then French polishing the ends with black French polish?

 

You would not have to be so perfect about matching the wood, maybe even use a little filler in places (ducks quickly) and it would look more like an Excelsior than ever.

 

Plus if you ever want to leave the US with this instrument, or sell it outside of the US, then it would not be so obviously made of rosewood and subject to CITES restrictions.



#14 RossDubois

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 03:42 PM

I like that idea, Don. Though, the rosewood is absolutely gorgeous, itd be a shame to cover it up. But, alas, it seems as though it might be my only option unless someone can suggest otherwise.
I would have to do some clever carving to fill some of these cracks and make the fretwork asymmetrics look more deliberate. Some cracks and gaps are quite wide and I gather impossible to properly join, resulting in filling being the only option.
I have a great deal of experience with French polishing, so this might not be a bad way to go. One way or another, I doubt this concertina will come out as it was originally made, thats for sure

Edited by RossDubois, 19 December 2017 - 03:43 PM.


#15 Mike Pierceall

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 03:42 PM

The ends seem to have been repaired with PVA glue, which would make proper repair with hide glue problematic as the two don't mix.  As long as the previous repairs are holding, I would leave well enough alone as undoing PVA joints would likely fracture the ends into bits and pieces.  I have successfully used very thin cotton twill cloth soaked in liquid hide glue to reinforce open fractures from the underside.  If you attempt to compress the cracks back together, you may well open up other cracks.



#16 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 05:34 PM

I kind of like your suggestion re the ebonised looks, Don

#17 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 04:52 AM

Ross, coming back to the issue of damaged reed(s): Since at least one obviously seems to be beyond fixing (as there's simply part of it missing), you might try to get a replacement reed which is already applied to a reed shoe which fits in the pan (and would be roughly in tune as well). Lots of these Lachenals have been around, some of them sadly restricted to serve as spare parts donors because there even more battered than yours, and thus you should (albeit these reeds possibly being still slightly longer in the higher register) be able to find a reed (on a shoe), which might have similar tonal qualities then.

 

Best wishes - Wolf


Edited by Wolf Molkentin, 20 December 2017 - 04:59 AM.


#18 RossDubois

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Posted 20 December 2017 - 11:13 AM

Thanks for the advice Wolf and Mike.

The underside of both ends appear to have been adjusted with what looks like wood glue, which doesn’t bode well for any disassembly, so I may just have to work with what I’ve got. I have some friends with CNC machines, perhaps I can have the set replicated.

I’ve found two ‘dead’ reeds. One in that photo and other elsewhere. I also managed to free a stuck one, that should work for the interim as I ecru funds to repair them. I’m not sure how I could track down single reeds in a shoe, considering the limited number of parts instruments on the internet, but the Button Box is only an hour and a half away from where I live. I might just stop by with the reeds and see if they can work with my existing shoes and just replace the reeds themselves.
I’ve identified a few to be slightly out of tune as well, so I’ll bring those along also. Probably after the holidays.




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