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Aluminum Reed Frames Vs Brass Reed Frame


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#19 JimLucas

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 08:16 PM

Before concluding that aluminum frames give a harsher sound, would it not be a good idea to transfer the same reeds from aluminum to brass frames and see if there are differences in sound chararcteristics between the two types of frames with the same reeds?

While that sort of comparison seems necessary at a minimum, as described it's not sufficient. For the comparison to be valid one would have to be able to insure that 1) the two reed shoes are precisely identical in all dimensions, and that 2) the fit of the reed within the frame is identical -- to within 1/1000 cm, unless and until lesser precision can be demonstrated to be adequate -- at all points, since these factors also potentially affect the sound quality. The difficulty of precisely controlling details like these has probably contributed to the fact that no definitive studies have yet been done.

If it was a factor of weight, then larger and therefore heavier reeds [reed shoes!] would sound different to smaller brass shoes.

Don't they?

If it was a matter of the substance of the material, then you have to believe a piece of metal rigidly trapped in a piece of wood can somehow resonate more or less sympathetically depending on its makeup.

Nope. I don't have to believe that. Because there's more involved than just resonance. A more fundamental process is the mechanical analog to electrical impedance.

Think about it. Relatively, aluminium and brass are together somewhere way up the hardness scale from Sycamore.

Hardness is only one property of these materials. Density and elasticity are two others which also affect mechanical impedance. And while aluminum and brass may be closer to each other in these properties (with duralumin somewhere in between?) than either is to sycamore, they are still quite different from each other.

And on top of that, what do you do if you want to cancel resonance in a piece of metal. You fix it to something soft like a piece of wood.

I suspect the reason that that is effective is not simply that the wood is "soft". You're also introducing a boundary between two materials with dissimilar characteristics, and unless their impedances are precisely "matched" in a particular way, the boundary between the different sets of properties of the two materials will interfere with any resonances. It should also be possible to "kill" resonances by using a denser material (iron? lead?) in place of the wood. Even the same material will work, as long as there are at least two parts, with a boundary between them, since the discontinuity itself will interfere with resonances.

(The earliest Ford Falcons were advertised as having "Unibody" construction. I.e., the entire body was cast in one piece. Ever wonder why that advertising campaign disappeared? The joints between the different segments of an ordinary car's body damp out vibrations and prevent resonances from building up. I rode across the US in one of the "Unibody" Falcons, and it was quite easy to keep it below the 70 mph speed limit then current on Interstate highways, because at exactly 70 mph the car developed a resonance that felt like it was shaking itself to pieces!)

As in electrical circuits, certain combinations of impedance and frequency can result in resonances, but there are other significant effects, such as differential absorption and dispersion. In electrical circuits, e.g., control of impedances can be used to create bandpass filters, while improperly controlled impedance can result in runaway feedback. There's even an equivalent to optical indices of refraction, differences in which are used to produce lenses and color-dispersing prisms.

I can understand the emotional reaction against aluminium, I have it myself. Brass gives a feel of Victorian quality; aluminium, well, is sort of cheap. But they need to be judged for the other qualities they bring rather than their tonal qualities.

Why not all their qualities that have demonstrable effects? The question which started this thread is whether there are tonal effects, and I don't believe that has yet been established either way.

And when I think about it I can't think of a single technical reason to use brass over aluminium. Al is easier to work, about half the weight, easier to get, cheaper.

I understand that it's not pure aluminum, but duralumin -- an aluminum alloy, -- which is used for concertina reed shoes. Aluminum itself has not been successful. And this raises in my mind the question of whether there are various kinds of duralumin with differing properties, just as there are many different kinds of "brass" and many different iron alloys generally known as "steel". Perhaps there are aluminum alloys which would be better suited to making concertina reed frames than what have been used to date? I don't know, but in a Google search I did find a reference to "super-duralumin", whatever that might be.

Two technical differences in which brass might be considered superior to duralumin -- resistance to compressive force, and resistance to some forms of corrosion -- have already been referred to in this thread.

But I also would guess the major reasons why almost all new concertinas have brass shoes...

Do they? I thought most new concertinas used "accordion" reeds, mounted on aluminum plates. But even of those contemporary makers producing new "concertina" reeds, I believe that Steve Dickinson (Wheatstone), Colin Dipper, and Wim Wakker all offer both brass and "aluminum" reed shoes as options, though Jürgen Suttner's web site only mentions brass. (I don't have information on Carroll and others handy.)

Empirical testing of aspects of concertina construction is not easy as there are many factors, making tests complicated and expensive. ...

Quite true!

But I suspect anyone with the technical wherewithall to set up such a test would not do so because after thinking about it you would realise it was not necessary.

I think I have shown above that in your "thinking about it", you have overlooked or neglected some potentially important factors. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that I have, also. It's precisely the possibility that we will not succeed in thinking of all the significant factors that makes experimentation necessary.

#20 Greg Jowaisas

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 08:26 PM

You assume that if someone at some time disagreed with your current opinion, it must have been due to a misunderstanding? Well, Boris Matusewitch once told me that he required that instruments built (by Crabb or Wheatstone) to carry the Matusewitch name be made with brass reed frames, not aluminum. He claimed that the brass reed frames gave a richer sound. Right or wrong, it was clearly his personal judgement, not his mistunderstanding of what someone else had said. And I'm fairly certain that he has not been the only person of "influence" who has held -- and expressed -- that opinion.


I have a Matusewitch badged Wheatstone from the 1960s that has steel reeds in aluminum frames.

Greg

#21 JimLucas

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 08:39 PM

... Boris Matusewitch once told me that he required that instruments built (by Crabb or Wheatstone) to carry the Matusewitch name be made with brass reed frames, not aluminum.

I have a Matusewitch badged Wheatstone from the 1960s that has steel reeds in aluminum frames.

Interesting. Boris made his comment to me in the mid-1970's. I could speculate that he received some aluminum-framed instruments and didn't like them, causing him to subsequently demand brass... but I don't really know.

#22 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 01:13 AM

According to one source, duralumin is only used for top-end accordion reed shoes, with a cheaper aluminum (though still some sort of alloy, I would guess) used on cheaper reeds:

"Commercial:
These are the least expensive reeds, and are manufactured almost entirely by machine. They are smaller than others of higher quality. The aluminium reed plate is also of a lesser quality, and often has a dull finish.

(...)

Hand Made:
This is best cut of reed. The reed plates are hand cut and made of the best aluminium, called Duraluminium. They are finely finished to the point where they shine. The reed tongue of the Hand Made Reed is often blue on the sides of the square blue steel base, because the steel is heat tempered in strips. The base of the reed is often obscured by a layer of wax, which is applied during the installation of reeds onto reed blocks. This characteristic tells you that the reed is hand made."

And here's a quote from a reed maker (from a pretty interesting interview):

"Re aluminum, we buy it from ALUSUISSE, also certificate QMS ISO 9001, in different quality: Peraluman, Anticorodal Dural, Avional Dural. Moreover we use different sizes also: from 2,5 to 4 mm. thickness. Re bass and terzetti (the very largest size) we use premade aluminum for the reed plates.. We also manufacture brass reed plates and zinc reed plates in small quantities."

Daniel

I understand that it's not pure aluminum, but duralumin -- an aluminum alloy, -- which is used for concertina reed shoes. Aluminum itself has not been successful. And this raises in my mind the question of whether there are various kinds of duralumin with differing properties, just as there are many different kinds of "brass" and many different iron alloys generally known as "steel". Perhaps there are aluminum alloys which would be better suited to making concertina reed frames than what have been used to date? I don't know, but in a Google search I did find a reference to "super-duralumin", whatever that might be.

Two technical differences in which brass might be considered superior to duralumin -- resistance to compressive force, and resistance to some forms of corrosion -- have already been referred to in this thread.

But I also would guess the major reasons why almost all new concertinas have brass shoes...

Do they? I thought most new concertinas used "accordion" reeds, mounted on aluminum plates. But even of those contemporary makers producing new "concertina" reeds, I believe that Steve Dickinson (Wheatstone), Colin Dipper, and Wim Wakker all offer both brass and "aluminum" reed shoes as options, though Jürgen Suttner's web site only mentions brass. (I don't have information on Carroll and others handy.)


Edited by Daniel Hersh, 06 June 2006 - 01:18 AM.


#23 chris

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 03:11 AM

if a concertina gives you the sound you want, and i presume it does or one would buy a different one, does it matter what its components are made of? Surely if the different materials do change the sound will it still be the concertina that you bought/aquired because you liked its sound and action

looking at concertinas on ebay and considering what appears to be a gradual lessening of good instruments for sale is there a concertina selling season?
chris

#24 Laitch

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 11:40 AM

(The earliest Ford Falcons were advertised as having "Unibody" construction. I.e., the entire body was cast in one piece. Ever wonder why that advertising campaign disappeared? The joints between the different segments of an ordinary car's body damp out vibrations and prevent resonances from building up. I rode across the US in one of the "Unibody" Falcons, and it was quite easy to keep it below the 70 mph speed limit then current on Interstate highways, because at exactly 70 mph the car developed a resonance that felt like it was shaking itself to pieces!)

Jim
The "unibody" advertising campaign might have disappeared but the concept, undoubtedly improved in application, remains in practice. Most of today's cars are built with unibody constuction. The exceptions are heavy duty trucks and some "luxury" cars.

Your experience probably was from Ford's notorious front suspension geometry and components applied to the lightweight Falcon, or wheel alignment/balance problems too.

#25 JimLucas

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 02:46 PM

Your experience probably was from Ford's notorious front suspension geometry and components applied to the lightweight Falcon, or wheel alignment/balance problems too.

Definitely seemed to be the whole body that was resonating. Maybe the problem was that the suspension and the body had the same resonant frequency? (Pure specualtion, of course.) :unsure:

#26 Dana Johnson

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 05:06 PM

[quote name='JimLucas' post='40472' date='Jun 5 2006, 08:16 PM']
I understand that it's not pure aluminum, but duralumin -- an aluminum alloy, -- which is used for concertina reed shoes. Aluminum itself has not been successful. And this raises in my mind the question of whether there are various kinds of duralumin with differing properties, just as there are many different kinds of "brass" and many different iron alloys generally known as "steel".

Here's a good description of duralumin : <http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Duralumin> I was used to the Alclad ( pure highly corrosion resistant aluminum clad on harder aluminum alloy ) version, which seems to coincide with the "aircraft quality " I've used precipitation hardening 6061 aluminum alloy for a number of things, since most aluminum alloys are too soft and easily buggered up. I find the brasses easy to work cleanly and to resist damage to the upper edge of the reed window where clearance is everything.
In an accordion ( already a heavy instrument ) brass reed plates would weigh a ton compared with the aluminum. In concertinas, the weight savings though quite noticeable is still measured in ounces. While there are different impedance effects created from having a heavy weighted reed pan vs a light one, There are so many other factors going into tone that overwhelm the differences in reeds including what "sycamore" or part of the tree the reed pan material was cut from, how good the reed shoe contact is, The thickness and material of the action pan, reed window geometry, I'd tend to leave the acousitc effects out and stick with personal preference for lightness, durability and enviornmental corrosion considerations. Good reeds can be made with either shoe material. Poor reeds can be made equally as easily if not more so, and will have much more effect on the instrument than the shoe material. I've seen plenty of brass shoed reeds corroded to death as well. The true test as allways is do I like the sound and the way it plays enough to buy it?
Dana

#27 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 05:55 PM

[quote name='Dana Johnson' date='Jun 11 2006, 05:06 PM' post='40715']
[quote name='JimLucas' post='40472' date='Jun 5 2006, 08:16 PM']
I understand that it's not pure aluminum, but duralumin -- an aluminum alloy, -- which is used for concertina reed shoes. Aluminum itself has not been successful. And this raises in my mind the question of whether there are various kinds of duralumin with differing properties, just as there are many different kinds of "brass" and many different iron alloys generally known as "steel".

Here's a good description of duralumin : <http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Duralumin> I was used to the Alclad ( pure highly corrosion resistant aluminum clad on harder aluminum alloy ) version, which seems to coincide with the "aircraft quality " I've used precipitation hardening 6061 aluminum alloy for a number of things, since most aluminum alloys are too soft and easily buggered up. I find the brasses easy to work cleanly and to resist damage to the upper edge of the reed window where clearance is everything.
In an accordion ( already a heavy instrument ) brass reed plates would weigh a ton compared with the aluminum. In concertinas, the weight savings though quite noticeable is still measured in ounces. While there are different impedance effects created from having a heavy weighted reed pan vs a light one, There are so many other factors going into tone that overwhelm the differences in reeds including what "sycamore" or part of the tree the reed pan material was cut from, how good the reed shoe contact is, The thickness and material of the action pan, reed window geometry, I'd tend to leave the acousitc effects out and stick with personal preference for lightness, durability and enviornmental corrosion considerations. Good reeds can be made with either shoe material. Poor reeds can be made equally as easily if not more so, and will have much more effect on the instrument than the shoe material. I've seen plenty of brass shoed reeds corroded to death as well. The true test as allways is do I like the sound and the way it plays enough to buy it?
Dana
[/quote]

So how did you come to your own decision to use bronze? Or is bad form for me to ask what may be a trade secret....

#28 Dana Johnson

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 07:55 PM

So how did you come to your own decision to use bronze? Or is bad form for me to ask what may be a trade secret....
[/quote]

Never any harm in asking. The brass used in Wheatstone reeds was fairly soft, being formed/ pressed in the process of production. My reeds are held by the ends instead of the sides and wanted a metal with more spring in it so it would want to stay flat under pressure beteween the ends. I started using a common brass years ago that was still too soft and switched to a harder leaded Engravers brass, which was both hard and clean machining. In the process of fitting the reeds, I dress the edge of the reed window with a very fine diamond file, which generates a small amount of fine dust, small enough to float in the air. I felt like I didn't want to have that leaded alloy around me in that form for years of concertina making so switched to a hard spring temper Phosphor Bronze. It works well though is not ideal for machining purposes being slightly gummy, In other respects it is a good alloy though, and not particularly toxic. I feel like the heavier copper alloys provide an added stability to the reed pan, lessening it's response to vibration, and the wasted energy that happens when the reed shoe can transfer it's motion to it's surroundings.
I've never felt that lightness was the holy grail of concertina making, as worthwhile as it is, but responsiveness is directly related to how quickly the reed can build it's vibration. Reducing any energy lost in wood movement means if I want weight anywhere in a concertina, I want it in the reed pan / shoe combo.
This doesn't mean I look for dense wood, I want hard relatively light wood that has low damping, Thick enough to be fairly stiff and add the weight with the shoes. All these things get balanced for tone though. Concertina tone is affected by so many variables, and you can't go to extremes anywhere whithout losing the marvelous balance of tone of a really good instrument. What it does mean is that if you switch to a light shoe, you may want to balance it by changing the reed pan thickness or wood variety.
I guess the real harm in asking is the risk of long winded answers like this.
Dana

#29 d.elliott

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 03:09 PM

Interesting that the concertina folk law has expanded to imply that concertina reed frames were made of duralumin, not a basic aluminium.

If I remember my materials science lectures from good old Salford Univerity Mech Eng (1970 vintage) I understood that duralumin was developed for aerospace, before the space bit; but certainly after the first ali reed shoed instruments appeared. Certainly not at the levels of corrosion that I reported earlier.

I suppose I could research this, perhaps other contributors may have done so and my brain cells have been too affected by the life stile to which I would like to aspire...

Dave

#30 Dana Johnson

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 08:05 PM

Interesting that the concertina folk law has expanded to imply that concertina reed frames were made of duralumin, not a basic aluminium.

Dave


I believe the Duralumin reference was to the accordion reed maker's interview and the materials he used. None of the aluminum concertina reeds I ever saw looked like they were made from it.

#31 Dirge

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 12:28 AM

When I checked the Wheatstone ledger for the early '20s instrument I'm looking at buying it said 'dural' quite clearly.

#32 JimLucas

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 01:13 AM

Interesting that the concertina folk law has expanded to imply that concertina reed frames were made of duralumin, not a basic aluminium.

If I remember my materials science lectures from good old Salford Univerity Mech Eng (1970 vintage) I understood that duralumin was developed for aerospace, before the space bit; but certainly after the first ali reed shoed instruments appeared. Certainly not at the levels of corrosion that I reported earlier.

When I checked the Wheatstone ledger for the early '20s instrument I'm looking at buying it said 'dural' quite clearly.

Yes, the post-1910 ledgers use "dural" consistently, and I don't recall seeing "aluminium" or "Al" at all.

But I'm the one who brought up dural in this thread, and I thought I had learned that detail here on Concertina.net, so I did a Search. Yep! My original source is this very informative post by Stephen Chambers. It also addresses the corrosion issue.

#33 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 08:56 AM

Interesting that the concertina folk law has expanded to imply that concertina reed frames were made of duralumin, not a basic aluminium.

If I remember my materials science lectures from good old Salford Univerity Mech Eng (1970 vintage) I understood that duralumin was developed for aerospace, before the space bit; but certainly after the first ali reed shoed instruments appeared. Certainly not at the levels of corrosion that I reported earlier.

When I checked the Wheatstone ledger for the early '20s instrument I'm looking at buying it said 'dural' quite clearly.

Yes, the post-1910 ledgers use "dural" consistently, and I don't recall seeing "aluminium" or "Al" at all.

Actually, the references to Duralumin don't start until 1920 in the Wheatstone ledgers, but they quite clearly believed that they were using it, as does Steve Dickinson. So it's no myth.

The material certainly does go back "before the space bit"; following its invention in 1909 it was already being used to build Zeppelins before the First World War. ;)

But the use of aluminium in concertinas seems to have started with "those truly progressive makers, Messrs. Lachenal" in 1894, a time when it seems to have become very fashionable with musical instrument makers! That same year Neil Merrill, in the United States, started to manufacture his aluminium bodied gutars, mandolins and zithers (having been experimenting with it since 1886). It was also the year that the John Church Co. announced their aluminium violin, though Alfred Springer had patented one as early as 1891. I have also seen 1890's all-alumium zither banjos made by Joseph Riley of Birmingham (England).

#34 d.elliott

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 12:42 PM

I humbly sit corrected, pointed hat on head, big letter D, facing the corner (playing my brass shoed aeola). Duralumin concertinas 1920's ... Crabb concertinas ???, but the one I remember best as a corroded Ali scrapper was a Wheatstone duet, but was a long time ago that I hexamined it.

Dave

Edited by d.elliott, 15 June 2006 - 12:46 PM.


#35 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 12:45 PM

Yes, the post-1910 ledgers use "dural" consistently, and I don't recall seeing "aluminium" or "Al" at all.

Actually, the references to Duralumin don't start until 1920 in the Wheatstone ledgers ...

Though, thinking about it, I'm sure that I once had a circa 1910 Æola treble with (highly unusual) aluminium shoes and a bright green leather bellows, but I think the serial number might have been below 25000 so it wouldn't be in the surviving ledgers.

Now who did I sell it to? :unsure:

Edited to add:

Maybe it was # 25750, which I've just traced in the ledgers, though there's no reference to aluminium shoes.

Edited by Stephen Chambers, 15 June 2006 - 10:50 PM.


#36 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 01:11 PM

... pointed hat on head, big letter D ...

Well I hope it's made of Duralumin! ;)

... the one I remember best as a corroded Ali scrapper was a Wheatstone duet, but was a long time ago that I hexamined it.

The worst aluminium disasters I've ever seen have been in early Edeophones, where the shoes had crumbled away to dust, though I've had (much less severe) corrosion problems with a 1950ish Wheatstone Anglo too.




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