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48 Key Lachenal English Concertina


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#1 Pete Dunk

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 02:19 PM

I've just started to reinstate a rosewood ended 48 key, brass reeded Lachenal treble and I wanted to share my progress, trials, tribulations and the possible disasters I may encounter along the way. The instrument has been poorly stored and has suffered botched amateurish attempts at repair along the way. I posted a folder of pics in the 'Test' forum which I'll now link to here.

http://s279.photobuc.....henal Repair/

I'll add new folders of pics as I go along. All that's happened so far is that I've ordered a pile of spares from David Leese to repad and revalve; there are also numerous bits of leather to rebind and patch the bellows. In the meantime I've started to clean up the reeds and shoes with a fibreglass pencil as described in David Elliot's excellent Concertina Maintenance Manual. I must also thank David for his time, patience and invaluable advice when he gave the concertina a once over last weekend; his calm, structured approach to addressing the repairs gave me the confidence to start this project in a positive way.

Please feel free to comment, advise, ask questions or poke fun as I go along. :D

Edited by tallship, 02 July 2009 - 12:16 PM.


#2 Pete Dunk

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 02:34 PM

The fibreglass pencil ran out of 'lead' halfway through the second side of the first reedpan! I'm now waiting for refills to arrive to complete the cleaning process. One of the orders from David Leese containing new pads and several other bits and pieces has gone AWOL in the post somewhere but my second order arrived this morning so I started revalve one of the reedpans.

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Before starting the revalving on one pan I repaired a couple of cracks on the other pan and set it aside for the glue to set before splinting to reinforce the thin chamber 'walls'

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The pegs were used a wedges to hold the split sections upright while the glue set. This pan needs new chamois leather gaskets to affect a proper seal so I stripped the old stuff of on that part of the reedpan so I could see what I was doing. Once that was done I set about the revalving in earnest, working my way around the reedpan from the smallest to the largest. I'd almost finished one side of the first reedpan when disaster struck. :o Nothing I'd done but a manufacturing fault that's been there since the concertina was made. One of the largest reed pairs had been machined so closely together that the cutter had opened up a hole between the reed shoe dovetail on one side and the valved slot on the other.

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I tried to cut a sliver of veneer to block the hole but it's just on the corner of the slot so I settled for a tiny patch of 0.2mm thick bellows leather with the edges skived. I glued it in place and waited half an hour before trimming off the excess, all in all the patch is only about 4mm x 3mm. The pic is a bit blured because my compact digital camera doesn't do proper macro and the light was too bright for me to see the image properly on the tiny LCD screen - that's my excuse anyway!

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After that I finished the revalving on that side of the reedpan and called it a draw for the day.

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Edited by tallship, 02 July 2009 - 12:26 PM.


#3 Peter Brook

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 04:11 PM

I'm enjoying being a voyeur here tallship - looked at your other pictures as well yesterday. Where has that concertina been? It look like part of it has had liquid running through it? Where did you find it? All the best on fixing it up I look forward to hearing it ................................... eventually :D

#4 Dirge

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 05:49 PM

Yes, I'm enjoying it too. I had look at the other pics but that's a bit like hard work and it's much nicer just seeing them here.

There's something very charming about that key to the reeds, isn't there?

#5 Pete Dunk

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 06:10 PM

The marks that look like waterstains were made by some sort of gunge smeared on top of the chamois gaskets in an attempt to reseal the chambers. Dave Elliott thinks that putty was used but having glazed a few windows in my time I'd be surprised if it was because it came away from the wood so cleanly. That said it was very crumbly like old putty and perhaps the smooth finish of the sycamore action board prevented it from getting a really good key.

I had a thought after my last post; perhaps all of the destructive work that was carried out was an attempt to stop the ghost notes caused by leakage in the badly machined G sharp chamber of the reedpan. The top shoe didn't fit too well so wasn't blocking the hole but perhaps that happened many years after it was made and the timber had moved opening up the slight gap at the side of the shoe.

As to where it came from: - just up the road near Tunbridge Wells where your friend Pip will be going to pick up an old anglo 20 button this weekend if the price is right. I paid less than the asking price but more than I would have if I'd known the extent of the internal damage. T'was a 50/50 chance, I opened up the end that was pretty much ok and took it as read that it was indicative of the general state of the 'tina, I might have opened the other end and simply walked away.

I've never worked on a concertina before but so far the work has been interesting, if a little laborious and repetative. Once you get the hang of what you're doing and feel confident about it the laborious and repetative parts becomes quite thereputic; until of course you come across a hole where no hole should be and your heart sinks to your boots! Then you find a way to work around the problem and you feel justly proud; I'm sure others would have used a different approach and packed the hole with plastic wood while covering the other side with clingfilm but I didn't have any plastic wood and I have an aversion to it anyway after seeing too many guitars botched with 'repairs' that can't be undone.

I'll PM my phone number so if Pip gets his box and you're at a loose end this weekend we can take it to bits and have a good laugh about how much it will cost him to fix it up. :D

#6 Pete Dunk

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 06:25 PM

Yes, I'm enjoying it too. I had look at the other pics but that's a bit like hard work and it's much nicer just seeing them here.

There's something very charming about that key to the reeds, isn't there?


Sorry Dirge, I posted over the top of you because my reply to Peter took a while to write. :rolleyes: It was easier posting a link to a folder of pics but individual photos supporting the text is a better way to go about it. I had hoped the pics would show full sized like other images linked from the net but I suppose the whole idea of offering free space for files is to drag you to the hosts website and bombard you with adverts.

Yes, I Iiked the the little printed note index too, presumably unique to Lachenal & Co.

#7 Dirge

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 07:34 PM

a good laugh about how much it will cost him to fix it up. biggrin.gif

Evil pair!

#8 Larry Stout

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 08:20 PM

Yes, I Iiked the the little printed note index too, presumably unique to Lachenal & Co.


My early Wheatstone has the printed note index too. Early Lachenals sometimes used the Wheatstone indices with the Wheatstone name pasted over or just cut off. I think that the guide made it clear to the tuners (who were doing freelance work at home) what size reed and what pitch went where. Since my Wheatstone is from when Lachenal worked for Wheatstone it isn't surprizing that the idea (and some of the labels, too) carried over when Lachenal went out on his own.

#9 d.elliott

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 02:05 AM

Well done Pete,

you can't keep a good man down!

Not sure about what you are describing about the leather patch however, nor its long term effectiveness

Dave E

#10 Pete Dunk

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 04:00 AM

I've now figured out how to post full sized pics from the webhosts site so here's a a closeup of the reedpan slot damage. To answer your question about the leather patch Dave, it was worked into the corner of the far slot to take in the curve and cover the hole from behind. It also straightened out the splinters on the far side of the hole so there's a fraction more wood back in place. As to the long term effectiveness of the patch, I simply don't know but the repair is reversible to allow a better solution at some time in the future.

My thinking here was that the laws of physics dictate that the airflow will take the easiest path so there will be little stress on the patch and the bellows leather is airtight in itself. Sal is going to get the big digital SLR out later to take some better pics of the patch.

The close up pic also bring another thought to mind. The machined surfaces of the slots through the reed-pan are quite rough and I wonder if there is any mileage in carefully smoothing the inside to improve the airflow. Porting and flowing might indeed produce a turbo-charged concertina! (only kidding ;) ).

Posted Image

Edited by tallship, 02 July 2009 - 12:33 PM.


#11 Pete Dunk

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 02:34 PM

Work progressed in spurts again today, most of the reeds and shoes are now cleaned because the fibreglass pencil refills arrived this morning. One reed pan is now fully re-valved and the last dozen or so were done by my other half Sally who enjoys rolling her sleeves up and having a go at almost anything.

Having watched me on the sly while I figured out the best way to do the job, she waded in and did her first one like an old hand; by the time she'd reached the last one she was working at least as fast as I had been and added a couple of refinements to the process along the way. Tomorrow I'll leave the other reed pan out with a bag of new valves and with a bit of luck she'll have finished the job by the time I get back from the pub! :D

Before long I'll have to stop because the spares I need next are in the missing package David Leese posted last Monday. The postal service around here leaves a little to be desired sometimes. :( The last package from David that went missing ended up in a village four miles away and took weeks to finally arrive here. By that time a replacement had already been posted to me and I had to send the 'first' one back.:blink:

#12 Jake Middleton-Metcalfe

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 07:11 AM

That gunge looked suspiciously like chewing gum!

#13 Pete Dunk

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 04:28 PM

That gunge looked suspiciously like chewing gum!

Short of sending the remains off for analysis we'll never know, and although I would be interested to know what it was I'm not interested enough to pay for the privilege. Not a lot has happened this week because I'm back at work after my holiday although the reeds and shoes are now all gleaming and most of the valves have been replaced. I would have finished them this evening but it's been a long day and I like to be in the right frame of mind when working on the 'tina, I'm sure the results will be better if it's pleasurable tinkering rather than a must do chore.

The good news is that David Leese has posted out new spares as a replacement for the missing package, it should arrive tomorrow with a bit of luck. I'll be able to start on the bellows then, a prospect I find quite worrying, never having done any work with leather. :unsure:

#14 d.elliott

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 04:50 PM

I've now figured out how to post full sized pics from the webhosts site so here's a a closeup of the reedpan slot damage. To answer your question about the leather patch Dave, it was worked into the corner of the far slot to take in the curve and cover the hole from behind. It also straightened out the splinters on the far side of the hole so there's a fraction more wood back in place. As to the long term effectiveness of the patch, I simply don't know but the repair is reversible to allow a better solution at some time in the future.

My thinking here was that the laws of physics dictate that the airflow will take the easiest path so there will be little stress on the patch and the bellows leather is airtight in itself. Sal is going to get the big digital SLR out later to take some better pics of the patch.

The close up pic also bring another thought to mind. The machined surfaces of the slots through the reed-pan are quite rough and I wonder if there is any mileage in carefully smoothing the inside to improve the airflow. Porting and flowing might indeed produce a turbo-charged concertina! (only kidding ;) ).

Posted Image



My approach to this sort of thing is simple,

1. if the wood is strong enough to support the reed then concentrate on any air leakage, if not repair and pehaps let in new wood.

2. if air leakage is suspected then glue a patch of brown paper into the vent side of the missing wall, making sure that after the glue has gone off the upper & lower edges of the paper are trimmed off so that they do not foul either reed frame on one face, or the seating of the valve on the other.

remember that this is an OEM's manufacturing fault, and it has worked for say, 80, 90 , 100, perhaps 120 years. if it isn't actually broken, why rush to repair it?

Dave E

#15 Pete Dunk

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 08:05 AM

The reed shoe wasn't a good fit and the hole in the reed pan was clearly visible with the shoe in place so there was undoubtedly an air leak; whether that small air leak caused any problems at all is unknown. I didn't think of using brown paper but I've filed this little nugget of knowledge for the future, in the meantime I hope the scrap of bellows leather does the trick.

The long awaited bag of spares containing new pads, thumb-strap kit and stuff to patch the bellows before rebinding arrived this morning, I also got an email from David Leese letting me know that the first package has been returned to him marked 'not known at this address' which is not really surprising as he'd forgotten to include the village name and the postcode in the address!

I'll be finishing off the last dozen or so valve replacements this afternoon and then moving on to the chamois gaskets and bellows patching, I hope to post more pics of the progress in the next couple of days.

#16 Pete Dunk

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 01:30 PM

The remaining valves have been fitted. After that I replaced the missing strips of chamois gasket to the reed chamber tops.

Posted Image

While the gum arabic was drying I cut and glued in the new chamois bellows end gasket. It was only glued around the top edge so that I could check the fit of the reed-pan before gluing the rest down.

Posted Image

The reed-pan was a very tight fit indeed and needed no extra packing out so I glued down the rest of the gasket to the bellows and opened up the holes around the edge for the end bolts. I'm waiting until tomorrow before refitting the reed-pan but I've fitted the end back on to keep it stable and allow the glue to dry fully under a bit of compression.

Edited by tallship, 02 July 2009 - 12:38 PM.


#17 d.elliott

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 02:15 AM

The remaining valves have been fitted. After that I replaced the missing strips of chamois gasket to the reed chamber tops.

Posted Image

While the gum arabic was drying I cut and glued in the new chamois bellows end gasket. It was only glued around the top edge so that I could check the fit of the reed-pan before gluing the rest down.

Posted Image

The reed-pan was a very tight fit indeed and needed no extra packing out so I glued down the rest of the gasket to the bellows and opened up the holes around the edge for the end bolts. I'm waiting until tomorrow before refitting the reed-pan but I've fitted the end back on to keep it stable and allow the glue to dry fully under a bit of compression.


Nicely done! but on the subject of reed pan fit, it may feel tight, but just check that its tight accross all flats. Shrinkage on both pan and frame can give two imperfect hexagons. Also remember that the gasket compresses with time, and that when you glue the 'skirt' into place it stretches a little and pulls back into the bellows frame; at this stage it should be almost too tight all the way round. This is why I use gum arabic so I can lift an area and re-pack as needed.

Dave E

#18 Geoffrey Crabb

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 11:35 AM

Hi Tallship.
The 'breakthrough' between reed groove and the adjacent wind slot is not normally of any consequence when the reed is in place however if a patch has been applied to the inside of the wind slot care should be taken that this does not foul the tongue of the reed for that slot when operating at full swing.

A tip. When fitting reed pans to bellows frames fitted with new lining leather, a dusting of French chalk or talcum powder (preferably unscented) applied liberally to the leather allows easier insertion without disturbing or tearing. This was always done with new instruments during the fitting process.

Smoothing the inner surface of the wind slots is of no real value.

Geoff




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