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Bruce Thomson

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  1. Bob, as usual, I greatly enjoyed looking at the crystal clear photos and entertaining, useful ideas.


    Malcolm, originally I was terrified about modifying my concertina. I had seen someone saying never to dare.

    But I've done various excellent repairs at almost no cost

    - replaced springs,

    - removed jamming dust from reeds

    - adjusted stuck reeds

    - created and installed replacement buttons

    - removed the little finger guard that obstructed my playing

    - stuck on labels for each note to help me orientate myself

    - added an under-thigh strap to give me 30% extra pull out capacity of the bellows and more stable playing generallly.


    You see, I'm in New Zealand, thousands of miles from expert repairers.

    I'm also prudent about money, love do-it-yourself adventuring.

    My concertinas (a Lachenal, a Hohner, and the Stagi) are to me tools of musical communication.

    I have only small nostalgia or reverence for them - they're wooden machines for expressing love of life and people now, rather than being sacred elegant traditions.

    Ergonomically they are an 1800s primitive technology that needs upgrading to this century in view of today's knowledge and materials.

    Examples: 'Time we had an ergonomic keyboard, made them easier to manufacture & fix & adjust, for everyone, maybe via 3D printing.

    I want millions of school kids to have a lovely-sounding but cheap concertinas in their backpacks, for home, with friends, round campfires, England, China, USA, New Zealand.
    I want to hear the Concertina Nova beside the guitars already being used, adding tunes, songs, dancing and love to countless scenes.


    Bob, I'll keep in mind the idea of enlarging the vent, for my Stagi tenor-treble.

    'Hadn't considered it, but it's a good idea.

    I often play chords of four notes, sometimes bass ones, so it exhausts very fast.

    That's why I have affixed a strap to the sides that goes down under my knees.

    It' enables me to open the bellows further, about 30% I estimate.

    See photo at tumblr_inline_n5n2rctMIl1s02bh0.jpg
    and explanation at http://palmytomo.tumblr.com/


    At the moment I'm frustrated by the junk tone of my Stagi.

    The shameful duct tape quietens it so it doesn't hurt my somewhat oversensitive ears, but the tone is so bad that I can't play it in company much.

    Much as I'd like to create the Concertina Nova, in the meantime if you suggest a reasonably quiet Rochelle tenor treble English I'll consider buying it.




    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson
    20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,Palmerston North,
    New Zealand06
    021 176 9711

  2. Thanks sqzbxr and Blue eyed sailor,

    - I've just removed the note labels as suggested.
    See the revised photo and description at http://palmytomo.tumblr.com/
    - The thumb straps are lost, so need to be replaced. I see they're available at http://www.concertina-spares.com/spareslist.htm for twenty four English pounds for a complete pair including brackets, which I have just ordered.
    Bruce Thomson
    20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,
    Palmerston North, New Zealand
    021 176 9711
  3. I have an English 48 key treble Lachenal concertina. 1862

    It needs new thumb straps, and some attention to a few notes.

    Bellows seem good and airtight.

    What price should I ask (in US dollars)?

    In the picture, it's the one on the far right.

    (I have three concertinas, but only now play the Stagi tenor treble - for the extra notes)

    You can hear the Lachenal played (amateurishly) in many vids I've done on YouTube - just search Bruce Thomson concertina


    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson

    20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,Palmerston North

    New Zealand06 357 7773 021 176 9711






  4. Good on you, Terry.


    It's 1.45am so I'm trying to get to bed (I live a fascinating life)
    Very interesting what you're doing. I'm very happy to confer and watch.
    If possible get into the habit of making a few seconds of video at each stage, for possible use later.
    Personally I don't mind quite so much about leakage because I use a strap from each end piece, going under my thighs, giving me about 30% more air to use (because I can assist the bellows pullout by using my legs, which are much more powerful than my hands are. It also firmly anchors the concertina on my legs for easier playing.
    It could be good, to save time, to yak by either Skype or Google Hangout (you'd need a Google+ account for that, no cost, and better than Skype.
    We could even show each other, live, what we were doing.
  5. Hi folks,

    I've just made a video on YouTube...

    - Whether anyone knows of any experiments in rounding the square ends of reeds, to mellow the tone, what happened.

    - Another invitation for you to join a Google+ group for video conferencing about modernizing the concertina (the Concertina Nova group in Google+).

    'Idea is, let's talk about options like: crowd funding some progressive R&D; using 3D printing & any new materials that we find surpass traditional ones, reshaping the fingerboard, buttons, bellows, or anything else we feel might be enhanced for sound, ease of playing, construction, robustness, cost and appeal to (especially young) audiences.

    We all revere the beauty of good-quality traditional-form instruments, and the culture of self-sacrificing peril-fraught work to create them. But imagine if we could find ways to quite quickly and cheaply make almost-as-good by humbly rethinking the instrument in every way - trial and error with new ideas and today's resources.

    For anyone interested I've posted the requirements specification

    - as a draft .rtf file on Google Drive - you can view it at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-4satLcOAKGV09JUFBkU2hqd28/edit?usp=sharing


    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson

    20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village, Palmerston North, New Zealand

    06 357 7773 021 176 9711 palmytomo@gmail.co
  6. Video on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDyjTI1K1M4


    'Experimenting with a strap from sides of concertina, under the thighs.

    Noticeably better than the previous trial using straps under the feet.


    'Still experimenting. Good fun. Learning. Playing more easily as ergonomics improve.






    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson20

    Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,Palmerston North

    06 357 7773 021 176 9711





  7. The concertina's ergonomics cry out for ergonomic improvement to make playing easier and music sound better.
    This is one of my experiments - with some success. Advantages are:
    1. Firmly anchors both the two keyboards, making playing easier.
    2. Reduces the floppy awkward twisting of the bellows at direction changes (in-out-in).
    See also my vids about (a) making the thumb straps swivel on just one bolt, to give the hands flexibility, ( B) removing the guard for the little finger, which makes for easier playing © shaving the tops off the buttons so they're rougher for better grip.



    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson

    20 Lyndhurst St.

    Chelwood Village,

    Palmerston North06

    357 7773 021 176 9711


  8. If you're interested in a possible crowdfunding project for a 'Concertina Nova' - a new design of concertina for beautiful tone but under $US 1,000, please join me in the Google+ community at the Concertina Design and Repair Community at https://plus.google.com/communities/104174908489357489215


    It's just an idea, but the aim is to see if we can use very new ideas, and today's technologies and materials, to rethink and create a better concertina by about 2015. English concertina, but possibly ideas directly applicable to any concertina.


    Crowdfunding means people agree on the expected total cost of the project (e.g. $50,000) and conditionally commit a contribution towards it (say, $1,000 each, to a trusted escrow) on the understanding if the project doesn't raise the project total cost, all money is refunded. Crowdfunding has been extremely successful in many projects like the Oculus Rift video glasses project. Often the project cost is surpassed many times over, leading to greater investment and results.


    Lately I've had minor success by making my Stagi tenor's thumb strap swivel-anchored (for flexible reach to the buttons), by moving the anchor point higher (easier reach), and this week by affixing cords from the concertina to my feet so that it is firmly set on my knees for stability. But the Stagi is pretty poor - e.g. the valve lifters have about 2mm of sloppy play, and the button sleeves are ridiculously conical (for easy assembly, but making them wobbly during playing). And I want a nicer tone - it's a bit tinny instead of sweet, mellow like a top Wheatstone. Let's find out how it might be achieved.


    I'll listen to all ideas, regardless of how eccentric they may be. After 30 months of playing I can 'feel' the ergonomic weakness of the instrument (I have three, Lachenal, Stagi, Hohner).


    Today, don't laugh, we have 3-D printing that might help with some of the parts.


    The main aims are: Beautiful traditional sound like a top Wheatstone, much easier playing than any existing concertina (so that the concertina becomes much more popular in schools, as guitars are, robust strength and easy, cheap repairability, cost under US$1,000, visual beauty.


    The strategy is: Gather stakeholders, mostly aspiring to own the Nova, but also one or more experts in concertina repair and design who, after conferring with us all, would be contracted to build the new instrument to meet the requirements specification and its performance indicators. I'm not in it for money, I personally want an excellent instrument (for me and everyone else) without having to pay $10,000 for it. I'm no expert myself and would need help in this endeavour.


    Feel free to comment here, but the working discussion of the Nova will be in Google+ and you can contact me directly as shown below.


    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson

    20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,

    Palmerston North

    06 357 7773

    021 176 9711



  9. http://www.youtube.com/edit?ns=1&video_id=QYfT8eCsZnw


    'For easier playing: the video shows me grinding off the smooth rounded tops of the buttons of a Stagi tenor (English model) concertina. It's easier to play now.


    I found the buttons too slippery, so I've used a Dremel tool to grind the tops flat/slighly concave, rough rather than slippery, and give them a perimeter edge that helps orientate the fingers during playing. Possibly you could use a sander rather than this method, for a gentler job, but this worked fine. Playing became easier also because slightly lowered the buttons, reducing travel, making the buttons less wiggly.


    The buttons are still too wiggly though. That's because they are in a conical seat hole. I may one day put some sort of conical-cancelling sleeve that makes them ride much straighter (the existing holes probably are conical to make it easier to reassemble the concertina for 20 seconds, ignoring the owner's needs when playing it. Possibly i could replace the piece of wood with the holes with another piece drilled with non-conical holes, or even do something good with metal. If anyone's got a contact with the Stagi designers, please tell me, I'd LOVE to talk to them.


    Ideas welcome about collaborating to design and create a cheap, excellent-tone concertina for the masses.


    After 2.5 years of playing four different concertinas from cheapest to a good antique, I think it would be good to seriously 'rethink' the design, considering modern day materials and resources and methods (including 3D printing). Possibly we could do a crowdfunding production (people promise funding on condition that the project gets enough funding to proceed, refund otherwise, and they get one of the resultant concertinas. What do you think? Are you a firm traditionalist or do you think a redesign could greatly improve ease of playing, and cost to get an excellent-sounding instrument?


    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,Palmerston North

    64 06 357 7773 021 176 9711 palmytomo@gmail.com




  10. To make my Tenor Stagi concertina much easier to play, today I did a thumb strap modification - mounting the thumb strap on one screw, not three - so the strap now swivels comfortably when my hand twists up or down to reach the far notes.


    I'm loading the video onto YouTube - it will be at...



    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson20

    Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,

    Palmerston North06 357 7773

    021 176 9711 palmytomo@gmail.com


  11. Looking to buy a 56-key Wheatstone Aeola baritone-treble


    I liked the one I saw played by Jon Loomes at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Japyi2ESZ8


    I have three English concertinas, partly with a view to teaching others at some stage...

    Lachenal treble, Hohner treble, Stagi tenor.


    Dunno if I'll be able to afford it (freight to NZ, 15% tax on top of the price+freight)

    but I'm a determined type, willing to wait for what I want.


    I'm cheeky enough to be pondering ways of making my Stagi tenor more like a Wheatstone

    - Today, putting closed cell foam in the reed chamber as muffling failed, so I had to take it out, I had to tweak a few things to get it to play well again.

    - But did fix the junky thumbstraps (see youtub video

    - Pondering for a way of making its plastic keys less woggly (the holes are slightly conical, perhaps to help during reassembly - it makes placement of all the buttons easier, but that causes play in the buttons when pressed. By the way it has *cardboard* reinforcement of inside the bellows - perhaps that's partly why it sounds like a cardboard box. When I looked inside, the poor thing blushed and its high notes quivered. I still love it though - it can't help the way it was made.


    Anyway, 'grateful of you can help either to locate a baritone-treble for sale, or to make my Stagi tenor play better and sound nicer. You can probably tell I'm fairly brave about tinkering with my concertinas. I've replaced springs, fixed dud reeds. That's because there's no experts I know of in NZ, and if there were, I'd rather save for a better instrument.


    Bruce (Tomo) Thomson

    20 Lyndhurst St. Chelwood Village,

    Palmerston North

    New Zealand 4412

    64 06 357 7773 021 176 9711 palmytomo@gmail.com



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