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Mark Rosenthal

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About Mark Rosenthal

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    Advanced Member

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  • Interests
    English concertina, Hammered dulcimer
  • Location
    Near Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

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  1. Inside every concertina I've ever seen, between the leather washer around the lever arm and the cardboard back of the pad is a small dot of leather that I understand is called a "samper". I'm planning on replacing pads on a couple English concertinas, so I spoke to a repairman that I plan to purchase the pads from. I was surprised when he told me that he doesn't use sampers, and he actually thinks sampers cause problems. I asked if he knew what the people who do install sampers think the sampers accomplish. He said the sampers allow the pad to move a tiny bit, in case it doesn't come down perfectly flat against the padboard. But he's of the opinion that the spring and lever arm will hold the pad in the proper position while the glue is drying, and that after the glue has dried, when you play the instrument, the pad should now be perfectly positioned, and shouldn't need to wiggle even a little when it closes the hole during playing. I'm not sure what to think of this. Why would Wheatstone and Lachenal have used sampers if they weren't needed? I'm curious what others here think. Do you use sampers when you replace pads? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you think installing sampers accomplishes? Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.
  2. Thanks a lot for the additional info on gum arabic. That's a big help. As for the strips extending past the ends of the walls, I was thinking of doing what I've seen in a couple of my Aeolas. They've got a bit of chamois (maybe 1/8" + or -) that extends past the wall and sits between the chamois that lines the bellows end and the pad/action board. That bit is skived so it doesn't take up much space. Maybe it will make a difference, maybe not. Worst case is that it interferes with the seal, in which case I'll just cut the ends off at the end of the chamber wall.
  3. Thanks for your suggestion. Based on that, I went looking for gum arabic yesterday. I found pre-mixed bottles available at local art supply stores. (https://www.amazon.com/Winsor-Newton-Gum-Arabic-75ml/dp/B005P1RSDG) Apparently it's used as a binder for watercolors. The salesperson I spoke with told me it's a fairly thin, runny mixture, and he wasn't sure it would work for gluing leather to wood. I also found powder that you can mix yourself, presumably to any consistency you want. I found: a 1 oz. bottle that seems to be intended for artwork (https://www.amazon.com/JACQUARD-PRODUCTS-JAC1648-Ounce-Arabic/dp/B000WWK844), a 2 oz. bottle that seems to be intended for cooking (https://www.amazon.com/CK-Products-Gum-Arabic-Ounce/dp/B00BYIU246), and a 1 lb. package that, based on the comments, people seem to be using to make homemade hairspray, to treat gout, to enhance homemade wine, to make edible glitter, to make pigmentation for art supplies, and all sorts of other strange uses (https://www.amazon.com/Arabic-Powder-Frontier-Natural-Products/dp/B000UYIQ5M). Do you use the pre-mixed gum arabic or the powder? If you use powder, are there different varieties, some edible and some not? Or are they all the same? If you use powder, how do you know when it's the right consistency? How much water do you mix with it? Am I right in assuming that a 1 lb. package would be a multi-lifetime supply, and 1 oz. or 2 oz. would be more than enough for gluing the chamois gaskets onto the tops of the chamber walls in both reedpans?
  4. Next question: What sort of glue would you recommend for gluing the chamois strips onto the top of the chamber walls? I could use hot hide glue. But I also have a PVA glue that says it's pH neutral and water soluble.
  5. Auto parts stores? Definitely not a place I'd have thought to go looking for concertina parts! Thanks for the suggestion.
  6. The current leather gasket is thicker than any chamois I've seen. If I replace the leather with thinner chamois, compensating for that will require the support blocks to be higher than they currently are, not lower.
  7. That confirms what I suspected. The problem is that for one or two notes, when you play that note, the reed from the adjacent chamber also sounds faintly. I know it's not due to any part being warped, because before I agreed to buy the instrument, I opened it up and held a straight edge against the reed pan and against the bottom of the action board. Initially I thought that just gluing a thin piece of paper under the gasket between the two chambers would solve the problem. But when I tried that, the problem moved - i.e. the note that ciphered no longer ciphered, but the note a chamber or two away started ciphering with the note in an adjacent chamber. When I tried to shim the gasket between the newly ciphering chambers with a thin piece of paper, the problem moved elsewhere. I suspect that this is happening because the leather is hard. I'm guessing that the reason chamois was traditionally used is because it's soft and a little compressible. So when you screw the end onto the bellows, the chamois will take care of microscopic variations by compressing more in some places and less in others. I've long suspected that what I'm going to have to do is replace the leather gasket with chamois. But that brings up a number of other problems. The leather gasket looks to me to be slightly thicker than most chamois I've seen in concertinas. That means that I'm either going to have to move the reed pan support blocks, or somehow build up the height of the chamois by gluing something underneath it, or glue shims on top of the support blocks to slightly raise the reed pan. And if I decide that moving the support blocks is the right solution, the screws are going to make that harder to do. Any of these options is doable, but none of them sound like fun. Is chamois available in different thicknesses? And do you have any idea where I can buy chamois for this? FWIW, the concertina has a label saying that the restoration was done by Colin Dipper. I guess in the 1970s, he was still learning.
  8. I have a Lachenal English concertina made in the mid-1880s. The person I bought it from told me he bought it from Lark in the Morning in 1978 and there's reason to believe it was refurbished shortly before then. There are a couple of things inside that strike me as odd. But I'm more familiar with Wheatstone innards than with Lachenal innards. Oddity #1: In every other concertina I've ever seen, the gasket on top of each chamber wall is made of chamois. But in this instrument, the gasket is made of some sort of hard leather, with the rough side out. However, the bellows end is lined with the usual chamois. (See photo) Oddity #2: In every other concertina I've ever seen, the reed pan support blocks are glued into the bellows frame. However in this instrument, some of them are also held in with a screw. (See photo) I'm hoping people in this forum can tell me whether the things I'm finding odd are something Lachenal would have done when the instrument was built, or if it's more likely that it was done when it was refurbished about a century later. This is not just a matter of idle curiosity. Figuring out whether or not these things are original will guide me in coming up with a solution to a problem the instrument has.
  9. Mark Rosenthal

    Wanted: wooden-ended English tenor/treble

    You say you're looking for a comparatively quiet instrument and mention you'd like a wooden-ended Aeola or Edeophone. There's another characteristic you might want to look for. I have an a few Aeolas (not for sale), and one of them plays noticeably softer than the others. The fretwork in the softer one has holes that cover a much smaller area of the end than the others, and the holes themselves are smaller too. I don't know how common it was for Wheatstone to do this, but apparently they did make some with custom fretwork in order to soften the sound. See the attached photos for a comparison of the different fretwork patterns.
  10. Are we talking about the new CITES rules here, or some special US-only rule? If it is CITES then I think that it is a bit disingenuous to blame Obama for this situation. CITES is an international treaty organization and its head is not an American. If Obama had not signed his executive order then the CITES agreement would still exist outside of the USA which would have pretty much the same effect as far as importing or exporting vintage instruments into or out of the USA. I can well understand the motivation to save the last of the various species of threatened flora and fauna from future harvesting. What I do not understand is that if I own a pre-existing object made from of one of these things then why can't I get a simple certificate, something like an affidavit through my lawyer, to declare that fact and thus not make it valueless or, worse, subject to destruction. Jim Lucas just wrote a comment giving a very good explanation of this (see above). CITES is an international treaty, not a law. Each signatory passes its own laws that supposedly implement the treaty. (Most signatories are nations, but as Jim points out, the E.U. is a signatory but not a nation.) In practice, the actual implementation of the treaty as national laws or regulations may vary quite a lot from one signatory to another. The New York Times article I linked to when I started this discussion (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/arts/design/new-limits-on-ivory-sales-set-off-wide-concerns.html?_r=0) contains several quotes from Craig Hoover, chief of the Wildlife Trade and Conservation branch at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about the new regulations they issued in 2014. It specifically says, "Mr. Hoover said the eight-member advisory panel that formulated the new restrictions IS AWARE THEY IMPOSE INSURMOUNTABLE HURDLES." [emphasis added] I remember, shortly after those regulations were issued, Obama appeared on the TV news bragging about how the new regulations his administration just issued will save endangered elephants. I also remember a later news article in which he was bragging about his administration crushing tons of ivory objects to send a message. If Obama is going to take very public victory laps for his administration doing this, he deserves the blame for the unnecessary harm caused by his badly-designed regulations. As a result of these badly-designed regulations, when the Budapest Festival Orchestra flew into NYC to perform at Lincoln Center, their bows were confiscated by Customs and they almost had to cancel their concert. This was ostensibly because the bows had ivory on the tips. But, as reported in a different New York Times article (https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/budapest-orchestra-has-bows-seized-over-ivory-concerns/?_r=1), the orchestra's executive director explained that they had gotten documentation for each bow, with photographs and letters from bow makers stating that the bows contained no banned ivory. However, as far as Customs was concerned, that counted for nothing because the orchestra hadn't gotten an official CITES form from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. But Obama's panel had created a regulatory Catch-22. If your instrument does contain a banned substance, but you have historical documentation to prove its age, when it entered the U.S., and what port it entered through, then you can apply to U.S. Fish and Wildlife for an official CITES form that Customs is supposed to honor. BUT, if your instrument doesn't contain any banned substances you don't need to apply to U.S. Fish and Wildlife for their official approval, and I'm not sure that you even can. And when you arrive at U.S. Customs carrying a letter from a recognized expert certifying that the instrument doesn't contain any banned substances, all it takes is for some bozo customs agent with minimal expertise to disagree with the expert and decide that your instrument does contain banned material, and then you're royally screwed. They can legally seize your instrument and never give it back. They can crush it "to send a message" if some leader thinks it will generate good PR. The Budapest Festival Orchestra was lucky. They were permitted to send their bows back to Hungary after they paid the ransom Customs demanded. The news reports disagree on how much that ransom was. Some sources report that it was just $525 in fines and fees. Other sources report that it was $525 PER BOW, which would have amounted to $3,625.00. This doesn't just affect people from other countries traveling into the U.S. It affects U.S. citizens when they return home after taking take their instruments outside the U.S. on vacation (or on tour). As for my describing the customs agents as "bozos", the same NYT article reports that one musician brought two identical bows: same bow maker, same materials, both made in the same year. U.S. Customs confiscated one of the bows but let the other one through! If they actually were experts, that would never have happened.
  11. Firstly, the 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstones you describe are not ebonised, they are simply surface stained, or even painted. Secondly, the ends of high quality pre-war concertinas, and especially raised-ended ones, were always laminated (for strength, and for creating the doming of the raised end) and consist of a triple-ply of veneers sandwiched together. Using wood with a small-pored grain, like pearwood or maple, and suitable processes (there are/were varous formulas), and maybe adding pressure, it's perfectly feasible to make such veneers black all the way through - and black pearwood veneers are still available and much-used for stringed instrument making today. If you don't believe me about "Ebony" (finish), ask Steve Dickinson at Wheatstone's... P.S. There's a lot of "ebony" on antique furniture, going back to the 17th century, that's actually ebonised pearwood! A few years back when I took some of my instruments out to Button Box for insurance appraisals, Doug Creighton showed me some copies of the original Wheatstone catalogs/pricelists for my instruments. I remember that the 1950s-era catalog/pricelist described the model 3E with some term that sounded enough like "ebony" that it would be interpreted by the average person as meaning the ends were made of ebony wood, even though it didn't actually mean that. In contrast, the 1920s-era catalog used the word "ebony", plain and simple. I thought the misleading term used in the 1950s catalog to describe black-painted ends was either "ebonized" (or perhaps "ebonised"). But I just checked the appraisal, and the term was "ebony-finished". Since they'd used "ebony" with a qualifier to mean "not really ebony", I naively assumed that when the 1920s catalog/pricelist used the word "ebony" without any qualifiers it actually mean real ebony. My mistake.
  12. But probably not... The vast majority of so-called (by their makers) "ebony-ended" concertinas are actually nothing of the sort, and should more properly be described as "ebonised ends" because they are only stained black! There are a few exceptions though, including a handful of mid-19th century concertinas by George Case that have Macassar ebony ends. It's true that some concertinas described as "ebony-ended" aren't actually ebony, but I doubt that it's the "vast majority". I have a few ebony-ended Wheatstone Aeolas from the 1920s and an "ebonized" six-sided Wheatstone model 3E from the 1950s. The difference is very obvious. On my 1920s Aeolas, the wood on the inside of the ends is the same black as the outside. The edges of the fretwork, i.e. the approx. 1/8" surface that's perpendicular to the inside and outside surface are also the same black color. Any instrument as old as these are will inevitably have a "ding" here or there from having bumped into things over the years. The wood exposed by the dings is all the same black as the inside and outside surfaces. It seems unlikely to me that stained wood would show these effects. On my 1950s "ebonized" Wheatstone, disassembling the button box reveals that the inside surface of the end is some variety of wood that's very light in color. The outside is a very dark black. But wherever it's gotten dinged over the years, it's obvious that a layer of black paint has chipped off, and the worst dings clearly show light colored wood underneath a thick layer of black paint. I've mostly been focused on English models, so I can't say if things are different among Anglos. But most of the black-colored instruments I've ever seen have been high-end models: Wheatstone Aeola, Lachenal Edeophone, and Lachenal New Model (i.e. the six-sided model with raised ends that was the predecessor of the Edeophone). Most of the lower-end models I've encountered have had rosewood ends. The only black-colored non-high-end model I've ever seen is the 1950s Wheatstone 3E, made in an era when the company was trying to cut costs in order to recover from the downturn in sales caused by WW-II. If you think my 1920s Aeolas are actually stained, can you explain how staining could produce a consistent-colored wood all the way through?
  13. I don't disagree with you, but I'd put the emphasis on your comment, " I'm sure it could be better, and that more accommodations could be made". When the head of the committee that came up with the recent revisions to the rules for how the U.S. government implements CITES admits, in the New York Times, no less, that he's aware that his panel has imposed "insurmountable hurdles" on innocent musicians, then he's failed bigtime! He's taken people who support efforts to save elephants and other endangered species, and converted a sizeable percentage of them into people who will object to any and all future government regulations that are intended to protect those species. By implementing unreasonable regulations, he's created a constituency that will press for the elimination of all such regulations at their first possible opportunity. And given who our new president is, that opportunity may come sooner rather than later. Yes, it's a difficult problem. But a badly-crafted solution is guaranteed to create pushback, and this particular badly-crafted solution may prove to have been worse than no solution.
  14. To Dana Johnson and Casey Burns: It's going to take me some time to read through and understand all the details in both of your responses. As I do, I expect I'll be posting follow-up questions. But I did want to acknowledge your very detailed responses, and thank you for taking the time to provide all that information.
  15. In 2014, President Obama took credit for implementing new rules that he claimed were intended to protect endangered elephants. (http://www.renaissancejewelers.com/uncategorized/obama-has-banned-the-sale-of-antique-ivory/) In March of that year, the New York Times published an article (at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/arts/design/new-limits-on-ivory-sales-set-off-wide-concerns.html) that reports on those new rules regarding bringing ivory and materials from other endangered species into the U.S. Those rules require the owner to provide a level of certification that the NYT article says is nearly impossible to meet. Specifically, the head of the Obama-appointed panel that created the rules admitted to the Times that the panel that formulated the new restrictions is aware they impose insurmountable hurdles. In addition to ivory, certain woods are also affected. And U.S. Customs seems to have gone into the business of confiscation (https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/budapest-orchestra-has-bows-seized-over-ivory-concerns/?_r=1) and destruction (http://slippedisc.com/2013/12/outrage-at-jfk-as-customs-men-smash-flutes) of musical instruments. I own a number of English concertinas, some with ebony ends, one with rosewood ends and bone buttons that may or may not be ivory. A couple of years ago I spoke with the head of the Division of Management Authority at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and learned that some kinds of rosewood and some kinds of ebony are also among the affected materials; possibly other materials as well. But his suggestion regarding how I could go about determining whether the materials in my concertinas are affected are not even remotely realistic. He says I should find a biology professor at Harvard or MIT who has nothing better to do with his time than identify the species that the materials in my instrument came from and write up a report for me. Armed with that, I'd then have to fill out an application with U.S. Fish and Wildlife for a Musical Instrument Passport. And that only deals with getting the U.S. to allow me to bring an instrument I already own back into the U.S. if I should travel with it outside of the U.S. Does anyone here have actual experience bringing antique instruments they own back in to the U.S.? What is the situation really like? Is it as much of a nightmare as the articles imply? Also, does anyone here have any experience with the question of how this insane policy affects someone in the U.S. who wants to purchase a vintage musical instrument that's being sold by someone outside the U.S. and might contain one of the listed materials?