I thought members might be interested to know that over the course of the last two weeks I've been staying up to the wee hours putting together one of the Clover kits being marketed by Wim and Karen Wakker of the Concertina Connection, and that today I managed to get it into airtight shape and play a few tunes on it. For someone who grew up in a household that didn't own a screw driver and who was psychologically scarred by the dripping sarcasm ladled out by a series of vicious woodwork teachers, this was no small achievement. The process of putting the kit together was very enjoyable thanks to the wonderfully lucid instructions that came with the thousands of fiddly little parts in the box. The manual guides you through the construction sometimes with very precise rules and sometimes with vague generalizations that challenge you to judge when you've done it right (e.g. don't make the lever post too tight or too loose!) That is to say it manages to communicate well what has to be done without treating you like an idiot.
Putting the instrument together had its dull moments. At one point while sanding the frame for what seemed like an age, I stopped to complain to my wife that parts of this project were not exactly mentally stimulating. Her response? "Now you understand why the people we know who make musical instruments smoke so much dope."
The components are all well made and fit together well. For me, having large hands that I inherited from my farmer-grandfather, getting all the springs and buttons to fit on the action board was a bit of a challenge but persistence paid off. I came close to causing permanent damage on one or two occasions, but never fell over the edge. The most frustrating part was getting the damn bushings to stay inside the buttons. In the process I learned a new word - apparently bushings have to be reamed. So now I'm both a reamer and a skiver. The bellows, like the other components, seem very well made. I'm amazed I managed to glue them on without spilling the pot of glue.
The fretwork is very handsome although in a moment of poor judgment a "K" was scrolled into the clover on the ends to show that this is in fact a kit rather than a professionally constructed instrument (In my case there are one or two other indicators) Wim tells me that that the K has been discontinued. Good taste prevails.
I've never played an accordion reeded instrument before, and I know it means that the purists out there will ban me from their social register, but I find the sound quite pleasing.
Summing up the Pros and Cons:
Pros: Nicely made parts that do actually fit together; very well written manual; a good looking instrument that produces very pleasant sounds; an opportunity to commune with the concertina gods over a long period without playing one; immense self satisfaction with having participated in the construction of your own instrument.
Cons: it's not an English, which as we all know is the superior instrument.
Assessment: Highly Recommended! ( Thanks again Wakkers)
Next year I get a sabbatical. I'm now thinking of heading out to the concertina making capitals of the world (Birmingham Alabama, Orkney, Shrewsbury, Siegen, Pretoria and other thriving locales) and offering my services as an apprentice .