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Dana Johnson

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About Dana Johnson

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  1. Dana Johnson

    Tuning stability

    I find that newly made reeds often go out of tune after being played awhile. Removing material to create the reed profile changes the stresses in the steel and vibrating eventually equalizes things. I find reeds come off the grinder with a small amount of curvature, which I straighten out. They are set in this condition, but the set can change with stress relief, changing pitch. I have taken to running the reed pans on a vacuum ( my tuning rig ) for 3-5 hours either direction, after the initial tuning. After tuning again, I find they stay in tune for a long time. Lots of things can affect pitch, including set, pad or valve lift or stiffness, or even the variation of density of the reed pan with changes in humidity. I don’t know if air density has a significant effect, but day to day changes in pitch are to be expected, and without knowing why a reed you just tuned is now off, you may be chasing a moving target to the detriment of the reed. Dana
  2. Dana Johnson

    Secondary Key: Ab/Eb vs Bb/F

    I’ve made C/Gs,(lots of them ) G/ds and an A/E which is my all time favorite. Mine is every bit as fast as my C/gs, though the G/Ds are very slightly slower on the low end. You can certainly play at session speed on any of them. I love the sound of the G/D, but it is just lower than I like to play. The A/E is just right though. Richer than the C/g and without the shrillness of the high end, everything just sounds better. Bb/f is just too near C/g to make that kind of difference, though it is useful for playing transposed in certain sessions. It really isn’t difficult to learn to play in the keys a Bb/f is mostly used for on a C/g.(F has become one of my favorite keys) I use my C/g at sessions or for teaching, but when I am playing alone, I always play the A/E.
  3. Dana Johnson

    Turning End Bolts

    A lot of people do like the slotted head bolts. At least I didn’t use torx . Hmmm...🙄. Hey Alex, you are one of those I admire. It has probably been done, but i’d Like to see an engineering encyclopedia full of all the ways things like this have been done. I “ invented “ a gear version of the Chinese windlass, only to find that it was in a friend’s engineering textbook. At least it was a good idea! Dana
  4. Dana Johnson

    Turning End Bolts

    Made a steel replacement bolt for an old Wheatstone duet 30 years ago or so. The originals were NS. And some had already been replaced after breaking. Not knowing about the availability of appropriate dies, and only needing one, I cut the threads on my lathe with the gear box set for 44 or 42 tpi, the way I was taught in high school. Can’t remember which but found whatever I used was a very good match. Very sharp, very centered threading tool and very light cuts worked well. But I’ve seen too many broken brass and NS screws, so I bailed on them for non traditional stainless steel socket head bolts ( sick of people scratching things up with slipping screwdrivers, or buggering up the slot with a bad fitting screwdriver.). After 80 plus instruments, I love these things. I may have lost sales for being too modern, but I have never had a shortage of customers. I provide a tool kit of the 4 driver sizes I use, so people don’t have to hunt them down. I admire great craftsmanship, and also the ingenuity of the older generations. I just have a soft spot for screws that don’t break.
  5. Dana Johnson

    Reed tuning query - more or less ?

    The belly of the reed, (generally the central portion of the reed ) is where changes in thickness effects are balanced by changes in weight. Metal removal there will affect the pitch little or not at all, while lowering the overall stiffness and power of the reed. If you are making your own reeds, you file the belly to bring the reed in line with the stiffness of its neighbors so they will respond at similar pressures. For an existing instrument, assume that has already been done, and the bellies are where they should be. I tend to restrict my tuning to the first and last quarter of the reed length. Weight changes nearest the tip and thickness changes near the root are most effective , meaning the least metal removal. When initially filing a reed, you need to blend toward the belly to have a reed that curves evenly. I agree with Alex that 40 cents is weighting range for the low to midrange. Mind you at some point you will add a bit of solder and file nearly all of it away again. Still, you haven’t weakened the reed. I use Kester low temp. Silver containing lead free solder with a synthetic rosin core. Other solders that require an external flux generate a very corrosive condition unless very well cleaned and chemically neutralized. The Kester solder wets the steel very well, and I wipe off the flux with a piece of tissue paper as soon as the solder freezes. Generally, I slide a piece of silicone rubber sheet under the reed tip. It lets the reed tip heat fast and the flux doesn’t stick. It also takes the temperature of the melted solder. One nice thing about solder is that it is both fast and reversible. Especially for lower reeds, a loss of strength by filing to lower pitch makes them more prone to flattening in pitch under increasing pressure. I have seen otherwise nice instruments that had reeds so weakened that they were very pitch unstable.
  6. Dana Johnson

    Irish Trad in D Major

    There are plenty of times where playing on the g row is the place to be in D or A, but don’t focus on it as the best way, right way. ITM has a solid rhythmic core. This is something you create by choosing what notes you play in the same bellows direction, or choose a note to separate by a change of bellows direction. Some rhythmic effects require two notes to be in the same direction. Certain chord combinations are only easily available in one direction. Lots of d tunes go lower than the compass of the g row, so you need to go to the c and or the outside accidental row anyway. In the beginning, it helps to establish your primary notes you will use most of the time, whether along the rows or cross row. I personally think that you want to consider that there are lots of tunes in keys besides g and d, so thinking of the instrument as a whole, not revolving around a particular row is a good plan. Whatever plan you use, keep phrasing as your goal. Most difficult fingering can be overcome with practice, so that is of less concern to me than phrasing, or dynamic effects. Good players use all the buttons, making choices to make the music better. Dana
  7. Dana Johnson

    Bellows Card Depth

    On prototypes, I have used 1.25 inch cards and .875 inch cards with opening angles of 90 degrees. I currently use 1.125 inch cards. The short pitch of the shallow cards reduced the open volume. The deep cards were much less stable, and any increase in volume from extra extension seemed eliminated by the loss of volume as the valleys excluded air that would have been inside the bellows with shallower cards. 1.125 inches seems a happy place with decent volume and good stability. For people who use a lot of air, I think adding folds makes the most sense. I play primarily ITM, and only really use all of a six fold bellows for some airs. Other types of music may need more air with heavy use of chords, but bellows stability is the most important factor, since it affects how well the bellows reacts to changes in direction. This is most important for anglos where note changes on the push and pull need to be quick and accurate. English’s or Duets, don’t usually take advantage of that, and can handle less stable bellows. Dana
  8. Dana Johnson

    Accordion Reed v Concertina Reed

    Accordion reeds that live in a box that really works with them can easily be better than a poorly made set of concertina reeds with way too much clearance. (Many, but not nearly all Lachenals). Construction details can make a huge difference in the final sound. I have heard hybrid instruments with wonderful low end sound as well as other hybrids that were mediocre at best. More or less “traditional” concertinas have a long history compared to hybrids. Their construction details were stabilized around what worked best with their reeds. The much more recent hybrid makers are having to find out what works with accordion reeds over the range in a concertina format. The end result won’t be the same, but can still be well worth the money.
  9. Dana Johnson

    Accordion Reed v Concertina Reed

    Feel free to check my website for a pretty detailed explanation of that and other useful bits of information. http://www.kensingtonconcertinas.com/kensington-reeds.html Lots of threads here dealing with it over the years. It is an often asked question.
  10. Dana Johnson

    Concertina Bow Arm

    In Noel’s style of play, one end of the concertina is held in a way that eliminates most movement. The other hand then is under complete control of bellows variation / reversals. By giving the air button hand the job of bellows control, all the air jobs are in one hand. The job of backstop to the bellows to the left hand, simplifies the work your brain has to do. Brains being what they are, they will accommodate just about any circumstance, but I have had students who push or pull the bellows with whatever finger is pressing a button at the time. (Anglo’s only). They never develop the bellows control of the ones who choose a fixed side. Noel has taught a generation of concertina players, and is not a stupid person. My much more limited teaching experience has taught me that bellows control is very important and habits that don’t support that limits what you can get out of this amazing instrument.
  11. Dana Johnson

    Concertina Bow Arm

    On a fiddle (40 years experience) the left hand and right do very different jobs. Of course they always work together, but the bow controls the dynamics while the left controls the pitch. On an Anglo concertina while both hands select the pitch, it is left to the unfixed ( not on the knee) end to control the dynamics. Theoretically either hand could accomplish this, but for students who have started out using the button pressing hand to be the one that moves, a loss of bellows control by reverse flexing limits them compared to players who hold one end fixed and control the bellows flex with the other. The analogy to the bow arm with the air button end is a good one, if only because it is easier to coordinate the press of the air button with the dynamic movement of the bellows since they are done simultaneously for combined effect. This matters to some players more than others, I have seen very good players who never used more than half their bellows over their knees, (and repaired bellows damaged that way ) because they never needed the whole bellows for their style of play. They had very good bellows control, mostly from the wrist and I wouldn’t consider telling them they were wrong. Noel’s analogy is one that works well. Anyone who would switch knees could likely do as well given 40 years, but the basic principle of one hand controlling the dynamics is one resulting from a whole lot of years of experience. Dana
  12. Dana Johnson


    Osage Orange starts bright yellow, but eventually oxidizes to a deep warm brown after going through a less appetizing olive phase. I have made a number of beautiful bokken ( Japanese wooden swords ) from it. For something Button size, I wouldn’t worry about cracking. Any piece you get will leave plenty of room for good turning stock.
  13. Wood species and density have strong effects on reed tone. So do things like chamber depth, but concertinas are not like violins or violas (which I used to make before falling in love with ‘tinas.). Where the vibrating violin plates are the primary source of sound in that instrument, as they respond to the energy from the strings filtered through the bridge, Concertinas have no analogous structures. The contact between the reed shoe and the reed pan functions similarly, though in reverse to the string / bridge connection, but beyond that they have more in common with wind instruments, though even there the parallels are minimal. On another note, being able to port over all my fiddle ornamentation was what made concertinas attractive for me. I started really with Hayden duets happy to be able to accompany myself. ( I am not a highly social person ). But switched to anglos for their excellence in phrasing and ability to carry over all my ITM fiddle ornaments as well as phrasing. Sounds like you are doing great with your duets. You are still allowed to play your fiddle. I still do. Dana
  14. Dana Johnson

    Fingers slipping

    There are many factors that affect how your fingers deal with buttons. Most of these can be mitigated by more attention to what your fingers are doing. If your fingers are slipping off buttons, look at the mechanics of your finger movement. Personal preferences for Button top shape should help you decide on your instrument of choice, but you are more likely to be able to teach yourself to use an existing Button style / material , than to find a concertina that also has the rest of the playing characteristics needed for good music. Delrin is a strong moderately slippery plastic, it doesn’t bing in the felt lined Button bushings. Brass, though it is not very slippery, has the drawback of adding the cap drawing process to the production and the tendency to develop verdegris overtime, which causes increased friction in the bushing felts. Plated, stainless or nickel silver buttons escape this to a large degree, but are more expensive to make. Mind you, if you can find a ball point pen maker using a button shape / diameter that appeals to you, it is cheaper to cannabalize a few boxes of pens, or better yet for large manufacturers, buy a short run from the company who makes the caps. Bone buttons are excellent, but require much more time to produce. Cows unfortunately don’t have bones made of dowels just the right size. This is something you pretty much have to do yourself. ( have had good luck ordering cow bones for dogs on line. Nice and clean, still cutting blanks with the needed thickness for turning on a lathe, created a lot of waste.) Players need to have some understanding of what makers have to consider. They should of course, advocate for what they want, but realize what is involved in their desires. Dana PS. James, hope you are doing well and your family!
  15. Dana Johnson

    Advice, please.

    I played a 63 Button Hayden I converted from a McCann for years. I copied Inventor’s slope and found it worked very well. Mind you, everyone’s hands are different, some dramatically so. I have had to adjust handrest distance and angle, as well as adding thumb extension paddles to my anglos for players with low set thumbs, or short little fingers. The Jeffries Anglo pitch and spacing is different from the Wheatstone. You quickly get used to what you play. The Hayden ain’t broke. No reason to “fix” it.