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Dana Johnson

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About Dana Johnson

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    Heavyweight Boxer

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  • Interests
    Playing ITM and making concertinas
  • Location
    Kensington Maryland. USA

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  1. Rust actually adds weight to reeds (iron plus oxygen ) and thins the working metal. At the tip, the added weight lowers the pitch slightly, nearer the root or center, the removal of working steel weakens the reed. Also lowering pitch slightly. The higher pitch the reed the more it can be affected. Especially higher notes can need retuning after rust removal.
  2. Such a thing was suggested to me by a chemist about 25 years ago. I expect they would work fine as long as their capacity wasn’t being challenged by leaving the case open for long periods in high humidity or low. Changing humidity is often more of a problem than keeping a moderate level. Thin wood dries at a much faster rate than it can reabsorb moisture. For things like violins, this can cause playing problems and become balky until the wood stabilizes somewhat. Concertinas aren’t as vulnerable, but cracks or loose reed shoes ( or jammed ones ) can result over a period of days from prolonged exposure to a very dry or humid environment. 45 to 50 % RH is a good middle ground, and I think would make a happy home for your box.
  3. When people talk about diamond tipped engraving tools it makes me think of accordion reed tuning, which is often done by scratching out a little metal lengthwise down some portion of the center of the reed. Not what you want to do to concertina reeds unless it is a hybrid with accordion reeds. Harmonica reeds are a different animal, since they are ganged together on a single plate making it a little difficult to do anything crosswise on the reeds. Still if you are just tuning, you should be able to make a very useable abrasive stick out of a wood stick wrapped with a bit of “wet or dry” 400 or 600 grit sand paper. I use thin flat roughly 1/16” x 1/4” x2 or 3 “ abrasive sticks in 320, 400, and 600 grit which last me a long time. I just rub the end on the reed at the appropriate area in the lengthwise direction for tuning, though profiling I do crossways. You can just use sandpaper over the end of the stick for a cheap substitute. Returning removes minuscule amounts of metal, so you don’t need any big guns.
  4. People do have swappable reed pans usually in a different key, ( generally provided by the person who made the concertina ) but while converting brass to steel is probably possible, the tongue / shoe lengths for reeds of the same pitch will probably not be the same and could require substantial alteration to the reed pans as well as revalving and tuning. Going back and forth simply by trying to swap out reeds I don’t think is either practical or even really feasible. If you like your sweet sounding Lachenal, just play it, and either play your B/C if you need the added volume, or buy a separate concertina more suited to playing out. Concertina style reeds are not at all standardized and will vary from maker or manufacturer, though some concertina makers have endeavored to produce quite good copies of reeds found in certain popular models of concertina. Even within one manufacturer, there are / were different scalings of reeds to better suit different types or models of concertinas.
  5. Muffled reeds probably aren’t dust related, though the stuck reed may we’ll have been. On a new concertina, I wouldn’t expect a loose corner block in the bellows which can cause reeds close to it to be weak, but overly stiff flap valve leather covering the reed ports in the reed pan often can muffle reeds, especially when new or just from a stiffer part of the leather they are cut from. Sometimes just playing these reeds harder for a while can help the valves flex more. A jet of air will generally cause the valves to flex a lot, but as they come back to rest can redevelop a set in that position. So many problems can be traced to valves. Other things can cause reeds to be muffled, but not ones I can think of that would be temporarily cured by a jet of canned air. Dana
  6. The torsion spring is very simple, but these are the things you need in your design: there are two grooves in the bottom of the hand rest. The separation between controls the torsion created. The separation I use is about 1/4 inch which for the 302 stainless spring wire I use is quite good. The arc on the butt end of the hand rest needs to be at least from the radius of the short leg, or even slightly more curved so the crossing part of the spring gets farther from the hand rest as it swings up. I just used a compass to draw it on my templates from the rear most groove. The spring is bent all in one plane, and when installed already has the needed downward tension. My springs are about 1 inch - 1-1/4 inch OAL, which also works with the separation distance to control torsion. I chose it because it had a good spring tension over the working distance and looked good in proportion to the hand rest. I instal them so that the long leg is on the side of my hand rest facing the wrist just because it looks cleaner to me. You also need to remember to make the legs long enough to allow for the strap thickness. ( a bit obvious, but you never know ) Dana
  7. Hey Chris, that one sure deserves to be shown off! Even in this limited view, it is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. Wish we didn’t live at opposite ends of the earth. D
  8. I once played a Jeffries with 3mm buttons. It was a terrific sounding instrument, but like sleeping on a bed if nails. Even though I use 6.35mm buttons on my concertinas and like the feel of them, I think 5mm is a good size. After a certain point, you have to start worrying about the space between buttons which gets smaller when the buttons get larger. When you make bone buttons, it is a lot easier to find sections of the bone that are big enough for smaller diameter buttons. I made a 6.35mm set for a customer that were really nice, but finding straight and thick enough parts of the cow leg bones was quite a job.
  9. Some musicians say each key has it’s own character, some people with perfect pitch describe each note as being distinctive. I don’t understand it, but I do find that I am particularly partial to the key of F. For me, things seem to sound more beautiful there than in G, even though I don’t generally transpose tunes commonly played in G. I certainly am much more familiar with G playing but have been pleasantly surprised when I try tunes out in F. I don’t know how true it is, but my understanding is that East Clare is known for tunes in F and Bb.
  10. Sounds more like a binding button, or lever pivot, pad sort of problem. Not knowing the construction, I can’t guess which part/s are the cause, but notes that fail to shut off When the button is released usually indicate a pad that fails to return solidly over the pad hole. sometimes springs lose their pre load tension and while they seem ok when you press the button, may actually provide little or no pressure when the pad reaches the pad hole. Also, pads that are coming loose or levers that tend to tip a bit sideways so the pad hits on one side first and comes to rest either partway off the hole or with one edge lifted slightly. Often playing a draw note after the sticky one will help suck it closed while a press note following may inhibit full closure. Binding at the button In Chinese boxes is not usually from tight bushing around the button since mostly they don’t have any. Here, buttons that are not free to move where they attach to the lever can end up rubbing against the button hole which makes the spring have to fight friction, not just hold down the pad. These are the places I’d look. Actual reed valves on the reed blocks ( for accordion type construction generally used in Chinese instruments ) generally don’t cause this symptom. Even when they come unglued and fall off the reed plate, it usually makes the note weak, or gets jammed under the reed tongue resulting in no sound at all.
  11. Know what you mean about the high range of the c/g. When I play by myself, I play my A/E for it’s lovely sound. Trouble with G/D/s for ITM is that it shoves most of the melody for most of the tunes to the right hand if you are playing with others. Great for developing dexterity, but you still end up in the squeaky range. You can play everything an octave lower of course, but you’ll run out of range on the low end for a lot of tunes. There are a few low pitch baritone C/Gs out there, but in general, low is slow. Not a problem playing with easygoing friends or by yourself. Remember, flutes, fiddles, button accordions are all playing these tunes at the same pitch. ( whistles are usually an octave higher). The advantage of all these instruments for folk music is the combination of capability and portability. I am just guessing, but I expect that the incredibly widespread use of folk instruments in this general range across many cultures is that they physically fit in people’s lives. Regarding ITM though I do admit knowing hundreds of Irish tunes who’s b parts live almost entirely on the first two buttons of the right hand g row (f#-b) pretty much squeaky range☹️ Dana
  12. Even cheap concertinas are too expensive to have one for each set of keys. Beside the general habit in ITM of playing a set of tunes that often are not all the same key, or the numerous tunes that have more than one key between the parts, or even go up the scale with a C# and down right after with a C natural. With a 30 button c/g, if you want to play in g, then in d, all you have to change is using the c# button instead of the c. I’ve been teaching Irish concertina for many years, and find my students find the fingering challenge relatively minimal. 30 button c/gs give you pretty much the same range as a fiddle, and the ability to play in the many different keys and modes in Irish ( and other kinds ) of music. A flute player friend of mine got a c/g concertina specifically to let him play the scads of tunes that go below the low D on a flute. Low G/D’s push you to play most of the melody on the right hand, and are often slower in response At least for the lower notes. I have never seen a D/G,( only a fourth apart, where the normal interval between the main rows is a fifth) though Bob Tedrow had a reversed G/C which had the C row as the inner row and the G as a middle row. He was good on it, but it threw me for a loop! I think he said he’d copied that layout from a German concertina, but doesn’t make them like that normally. D/As are pretty common and are nice bright instruments but then you might bemoan the abundance of G#s. Some ITM players do have Bb/F concertinas so they can play in “C” sessions where all the tunes are a whole tone low. but they use their C/G fingering. 30 button anglos are pretty much chromatic, but the range counts. For ITM anyway, It wants to cover the range of as many tunes as possible. I am obviously in the 30 button C/G camp, but not without good reason. You won’t go wrong with it and may discover the thousands of tunes not in g or d. I put G# thumb holes on all my D whistles so I can easily play in A. In general, the “easy keys to play on a C/G are G,D, C, A, F , Bb. E is a bit harder but more common in Scottish music. C is actually a little harder than G since it tends to force you to play more just on the middle row, where G partakes of both rows and gives you more flexability. D is easy as well. All of them just take time to learn the scales. The fingering varies between them, but doesn’t present any real obstacles. The World of Irish music is so much bigger than G and D. Your flute and whistles have their natural limitations, but that needn’t carry over to the music in general.
  13. For all of my overseas shipments, I include a complete list of materials used which I can provide others if needed. None are cites restricted. It is good to be aware of this though since not all customs officials know much of anything about materials. Glad to hear they are lightening up on the rules though, good intentions with some unfortunate side effects. Dana Johnson Kensington Concertinas
  14. For c/g Jeffries layouts, the first button is eb/c# (press/draw) and the second is c#/eb, though I have seen a few instruments that have been reversed. Wheatstones and Lachenal layouts have only the one c# / eb. With the c# on the press. If you did this years ago, clearly it works for you. What else matters? Dana
  15. I started using this style retainer for the hand strap with my first Concertinas in 1993. I copied it from a snatch hook used to keep the rope from coming off the hook while lifting things. This unequal leg torsion spring has been around in various uses for a very long time, though not on Concertinas. Harold was very kind and asked me if I minded him using the design, which was fine with me. It works well, is fast to change holes on and is very secure. The key to it is the unequal length of the legs, which swing through different angles when lifted, putting a torsion force on the part of the spring that connects the two sides. If you like it, use it. Public domain as far as I am concerned. I called it the strap-o-matic just for fun.
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