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Alex West

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About Alex West

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    Chatty concertinist

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Interests
    Came late to the concertina having started with tuba. Now playing in regular Scottish and English dance music sessions. Occasionally still playing tuba with Flowers & Frolics.
    Also devoting a lot of time to restoring concertinas
  • Location
    North Ayrshire, Scotland

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  1. Clive I've encountered quite a few of these "airy reed" problems lately and the issue has almost uniformly been the gap between the reed pan and the gasket in the bellows frame being too large (as in, wide open). I've cured it by shimming underneath the gasket and/or adding a small piece of additional chamois on the occasions that the gap isn't uniform along the frame. Like you, I initially suspected reed gaps and messed around a lot before finding the issue. I hope it's the same for you and that you find the cure! Alex West
  2. Gerry Here's the key map of "my" instrument as if it was a CG rather than as Stephen has suggested possibly a B/F#. Bearing in mind that it appears to be in 1/4 comma meantone so there are D# as well as Eb keys, this looks pretty similar to 32 key Jeffries which I've had/seen so I think that also matches Stephen's comments about Jones being the precursor of the "Jeffries standard" pattern Alex West
  3. Remembering back to the first restoration I did, I gave up in frustration that what I did just didn't seem to work. I was using Dave's book, but the buttons continued to stick and in the end I passed the job on to a professional. The lesson I learned was that it was me that was at fault, not Dave's book! You have to follow Dave's guidance extremely carefully, make sure you have decent materials, establish a procedure for yourself and learn (or acquire) a large dose of patience. Once I learned to take my time and accomplish the task correctly, I managed several successful repairs and complete restoration. Inevitably (and it still happens), if I try to do things to a deadline, I end up having to repeat or restart. Alex West
  4. Try saying his name out loud. Doh! OK, You got me! Alex West
  5. I saw that Stephen, but there aren't any pictures of the internals or the bellows papers and whilst the gilding is superficially simlar, it's nowhere near identical to the later "standard" Jeffries/Crabb pattern. It's clear on this instrument that Charles Jeffries was quite proud of his manufacture/assembly/marketing/engraving (BTW, for someone alleged to be illiterate, there was obviously someone in the workshop who knew how to put words together in the stamping). I'm not anxious to attribute "my" instrument to Jeffries; it has more similarities to a Crabb I think except for the action and the reeds - which is what led me down the path of Jones Alex West
  6. Thanks John I'm sure you've seen more concertinas than I have so you're spotting things I haven't seen. Most of the Shakespeares I've seen pictures of have more crude fretwork than this one, and the button spacing doesn't look much different than a 32 key Jeffires I have so I didn't think that was a key factor. I thought the keyhole action posts were typically Jones, although I have seen a picture of a Shakespeare with keyhole posts (but I've also seen them with straight posts). I hadn't heard of Geoff Rhys before. How could I confirm that his hands had been involved? Alex West
  7. Stephen Interesting observation. I suppose there's a philosophical debate about whether "my" instrument is a Jones put together by Jeffries or the other way round (but probably before Jeffries started working his magic on the reeds). Since the major components affecting the musicality and performance look to be typical of a George Jones, then I shouldn't get too concerned about the fretwork, bellows paper and gilding being more Crabb/Jeffries like? But is there enough about the action and reeds which confirm that this is in origin a Jones? Is it significant that there's no makers identification anywhere? Would there be any clue about what date (or range of dates) this might be from? Once Crabb and Jeffries got going with the more typical Crabb/Jeffries style, did George Jones carry on producing similar styled instruments or did he move on? And who on earth would commission a baroque pitch (A=415Hz) unequal temperament instrument in the 1870s/1880s? Alex West
  8. Thanks Greg Here's a couple of photos of one of the Jones? reeds with the equivalent Jeffries reed alongside it. In case you can't read my scribbles, the Jeffries reed shoe is 2.3mm thick (and that's similar to other Jeffries reed measurements I've taken) and the mystery reed shoe is 2.45mm thick. I'm not sure if you can see on the photo but the mystery reed looks to have been pressed with straight sides and then ground to a slope to fit into a dovetailed slot which gives it a "waisted" appearance. The mystery reed is 2.5mm wide at the tip and the Jeffries reed is 2.45mm at the tip so the mystery is certainly not broad (although that may not be significant if, as has been reported, Jones made reeds in varying widths). I've also added a shot of the mystery left side reedpan alongside the Jeffries Alex West
  9. I’m working on a mystery instrument at the moment and I’d appreciate some help in determining who might have been the original maker. Externally it looks like a Crabb or Jeffries; internally it looks more like a George Jones but I don’t know enough about Jones to know all of the distinguishing features. What’s puzzling is that it’s a real mixture of very good quality and some less high quality execution. There are no obvious identification marks or date guides. Externally, the metal fretwork is almost identical to a Jeffries. The pattern is very similar – the scrollwork is finer than some but the execution of the saw cuts is not as good. There is no reinforcing solder at the bolt holes so the metal is a little floppy. The bellows are well constructed with typical Jeffries/Crabb gold decoration. The papers are green based Crabb style with a perfect Celtic cross pattern, two dolphins and no chevron Internally, there is a number stamp of 212 on the bushing board, the action pan, the bellows frames and the reed pans. The action posts look to be typical Jones “keyhole” pattern and the levers have quite crudely cut threads – very long threads on some levers and almost none on others. The buttons seem to be mostly ivory (characteristic stripe pattern) but one or two are bone (characteristic black specks). The reed pans are typically Crabb/Jeffries rectangular pattern. Some of the slots seem to be badly routed (evidence of the router going too deep on one or two slots). The reeds themselves seem to be very well made. They have some of the closest tolerances I’ve ever seen. No evidence of reed tempering (no colour on the underside of the reed except for the two which have a bit of solder on the tip). The reed frames (with one exception) are the thickest I’ve ever measured and the stamping appears to be a typical Crabb rather than Lachenal font. The exception is the lowest note, stamped C which looks to be around the thickness I’d expect for a Lachenal reed shoe. The reeds are stamped as a typical C/G and the concertina plays as a C/G with a home pitch of A=415Hz (Baroque pitch) and in ¼ comma meantone with a root note of C So my key question is, did George Jones make his high end concertinas with exteriors which looked like Crabb? Or did Crabb make bellows and fretwork with Jones internals? Any idea what date might be appropriate? Alex West
  10. Prisca I've not tried a Kensington, Wolverton or other new make which might fit your budget for a "real concertina reed" instrument. I've a friend with a Seven Mount instrument which would fit your budget and from memory, it's worth considering (mind you, his is a GD so didn't have the nasal sound you say you're looking for) - but the maker's website (http://sevenmount.de/) indicates that he's not taking new orders at the moment. I've played a couple of Suttners, one of which was fabulous (30 key, small format - Kate MacNamara's so well played in), the other I wasn't as impressed with (39 key, nearly brand new - just not a very "special" sound). Have you considered a vintage instrument? For €4,000, you could get a Jeffries or Wheatstone from an auction but you'd be likely to have a considerable restoration effort (or bill!) so I'd suggest they're out of your search. However, you could consider a vintage Crabb, Ball Beavon, Shakespeare or George Jones, all of which I've tried. The Crabb and Ball Beavon would sound pretty similar to a Jeffries (depending on the particular vintage and instrument) but wouldn't have the cachet and the special reed sound from a top Jeffries (but then you maybe don't need or want that? - you'd be unlikely to get the Jeffries sound from a new instrument). The Shakespeare perhaps doesn't quite have the dynamic power of the Jeffries/Crabb/Ball Beavon but it's a nice sound and the speed should all be there (rivetted action, well voiced reeds) and you'd likely have change from your budget. The George Jones might be just as good as a Jeffries, again depending on the instrument. I've one on my bench at the moment which I think is a George Jones and which could be up there with the best. I think it's unlikely that you'd get the sound you're looking for from a Lachenal unless it was their Special anglo - which I believe exist but I've not seen one. If the action and reed quality is anything like the New Model Duet, then it would be worth considering. There's no reason that a carefully maintained/refurbished/restored vintage instrument should be any less durable than a new instrument. My main squeeze is from the 1890s, is used very regularly, is still on its original bellows and given that I'm in reasnoable health is likely to see me out without needing major repair./. Of course, if you're as rough on the bellows as (say) Niall Vallelly or Mohsen Amini seem to be, then it doesn't matter what age your concertina, you're going to need new bellows every so often and maybe your action might need running repairs as well. With any vintage instrument - and probably the new makes as well - the individual characteristics of each concertina vary so that might make it difficult to match the instrument to you (the concertina picks you, not the other way round!) so there might not be a substitute for trying as many options as you can but I wouldn't necessarily rush straight for Mr Suttner's telephone number! I hope that helps Alex West
  11. Bill I agree that I do the major lever adjustment before putting the pads on, particularly to get the lever centered over the hole. However, I don't panic too much if I have to make minor adjustments (occasionally necessary to button height) after everything's glued up Alex West
  12. Here's my piece of high-tech eqipment. It's a flat bar with a slot sawed/filed in it to suit the diameter (or depth) of an action lever. The picture shows it fitted round a Lachenal lever in a location to bend up or down and hence raise or lower the pad. The slot in the end can be used to bend the lever left or right to centre the lever over the pad hole. There's another slot on the other end which is a bit narrower. I aim for a button travel of around 3.0 - 3.5mm so I measure the button height, add on 3.0mm and bend the lever with the new pad on the end to se tthe height, then repeat for all other buttons and try to get them all at the same height above the fretwork. Any less and there isn't enough air getting to the reeds, any more and it'll slow the fingers down. All of this is in Dave Elliott's excellent Concertina Maintenance Manual (page 19 with a diagram of the tool and the procedure) and corroborated by discussions with well known makers/repairers. My preference is to have the button close to the fretwork when it's pressed as this is more comfortable and gives a bit more "feel". This isn't always possible, depending on the button dimensions, number of washers under the button, position of the lever pivot between the pad and the button and so on but this is for me what sets the total height above the action plate Alex West
  13. I have this sort of problem regularly when rebuilding bellows and reseating reed pans on old concertinas (sometimes due to warping that I don't want to simply sand away). Look for leaks in any of the gasketted areas where these adjacent chambers connect - around the sides, on top of the chamber walls etc. It doesn't need much of a gap to create this kind of ghosting. Also check the closest reed pan support. Maybe that's slipped a little and has created an air-path? Alex West
  14. Congratulations to you for making the effort to go back to basics. However, I must put in a positive comment about Mark and Concertina Spares. He has been slow in fulfilling some orders due to his health issues - which he's been honest about - but the items I've ordered from him both before and after Christmas have all been sent with a minimum of chasing and met my requirements perfectly. I too make a lot of my own repair and maintenance spares but if you need a good match of a reed, button, lever or whatever for an historic instrument, Mark is one of the first places I'd try and his prices are extremely reasonable. I'd also go to Steve Dickinson if I needed a match for a Wheatstone part (Not sure why he wouldn't have a matching bolt as he does make his own) or if I needed something of superior quality (for example a new reed to match and blend with existing ones) to what might be available from Mark's historic spares. Alex West
  15. Or Paul Read of Toronto, also on this forum Alex West
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