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chantersandbellows

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    Western USA

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  1. When we met up in early January, Willie was only at a month or two out, and now it's over 18 months. I'm really glad he kind of blew up so nicely and he's able to take it full steam ahead!
  2. He's just finished and posted 13, but I don't think that counts a few experiments, careful repairs, instrument meddling, and the 31-key baritone he made last year. I could be wrong in that, but I've tried to keep up to date with his work as it's really fascinating and he is remarkably well informed, educated, thoughtful on each part of the process. I think Willie would likely be able to answer a lot of this better than myself (he has an account on here and I think his email is open somewhere, but I can send it if you message me), but I'll answer as best as I can here. Most of this may be stricken from the record if Willie says otherwise though; all of this is subject to change and effectively anectdotal from conversations with Willie over the years and me trying to be respectful to what he's shown, published, and expressed. Drones I think all of his concertinas have been made with a left-thumb drone that's pinned/screwed down. The general note of choice is the typical D-drone, but I imagine a different drone note would be relatively trivial Different keys I believe most have been C/G (standard and baritone), but I recall at least a Bb/F that went to a wonderful player from Ireland who made a fantastic piano album a few years ago. Extra buttons 31 riveted buttons seems to be the standard for most of his customers, but I'm pretty sure there have been one or two that have added a few buttons. We've had lots of discussions on button and pad placement and angles in relation to different number of buttons, so I think multiple buttons are possible. Endplates/faceplates He has a few designs, though I believe he's been wanting to try and do like Dana Johnson and his Kensington concertinas with keeping a few more standard options here to make life a bit easier with making concertinas. Button options I believe delrin, metal capped, and a linen-based polymer have been used for various buttons, and I recall discussions of experimentation with other button materials to find the perfect feel in that way. Instrument size If I recall correctly, a small (5 7/8" across the flats?), standard, and baritone are the main options at the moment (kept this way again for making the life as a concertina luthier easier). Generally, the instruments all have gold stamping on the handles and parts of the leather with papers (if desired), and a more form fitting and concertina specific case design. The overall design follows more cues from Jeffries than Lachenal, but it comes out to a uniquely "Crook" design at the end of the day. There's no website at the moment, though we've talked about it in the past. I think Willie still feels like he's trying to find that perfect instrument design before a website comes up (his attention to detail and devotion to the craft and getting things right can be seen in the videos that started this thread). There is a website ready to launch (with approval) whenever he's ready if he'd like. He's quite close to perfect (if not already effectively there) from what I can tell, but I can appreciate how wide the distance feels as you get better and better with your craft. I'm sure even the best violin maker would admit to wanting changes with their best instrument if asked very candidly, and reading the blogs and posts of other concertina makers, it seems like there's a healthy spirit of innovation and change, even when there are so many standardized elements in the whole process. Sorry Willie if I spoke for you a bit much, but you really have made some incredible instruments and made some incredible discoveries in everything from the right reed material to the perfect button press, and your commitment to the openness of the instrument's craft through your videos is really a wonderful contribution.
  3. I have indeed! His concertinas are super responsive and have some great dynamic range, kind of like how Tipo a Mano reeds are compared to cheaper reeds with accordions. Willie's concertinas can shout easily, but they can play quietly with minimal air no problem as well. He spends a lot of time hand-tuning the notes and air pressure so they're all fairly consistently playing with each other. His buttons are all riveted too, so there's a bit more sturdiness and consistency with the presses as well. I haven't played many concertinas from other modern makers, but I have played a few Jeffries and Lachenals over the years, and his concertinas play a lot like his 40-key Jeffries, and on par or better than other Jeffries I've played. I think everyone I know who's ordered from him loves their concertinas quite a lot, and I haven't seen or heard anyone struggling at sessions here when they want to play out more; the reeds and tuning all seem to handle the "push" really well. If you watch his videos too, you can sort of see how much he's pushing to get notes out and how snappy his reeds are too (they're only really on Instagram, though). Maybe I'll talk to him about doing a little video to highlight the instrument's action and responsiveness and all sometime so anyone wanting to order has a better idea.
  4. To expand a little bit on my other post, he's very detailed and precise, and each instrument has impressed me. The first few were a bit more Lachenal-esque, but there's much more of a Jeffries feel in the past many (including the baritone that felt and played a bit more like a Jeffries than a Lachenal). I've been amazed by each part of every one of his instruments, and he's got a formula down with some nice room for customizations. I don't think he's made anything but Anglos, but he's done a few different keys to explore both what's possible and what's important and can be done within reason and what's required to make it happen properly. Hopefully he or one of the holder's of his instruments will chime in sometime and say more. They're really gorgeous instruments, and he's drawn his own endplate designs for his most recent few that look really beautiful too. I'm pretty sure he's taking orders through his instagram at the moment too.
  5. Willie is a good friend of mine and I've known him since before the start of his concertina journey. His concertinas play beautifully and he's really thoughtful with their craft and construction (he's at about a month per concertina now). I'm glad some other people found his videos here--it's fascinating to watch and see that step by step of the instrument coming into being. He also has made a 31 button baritone anglo that plays really beautifully, fwiw.
  6. I'm coincidentally visiting Arizona at the moment and my Lachenal is doing great (coming from front range Colorado), but I also keep it in the case with some Boveda 49% packs and a humidistat that I threw in with the case when I got them to slowly adjust. I also keep some and the instrument in a plastic bag with a couple of small holepunches too to slow the dry-down process even more. The tighter and better fit a case you can have, the better for that steady ramp too. As long as you do a slow transition for an instrument long-term changing climate (ie the process above, slowly accostoming it to being played at the climate and altitude out of the case, keeping it generally within a 15-20 F temp range for the first 6 months, etc), I'd be pretty confident that everything would settle well, provided there's no reedpan cracks or major leaks before it's sent. You can also ask for the humidity of where its sent from and thrown in humidty packs at that level when you get it if you want to do slow, but I've found for the settling and for year round and travel the 49s work the best for keeping it in a good range and from getting too humid if I'm around more water and heat. They're honestly usually the only things in my cases for home and travel and they end up being high humidity and taper controls in the end since they'll always eventually turn into thin crunchy packs after a few months of being home. Hopefully that helps a bit with looking at older concertinas! Slow tapers for that first while, and you should be good!
  7. Wow! Thank you for the links Wolf, and thank you for the extra encouragement and info everyone! It's good to know that there is some instrument accessibilty there! I appreciate everyone's help here a ton, and I've sent out some emails to check on instruments 😊 Hopefully I'll have a new free-reed friend soon!
  8. I'd actually tried your idea and a few others from that thread there a few years ago before building up to making an account here (my most-successful but unsightly version was a combination of Blu Tack and Sugru), but I didn't have much luck with just adding to that button making it easier as the hand rails their general ergonomics are unkind. The air release is the most frustrating for me for sure, but it goes beyond that to a point that I know of two players in my area with Swans or Wrens who had the handrail modified to make playing more accessible. Thank you for reminding me of that thread though! I've bookmarked in my larger Concertina maintenance folder. If it were a nicely reversible maintenance issue for myself, I'd happily stick with the Swan and its quirks, but I don't think it is in this case, unfortunately. I appreciate the help though, Bill! Fingers crossed I'll find the right 26 or hybrid 30-ish! If I could find any Jeffries for a price my range, I'd be over the moon hahaha! Maybe if I'm good, the spirit of Elizabeth Crotty will leave one under my pillow one night?
  9. I've been wondering if this would be a better option in my price range, thanks for the suggestion and wishes 😊 !
  10. Hi Mike! I mentioned it a bit above, but I'd be selling a McNeela Swan. It's perfectly fine for most, and there's no functionality issues, it's just not in that right functionality spectrum for my needs at the moment. If I find another instrument, I'll likely post it on the boards here to sell.
  11. Thank you for your reply Bill! I have been noticing the prices were often generally a bit higher than my limit, but some crossed over, so I figured it would be worth it to check here. I'm currently on a McNeela Swan primarily (and an older Frontalini 20 key that I learned to do some bellows and reed work with). I've had the Swan for 3-4 years and can play a few hundred tunes on it at speed, but I've never been able to reach the air release in any hand/strap position without changing my hand and completely stopping playing to close the bellows more. I definitely thought I was going crazy playing it until a few concertina friends played it and told me the spacing and air button were pretty difficult for them as well. In large part, it's the hand-rests that get in the way for it for my hands, and I'm a bit hesitant to alter them when they'd certainly be fine for most players, and just about every other concertina I've played has been absolutely fine in my hands and I get less pain and strain and inflammation playing them. There's some great concertina players who have some videos playing the Swan and I wouldn't have minded otherwise normally little inconveniences as much in the past, but I've got some health issues that make finding the right instrument and feel in my hands has been really important for me lately. I've tried an Edgley with some customizations and modifications my uncle had made to accomodate his own health needs and it was great, and another he had as well that was comprable with wide buttons. I certainly prefer concertina-reed feel and sound over the hybrids from what I've seen, but I agree, the majority of hybrids wouldn't hinder me much at all in the grand scheme. I just know the Swan isn't working for me.
  12. Hi! This is a long shot for sure, but would anyone happen to be looking to part with a C/G anglo concertina with concertina reeds and 26 or more keys for 1-2k, maybe a little bit more with shipping? I'd like to stay within the range, but I'm willing to flex a bit for the right instrument, just not too much since being in school limits my funds. I think I've finally reached a point where I think I may need a step up from my accordion-reeded hybrid to progress any further; the reeds, action, spacing, and a few things are all limiting in a way no other "real" concertina I've borrowed has been. I'd be happy to trade/sell that instrument as well (it's a fine instrument, but not for my playing and hands), but it's also not at all essential to me looking for a better concertina. Any help or direction too is greatly appreciated! I'm a bit new to the concertina community and have tried to do some research, but I know there's many more people in-tune and knowledgeable than myself on all of it, and I'm sure there's information or other details I've completely missed in looking and posting here too.
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