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Two Questions and another question?

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Hi Guys

Thanks for the info Geoff the valves worked great many thanks

Questions: 1

I’m going to buy a few reeds to play with tune /starting speed etc but reading through the forum I’m a little confused

Are the reeds tuned on the tuning bellows then fitted as done? Or fine tuned on the instrument?

Question: 2

What are the reeds made from (spring steel?) and would Stainless Spring Steel be a good non rusting option?

Question:3

Are the reeds in my Wheatstone McCann duets the same reeds used in the Anglo/English Wheatstone Concertinas?

Were the reeds made in quantity then allocated to an instrument or handmade for each instrument I’m assuming they were all pressed out but were they final fitted for individual instruments?

 

Thanks

Tony

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Re question 1, the first thing you need is a tuning meter of some sort, and in particular, one that gives you a sharp or flat reading in cents - i.e. hundredths of a semitone. Personally, I use a Peterson Strobosoft (Mac or PC versions are now available online). This is a virtual strobe tuner, but also gives you the reading in cents sharp or flat.

Step 1: make a diagram of the key layout, and take a meter reading for all the reeds while they are still in the instrument. Make a note of each reading against the relevant note on your diagram.

Step 2: remove one reed at a time from the reedpan, and take a reading from the meter. You'll find it helps, particularly with the bigger reeds, to cup a hand over the reed, simulating a chamber. This reading will be different from the reading taken while the reed was in situ. In general, the smaller the reed, the bigger the difference.

Step 3: Now tune the reed taking this difference into account. For example, if the in-situ reading is 50 cents sharp, and the out-of-the-instrument reading, say, 42 cents sharp, then tune the reed to 8 cents sharp - the difference between the two. With a bit of luck, when the reed goes back into the box, the reading will be around zero. However, chances are you'll still have to adjust the tuning by a few cents. Don't agonise too much about getting the reading to a perfect zero - up to 3 cents either way is generally undetectable.

 

Re question 2, I imagine that stainless steel would be just too hard to file.

 

And re question 3, a reed is a reed is a reed, no matter what kind of concertina it inhabits.

 

Good luck with the filing, and remember, proceed gently, take meter readings frequently. Go at it too vigorously, and you'll end up see-sawing - too sharp, too flat, too sharp etc. When the reed tip curls up like a sliver of Bacofoil, you'll know you've done this too often!

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For example, if the in-situ reading is 50 cents sharp, and the out-of-the-instrument reading, say, 42 cents sharp, then tune the reed to 8 cents sharp - the difference between the two.

I would think you'd want to aim for 8 cents flat. If it's 50 cents sharp in situ, then you want to drop the pitch by 50 cents from wherever you're starting in the rig. If it's 42 cents sharp in the rig, go down 50 to minus 8.

 

And re question 3, a reed is a reed is a reed, no matter what kind of concertina it inhabits.

I don't know that that's true. I'm no expert here, but it was my understanding that similarly pitched reeds in EC's and anglos by the same manufacturer are different lengths and stiffness. I have no idea how duets fit into the equation.

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In line with this thread, is what to use for "filing" reeds. Being fairly new to this I wanted to proceed very carefully, and so started with what Dave Elliott describes in his book, using emery paper on dowel. I found it worked well, but wore out rather quickly. I looked at the various files and mini-files I had and decided that all were pretty aggressive (didn't want to over file and then back to the tongue etc.). I found a set of 300 grit diamond mini-files at a local automotive supply house, and have been using one of those. The diamond grit file doesn't clog, doesn't seem to wear, and is comfortable work with. Not 100% sure if the more experienced folks will like this idea, but the diamond grit file seems a good compromise for me.

 

It takes quite a few strokes to bring a reed from A452 to A440 (roughly 1 stroke per cent for the average size brass reed). My thought is that while this is more time consuming that using a more aggressive file, it's probably a good thing for less experienced folks like me.

 

Tony, IF it's in your budget, you might want to consider picking up a cheaper Lachenal (of any type) to perfect your skills on. I bought a "thrashed" 48k english for $160 and it was a very useful excercise getting it playing and tuned.

 

AP Tuner seems to work very well on my PC as a tuning meter - and its a free download.

 

Doug

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Hi Guys many thanks for the info

 

I had a little drama as on closer inspection (powerful magnifying glass) the pull G reed on my ebony ended Wheatstone was not correctly aligned at the clamped end and was buzzing and obviously no amount of movement at the tip would cure it so AHHHHHHHHHH

 

I removed the screws repositioned and “no buzzing “equidistant fit all round compared the tuning it was just a little off so I used the push G and my tuner as a guide and carefully retuned I have some fine fret dress files and they worked a treat and an old feller gauge as a support and it sounds great

 

I made a sort of test tuning bellows last week a friend does book binding so he gave me the card and leather etc and it works surprisingly well I had already started making a flexible brass clamp but the temporary rubber bands seemed to work fine

 

The one thing I don’t understand is why the reed is a different pitch outside the concertina is it the volume of air in the sealed chamber?

 

Is my concertina full of helium? LOL

Thanks

Tony

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Hi guys sorry for all the questions

 

I have been researching “spring steel “there are references to

“Great set of reeds ETC”

I contacted a friend that has a sheet metal fabricators (hoping to get a bit of off time on the wonderful CNC machine LOL ) we were chatting about

(Blue spring steel)he stocks its properties etc is this the spring steel actually use in concertina reeds?

 

I understand guitars opening up with age and playing and improving in tone and response but surely the older the reeds the less responsive ? As they will lose elasticity?

 

I noticed the two E reeds had both been tuned one was much thinner and it appeared thinner in tone? So is a brand new full thickness reed preferable?

the concertina is such a wonderful instrument and a little engineering marvel I want to learn everything I can about them

Thanks

Tony

PS I was going to mark the notes on the concertina but on closer inspection the thoughtful Mr. Wheatstone has stamped them all for me on the reed frames

LOL

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My impression is that the difference between reed sets was originally created by the craftsman who did the final assembly. If he was knocking 'em out by the dozen to pay the bills you got one level of quality, perfectly playable but perhaps rather thirsty on air (big clearances)and maybe not so balanced to each other. If you paid for a top model you got more care and perhaps the 'Gaffer' did it himself rather than giving it to the outworkers.

 

'Great set of reeds', then, is a combination of what they started out like together with what a century or so of maintenance has done to them.

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Hi Dirge so it’s more about the setup and final finishing that the actual materials used

So best the reeds would ever sound is as it left the factory every subsequent tuning would probably diminish the quality of the sound produced

 

George was a little dismissive about my romantic notion that concertina reeds were special “spring steel”LOL he has been working with all manner of sheet metal for 40 odd years and he started rattling on about carbon Silicon,content ,yields but when he mentioned "music wire" I paid attention LOL piano strings etc He looked at the back of the reed (Blue Tempered Spring Steel) He said at that thickness cutting strips without distortion would be important ,he said he could use a small brake press to get a close tolerance

 

I’m retiring in a couple of years and I was looking for a project /hobby that incorporates music and engineering in some form as gardening is not an option LOL and the concertina seems absolutely perfect

 

I want to build myself a little McCann duet concertina I can have non working hours time on his CNC to cut reed frames, he’s a little older than me so I want to use the CNC before he sells up and retires LOL and I have a modest stock of Ebony maple rosewood left over from various restorations

 

so I’m trying to find out everything I can about the components that I’m not familiar with and how the volume of the reed cavity

Acts upon the reed Etc

I will shut up when I’ve gathered all the information LOL

 

Thanks

Tony

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Work out how to do it and you can build me a big Maccan when I come into my inheritance...the ultimate luxury, my own concertina. You'd have to come up with a product that beat an antique Wheatstone though, and I suspect that's not easy.

 

I'm not the man for this; even so, when you say :"So best the reeds would ever sound is as it left the factory every subsequent tuning would probably diminish the quality of the sound produced." I don't think it's as simple as that; wood cures, the whole instrument shakes down; sometimes tuners are better at setting up reeds than the original makers (perhaps it was friday.). Once in a while they just get wonderful.

 

Incidentally Jeffries is supposed to have chopped up clock springs for reeds.

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I would think you'd want to aim for 8 cents flat. If it's 50 cents sharp in situ, then you want to drop the pitch by 50 cents from wherever you're starting in the rig. If it's 42 cents sharp in the rig, go down 50 to minus 8.

 

Whoops! I should never post helpful tips when on the shiny side of a bottle of red wine! Of course you're right - I should have said 42 cents sharp in situ, and 50 cents sharp in the jig.

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Hi Dirge “wood cures, the whole instrument shakes down” that I can understand wood is a natural substance with grain differences moisture content I have built virtually identical guitars from the same batch of spruce /rosewood /former with very different sound characteristics but spring steel is more uniformed and according to George loses its elasticity and obviously degrades I was reading this very informative webpage

 

http://www.concertinaconnection.com/concertina%20reeds.htm

(Reed shapes and frequencies

 

The reed actually ‘chops up’ the air flow in small air waves. Unlike other reed instruments (e.g. clarinet, sax, etc.) the vibration of a concertina and accordion reed itself hardly produces any sound. In fact, laboratory tests have shown that the sound produced by the reed itself is negligible)

 

If the sound is created by the airflow as the reeds don’t actually produce sound the reed sound chamber and the reeds flexibility would seem to be more important than its composition?

 

Your reference to Jeffries is really funny as I measured the reed yesterday and it looked rather familiar and georges first comment on inspection was

“it’s an old blue clock spring” LOL

 

If you’re interested in building a duet perhaps we could collaborate sharing info plans measurements etc

Tony

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My understanding of the effect of the reed chambers is that they will balance out the tone and volume (loudness) of the notes over the range of the instrument, that is if they are made carefully of the 'best size and shape. The chambers can also be used to increase/ decrease the overall power of the instrument, within the range of practical possibility.

 

With an ordinary concertina the pitch of a reed is usually 11 cents sharper (on average) on my tuning bellows jig than it is when in the instrument.

I think that the very finnest concertinas have the least amount of tuning differential caused by the Chambers and other structural parts. I like to think of this as 'efficiency'... well in one way it is but... the 'tuning differential' adds a tone colour to the sound. So... no differential= max efficiency but too pure a tone, and too much difference in pitch between inside and outside = decrease in efficiency and too much Box effect on tone colour. All difficult stuff to quantify.

 

The other point about tuning is that whilst "3 cents either way is generally undetectable" for any single note... this is certainly not the case when playing notes in combination.. as in Chords. I would suggest a tolerance of "plus and Minus 1 cent"

 

Geoff.

 

PS: my tuning Jig was made by screwing a sheet of 3mm Plywood to the end of and old "Chinese Lantern" type 20 button Anglo and it has lasted for 37 years ! Cost Zero.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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If you’re interested in building a duet perhaps we could collaborate sharing info plans measurements etc

Tony

 

No not at all, sorry.

 

I have to build the funny old obsolete vehicles I favour because it's the only way I can afford them, but I manage to swing the duets fully formed, thankfully.

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Hi Geoff hope this makes sense

The little (closures/blocked off inserts) on the pull create a chamber with a specific volume I’m assuming to enhance to tone? But on the push is the central hole a combination of all the pull volumes added together?

 

My heath Robinson tuning rig was also freebie I’m helping my friend build an Ebony flat-bed view camera So I’m purloining leather card glue Etc as the camera will need bellows and its good practice and if my tuning rig last 37 years I won’t be using it for tuning concertinas probably as a shopping basket attached to my Zimmer frame LOL

 

Tony

post-9757-0-86966600-1331945071_thumb.jpg

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Tony,

I don't think the Central hole in the reedpan has any specific tone controling use, perhaps it is just there for the convenience of putting your thumb in, so as to lift the Pan out of the bellows.

 

The Reed Chambers on the Pull side also have their effect on the push side, otherwise the tone would be very different from In to Out. Perhaps the specific tonal adjustment that these chambers allow is just a bi-product of the original design wherein small 'walls' had to be built to allow enough room for the Pull reeds to operate.

 

You will find that, when tuning or just testing the pitch of each pair of reeds 'outside the box' that the pull reed is tuned slightly differently to that of the push reed,most easily noticed where the pushes and pulls are of the same pitch, ie. not so easy on an Anglo.

 

On the very early Concertinas these chambers were very simply just dividers which thus 'chambered off' each note pitch. Later in the 19th Century the little cross blocks in the chambers started to appear. These effectively cut down the volume of each chamber which allowed the reed to start that little bit sooner. These 'cross walls' appeared first on the very highest pitched notes , so perhaps they were the slowest to speak if the chamber was too large.

 

Eventually someone got the idea of making all the chambers smaller by fitting these cross walls... I recall seeing older instruments where someone had 'packed' the chambers with Cork to reduce the chamber volume and I suppose to 'speed up the reed' or increase the pressure in the chamber.

 

Thus we arrive in the 1890's, or thereabouts, and we find Reedpans with 'cross walls' for every note. This produces a 'brighter' instrument which is perhaps more balanced in tone throughout its range. Then someone had the bright idea of altering the wall heights to try to 'even out' the tone quality and power of each note more completely. Thus was born the 'Canted or Angled Reedpan' (choose your own word... 'wedged' perhaps ?). This type of ReedPan is only really possible on the English Concertina because the notes are evenly and radially spaced around the circumference starting with the highest notes at one point and equally grading down to the lowest notes in both directions around the Pan. This allows the construction of chamber walls to be much deeper for the large reeds and much smaller for the highest notes.

It is also possible, and normal to see this Canted Reedpan on the Duets but, because there are one or two notes that are not in their correct places in respect to those of the EC , there could be the odd note that just sounds a little different in tone.

 

So... at present I have two EC's that are markedly different in tone and tonal/Volume balance thoughout the range. One has a Canted reedpan and a very even tone thought its range... it is possible to play notes from the highest to the lowest at the same time, as a chord, and hear each note individually. The other EC has the Cross blocked chambers but the wall heights are all the same... this one's tonal qualities and volumes change radically throughout the range... sounds honky like a Clarinet at the low end, great power and clarity in the middle octaves, then at the highest half octave the tone and power drop off dramatically.

The Reedpan Chambers have a marked affect on tone, balance and volume.

 

The Canted reed pan is not generally used on Anglos because the reeds are not spaced in a graded way around the Reedpan, due to the keyboard laout... and thus the Anglo sounds very different in comparison to the most highly refined EC's.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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I don't think the Central hole in the reedpan has any specific tone controling use, perhaps it is just there for the convenience of putting your thumb in, so as to lift the Pan out of the bellows.

 

That was what I thought until I said so in this thread. The next post, though, pointed out that the British Pathé film of the Wheatstone factory (which I did watch, but I didn't notice this bit) showed how it was needed for the routing machine that made the reed slots.

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I don't think the Central hole in the reedpan has any specific tone controling use, perhaps it is just there for the convenience of putting your thumb in, so as to lift the Pan out of the bellows.

 

That was what I thought until I said so in this thread. The next post, though, pointed out that the British Pathé film of the Wheatstone factory (which I did watch, but I didn't notice this bit) showed how it was needed for the routing machine that made the reed slots.

 

 

Well yes that is a point jdms,

but in this context the 'hole' is still functioning as a holding device only.

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