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Tortoiseshell


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Seeing the pics of the tortoiseshell mini reminded me there was a thread a while back about this material. It was concerned with 'If I bought this tortoiseshell instrument would I get it snatched by customs and gratuitously destroyed as international trade in protected animal remains?'

 

There was learned opinion that probably all (but certainly most) 'tortoiseshell' on concertinas was man made imitation, thus side-stepping the problem.

 

I don't remember anyone discussing the artificial version any more than that. But I think tortoiseshell finishes look superb and it occurred to me to wonder if any of our current makers had ever looked into offering tortoiseshell on their instruments?

 

Edited to add: OF COURSE using the artificial stuff...

Edited by Dirge
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I did some googling.

 

It seems fake shell is celluloid. Couldn't find details of making the stuff quickly, but manufacture involves nitrocellulose which if I remember correctly is gun cotton and explosive, so I could understand everyone just reaching for the amboyna veneer instead.

 

However it is still made for guitar picks for starters, and it gets soft with heat. So you can still buy sheets of tortoiseshell celluloid somewhere, and it really did sound like you could buy a slab, lay it over your new end, heat it until it sagged into its proper place and Bob's your uncle. It's highly inflamable so I think you'd need to do a few trials before trying it on a labouriously fretted end...

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It seems fake shell is celluloid.

Maybe originally, but the past half century and more has seen the development of a wide variety of "new" plastics, in almost unlimited color varieties. I would think that by now there would be a much less flammable alternative that would give the same appearance.

 

I don't know for sure, though.

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It seems fake shell is celluloid.

Maybe originally, but the past half century and more has seen the development of a wide variety of "new" plastics, in almost unlimited color varieties. I would think that by now there would be a much less flammable alternative that would give the same appearance.

 

I don't know for sure, though.

I'd have thought so to, but the guitar pick people seemed very stuck on celluloid per se; probably for sound production purposes I admit; but I suspect it feels different too. And somehow I wouldn't want my instrument covered in 'plastic' but I would very definitely want it covered in tortoise shell. Celluloid may be plastic technically, but it's the old way of doing it and seems right to me. (I'm a bit like this with modern technology; I have an urge to walk around it poking it with a stick before I go near it, metaphorically speaking.)

 

I don't think flammability is an issue for a fancy instrument. It might put the occasional would-be purchaser off but most of us would find it unthinkable that it be allowed to get hot enough to take fire.

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Celluloid is widely available, since most accordions are plated with (usually black) celluloid, and many accordion repair shops stock it. They don't sell it for cheap exactly, but then again you won't need much for a concertina's fretwork.

 

The reason for using celluloid (I believe) is that it's relatively easy to repair, especially black celluloid. Celluloid dissolves very rapidly in acetone, and becomes malleable when subjected to a relatively low heat - you can bend it slowly by applying hot cloths for instance.

 

Also, it's not that flammable (unless dissolved in acetone). You can set it aflame by holding a celluloid sheet to a cigarette lighter flame for several seconds, but that's hardly something you could do by accident.

 

[Edited to correct typos.]

Edited by jrintaha
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Celluloid is widely available, since most accordions are plated with (usually black) celluloid, and many accordion repair shops stock it. They don't sell it for cheap exactly, but then again you won't need much for a concertina's fretwork.

 

The reason for using celluloid (I believe) is that it's relatively easy to repair, especially black celluloid. Celluloid dissolves very rapidly in acetone, and becomes malleable when subjected to a relatively low heat - you can bend it slowly by applying hot cloths for instance.

 

Also, it's not that flammable (unless dissolved in acetone). You can set it aflame by holding a celluloid sheet to a cigarette lighter flame for several seconds, but that's hardly something you could do by accident.

 

[Edited to correct typos.]

 

Didn't someone set fire to their melodeon or PA by putting it down too close to the stage lighting ... can't remember the name and google is not cooperating

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...the guitar pick people seemed very stuck on celluloid per se...

And yet not all of them. I've seen plenty of guitar picks that most certainly weren't celluloid, though I admit I'm not sure that any of the "tortoise shell" ones were of other materials.

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So we're back to the original question? Has anyone actually considered using this stuff on a concertina recently?

 

(It was Rolf Harris with the flaming PA)

 

Not sure if this is of help, but I've seen a Crabb E.C. belonging to Rollo Woods, that is finished in Formica (remember that stuff?)

Not to my taste but, a nice bright tone, and won't show the beer stains!

I wonder if Geoff Crabb might have opinions on this?

Edited by John Adey
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So we're back to the original question? Has anyone actually considered using this stuff on a concertina recently?

 

(It was Rolf Harris with the flaming PA)

 

Not sure if this is of help, but I've seen a Crabb E.C. belonging to Rollo Woods, that is finished in Formica (remember that stuff?)

Nice bright tone, and won't show the beer stains!

I wonder if Geoff Crabb might have opinions on this?

Haven't noticed it lately but there used to be regular references here to 'mother of toilet seat' on cheap modern concertinas. (I think it's called pearloid; the stuff they use on accordions and drum kits.) I can see that that tortoiseshell is in danger of appearing too close to these rather brash finishes if not applied well.

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So we're back to the original question? Has anyone actually considered using this stuff on a concertina recently?

 

(It was Rolf Harris with the flaming PA)

 

Not sure if this is of help, but I've seen a Crabb E.C. belonging to Rollo Woods, that is finished in Formica (remember that stuff?)

Not to my taste but, a nice bright tone, and won't show the beer stains!

I wonder if Geoff Crabb might have opinions on this?

 

 

 

Some of the wheatstone Mayfair's had Mother of Toilet Seat ends. There was a really kitsch opalescent one on ebay a few years ago, and I was quite tempted to bid.

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So we're back to the original question? Has anyone actually considered using this stuff on a concertina recently?

 

(It was Rolf Harris with the flaming PA)

 

Now I'm tempted to. I have a particularly roughed up 20-key Lachenal on the desk, and rather than repairing the fretwork with wood, I wonder if I could coat the damaged fretwork with thin celluloid, then remove some wood from the fretwork piece's bottom side (the part which connects to the action board) to make up for the keys "sinking" due to increased thickness of the fretwork. It's not like it would be a big loss if it didn't turn out well.

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So we're back to the original question? Has anyone actually considered using this stuff on a concertina recently?

 

(It was Rolf Harris with the flaming PA)

 

Now I'm tempted to. I have a particularly roughed up 20-key Lachenal on the desk, and rather than repairing the fretwork with wood, I wonder if I could coat the damaged fretwork with thin celluloid, then remove some wood from the fretwork piece's bottom side (the part which connects to the action board) to make up for the keys "sinking" due to increased thickness of the fretwork. It's not like it would be a big loss if it didn't turn out well.

I think (that's all) that 'shell is translucent and relies on its backing for some of the effect, so you might still have to repair the fretwork; if I'm right in thinking the backing needs to be a bright colour, you are still a bit ahead because your repairs could involve filler! Unless you can just paint the back of the 'shell...?

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You could also look for casein formaldehyde, (also known as Galalith or Erinoid), you get some really beutiful tortoise shell imitation. Also one of the good olde plastic products, in production from around 1900 as rods and sheets (often rather thick), but was/is mainely used for buttons, pens, jewelery and for decorative objects.

Edited by Hasse
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