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Help Needed Tuning 48 Key Wheatstone


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Hello everyone,

I am new to this world of concertinas and am already finding it very absorbing.

I have a string of questions to ask but will restrict them to a few at a time so as not to confuse myself.

I have a habit of going the long way around what I want to say because Thats the way I am so please bear with me.

My brother bought an old Wheatstone some two years ago with the intention of restoring it but due to work commitments it has past my way to do it. It was in a very bad state of repair so quite a challenge.

I have made a few violins, a classical guitar, harp and two lap steel guitars so do have a knowledge of instrument construction.

At least I thought I had until opening up a concertina!!!....Who on earth dreamed up the mechanics of these things...Phew!!!

So far it has a new set of bellows and I managed to fit them properly and the right way around! on their frames, having repaired the frames first using hot animal glue.

I have re chamois leathered the gaskets on the reed housings, revalved it all and cleaned the reeds as directed by Mike Elliott's " Concertina Maintenance Manual".

The fretted Rosewood end pieces have also been completely remade as they were so warped and broken.

The frames to hold the end pieces have been french polished and are looking good.

The whole shooting match is all but ready to put together now.

I have read articles on reed tuning and understand that reeds tuned out of the box will not be of the same pitch as in the box so the process is to assemble completely, sound each note and record how many cents out they are, remove reeds one at a time and file to sharpen or flatten the pitch to the cent error recorded.

Hope I have got that right?

Question one: On the printed circle of paper glued to the inside of the reed pan, all the reeds are labelled with their pitch and two numbers. The bottom number is the number of the octave. What is the top number?

Question two: For a tuner I have downloaded an applet to my computer called 7th string tuner which seems pretty accurate. It can go from minus 70 cents to plus 70 cents. is this accurate enough?

Question three : Is there any one out there who can teach me to tune a concertina properly so that I know exactly what I am doing. I expect to pay for the tuition of course but it will be nice to be properly trained in the art so as to keep it alive?

Many thanks.

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I cannot answer any of your questions directly, except this one:

 

 

Who on earth dreamed up the mechanics of these things...Phew!!!

Sir Charles Wheatstone, an electrical engineer with no musical background.

 

It is generally recommended that the tuning of concertina reeds be left to professionals. I wouldn't try it until at least you have had some tutelage by someone who knows what they're doing.

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Question One; I've not seen a concertina with this circle of paper on the reedpans for a very long time... but I can tell you that whatever then numbers mean it is not really important to you. Yes, the pitch and octave are handy things to have on that paper.

 

Two; plus and minus 70 cents should be enough range... I would not know about the accuracy of this particular device but others here have used similar downloadable pitch measuring devices.

 

Three; I am sure there are people who could help with showing you good practice in regard to tuning concertinas and as you live in Salisbury, Wiltshire, there are several members of Cnet within striking distance. If you lived near me I would say call in and I'll go through the process with you. If you need more help PM me.

Geoff.

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The numbers on the label refer to the physical size of the reed frame.

 

I would be very happy to provide you with tuition on tuning but I'm in Gateshead, a long way from Salisbury, though I will be down your way for a while in April.

Edited by Theo
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I'd recommend AP tuner as another good PC tuner, it has a clear display and will also dynamically display the note on a graph as well. I've tuned a few concertinas with it including a couple of Wheatstones.

 

For me, and I don't class myself an expert, concertina tuning is something not to be undertaken lightly, not to be started unless you have time and inclination to finish, and requires organisation. I make up tuning tables to keep absolute track of my work, and as each note is tuned I note down the results. Just knowing exactly which reed you are working on, and working steadily and consistently is vital.

 

I spent a solid weekend tuning my 64key Aeola, and then played it in for a week, then spent another whole day, making final adjustments to reeds that were not quite right in terms of sounding at consistent pressure. Getting the set of the reeds right is as much an art as the actual tuning, and some reeds can be troublesome. At the end of the process you should have most of the reeds within one or two cents. Tuning at consistent pressure is important too.

 

For me tuning is as much about organisation and consistency and having your work area prepared, comfortable and well laid out as it is about the mechanics of filing reeds.

 

Simon

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I cannot answer any of your questions directly, except this one:

 

 

Who on earth dreamed up the mechanics of these things...Phew!!!

Sir Charles Wheatstone, an electrical engineer with no musical background.

 

It is generally recommended that the tuning of concertina reeds be left to professionals. I wouldn't try it until at least you have had some tutelage by someone who knows what they're doing.

Thank you for the update and sensible advice on not to do it but I want to learn to do it and am prepared to take the consequences.

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Question One; I've not seen a concertina with this circle of paper on the reedpans for a very long time... but I can tell you that whatever then numbers mean it is not really important to you. Yes, the pitch and octave are handy things to have on that paper.

 

Two; plus and minus 70 cents should be enough range... I would not know about the accuracy of this particular device but others here have used similar downloadable pitch measuring devices.

 

Three; I am sure there are people who could help with showing you good practice in regard to tuning concertinas and as you live in Salisbury, Wiltshire, there are several members of Cnet within striking distance. If you lived near me I would say call in and I'll go through the process with you. If you need more help PM me.

Geoff.

Thanks for the help Geoff and offer to show me through it. Are you in Northern France or right down the bottom? I will not exclude a visit to france to educate myself but first want to see if anybody else comes up with anything and keep my options open. Other option to consider is to do it through SKYPE. Marvellous invention !!! Okay will stick with the computer downloaded tuner version "seventhstring" for the time being and if it gets serious and I show promise at being able to do this I would like eventually a Peterson 420 strobe tuner as that looks to be the business. I will keep in touch.

Pete

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I'd recommend AP tuner as another good PC tuner, it has a clear display and will also dynamically display the note on a graph as well. I've tuned a few concertinas with it including a couple of Wheatstones.

 

For me, and I don't class myself an expert, concertina tuning is something not to be undertaken lightly, not to be started unless you have time and inclination to finish, and requires organisation. I make up tuning tables to keep absolute track of my work, and as each note is tuned I note down the results. Just knowing exactly which reed you are working on, and working steadily and consistently is vital.

 

I spent a solid weekend tuning my 64key Aeola, and then played it in for a week, then spent another whole day, making final adjustments to reeds that were not quite right in terms of sounding at consistent pressure. Getting the set of the reeds right is as much an art as the actual tuning, and some reeds can be troublesome. At the end of the process you should have most of the reeds within one or two cents. Tuning at consistent pressure is important too.

 

For me tuning is as much about organisation and consistency and having your work area prepared, comfortable and well laid out as it is about the mechanics of filing reeds.

 

Simon

Hello Simon,

Thanks for your input.

I cannot use AP tuner as I have a Mac but the seventhstring version seems to be a very close second. I have tried it with my A 440 htz tuning fork and it is bang on. In fact my fork was plus 2 cents so I measured it again on my brothers gstring tuner app on his mobile and it also registered plus 2 cents so I'll have to file the tuning fork!!!!

I completely understand and agree that a methodical approach to this reed tuning is vital and the job is not to be underestimated. I know I am going to be in for a long haul session and have no inhibitions about that. I want to learn how to do this.

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Question One; I've not seen a concertina with this circle of paper on the reedpans for a very long time... but I can tell you that whatever then numbers mean it is not really important to you. Yes, the pitch and octave are handy things to have on that paper.

 

Two; plus and minus 70 cents should be enough range... I would not know about the accuracy of this particular device but others here have used similar downloadable pitch measuring devices.

 

Three; I am sure there are people who could help with showing you good practice in regard to tuning concertinas and as you live in Salisbury, Wiltshire, there are several members of Cnet within striking distance. If you lived near me I would say call in and I'll go through the process with you. If you need more help PM me.

Geoff.

Thanks for the help Geoff and offer to show me through it. Are you in Northern France or right down the bottom? I will not exclude a visit to france to educate myself but first want to see if anybody else comes up with anything and keep my options open. Other option to consider is to do it through SKYPE. Marvellous invention !!! Okay will stick with the computer downloaded tuner version "seventhstring" for the time being and if it gets serious and I show promise at being able to do this I would like eventually a Peterson 420 strobe tuner as that looks to be the business. I will keep in touch.

Pete

A Peterson 420.. you have a penchant for vintage equipment.... I've a feeling that is what the Crabb family were using during the late '60's..

I currently use a Seiko ST-747.. a small and cheap tuner that gives a read out in Cents... this gives me a quick Chart of all the note deviations and then for fine tuning I use a Peterson V-SAM. The Strobe type tuners are really usefull for 'feeling' the decay of notes under varing pressures.

 

Playing the notes at a constant pressure whilst measuring the pitches would appear to be a logical approach as long as the person who is going to play the instrument uses that same pressure and keeps it constant. In the real world, of course, that does not happen and lots of expression is derived from changing the force applied to the instrument. So, tuning reeds accurately at the volume which any out of tune-ness is most noticeable might be the best approach.

 

A tuning bellows can be bought if you wish but I made one from an old "Chinese Lantern" 20 key (Red) Anglo, by taking off one end and screwing a sheet of thin Plywood to it. The plywood had a slot cut in the centre to represent the air slot in a Reedpan and two metal strips were screwed on ,each side of the air slot, and another strip of metal was shaped to form a wedge to hold the reeds firmly over the air slot. It took about an hour to build. That was 37 years ago.. it is still in service!

 

I live in the centre of France, so I'm not too handy for you, but Theo's offer is one to regard seriously.

 

Geoff.

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I can think of two advantages of a tuning bellows over a compressor air supply:

 

1 noise - with a compressor you would have to take steps to isolate yourself from the noise of the compressor.

 

2 as well as tuning you have to keep an eye on and adjust the set of the reeds so that they don't choke when played with a lot of attack, nor is there any delay when playing gently. I can only do this by varying the pressure, which is easy with a bellows.

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If you have an iphone or ipad then the Peterson istrobosoft is the best tuner I've tried.

Thanks Theo,

I think my bruv wants me to finish it before April so I might just make a visit to Gateshead and make a weekend of it. As said, I want to learn to do this properly for several reasons:

I don't want to ruin a beautifully made instrument and make Wheatstones even rarer!!

I want to put all the expertise I have gained with instrument making and repair to the test and regard this operation as a challenge and maybe do it as a side line in retirement and to provide a service to help keep concertinas alive otherwise eventually there will not be anyone around with the knowledge to repair/ tune them and that would be a sad day.

I have a thirst for trying to understand technical things and don't like being beaten!

Point taken about the tuner you use but the nearest thing I have with an i in it is an imac.

My research revealed there is however a programme from Peterson called strobosoft and I think that maybe the $49.00 version should suffice although the full version has an oscilloscope which might prove useful?

Theo, could you please pm me to discuss prices and arrangements?

Many thanks

Peter

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Hello everyone,

I am new to this world of concertinas and am already finding it very absorbing.

I have a string of questions to ask but will restrict them to a few at a time so as not to confuse myself.

I have a habit of going the long way around what I want to say because Thats the way I am so please bear with me.

My brother bought an old Wheatstone some two years ago with the intention of restoring it but due to work commitments it has past my way to do it. It was in a very bad state of repair so quite a challenge.

I have made a few violins, a classical guitar, harp and two lap steel guitars so do have a knowledge of instrument construction.

At least I thought I had until opening up a concertina!!!....Who on earth dreamed up the mechanics of these things...Phew!!!

So far it has a new set of bellows and I managed to fit them properly and the right way around! on their frames, having repaired the frames first using hot animal glue.

I have re chamois leathered the gaskets on the reed housings, revalved it all and cleaned the reeds as directed by Mike Elliott's " Concertina Maintenance Manual".

The fretted Rosewood end pieces have also been completely remade as they were so warped and broken.

The frames to hold the end pieces have been french polished and are looking good.

The whole shooting match is all but ready to put together now.

I have read articles on reed tuning and understand that reeds tuned out of the box will not be of the same pitch as in the box so the process is to assemble completely, sound each note and record how many cents out they are, remove reeds one at a time and file to sharpen or flatten the pitch to the cent error recorded.

Hope I have got that right?

Question one: On the printed circle of paper glued to the inside of the reed pan, all the reeds are labelled with their pitch and two numbers. The bottom number is the number of the octave. What is the top number?

Question two: For a tuner I have downloaded an applet to my computer called 7th string tuner which seems pretty accurate. It can go from minus 70 cents to plus 70 cents. is this accurate enough?

Question three : Is there any one out there who can teach me to tune a concertina properly so that I know exactly what I am doing. I expect to pay for the tuition of course but it will be nice to be properly trained in the art so as to keep it alive?

Many thanks.

 

Actually the name is Dave Elliott, not Mike Elliott, I should know my mother gave it to me.

 

The issues you face are two fold,

 

  1. how to sound the reed out of the box using a consistent pressure,
  2. how you can guarantee a tuning precision of around +/- 1.5 cents from nominal

Item 1 is usually resolved by setting up a tuning bellows rig,

 

Item 2 combines a metal removal technique and its delicacy, with a frequency detection that discriminates to around 0.1 cents.

 

If you have a Wheatstone instrument with a pan chart glued to it, then its probably quite old. I am working on one now with 6,000 series serial number, from around 1854, Either way please be sure before you start removing metal.

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My research revealed there is however a programme from Peterson called strobosoft and I think that maybe the $49.00 version should suffice although the full version has an oscilloscope which might prove useful?

Theo, could you please pm me to discuss prices and arrangements?

Many thanks

Peter

 

I have tried Strobosoft on my mac and I found it very difficult to use. Not worth the money IMHO. The iPhone iPad app is a tenth of the price and much easier to use. Of course if you don't have the hardware its not an option.

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Hello everyone,

I am new to this world of concertinas and am already finding it very absorbing.

I have a string of questions to ask but will restrict them to a few at a time so as not to confuse myself.

I have a habit of going the long way around what I want to say because Thats the way I am so please bear with me.

My brother bought an old Wheatstone some two years ago with the intention of restoring it but due to work commitments it has past my way to do it. It was in a very bad state of repair so quite a challenge.

I have made a few violins, a classical guitar, harp and two lap steel guitars so do have a knowledge of instrument construction.

At least I thought I had until opening up a concertina!!!....Who on earth dreamed up the mechanics of these things...Phew!!!

So far it has a new set of bellows and I managed to fit them properly and the right way around! on their frames, having repaired the frames first using hot animal glue.

I have re chamois leathered the gaskets on the reed housings, revalved it all and cleaned the reeds as directed by Mike Elliott's " Concertina Maintenance Manual".

The fretted Rosewood end pieces have also been completely remade as they were so warped and broken.

The frames to hold the end pieces have been french polished and are looking good.

The whole shooting match is all but ready to put together now.

I have read articles on reed tuning and understand that reeds tuned out of the box will not be of the same pitch as in the box so the process is to assemble completely, sound each note and record how many cents out they are, remove reeds one at a time and file to sharpen or flatten the pitch to the cent error recorded.

Hope I have got that right?

Question one: On the printed circle of paper glued to the inside of the reed pan, all the reeds are labelled with their pitch and two numbers. The bottom number is the number of the octave. What is the top number?

Question two: For a tuner I have downloaded an applet to my computer called 7th string tuner which seems pretty accurate. It can go from minus 70 cents to plus 70 cents. is this accurate enough?

Question three : Is there any one out there who can teach me to tune a concertina properly so that I know exactly what I am doing. I expect to pay for the tuition of course but it will be nice to be properly trained in the art so as to keep it alive?

Many thanks.

 

Actually the name is Dave Elliott, not Mike Elliott, I should know my mother gave it to me.

 

The issues you face are two fold,

 

  1. how to sound the reed out of the box using a consistent pressure,
  2. how you can guarantee a tuning precision of around +/- 1.5 cents from nominal

Item 1 is usually resolved by setting up a tuning bellows rig,

 

Item 2 combines a metal removal technique and its delicacy, with a frequency detection that discriminates to around 0.1 cents.

 

If you have a Wheatstone instrument with a pan chart glued to it, then its probably quite old. I am working on one now with 6,000 series serial number, from around 1854, Either way please be sure before you start removing metal.

Hello Dave,

I apologise for renaming you!

Yes it does indeed have a pan chart on both sides and the number is 11246.

Because of it's age then maybe its not a good project to start on?

I have no idea of the rated value of this instrument when fully restored.

When you say it is an old one, is that an indication that it should be okay to "Have a go" or for God's sakes don't touch it....it may be worth a lot?

Peter

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Peter,

 

You are looking at a date around 12th September 1860 (Approximately), Somewhat before the American Civil war, as a perspective. I would not like to think I had messed something up that had survived so long. I am not suggesting that you will mess up, you are clearly doing your homework and have capability. I would suggest you try tuning one of the brass reeded Lachenal basic 'tutor' models to develop competence through experience, before cracking on with such a venerable old instrument. Fully restored it will be worth more than just a few bob.

 

Dave

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Dave,

I really appreciate your advice and you have got me thinking now.

I think what I will do is to finish revalving and cleaning the reeds and put it all back together and see how it sounds.

I think it would then be prudent to give it back to my brother as a restored instrument but in need of tuning which is a shame in one way as I would liked to have followed it through and I want to take on the challenge of learning to tune one. As you say...not with this instrument though. If I do mess up, then I have not contributed to saving concertinas but performed the opposite which would be foolish.

I will think long and hard...In fact my head has started to resemble a hexagonal shape now!!!

 

Peter

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