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Building An "eco" Concertina


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Hi all,

 

About a year ago I was commissioned to make a concertina by a friend of excellent taste, with the brief being to make it as eco/"green"/sustainable as possible, and totally veggie. I've always thought that the traditional concertinas, as very much a product of Victorian design, leave a lot to be desired in this respect; exotic hardwoods, ivory buttons, leather. All the more reason to restore and cherish them. I wouldn't say modern concertinas have bad green credentials in the slightest, but I don't see any instruments being made that specifically cater for the vegetarian, planet-conscious market, which I can only assume would be appealing to the folk music scene... Of course in achieving this there has to be compromises- and here it is, my scratch-built prototype eco concertina! Of course, huge credit goes to Bob Tedrow for his photo essay.

 

tumblr_n66s1rPTfS1ras8reo1_1401116032_co

 

For some more images and sound files see my tumblr blog: http://pistachiodreamer.tumblr.com/

 

here is the basic specification:

 

Case, handrests and buttons: Sweet chestnut (native, reclaimed board), finished with Stones beeswax based polish.

Internals and bellow frame: Native lime

Hand straps: Hessian webbing with 2ply felt lining (undyed 100% merino wool)

Bushings: undyed 100% merino wool felt.

Bellows: 7 fold, with recycled card, linen tape, faux leather made with synthetic chamois, interfacing fabric and acrylic mediums. Straw and rhino-dung based recycled paper.

Pads: Recycled board and synthetic chamois

Lever arms, posts and rivets, all fixings: all brass

Reeds: Butchered up from a variety of German instruments - mainly brass, with a few steel. 23 key in C/G (Lach style with the extra two accidentals in-line with the C-row, and an extra C/C drone on the left thumb.)

 

If I were to do this again, which I hope to, I will look to improving the bellows materials and binding and using better reeds. It was great fun to make, a good learning experience, and materials-wise probably only cost about £100. It plays fine for a beginner's instrument, and the large bellows compensate for a little leakiness!

Edited by Pistachio Dreamer
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Wow, that's a fascinating take on instrument material sourcing!

 

Puts me in mind of Julian Goodacre, makes medieval bagpipes up in Peebles; he takes pride in using wood so local that he generally is familiar with the specific trees invovled. He did a large number of smallpipes based off (iirc) a plum tree outside a local pub that was killed by lightning strike, which he corded and aged for a number of years and then lathed into pipes.

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Wow, that's a fascinating take on instrument material sourcing!

 

Puts me in mind of Julian Goodacre, makes medieval bagpipes up in Peebles; he takes pride in using wood so local that he generally is familiar with the specific trees invovled. He did a large number of smallpipes based off (iirc) a plum tree outside a local pub that was killed by lightning strike, which he corded and aged for a number of years and then lathed into pipes.

 

Fantastic story and inspiring maker, thanks for the link. I managed to save a few chunks of an impressive old yew tree that used to stand outside my girlfriend's family home until it was felled recently. It does feel good to have a personal connection with the materials you work with.

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I once got asked to convert a Lachenal English System to 'Vegan' status, a lady visited, produced a basic instrument from her plastic bag, and proceeded to explain that she wanted all the animal products taken out of the concertina and got a bit upset when I said that is was not a practical proposition.

 

I explained (and found myself having to defend) the construction and materials choices mad back in the early 1900's. This covered not only bellows, valves, pads, straps, but glues and even the shellac. She went away more than a bit disappointed, I then got a phone call asking me confirm that the animals whose products were used were all humanely done to death. Not having being around in the early 1900's the best I could manage was the assertion that, given the standards of the day, and the volumes of materials being purchased by Lachenal I felt sure that the killing process would have had to been both clean and efficient. I heard no more.

 

Not that any of the animals involved would have resented their lives being sacrificed if they had realised that they were to live on in such fine instruments.........

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Not that any of the animals involved would have resented their lives being sacrificed if they had realised that they were to live on in such fine instruments.........

 

Some might and some not, a matter of personal taste... But I agree, it's definitely something more (and much more as to me of course, but I won't get processed this way myself) than just being eaten and digested... :)

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I once got asked to convert a Lachenal English System to 'Vegan' status, a lady visited, produced a basic instrument from her plastic bag, and proceeded to explain that she wanted all the animal products taken out of the concertina and got a bit upset when I said that is was not a practical proposition.

 

I explained (and found myself having to defend) the construction and materials choices mad back in the early 1900's. This covered not only bellows, valves, pads, straps, but glues and even the shellac. She went away more than a bit disappointed, I then got a phone call asking me confirm that the animals whose products were used were all humanely done to death. Not having being around in the early 1900's the best I could manage was the assertion that, given the standards of the day, and the volumes of materials being purchased by Lachenal I felt sure that the killing process would have had to been both clean and efficient. I heard no more.

 

Not that any of the animals involved would have resented their lives being sacrificed if they had realised that they were to live on in such fine instruments.........

 

And surely throwing away the animal bits is so much more of a waste - I don't quite understand that mentality. Exception would be modern poached ivory etc., which I understand they have to burn so as not to perpetuate the trade. I think they used to make some high end concertinas with tortoiseshell ends, which to my eyes look quite tacky now, but back then must have been startling to behold. Maybe an alternate thread here - the most carnivorous concertina?

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  • 1 month later...

this is a cool project. Its nice to see people thinking outside the squeeze box when making these things. BTW where on earth did you get the threaded inserts? they are like so hard to get hold of at the right size.

 

 

post a vid of it playing!

Edited by Jake of Hertford
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A simple search for brass inserts 4-40 will get you plenty of hobby shop suppliers, good for a few at a time, and here is a more substantial supplier

http://www.microfasteners.com/bti0440-4-40-brass-threaded-inserts-for-wood.html

 

There is a firm called Yardley does much nicer ones, they press in rather than screw.

http://catalog.yardleyproducts.com/viewitems/trisert-regular-short-series/elf-tapping-insert-regular-short-series-us-threads

They do metric but only M3 and M2, ie. A little thin or a little fat for the job.

 

4-40 might be a thread you are unfamiliar with, it is an American thread but you will have seen plenty, they are used in computers, for example for the screws that hold printer cables into a parallel port, they usually have a plastic extension so you can do them up by hand. They have a major diameter of about 2.5mm, close in size to the 7BA often used in the UK. It would be unlikely to find inserts in 7BA but a metric size would be possible. I think you would need to be able to search in German or Czech etc to find a M2.5 insert and the simple search words "brass insert" would be unlikely to be the right ones.

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Pistachio, before you create a distinct problem for all of us vintage concertina owners vis a vis the CITES laws by continuing to imply the widespread use of ivory, you should be made aware that Ivory was not commonly used in vintage concertinas. Instead, the buttons were made of bone which, while still not meeting your vegan goals, do no make use of any poached materials or otherwise despicable collection methods. This is material that would have otherwise been disposed of, or as in the case of French prisoners of war in the 1800s were used to make ship models and all kinds of other decorative items that were sold to keep them better fed and alive til the war was over.

 

Ross Schlabach

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A simple search for brass inserts 4-40 will get you plenty of hobby shop suppliers, good for a few at a time, and here is a more substantial supplier

http://www.microfasteners.com/bti0440-4-40-brass-threaded-inserts-for-wood.html

 

There is a firm called Yardley does much nicer ones, they press in rather than screw.

http://catalog.yardleyproducts.com/viewitems/trisert-regular-short-series/elf-tapping-insert-regular-short-series-us-threads

They do metric but only M3 and M2, ie. A little thin or a little fat for the job.

 

4-40 might be a thread you are unfamiliar with, it is an American thread but you will have seen plenty, they are used in computers, for example for the screws that hold printer cables into a parallel port, they usually have a plastic extension so you can do them up by hand. They have a major diameter of about 2.5mm, close in size to the 7BA often used in the UK. It would be unlikely to find inserts in 7BA but a metric size would be possible. I think you would need to be able to search in German or Czech etc to find a M2.5 insert and the simple search words "brass insert" would be unlikely to be the right ones.

 

 

 

I am not in the US. I guess I could order some from over that side but it seemed so far for such a small thing to travel. I only searched in english so didnt find any that were quite the correct size.

Edited by Jake of Hertford
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Interesting topic!

 

As a songwriter, I occasionally think about music and sustainability. The Bard, after all, is an incipient Druid, and must think things through on a spiritual level. Many years ago, I wrote the following song. Not one of my best, I admit. Those of you who are familiar with German shall judge - for the others, there's a literal translation at the bottom.

 

Der Herr und der Sänger

Eines Tages ging der Schöpfer in der Welt hienieden,

Um zu schauen nach dem Rechten, wie schon hin und wieder.

Sah sich an, was Menschen trieben

mit der Schöpfung alles;

Ärgerte und freute sich, je nach Art des Falles.

Sah die Männer in dem Walde stolze Bäume fällen,

Hörte auch ihr Jagdgetöse und die Hunde bellen.

Bergleut' wühlten unter Tage,

Abraumhalden wuchsen;

Wo die Leute Erze schmolzen, war der Himmel duster.

Einer aber stand beiseite, ab vom muntern Treiben,

Seine Miene war recht finster, und er war am Schreiben.

Sprach der Herr zu ihm: "Wer bist du?"

"Herr, ich bin der Sänger,

Und die Schändung Deiner Welt dulde ich nicht länger!

"Leute, die die Bäume fällen und die Tiere töten,

Sollen aus den Liedern lernen, Schonung ist vonnöten,

Und dass Schätze dieser Erde

Allzuschnell verschwinden,

Pufft man sie so achtungslos in die freien Winde!"

Sprach der Schöpfer zu dem Sänger: "Kläglich ist dein Singen!

Hättest du bloß Instrumente, tät' es wohler klingen!"

Sprach der Sänger: "Instrumente

Tät' ich wohl begehren,

Würdest Deinem Sänger Du welche doch bescheren."

"Töte," sprach der Herr, "Ein Kalb; mach' aus dem Fell die Pauke!

Und aus Hölzer edler Bäume bau' dir eine Laute!

Lass' dafür die Saiten ziehen

Aus geschmolzenen Erzen;

Spiel zum Tanz, und sing dein Lied dann für frohe Herzen!"

Translation:

The Lord and the Singer (literal translation)

One day, the Creator came down to this world

to see how things were going, as he occasionally does.

He looked at what humans were doing

with all his creation;

was annoyed or pleased, depending on what he saw.

He saw the men in the forest felling proud trees;

heard the cry of their hunt, and the baying of the hounds.

Miners grubbed in the earth,

slag-heaps grew;

where the people smelted ores, the sky was darkened.

But one stood aside, far from the merry activity;

his mien was dark, and he was writing.

The Lord spake to him: "Who art thou?"

"Lord, I m the Singer,

and I will tolerate the desecration of your world no longer!

"People who fell the trees and kill the animals,

shall learn from my songs that conservation is necessary,

and that the treasures of the earth

will vanish all to quickly

if they are puffed so carelessly into the free winds!"

The Creator spake to the Singer: "Your singing is dismal!

If only you had instruments, it would sound fuller!"

The Singer spake: "Instruments

are what I would wish for

if thou wouldst bestow some on thy Singer."

"Kill," spake the Lord, "A calf; make a drum with its skin!

And from the woods of noble trees, build yourself a lute!

Have the strings for it drawn

from smelted ores;

play for the dance, and then sing your songs for light hearts!"

Cheers,

John

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  • 3 weeks later...

this is a cool project. Its nice to see people thinking outside the squeeze box when making these things. BTW where on earth did you get the threaded inserts? they are like so hard to get hold of at the right size.

 

 

post a vid of it playing!

Hi Jake,

 

Thanks for your nice words. The inserts are M2, and yes very hard to find. At this size they are made to be fitted in plastic not wood, so are most commonly found with studded/gnurled sides for friction/heat fixing. I did manage to find a screw-in version, again a very fine thread for plastic fitting, but works fine in hardwood if a little care is taken. The ebay seller is here (http://stores.ebay.co.uk/InsertsDirect-com-Ltd/_i.html?_nkw=m2&submit=Search&_sid=671871966) but I notice they don't have the threaded type any more. If I were to use the non threaded version I would knock them into a slightly undersized hole with a bit of superglue, and be careful to not overtighten the bolts.

 

I'll have to post a video of its owner playing it, hands don't fit in the straps any more, and as you can see with my acme hand strap fixing prototype, quick adjustment is a bit of a fiddle!

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