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Experimental Prototype Anglo Concertina


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Hello people

 

For the last few years I have been saying lots of "oh but what if concertinas were made like this and that" so in the end I made a prototype to test some ideas. This was made in my final year of my degree in model making and prototyping, it took about 4 months of learning, designing, working out and ect. It is the first working prototype I have made of anything, mostly in the past I focussed on static models which I guess is why it took so long to make this, lots of learning about moving parts.

 

first up here are the pictures: http://www.middletonmodels.com/product/

 

The basic plan of the project was to make a G/D anglo concertina that overcame some of the things I didn't personally get on with on the original design. These are: it is harder to play it standing up than sitting down, I always found the buttons a bit small, I thought an air lever was more logical than an air button and finally I found many concertinas to have very small hand rests (not much height) which never really appealed so much to myself. So I made a design which tries to address all of these things I was not happy with. Make what you will of that, it is personal opinion and I am not saying what I have made is better necessarily for everyone, it just suited me. Others may play this thing and prefer a more classic anglo.

 

So to make it easier to play standing up I carved these wooden hand rests that fit the hand very anatomically, and I made the hand strap have an elastic element which gives better hand retention while also being quite flexible. The straps are in a Y shape, the thumb goes through the top of the Y. I also tried to make the weight evenly distributed either side of the hand rests, I found this easiest with a rectangular shape, basically the heaviest reeds are mounted the other side of the had rests than the buttons to try and equalise the weight like a pair of scales. I also tried to reduce the overall weight by making the ends out of carbon fibre which is probably what took the longest to learn to make. Other than that I just made the buttons 8mm diameter instead of the more common 5 or 6mm diameter and added an air lever.

 

Did it work? Some things went better than others. Basically I really like the buttons, anatomical hand rests and air lever. The thing I am not that happy with is playing it standing up. It is marginally easier but not completely easy. This may be due to my action which is a bit over engineered (lots of 1.5mm brass) making it heavier than intended. That aside the sound is good. The ends don't have much holes in them and the carbon is quite dampening, it sounds like a single voice melodeon or accordion, more so than other hybrid instruments which I think are closer to the sound of a classic concertina reed.

 

Conclusion: to make an anglo easier to play standing up I would probably just give it a hard case that was a bit taller than normal so you can put your foot on that and rest the instrument on your leg rather than bothering with carbon fibre and Y shaped hand straps. So next I started making a more traditional 6 sided wooden instrument, this is unfinished but will be based on a lachenal anglo wreck I found in a junk shop in most respects (slightly higher had rests) The point of this prototype is to learn to do more basic stuff better, like making a better action and bellows my leatherwork is slightly messy in a couple of areas and the action is a bit clunky here and there. When this is done I imagine a third prototype where I will try to combine some elements of the first two prototypes in whatever way I conclude is best from the experience of making the first 2. (it will probably be a 6 sided instrument with an air lever, slightly wider buttons, slightly higher hand rests and a nice tall box to carry it in! The journey continues!

 

Jake

Edited by Jake of Hertford
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Thanks for sharing Jake - albeit I'm not an Anglo player and moreover very happy with my even smaller EC buttons, I kind of like your fresh approach and even the Looks of the instrument, as the elongated rectangular shape is looking quite natural for the three "horizontal" rows and the raised hand-rest to be Fitting in.

 

I'm looking forward to your updating us with your further trolling the streets... :)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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It looks really good, Jake, hats off to you. I make stringed instruments and admire anyone for taking on the challenge of building anything so mechanically complex as a concertina. I'd like to hear it.

Cheers,

Dean

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My congratulations too. I think some of the developments in terms of design ideas (including the hand rests) you have explored are very interesting, Whilst people will have their own opinions on these, traditional approaches and assumptions are there to be challenged and tested. Overall the work looks very clean and accomplished - and given that this is an initial prototype, quite frankly excellent!

 

I too would love to hear how this sounds. The shape makes me jump to simplistic and undoubtedly ill founded assumption that it might sound a little like a bandoneon.

 

Will be very interested to see your next production.

Edited by Myrtle's cook
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It is an unconventional thing for sure, I kind of told myself to forget a lot of what I think of as a concertina and just think "how can I make this work". Some things I tried worked well and others less so. I am not sure it is really realistic to try to market such a thing as this instrument, but from the things learned in the process of making it I feel there are some ideas that could be applied to concertinas as an option. Say for example offering the option of an air lever or the option of wider buttons, which I am sure many makers already offer such stuff if someone was to ask.

 

I really want to get into making concertinas, I have just graduated and am getting into work as a model maker now. I want to make more prototypes until I have something really good and then offer it for sale. I am not sure if I will ever make the jump to this being my job or not, I guess the ultimate decider of that is if it can work financially. Making this stuff may or may not remain a hobby. Time will tell.

 

I will record some tunes asap, I just have an awful microphone on my laptop and am at my university address still. My dad has a good mic, I will borrow that.

Edited by Jake of Hertford
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Yes, love it - very modern and very stylish looking!

 

Perhaps you can come up with some sort of easily adjustable height mechanism for handrests? With hands coming in all different sizes, I've always been surprised that handrest heights are locked in, and that it's often a big hassle to adjust handstraps if switching players.

 

Gary

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Gary, maybe I could come up with that. Henrik suggested a removable attachment that could non-invasively attach to any concertina, which might be interesting That said The hand rests of any anglo I have seen are never glued on, normally being attached with screws or bolts. It is easy to make a new one or if you are not into woodwork any maker/repairer could make you something fitted to you, a bit of a higher or lower bar if need be. It is one of the tricky things as it is pretty hard to have a one size fits all. One of the things I particularly like is how dipper concertinas have this hand rest which is not flat on the top but fits the profile of your palm.

 

When I ordered my anglo from ap james I was learning on a mates lachenal and I used some double sided tape to put thicknesses of hard card on the hand rests of that until the height felt comfortable and asked Ap james to make the rest to that exact height, which worked pretty well.

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Jake, as opposed to taking the ends off and making new handrests which I've had to do several times, I was thinking maybe something like the adjustable screw levelers used in survey instrument tripods might work? A simple turn of a wheel embedded in the handrest might do the trick. This way it would be easier to share and play other people's instruments without having to demolish them first!

 

Gary

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Adjustable height hand rests with screw sdjusters similar to some guitar bridges have been used on some Vintage instruments, can't remember if the ones I've seen were Wheatstone or Jeffries. Anglo concertinas in Ireland I've been told were an instrument for the ladies, and the small hand rest suits most women well. People with long fingers can really benefit from taller rests. Ideally, the upper part of the rest should be the same length as the width of the Palm. The hand strap should go straight up past the area behind the index finger before it wraps over the back of your hand then straight down after it passes the little finger. Sort of a broad shallow "U" shape. If the rest is too short, making a flattened horizontal C shape, the strap will press on nerves and make extended playing painful and difficult.

I personally don't like the look of adjustable rests. It is easy enough to make one the right size without the compromises of the mechanism. Something nice might be able to be done, I'm not saying it can't. But for the most part, good concertina are works of art, and hand rests should be in keeping with the rest of the design.

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