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Lachenal Reed Quality


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Hello All, I have begun to tune both my new Lachenal duets, and discovered a marked difference in the quality of the sound. The older (C 1885) with riveted action, sounds more powerful and strident, wheras tho newer, (C 1903), with standard Lach hook action, sounds good but is more mellow. Both steel reeded. Did Lachenal produce different qualities of reed for different instruments? I assume that the one with riveted action was a superior model?? The reeds in both instruments were in a similar condition, having very little rust.

Dave

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As I think I've said elsewhere Dave, the reeds in the Lachenal New Model duet (circa 1890) which I got just before Christmas are the best quality Lachenal reeds I've ever seen. That may not be a surprise since mostly I've worked on 20 and 30 button anglos but these seem to be to very tight tolerances and are just very nice looking. So on my limited sample, yes, they certainly had differnt quality reeds for the different instrments

 

I haven't had the opportunity to hear how they sound yet as the rest of the box is just a heap of rotting woodwork at the moment but I'll get there!

 

Alex West

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I think they must have had different qualities of reeds, as they catered to quite a wide price range. On one end you have simple mahogany ended anglos and Englishes with routered ends at and edeophones and such things at the other.

 

However I have found that even within the same model of concertina made by lachenal there is a huge variation. They did this metal ended anglo with black end frames, most I have played of this model have been basically pretty bad but there have been one or two real gems. Massive variation.

 

Perhaps their quality control was not that set but that is only a guess

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Perhaps their quality control was not that set but that is only a guess

 

What needs to be understood is that their normal brass reeds were machine-made, but steel reeds could not be made using the same technology and were hand-made, and they therefore vary according to the skill of the individual reed maker. But obviously the best reedmakers would have been employed to make reeds for the higher grades of instrument.

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It must to be very hazardous to generalize about any maker's reed qualities. Not only materials, but batches and like Stephen said individual reed makers and tuners have varied and on top of that maybe for highest quality instruments selection of reeds likely has taken place. Demanding individual customers likely have made a final selection also...It is worth considering that in the heydays a top of the line instrument may have costed 10 times what a budget model did.

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The reeds in my Lachenal Anglo* (metal ends, 40 bone buttons including whistle and baby's cry) have always struck me as first-rate, considerably better than the ordinary run of Lachenals, or at least the ones I've had in my hands over the years. I chalk this up to the skills of an outstanding reed-maker on an unusually good day (not to mention the blind luck of a clueless Yank who blithely placed a transatlantic order with Hobgoblin twenty-some years ago for an instrument he'd neither seen nor heard).

 

But I've wondered over the years about the pecking order among the better Lachenal Anglos of the period (around 1890, according to The Button Box). Were there standard catalogue items analogous to a New Model or Edeophone, and which might have been expected to use the same grade of materials, and to receive a similar degree of attention in production? The catalogues Chris Algar has posted at concertina.com (e.g., http://www.concertina.com/pricelists/lachenal/Lachenal-Pricelist-All-c1920.pdf) contain some clues, but nothing that corresponds perfectly to my box. The "Special Anglo Model" (offered for £13 in 1920) is close, but it has the ordinarily more expensive nickel buttons, not bone ones like mine. Custom order? Occasional variant? Or an intermediate grade production instrument that doesn't turn up in these particular catalogues?

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

 

*I've played it in lots of YouTube videos, e.g., https://youtu.be/J9FuY8Bbx-w.

Edited by Bob Michel
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I have what I think is one of the the "Special Anglo Models" in Bb/F it certainly fits the description in all respects, and definitely feels a cut above any other Lachenel Anglo I've tried. It's 39 buttons, with no novelty noises.

 

The catalogues I've seen make it very clear that there were different grades of reeds, and this was obviously a selling point for the more expensive instruments.

Edited by TedK
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It's not impossible that some owners who owned several boxes might move some better reeds to his favourite box.

 

I have a 20 button Lachenalanglo that has an amazing left hand set of reeds, ( the right hand reeds are good as well, but not so outstanding ).

 

I've been tempted to swap them into my 30 button, but been too lazy to try it so far.

 

You could come across a box that has been altered like that, and assume that it came from the factory with those reeds.

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Yes. Over the years there has been frequent discussion on this website relating to the quite extensive renovation, rebuilding, adaptation, etc of old concertinas. As a result there must be quite a large number of instruments out there which are no longer carrying their full quota of truly original component parts. In these circumstances the old manufacturers original catalogue descriptions could in some circumstances have become relatively meaningless.

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Reeds aren't the full picture. While the older instrument may have very well fitted reeds,( brighter crisper ) and the newer one greater clearance ( mellow, smoother ), the power of the instrument can be dramatically affected by the nature of the wood in the reed pan and elsewhere, or a number of other construction factors that can boost or inhibit reed output. Poor reeds will only get you so far, but poor wood can defeat the best reeds. ( as can heavy valves, loose corner blocks etc.). If you like the sound of the newer instrument, then the reeds and concertina body together are doing their job. Not everybody likes a strident concertina.

Reeds are important, but so is everything else.

Dana

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Thanks to all for these responses; they're all helpful observations, and food for thought. With many variables (reeds, as Dana says, being just part of the picture) and so many unanswered questions about a particular instrument's history--not to mention the spectrum of individual taste (I like the sound; others may find it too strident)--the discussion is bound to remain inconclusive and open-ended.

 

By "first-rate" I suppose, on reflection, that I meant something like "distinctive, quick to respond and with a shapeable sound." But let me try to frame my question in a slightly less subjective way. While Lachenal manufactured vastly more concertinas than (say) Wheatstone, we know that at the top of their respective lines of English-system instruments the two makes were very competitive; some players still prefer an Edeophone to an Aeola of similar quality.

 

But I've never heard a similar claim advanced for the Anglo side of production, or any suggestion that of all those countless thousands of Lachenal Anglos, some few, at least, were built with a view to challenging the very best Anglos available from other manufacturers. (Nor, by the way, would I advance such a claim myself; as much as I like my Lachenal, if I have to flee suddenly with as much as I can carry, let's get real: I'm taking the Jeffries!)

 

Might one speculate that this was ever part of the company's marketing ambitions, or does the available evidence overwhelmingly suggest otherwise? I'm simply curious.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Bob--

 

See "The New Model Anglo" on page 4 of http://www.concertina.com/pricelists/lachenal/Lachenal-Pricelist-All-c1930.pdf . But that model doesn't appear on the c.1920 pricelist at http://www.concertina.com/pricelists/lachenal/Lachenal-Pricelist-All-c1920.pdf , so Lachenal may not have started making them until the company's last years.

 

Thanks to all for these responses; they're all helpful observations, and food for thought. With many variables (reeds, as Dana says, being just part of the picture) and so many unanswered questions about a particular instrument's history--not to mention the spectrum of individual taste (I like the sound; others may find it too strident)--the discussion is bound to remain inconclusive and open-ended.

By "first-rate" I suppose, on reflection, that I meant something like "distinctive, quick to respond and with a shapeable sound." But let me try to frame my question in a slightly less subjective way. While Lachenal manufactured vastly more concertinas than (say) Wheatstone, we know that at the top of their respective lines of English-system instruments the two makes were very competitive; some players still prefer an Edeophone to an Aeola of similar quality.

But I've never heard a similar claim advanced for the Anglo side of production, or any suggestion that of all those countless thousands of Lachenal Anglos, some few, at least, were built with a view to challenging the very best Anglos available from other manufacturers. (Nor, by the way, would I advance such a claim myself; as much as I like my Lachenal, if I have to flee suddenly with as much as I can carry, let's get real: I'm taking the Jeffries!)

Might one speculate that this was ever part of the company's marketing ambitions, or does the available evidence overwhelmingly suggest otherwise? I'm simply curious.

Bob Michel
Near Philly

Edited by Daniel Hersh
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Thats very interesting, I have never seen a New Model Anglo

 

I've only ever had one, and it was a very high quality 30-key instrument "with nickel tops" (metal ends) in almost new condition.

 

The usual model of metal-ended Anglo, like Bob Michel's, only appears in the catalogues as an option on the "Newly Improved" model with "Nickel Plated Tops ... ... 22/- extra".

 

The "Special Anglo Model" was built more in the style, layout and fingering of Jeffries/Crabb instruments, and I have reason to strongly suspect that Charles Crabb had a hand in the making of them (especially the reeds).

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