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alex_holden

Holden Concertinas No. 1

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I recently completed my first instrument, a 30-button Hayden duet with the same form factor as the early Wheatstone Duett, and I have written a series of blog posts about the process:

 

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: End Plates and Hand Rails

Part 3: End Boxes

Part 4: Actions

Part 5: Bellows

Part 6: Reeds

Part 7: Reed Pans

Part 8: Conclusion

 

HC1_small.jpg

 

A great deal of what I have learned about how to build a good traditional concertina came from makers and repairers on this forum, either in direct answers to my questions or in the many hours I spent trawling through old discussion threads. I am immensely grateful to everybody who willingly shares their knowledge, and hope to play my own small part in the preservation and advancement of this tremendous craft.

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A lovely looking instrument, and a fantastic photo essay on how it was made. I never cease to be amazed about how many ways there are to solve the same problem, some very innovative indeed. I learnt a lot. Thank you Alex.

 

PS: I remember after I had made my first instrument I sat it on the bench and stared at it every day for a week before i went to work, simply not being able to believe I'd done it -- a common feeling?.

 

David

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A lovely looking instrument, and a fantastic photo essay on how it was made. I never cease to be amazed about how many ways there are to solve the same problem, some very innovative indeed. I learnt a lot. Thank you Alex.

 

PS: I remember after I had made my first instrument I sat it on the bench and stared at it every day for a week before i went to work, simply not being able to believe I'd done it -- a common feeling?.

Thanks David! I think my reaction was a bit more complicated: when I look at it I'm torn between the 'amazed I made it' reaction and being hyper-critical over a handful of small cosmetic flaws. When I play it, though, I'm still awed that a little box I made in my shed from bits of wood, brass, steel, card, and leather can produce such a beautiful sound.

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PS: I remember after I had made my first instrument I sat it on the bench and stared at it every day for a week before i went to work, simply not being able to believe I'd done it -- a common feeling?.

 

David

Yes David, that's how if feels. I've been making instruments for nearly 40 years and the magic of standing back from the work and looking at the finished article never diminishes.

 

 

Well done Alex !!

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That looks amazing. I can't wait to hear it!

Thanks nicx66! I'm looking forward myself to hearing what it can do in the hands of a decent player.

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I’ve followed much of your journey here Alex and I am so impressed :) it looks amazing. I can’t wait for instruments 2,3 and 4 now :)

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Proper job, Alex! I'll enjoy reading the blog entries in depth, and I am excited to hear this in action.

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Well done, Alex. It is gorgeous. And I like the rectangular shape...back to basics of concertina history!

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Splendid achievement Alex but the jury is out until you arrange for that ' decent player ' to play it to us. It's what it sounds like that really matters !

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It looks quite promising. I know next to nothing about concertina building, but I’ve been playing the Hayden for 30 years.

 

Some nit-picking:

  • Your web site spells “Duet” with one or two T’s pretty much indiscriminately. I’m pretty sure (I may be wrong) that the 2-T spelling only referred to the Wheatstone Duett (a trade name), and in the context of Hayden, Maccann, Crane, Jeffries, etc., you should stick to the proper spelling of Duet, with one T.
  • You mention having discussed the layout with Brian Hayden, but I see no mention of whether you used his specifications re: the positions of the buttons and slant of the rows. From the photos, it looks like it’s probably right (unlike the disastrous Stagi).

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It looks quite promising. I know next to nothing about concertina building, but Ive been playing the Hayden for 30 years.

 

Some nit-picking:

  • Your web site spells Duet with one or two Ts pretty much indiscriminately. Im pretty sure (I may be wrong) that the 2-T spelling only referred to the Wheatstone Duett (a trade name), and in the context of Hayden, Maccann, Crane, Jeffries, etc., you should stick to the proper spelling of Duet, with one T.
  • You mention having discussed the layout with Brian Hayden, but I see no mention of whether you used his specifications re: the positions of the buttons and slant of the rows. From the photos, it looks like its probably right (unlike the disastrous Stagi).

Hi David, thanks.

 

There's an explanation for the two different spellings, but it's kind of long and boring, and you're not the first person to tell me I spelled "duet" wrong. Basically "Hayden Duett" is the shorthand working-title for the instrument that the client and I used when we were discussing making an instrument like a Wheatstone Duett with a Hayden keyboard. I got used to calling it that and never got around to coming up with a better name. Confusingly it also happens to be an instrument that has a duet keyboard. (I've discovered that this makes even less sense when attempting to explain it spoken aloud: "I've made a duet concertina, it's like a Wheatstone Due-tuh-tuh-with-two-tees, but it has a thirty button Hayden keyboard layout!" :lol:). I will try to think of a new name for the instrument and change the blog titles.

 

Update: I have now decided to call this model of instrument the Brun after a river in my home town. (Longer explanation here.) Please forget I ever referred to it as the Hayden Duett. :)

 

Yes, it has Brian's spacing and the slant he recommended (off the top of my head, I think it was 10.5 degrees). The handrails are adjustable back and forth, and you can even rotate them a little (personally I found it more comfortable to play if I turned them in a few degrees to reduce the slant). The buttons are 4.8mm diameter with flattish tops, simply because when I made them I exactly copied the buttons from a Lachenal English I had in front of me. Brian later told me he prefers slightly larger buttons, but I think I had already made the buttons and the ends by that point so I didn't remake them.

Edited by alex_holden

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I was honored to be the first person (apart from Alex) to play this new instrument, and was amazed at the excellent quality of it. The instrument is beautifully finished, and if there were any cosmetic imperfections I certainly didn't notice them.

The concertina has a beautiful tone; certainly much better than a Lachenal. I was amazed at such a good sound from a makers very first instrument.

 

After playing a few tunes on it, I tried playing it very softly; and found that it responded evenly to a very low pressure. This shows that the reeds have been very accurately fitted into their frames and is a mark of a quality instrument. I hesitated to play the instrument too loudly, as all makers have advised me not to do this too soon on a brand new instrument, but allow time for the instrument to be played in first

 

The concertina is very compact, (as I believe has been requested by Alex's customer); the whole of the left hand reed-pan, and most of the right hand reed-pans are entirely filled by the reedwork. This usually causes problems with the reeds in the center of the reed-pan having a different timbre from those round the edges. However Alex has cracked this problem in a totally innovative way, with a two part reed-pan on each side.

 

I liked the idea of self adjustable hand rests, to alter the distance from the buttons and even the angle a little.. The height is also adjustable. Both these features are very useful as nobody's hands are quite the same as another's. As supplied I didn't need to alter these. I did however find that the place where the thumb rests rather high; it was also shorter than usual and my thumb rested on this rather awkwardly. Personally I would like to do away with thumb-rests altogether, and rest my thumbs flat on the concertina faces; but I have never met anyone else who complained about this.

 

I saw in one of Alex's photos, a picture of a nicely shaped handle, with the place below the little finger at a lower level than the forefinger, nicely curved and sweeping up for support above the forefinger; but I guess that such a hand rest might be a little on the expensive side.

 

Well I am very glad to say that I can thoroughly recommend Alex Holden as a Concertina Maker,

 

Brian Hayden.

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