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Herrington Curiosity

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As many of you know, Harold Herrington in Texas was quite the experimenter when it came to building concertinas, and I think that came from his sincere desire to build something the best way he could even though he didn't play concertina or have much knowledge of historical concertina construction.

 

In fact, the very first 30-button concertina he made back around 1990 had three rows in the keys of A/D/G because he thought Anglos were similar to the melodeon his bandmate played. He was so proud of that instrument and I felt really bad having to break it to him gently that it wasn't the traditional Anglo layout!

 

His first instruments were square, but he quickly learned that the market preferred hexagonal. And yes, he kept changing and modifying to the point where I'm not sure if any two were exactly alike. I'm fortunate enough to have a metal-ended hexagonal 30-button he built in 2000, and it's loud, strong, with bass notes that sound far closer to real concertina reeds than any other hybrid I've played.

 

But I've only recently paid attention to a couple of curious features that might or might not have ever been used on other concertinas. And I'm not talking about the offset lever arms or coil springs (which, by the way, work perfectly well).

 

On the action pan you'll notice an odd little L-shaped wooden baffle/deflector next to the pad of the inboard reed. I've wondered about this for years, obviously an afterthought since it covered up his signature, but my best guess is this was an attempt to deflect/strengthen the volume of that often-weak reed. Anyone ever seen anything like this before?

 

And on each end of the bellows (which he got from Italy) he added an additional plywood piece with a hole in the middle. Perhaps like a banjo tone ring? (Harold was mostly a tenor banjo player). I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the loudness of his instruments?

 

I'm curious to hear what the cnet brain trust thinks about these features, especially from any builders!

 

Gary

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My guess is that the wooden angle block provides firm support under the hand rest since there aren’t any posts to do that job. The plywood ring I have seen used to keep the bellows folds from intruding on the reed area, possibly interfering with their action. It also provides reinforcement of the shape of the bellows frame. I doubt if it contributes to volume, and probably isn’t needed, but I don’t think this is his original idea. Harold was happy to incorporate features he admired in other instruments. Always gave credit where due though. He was a really nice guy and I am sorry he is gone.

Dana

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Dana, that's what I initially thought too about the wooden angle until I realized it doesn't touch the bottom of the fretwork at all by about 1/4". The ends are fairly thick stainless steel and the handrest extends all the way across, so there is no blocking underneath whatsoever.

 

But you're probably right about the bellows ring - that's a good way to keep the folds from ever hitting any reeds. But perhaps it also creates a slight change in air pressure due the restriction created by the circular opening?

 

Thought you all might enjoy one of the last photos taken of Harold when he talked about making concertinas at the Old Pal Festival in Palestine, Texas, in 2012. Sadly, he passed away shortly before the event in 2013.

 

Gary

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I have a Frank Edgley's accordion reed model which has the similar bellows ring. I think Frank can answer the question.

 

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"Thought you all might enjoy one of the last photos taken of Harold when he talked about making concertinas at the Old Pal Festival in Palestine, Texas, in 2012. Sadly, he passed away shortly before the event in 2013.

 

Gary"

 

 

Is that Jody Kruskal on the right hand edge?

 

LJ

Edited by Little John

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Dana, that's what I initially thought too about the wooden angle until I realized it doesn't touch the bottom of the fretwork at all by about 1/4". The ends are fairly thick stainless steel and the handrest extends all the way across, so there is no blocking underneath whatsoever.

 

But you're probably right about the bellows ring - that's a good way to keep the folds from ever hitting any reeds. But perhaps it also creates a slight change in air pressure due the restriction created by the circular opening?

 

Thought you all might enjoy one of the last photos taken of Harold when he talked about making concertinas at the Old Pal Festival in Palestine, Texas, in 2012. Sadly, he passed away shortly before the event in 2013.

 

Gary

Thanks for the picture! I really appreciate it. The block is a mystery then, though you may we’ll be right about it being there to get the sound out from under the hand. It looks very purposefully placed. I put my air valve pad in that location to muffle the air noise while playing.

The force needed on the bellows to generate enough pressure to sound the reeds is determined by the area of the bellows at the peaks. If you made a small diameter bellows and attached it to the ends, it would behave like a smaller concertina and require less force to play, albeit at a sacrifice in capacity. You can look at the reed ports or pad holes as providing the same sort of restrictions as the bellows ring but to a vastly greater degree without any change in the force required to generate the needed psi / pascals.

Dana

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Is that Jody Kruskal on the right hand edge?

 

LJ

 

yes. Or maybe his twin brother? ;-)

Edited by RAc

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Dana, that's what I initially thought too about the wooden angle until I realized it doesn't touch the bottom of the fretwork at all by about 1/4". The ends are fairly thick stainless steel and the handrest extends all the way across, so there is no blocking underneath whatsoever.

 

Gary

The block is a mystery then...

 

Just looking at the picture - couldn't that be a handle to help remove the action?...

 

(hope I didn't dinkeldof myself again asking a really stupid question)

Edited by RAc

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Yes, that is Jody Kruskal studiously listening to Harold - Jody is a fairly regular special performer/teacher at the Old Pal Concertina Weekend in East Texas. Harold often gave workshops on tuning and building and we all miss his kindness and enthusiasm.

 

The action pan, ends and reed pan are all one piece (only the metal grill with handrest is separate), so no need for a lifting tab, but perhaps this solid type of construction is part of what makes his instruments so strong and loud.

 

Gary

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Hi Gary,

 

I apprenticed with Harold during 2005-2006, when he generously taught me to build my own concertina in his fashion. That little L-shaped piece that you mention was not part of his method at that time or later, from what I know. So cannot help you there. I can however confirm Dana's interpretation of the board with the circle cutout; it was to keep the bellows off of the swinging reeds. His bellows, imported from Italy (from, I think, Galassi) had a lot of motion to them.

 

Concertina-making didn't take with me, but I built two instruments. One of the lasting memories I have of my time with Harold is of building many homemade jigs (he called them 'fixtures') for various manufacturing steps. They are elaborate contraptions that he designed himself to get the most out of his limited collection of power tools. I still have them, stored on the high shelf of my woodshop, along with notes and photos from my lessons from him. I doubt they would be of interest to anyone today, but if there is a serious aspiring builder who is interested in making hybrids, I could part with them. Howard would have wanted that!

 

Here are two pictures from that time; one is of the action board of my concertina made with Harold (note no L-shaped thing), and Harold and I holding my first concertina. You can tell from the photo that he had as much pride and ownership in that instrument as I did.

 

Years later, I had parts that I had made for a second Herrington-style GD concertina, the wooden parts of which I had built. Harold had passed away, and I wanted to make sure it was a keeper, so I asked Frank Edgley to finish the interior action setting. It is a great player, and the world's only Herrington/Edgley/Worrall!

 

Dan

 

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The action pan, ends and reed pan are all one piece (only the metal grill with handrest is separate), so no need for a lifting tab, but perhaps this solid type of construction is part of what makes his instruments so strong and loud.

 

Gary

well yes, to be expected - that obvious of a solution wouldn't have escaped you, of course...

 

My take on solving the puzzle would be to remove the L and compare the sound. I think the theory of an "artificial wall" deflector device isn't too far off...

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My take on solving the puzzle would be to remove the L and compare the sound. I think the theory of an "artificial wall" deflector device isn't too far off...

 

 

Yes, that is me on the right and I remember the keen interest we all had at Old Pal 2012 as Harold held forth on his building techniques and concertina research. What a great character he was... and sorely missed!

 

I'm looking forward to returning to East Texas again this March for the 2018 concertina festival.

 

I agree that the L shaped thing looks like "an "artificial wall" deflector device" or rather, an acoustic reflector device.

 

I wonder if it worked?

 

Correct, only taking it off and listening would answer that question.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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