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I have a nice mid-range metal-end Lachenel that I bought completely rebuilt from Colin Dipper about 20+ years ago. Recently I've gotten back into playing and am noticing some quirks. My question is whether I could or should go after these, or am I asking too much. The problem with reeds is that some five or so, randomly located, are a bit slow to start. I do like to play quietly, and so these pop out  when I'm playing. I gather that this is fixable by adjusting the how the reeds stand and that I MIGHT be able to accomplish this myself (I am a violin maker and restorer, not all thumbs). 

 

The second problem is a few buttons that aren't as lively as the others. They don't stick--they just give the impression of sluggishness, which means that their notes don't pop. On this one I don't have a strong feeling for what might be wrong. I don't think the bushings are tight. I get a bit of a feel that the springs may not be pressing straight upwards to the levers and this might be part of it, but I don't really know. The action is not riveted--the levers pass through vertical slots in uprights, if I am remembering right. Any suggestions of things to check are welcome.

 

I'm not scared to try to fix these things, but I would rather be direct about it rather than wandering in the woods, making mistakes. Any advice is welcome. I have read what I can find here about the reed response issue, but am still a bit reluctant to dive in, having seen all the ways that people who don't know what they are doing can mess up violins.

 

Lachanel.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Adjusting the set isn't too difficult. I use a simple tool made from a beech ice cream stick cut across at a sharp angle to push the tongue up or down. To get an idea of the right amount of set, look at a reed with a similar pitch that plays well. Generally there wants to be a very small gap between the bottom of the tongue and the top of the frame; the higher the reed the smaller the gap. If it's too wide, the reed will sound breathy and struggle to start at low pressure; if it's too narrow, the reed will 'choke' at high pressure. Try to bend it a tiny bit at a time; better to take a dozen attempts to get a feel for how much force is required than to bend it way too far on the first attempt.

 

Adjusting the set might not fix the problem, but it is worth a try anyway. The second most likely reason for slow/inefficient reeds, is that they have too wide clearance between the tongue and the frame. It is fixable by replacing the tongue, but that requires more specialised skills. A third possibility is if the valve on the other reed in the chamber isn't closing properly, that can cause a problem by allowing air to bypass the reed.

 

Are the problem buttons connected to very short levers, by any chance? A common problem with non-riveted Lachenal actions is when you push the button down the whole lever depresses and doesn't pivot properly, with the pad opening sluggishly and the pivot making a clicking noise. The problem tends to be worst on the shortest levers. Fiddling with the spring and making sure the cross-hole bush isn't too tight might help.

 

P.S. increasing the set tends to flatten the pitch of the reed by a fraction of a cent and vice versa.

Edited by alex_holden

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Thanks! You may be exactly right about the lever links. In particular the central C and C# on the right hand are slow, and without looking, I bet those are short levers.

 

When one bends the set of the reed, is the bending from the base, or is the concept to reduce the upward bowing over the whole length, or does it depend? It looks like the lift is a slight bowing from one end to the other, to me, which would imply pushing more towards the tip of the reed to bend it?

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1 minute ago, mdarnton said:

When one bends the set of the reed, is the bending from the base, or is the concept to reduce the upward bowing over the whole length, or does it depend? It looks like the lift is a slight bowing from one end to the other, to me, which would imply pushing more towards the tip of the reed to bend it?

 

It depends on the length of the reed, but usually I'm pushing close to the tip.

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16 minutes ago, alex_holden said:

increasing the set tends to flatten the pitch of the reed by a fraction of a cent and vice versa.

 

Alex, by increasing you mean widening the gap through bending the reed „upward“, don‘t you?

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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Just now, Wolf Molkentin said:

Alex, by increasing you mean widening the gap through bending the reed „upward“, don‘t you?

 

That's right, Wolf.

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If the sluggish reeds were not like that after the Dipper rebuild then the most likely culprits would be valves (not just the ones that won't close but those that won't open) or leaks from either shrunken or warped wood or from reedpan blocks no longer being in the best position. The reeds could also be inefficient due to too great a clearance or the set could be too low.

 

Try one of the sluggish reeds by putting sudden immense presure on the bellows and see if the sluggishness is worse, a sure sign of low set. 

 

Check where the pads for the sluggish notes are located, they may seem random on the keyboard but be near each other on the pan. If so check the pan blocks and the sealing between the pan and bellows and how flat the reed pan is. Check all of these things anyway. 

 

Check the partition gaskets don't stop short of the bellows frame walls in those chambers. 

 

HTH

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Thanks! When I get back to town I will check all of this out....

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Posted (edited)

I'm not sure if it's adequate to add my own question here (and I hope the OP won't mind me doing so), but here it is:

 

With my new Aeola TT I get the impression that the reeds are in a way set to maximum volume and "cut" (apparently rather high) which causes them to speak rather quiet under low pressure with a "leap" to a much higher volume with the bellows pressed or pulled more boldly. May this be a desired feature as it leads to a very distinct attack with I came to like very much?

 

Best wishes - 🐺

 

P.S.: just as a precaution, I guess I can rule out the valves as determining factor in this case...

 

Edit: see separate thread now...

 

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
hint to new thread

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Welcome Michael.  I have little to add other than to point out Dave Elliot's book The Concertina Maintenance Manual 2nd Edition which you may have to source from him because of the ridiculous Amazon price.  I have "known" Michael through several years of a luthier's discussion group TOBI (theory of bowed instruments) where he has freely shared information on instrument repair.  He is one of the premier restorers and is one of the few who have actually worked on and photographed Stradivarius and other similar age instruments.

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33 minutes ago, RWL said:

Welcome Michael.  I have little to add other than to point out Dave Elliot's book The Concertina Maintenance Manual 2nd Edition which you may have to source from him because of the ridiculous Amazon price.  I have "known" Michael through several years of a luthier's discussion group TOBI (theory of bowed instruments) where he has freely shared information on instrument repair.  He is one of the premier restorers and is one of the few who have actually worked on and photographed Stradivarius and other similar age instruments.

Well  , as this is the case  then I'm sure Michael  will have no  difficulties  with such a simple and  'fixer' friendly  instrument  as the  concertina.

 

good luck,

Geoff.

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Posted (edited)

Just to be clear, I have absolutely NO problem with the Dipper job--it was almost 25 years ago, and a lot of miles back--as you can see, it's a bit ratty now, after a lot of playing. The concertina when I got it was like brand new, and I love it. I'm just trying to spruce it up for my current playing style.

 

Thanks, RWL. As you can imagine, I just want to feel like I've done the job 100 times before I actually dig in, so as much data and understanding it as I can get, first, is good.

Edited by mdarnton

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On 6/19/2018 at 6:58 PM, Chris Ghent said:

If the sluggish reeds were not like that after the Dipper rebuild then the most likely culprits would be valves (not just the ones that won't close but those that won't open) or leaks from either shrunken or warped wood or from reedpan blocks no longer being in the best position. The reeds could also be inefficient due to too great a clearance or the set could be too low.

 

Try one of the sluggish reeds by putting sudden immense presure on the bellows and see if the sluggishness is worse, a sure sign of low set. 

 

Check where the pads for the sluggish notes are located, they may seem random on the keyboard but be near each other on the pan. If so check the pan blocks and the sealing between the pan and bellows and how flat the reed pan is. Check all of these things anyway. 

 

Check the partition gaskets don't stop short of the bellows frame walls in those chambers. 

 

HTH

Thanks Chris for talking some sense here.  It is fine for people to describe how they do things, but proper diagnosis has to be the starting point.  Bob Snope at the Button box once said most problems in concertinas can be traced to the valves. Sure there are lots of things that can and do go south ( or is it north for Australia?). But for anything but new instruments, reeds are pretty stable and problems are much more likely to come from the environment the reeds live in.  Valves are generally not stable.  They curl, get stiff, or lose their elasticity, depending on lots of factors. They should be your starting point, not reed set.

Dana

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35 minutes ago, Dana Johnson said:

Sure there are lots of things that can and do go south ( or is it north for Australia?). 

It's south, we also suffer from the sense the northern hemisphere is somehow the top of the world and that anything that falls can be seen to be slipping downwards towards the south pole. If anyone goes down there to through the giant piles of things that went south I'm looking for a sock, made from possum fur, black with a blue heel. The possum is probably looking for it too. 

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Thanks for the continuing advice. And I am starting to think that it's likely that a lot of the problem is valves, and of course I will check that first. One thing I have noticed since the advice started rolling in is that some of the offending notes have a very audible valve slap sound, which can't be a good thing?

 

If none of this works, I will try playing while standing on my head, to see if the problem is simply hemispheric.

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If the instrument has been sat, un-played for 20 odd years, the valves will have probably hardened and if it was stored in a box/ bag that stood the instalment with the bellows axis vertical then some of the valves will have probably curled as well as hardened, I would look at a full re- valve as a matter of principle.

 

Dave

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Thanks. When I started this thread, I was two weeks into my revival, and hadn't started spinning yet. Now I've spent the last ten days of so practicing every chance I get, and everything has loosened up considerably. I believe you (and the others) were right to suggest checking the valves first, and response is MUCH better now. Part of it I associate with flexing the valves, but some of it seems to be that all of the reeds are acting differently now, and so I have put off doing anything to see how many problems continue to fix themselves. I really wouldn't have believed how much better she has become with a little exercise, so for the moment I will just keep grinding away at it, expecting things to get better.

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