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Learning To Restore A 20-key Lachenal


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Hello all -

 

I just received a 20-key Lachenal from ebay last night (circa 1870-1900 depending on formula); it's my first attempt at repairing a slightly damaged instrument. I haven't opened it up yet, but here are my first impressions:

 

The lowest-pitched button on the left end tends to stick open, but can be made to close by pulling on the button.

 

There is a somewhat echoy effect for many of the notes - I suppose things are not closing properly after releasing the button.

 

The pitches are 'off' compared to my other, circa-2003 concertina, except for the first two buttons on the right side. F# and C, I think they were. Those are spot on with my other concertina, but they sound off-pitch with regard to all of the other lachenal notes. I have read of a different tuning being used for older concertinas, I guess this is what they meant?

 

The woodwork is in good condition externally...one long surface crack that seems pretty solid, and a small bit of fretwork that has broken off and needs to be reglued into place. The bellows leak slightly but not too badly, and that could be related to the echoing problem, if things aren't closing properly.

 

I have a copy of the Maintenance Manual, but haven't delved into it yet.

 

Tips from those who have come before are welcome. I know the first steps will be "open it" and "read the manual", and I hope to get to do that this weekend.

 

I was also wondering if there are any UK repairers around here that might be willing to teach me a few tips if I come by their shop. I live in London, and I don't own a car.

 

Photos from the ebay auction:

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...l/ebaylach1.jpg

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...l/ebaylach2.jpg

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...l/ebaylach3.jpg

 

Comments welcome, and if people are interested I'll post more (text and photos) when I've opened it up.

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Tips from those who have come before are welcome.  I know the first steps will be "open it" and "read the manual", and I hope to get to do that this weekend.

Those are definitely the first things you should do, with the manual for a guide as you disassemble it. Once you understand the mechanisms, you should be able to ask more specific questions. Quite likely you'll be able to fix a some of the problems without our help.

 

The pitches are 'off' compared to my other, circa-2003 concertina, except for the first two buttons on the right side.  F# and C, I think they were.  Those are spot on with my other concertina, but they sound off-pitch with regard to all of the other lachenal notes.  I have read of a different tuning being used for older concertinas, I guess this is what they meant?

Yes, it sounds like (yes, I know it's a pun! ;)) your instrument is tuned to an older standard, and that would mean that the two notes which are "in tune" with your modern instrument are actually out of tune.

 

My advice: After you get the other things fixed, then will be the time to discuss tuning.

 

All the best to you.

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Tips from those who have come before are welcome.  I know the first steps will be "open it" and "read the manual", and I hope to get to do that this weekend.

 

Maybe this link is usefull for the "first steps" in your explorations.

 

Good Luck and let us know (and see) what you find.

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Hi,

I notice from your email adress that you're at UCL.

 

Your's won't be the first concertina to fixed up at UC and if by coincidence you're in the engineering department or in FilmSoc that's where I investigated and fixed my first instruments in about 1970, both places having workshops and materials.

 

It looks from your photos that the end bolts are all present and sound. Be careful not to strip them or lose them as replacement is difficult because they're not standard threads. I re-tapped some inserts and put 7BA bolts in one of my first instruments.

 

From your description, it sounds as if one or more springs are broken. You can get new springs from Hobgoblin, 24 Rathbone Place near Tottenham Court Road or make new ones from phosphor bronze wire - I got some from the engineering stores.

 

The "echoey" sounds may be due to valves sticking or may be due to leaks in pads or the seal between the action box and the reed pan or loose reed frames. Don't underestimate the effect of the valves. You can get new valves from Hobgoblin.

 

Be careful with the reeds. The skills for tuning and setting need to be learned. I'm sure there will be lots more advice here about tuning.

 

Good luck. Unfortunately I'm no longer in London but I'll help with any questions you have.

 

Howard Mitchell

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Hi again everyone, and thanks very much for the replies. That's a very useful link Henk, well done on putting together the guide. Howard, I'm not in the Engineering department of UCL (Linguistics) but I did engineering as my undergrad work, so that's coming in handy here. I didn't know Hobgoblin sold spare parts - I promised the concertina guy there I'd bring in my other conc to show him anyway, so maybe I'll stop by with this one and a wish list of parts too. I'm likely going to get the pre-assembled tool kit from Concertina-spares.com, it looks like a good mix.

 

By the way, if anyone knows how to use HTML on this board, please let me know. If it's not enabled, I'll make do.

 

I opened up the box this morning, and took lots of pictures, but I should have taken written notes too! Chalk up first lesson learned. :P

 

Three interesting points came to light upon opening. There is a lot of valve warping; I am guessing this one has been stored on end in its box for quite a lot of time. Also, the entire serial number isn't visible from the outside:

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...berexternal.jpg

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...berinternal.jpg

 

So this little tidbit revises the age estimate from 1870-1900 to 1894-1929, again using the two formulae I found on this site. Interesting. The third point of info is that I was expecting to see steel reeds, but they look brass. I don't know what implication that has yet.

 

On with the photos:

 

The left side

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...tfrontplate.jpg - The front plate. Two screws were rusted into place and took a while to get out. There's a fair bit of damage surrounding the screwholes here, suggesting that it's been opened a lot. The same two rusty screws were also partially stripped, one worse than the other. I haven't put those two back in for fear of damaging them more.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...actionboard.jpg - The action board. One of the buttons had its little felt-bushing missing, at the point where it meets the lever arm. The lowest button, the sticky one when playing, didn't seem so bad with the front plate removed.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...dfrontplate.jpg - another view of the above.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...anfrontside.jpg - The reed pan sitting inside its holder.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...edpan_flash.jpg - Front of the removed reed pan, with flash.

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...pan_noflash.jpg - Front of the reed pan, without flash.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...panbackside.jpg - The back of the reed pan. The valve conditions lead me to believe that the concertina was mostly stored on its left end, and it came with an end-oriented box (which I am not using at the moment, it needs cleaning).

 

 

The right side

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...tfrontplate.jpg - The front plate. Crack toward the right in this shot and a bit of fretwork is broken off, but it's still glued to the leather baffle.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...actionboard.jpg - Action board. A few of the 'dust circles' around the landing sites of the pads weren't centred on the holes, so there might be some leakage there.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...anfrontside.jpg - Front of the reed pan.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...panbackside.jpg - Back of the reed pan. Again, warpage patterns suggest storing on left end.

 

Three of the reeds on the right side have little pieces of paper wedged in next to them. I didn't make note of which ones, but I think at least one, and possibly two, are the notes which are off-key with respect to the tuning.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...paperwedge1.jpg

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...paperwedge2.jpg

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...paperwedge3.jpg

 

The Bellows

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...owsinternal.jpg - The bellows, internal view. I forgot to take an external shot, but I can later.

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...colouration.jpg - I didn't like the look of all these marks inside the bellows...

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/la...compression.jpg - at one end the bellows seem to be structurally weak, probably from overuse. If pushed too far they seemed to bend in farther than originally designed, at least in my view. This is a composite shot of compressing to what I thought would be normally the maximum (top) and then what these bellows actually compress to (bottom).

 

I'd be happy to take particular closeups of anything. I'll satisfy your curiosity and you'll teach me what to be aware of. :)

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Great photo's and a lot of information Geraghty. Unfortunately I cannot give you much advise, I myself just opened and closed my Lachenal to make pictures, but got a lot of advise on it in this thread as well as directly by mail.

I see that your tina has the same extra heavy spring for the air-valve as mine has! I thought that it was not standard, maybe others can comment on that :unsure:

 

By the way, if anyone knows how to use HTML on this board, please let me know.  If it's not enabled, I'll make do.

 

I know how to use HTML, it's my "second language" for more than 10 years. So if I can help, please let me know. ;)

I do not know exectly what you mean with "If it's not enabled, I'll make do." :unsure:

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I know how to use HTML, it's my "second language" for more than 10 years. So if I can help, please let me know.  ;)

I do not know exectly what you mean with "If it's not enabled, I'll make do."

 

Hi Henk, I know HTML too, I just meant a way to use it while posting here. When I tried some href tags they didn't work, so I used the bulletin board code instead. No big deal. On another board I go to, there's a toggle box for whether you want to enable/disable html code.

 

Thanks for the thread link!

 

Edited to add sound clips. I've taken samples of a C scale, a G scale (actually twelve nots starting at C and G respectively, or three buttons on each side), and each row of buttons at a time. The file sizes are shamefully large, about 150-300 kb for just a few seconds of sound, but I wasn't sure how much compression might muddle any repair symptoms.

 

The files are located here:

 

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uclyege/lachenal/sound/

 

Recorded with Goldwave and a Sony condenser microphone, on a laptop that refused to record them any louder.

Edited by Geraghty
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I know how to use HTML, it's my "second language" for more than 10 years. So if I can help, please let me know.  ;)

I do not know exectly what you mean with "If it's not enabled, I'll make do."

 

Hi Henk, I know HTML too, I just meant a way to use it while posting here. When I tried some href tags they didn't work, so I used the bulletin board code instead. No big deal.

 

 

We do not enable HTML here on C.net; it is potentially a serious security risk so long as membership is open to all comers, which is the way we want to keep it. The BBCode will let you do many of the basic tricks.

 

Ken

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I finished the first wave of repairs this weekend. It's now fitted with all new valves, pads, felt damper circles, leather end beads, and cross-hole bushings. The results:

 

A much tighter seal as indicated by the 'drop-test' - there are a couple of pinhole leaks in the bellows corners, but I'm not worrying about them at the moment.

 

Two of the springs seemed a little bit weak, but they're still holding. I'm not going to replace them at the moment.

 

The bushing felt that I bought from an online supplier is way too thick - the buttons are very hard to move and I had a heck of a time reassembling. I even trimmed it down from the recommended 9mm but it was still a challenge. In hindsight I should have foregone the rebushing. I'll have to try to remove the buttons again and bush them with something thinner. I'm thinking maybe t-shirt material or something, if it doesn't leave little bits of fluff around inside.

 

The echoey feature has not gone away, so I want to address that next. The two 'out of tune' notes seem to have improved to my ear, though I haven't compared anything to a tuner yet. I am very interested in getting the whole thing retuned to modern pitch but I don't know how much that will cost yet. Hobgoblin gave me an off-the-cuff quote of "about £5 per reed" and I can't afford that at the moment.

 

I also bought some Milton's fluid to clean up the buttons with, which I will implement when I take them off for rebushing. If I can get them off without breaking anything!

 

I can provide pics if anyone is significantly interested in my endeavours. B)

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Reed pan warp was mentioned earlier in the thread. If you

lay a straight edge across the flat side of the reed pan, is the

pan concave? If it is, by how much?

 

This is big problem with my 20 anglo, which was concave by approx 1/8".

We had a thread on this a while back and I'm back at it.

 

Joe

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Can you clarify, which bushing you refer to, I assume its the cross bushing of the keys. It can be difficult to get the arms through the bushed holes, I usually burnish the felt in with a metal spike.

 

Often the problem is the sharp end of the arm, and some arms have very square and bulky end bits that pass through the key. I have been known to gently remove sharp corners from the arm end and make sure that there is no sharp tip to the arm before re-assembling.

 

I strongly advise re-bushing with the prescribed felt, cut on the diagonal, even if you re-bush with a slightly reduced strip width, say 8 mm. The felt does pack down and will give a better overall job.

 

Dave

Edited by d.elliott
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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Well I have gotten a vintage concertina! it is a 20 key Lachenalk that will need the works, valves, pads etc. I have been looking at the Concertina Connection's parts list and wonder what the difference in the valves are. It lists a brown valve that is extra thin, and "allows for more harmonics". I haven't gotten my copy of the maintenance handbook yet so I've not done much more than open it up for a look. With brass reeds, do I want more harmonics?

The first thing I noticed when I got this concertina was how small it seemed.

The Hohner I started on seems huge now!

The hard part now is the waiting for the time when I can complete the work and play it.

David

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