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Mystery instrument

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I have an instrument that I am trying to identify, so I hope other members can help.There is no maker's label or stamp. It has mahogany ends, with bone/ivory buttons. Fretwork is similar to the various Lachenals that I have owned. Buttons are smaller in diameter that those on my Lachenals and Wheatstone and have a taper at the lower end.

Serial number is 575.

Action board is mahogany with slotted brass pillars with brass pivot pin. Levers are round wire, flattened where they pass through the action pillars (and under the pivot). 

Action box has cut-out slots (to increase volume?) that I haven’t seen before. These may not be original.

Reed frames are square ended.

Bellows are green leather with gold embossed pattern. Papers dot & cross though they had been overlaid with roughly hand cut papers in red & gold when it came to me.

I plan to restore this old girl - for no better reason than inside is an inscription “Amelia Tidd, 18th June, 1875”. It was special to someone! Any clues to Amelia’s identity would be interesting in mapping the history of the instrument.

Maybe one of the older members dated her?!!!!!!!






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My first thought was "It's a Lachenal" when I unpacked her and saw the fretwork.......then I saw the action and the serial number.

The action looks like that used by Jabez Austin and the buttons are tapered from just above the lever hole. This is like the Austin instruments: https://www.concertinamuseum.com/CM00261g.htm and https://www.concertinamuseum.com/CM00260g.htm 

Pure speculation, but maybe the original ends were damaged and replaced sometime with Lachenal bits at some time in it's life?


New development - the gilt embossed leather appears to be overlaying the original. I will post more after further investigation.

Edited by Milesy
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Interesting! I had looked at other Scates instruments at the Horniman and discounted them - the action was not the same. Must have missed this one. Scates seems to have used 3 or 4 different actions! Also the connection between Scates and Austin my be a clue, though my instrument doesn't have any of the typical JA impression. 


Long time since I was in Gateshead. Did my teacher training in Ponteland and loved the Newcastle music scene way back in the 1970s!! 



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Thanks for all the thoughts from members. I have been studying the instruments at the Horniman (online) and I am aware that the slotted pillar/brass wire action was used by Scates, Nickolds and Austin, but the point I get to is: 


Scates used this action in #451 but typically stamps serial numbers on action box frames. No serial numbers on Amelia action box frames. Also the Scates instruments at the Horniman appear to be of higher quality. 


Nickolds used the action, but used open sided cross pieces on the reed frames. Cross pieces in Amelia are closed end.


Austin used the action, but initialled action boards with JA. He also used open sided reed frame cross pieces like Nickolds. 

Jabez Austin started “on his own account in 1850”. He died in 1857 reportedly due to his “love of beer”. Serial number 575 would imply at least 82 instruments made each year (assuming 575 was the last made and he used consecutive numbering).


The buttons are also a little unusual. I have run a micrometer over a selection from Amelia and one from a Lachenal. 


Lachenal: Shaft: 4.7mm (0.184”) Pin: 2mm 

Amelia: Shaft: 4.7mm (0.184”) Pin: 1.55mm

The taper of the buttons from just above the lever aperture can be seen in the photos. A design fault - the taper + the unusually thin pin has resulted in 12 buttons snapping! 


I guess, at best, I will end up deciding that the instrument is most likely by …….. but I hope members might spot something that points to the right maker.





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Lots of clues there.  I would not place too much weight on the design of the end frets.   I think it's highly likely that they are not original. They look like typical Lachenal & Co machine cut ends and as such would have been made at least a couple of decades after the rest of the concertina.  They might even have been made by Lachenal as a repair, though that is pure speculation on my part.

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