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A friend of a friend visiting from Louisiana inquired about availability of old hay tongs or grapples as the best acoustical steel for making musical triangles.  Living in a rural area as I do I come across these frequently.  I presume these are cast steel as apposed to cast iron although my knowledge of metallurgy is limited.  Would they have acoustic value as reed making stock as well?

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The very old stuff might might have been made by a blacksmith from wrought iron. Just a guess. I don't know about the musical properties of that material though.

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It would be about the most difficult stock to work with even if it was an appropriate alloy.  Ordinary 1095 spring temper steel ( 0.95% carbon steel ) is readily available in sheet form which makes perfectly good reeds. The blue temper is a little softer than ideal, but it doesn’t affect the sound, only the resistance to changing its set after initial tuning.  Reed steel for accordions etc. is tempered a little harder.  I haven’t used it, but supposedly old clock springs are a little harder temper of that alloy, but it might be worth it for making a replacement reed, but not for making whole reed sets..

Dana

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Clock Spring steel was originally used, my Aeola has it's reeds tempered to straw, but they are very hard to file/tune. I think I recall Geoff Crabb saying that Crabb bought spring steel on the reel

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For those that do not know the process , spring steel if heated to red hot and plunged into cold water is hard but brittle. 

The steel then slowly heated changes colour and goes straw coloured then blue. At any point this can be plunged into cold water to retain the softer less brittle steel. Wheatstone reeds are usually blue in colour. Filing Jeffries reeds they always seemed to be harder nearer straw I should think.

Al

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On 10/17/2020 at 9:39 PM, wunks said:

I presume these are cast steel as apposed to cast iron although my knowledge of metallurgy is limited.  Would they have acoustic value as reed making stock as well?


Hi Wunks. I don't know the manufacturing process for these tines, but I'm pretty sure they are hardened steel.  It's curious why they provide such excellent material for musical triangles.  I have one, made by Larry Miller, a Cajun accordion maker in LA, and it's a perfect musical triangle because it does NOT have a dominating pitch, at least for playing Cajun music.  Thus, it can provide a wonderful percussive effect, regardless of the key of the song being played. 

In contrast, many other musical triangles that are used in orchestras produce a boring "sinusoidal" acoustic sound, which lacks overtones, is very thin, and too well defined in frequency to be a very interesting percussive instrument. But of course they have their niche.

I don't know why these recycled farming tools produce such fine musical instruments.  I can only speculate.  In any event, there's no reason to expect that a material suitable for one musical application will also be suitable to another application.  As Dana points out, it would be extremely difficult to grind down these tines to the cantilever shapes needed for the free reed.  It's really not worth thinking about, because the standard blue tempered 1095 "Swedish" spring steel is such a perfect candidate.  Unless of course, you're interested in other materials because of the peculiar musical tones they might produce when fashioned into free reed tongues. 

Best regards,
Tom
www.bluesbox.biz

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Thanks for your replies.  I play a Jeffries and a Wheatstone, both duets and very different sounding with the JD loud proud and clear and the Wheatstone more reserved and reedy.  I like them both but I was wondering if the Jeffries reed sound is achievable in a modern made Instrument.  If it's a matter of temper rather than type of steel the answer should be yes?

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11 hours ago, wunks said:

I play a Jeffries and a Wheatstone, both duets and very different sounding with the JD loud proud and clear and the Wheatstone more reserved and reedy.

  

My observations on this would be purely practical, rather than theoretical, and sound like heresy to many, but I'd suggest the difference you're hearing may have more to do with the woodwork than the temper of the reed steel.

 

Jeffries' used parallel chambering (except in their English concertinas) whilst Wheatstone's used radial, and that's the biggest difference in sound production, though Jeffries' fretwork would help too because it's generally more "open" and "to-the-edge" than Wheatstone's.

 

The easiest way to experience the difference in sound between the two styles of chambering (with all otherwise being equal) is to play a 20-key Lachenal Anglo (they have parallel chambering) against a 30-key (they have radial chambering) of the same model.

 

And if you believe you can easily tell the difference (in sound) between Jeffries reeds and Lachenal ones, tell me which of Cormac Begley's Jeffries Anglos has a bunch of Lachenal reeds in it (because I had to replace the missing ones in it, and that's all I had) - they should stick out like the proverbial sore thumb if it's all down to the quality of Jeffries' steel! 😉

 

 

 

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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13 hours ago, ttonon said:


Hi Wunks. I don't know the manufacturing process for these tines, but I'm pretty sure they are hardened steel.  It's curious why they provide such excellent material for musical triangles.  I have one, made by Larry Miller, a Cajun accordion maker in LA, and it's a perfect musical triangle because it does NOT have a dominating pitch, at least for playing Cajun music.  Thus, it can provide a wonderful percussive effect, regardless of the key of the song being played.

 

This brings to mind a story, though I apologize for going off-topic. Years ago I took a workshop on Cajun music with Larry Miller. He told me how he found old hayrakes and had a blacksmith friend make the tines into triangles. He said he was most impressed with customers who tried several to find the sound they wanted. A few years later in Eunice, Louisiana, at the small museum of Cajun music there, they had some Larry Miller triangles in the sales counter, so I started trying them as Larry had directed. This turned out to annoy the docent (the widow of a prominent Cajun accordionist of years past), who could not fathom why I needed to play so many of them! Admittedly they are rather loud. I still have the triangle I picked out and it is a good one.

 

As for reed steel, I defer to the experts here.

 

Ken

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