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Building the Pauper's Concertina


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Hello!

 

One thing I love about the concertina is that it is not as "standardized" of an instrument compared to things like accordions or trumpets. Granted that any instrument can of course be modified and constructed, I feel a greater license to play around with concertina construction because of its varied constructions/techniques/philosophies.

 

The trouble is, I really don't want to get in over my head with concertina building and end up making a monstrosity and terrible waste of time/money. Thus, instead of the typical design philosophy of "grace and poise" which I see from the professional manufacturers and experienced craftsmen, an approach which I acknowledge as superior and meritorious, I want to gain experience concertina-making by purposefully adopting a "rustic" and "lo-fi" strategy.

 

Instead of the greatest woods and the finest leather, graceful sound holes and brass rivets, I will be using less expensive materials with an aim of function over form. Eventually, I do want to use "the finer things," but the purpose of this experiment is both to practice concertina construction and to take a different approach to the design.

 

I have plans drawn up for the body and the materials budgeted. I should be able to construct the whole thing for about 200$, by far the major expense is the accordion reeds, which I cannot manufacture and must buy.

 

I won't be able to do much for the next two months because I have to defend my thesis soon and take some exams, but I have constructed a few sets of bellows so far and I've finally gotten to the ones I plan to use. Leather lining would of course be standard, but a little expensive. When chatting with a friend, he suggested that I could find vinyl or leather from old furniture. I eventually had the (brilliant?) idea to make bellows out of duct tape. I've attached some photos to this post to show off.

 

Please let me know if you guys like this idea, and if you have any suggestions related to the build. I'd really like to know what you think and any fun ideas you have :)

 

-Batman

bellows - Copy.jpg

flat - Copy.jpg

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4 hours ago, Łukasz Martynowicz said:


There is also a "building of" video for Crane duet with a bit better worksmanship on this channel and a sample music clip. So "lo-fi" concertinas are not a new concept and they do work, simply not for long/not too well.

I guess "rustic" or "brutalist" is more what I mean, I'm interested in making a well-built thing out of basic materials and without a lot of decoration, but not necessarily poor quality or inferior materials, just a more fundamental design which focuses less on grace and fine material and uses simpler style. The concertina in the video is unpolished and use materials like sheet-metal-cut levers which I'm not a big fan of. I appreciate that this guy cuts his own leather and makes a lot of things from scratch, but this is different from what I'm doing. I'm not looking to use a lot of scrap material like this guy does.

 

I hope I didn't come across as too pretentious, I wrote that message a little quickly, and I often have to spend a lot of time in my regular writing pretending that what I'm writing about is more important/unique than it really is. I'm sure, as with any craft/trade, everyone's pretty much done anything. This is really just an exploratory project to learn about concertina construction and take a less common approach.

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I've calculated that the materials that go into one of my basic 20K Ducklings total not more than £50, including the reeds, which are reclaimed, so this sort of economising is certainly possible, and there are many ways to do this. Clearly this must also be possible for mass produced instruments in order for them to be profitable, but with a one off instrument you do not have the benefit of economies of scale. Happy experimenting!

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3 hours ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

I've calculated that the materials that go into one of my basic 20K Ducklings total not more than £50, including the reeds, which are reclaimed, so this sort of economising is certainly possible, and there are many ways to do this. Clearly this must also be possible for mass produced instruments in order for them to be profitable, but with a one off instrument you do not have the benefit of economies of scale. Happy experimenting!

Mind you, it would be difficult to base mass production on reclaimed reeds, which would otherwise be a major part of the cost (I guess).

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1 hour ago, Clive Thorne said:

Mind you, it would be difficult to base mass production on reclaimed reeds, which would otherwise be a major part of the cost (I guess).

Too right. I'm definitely a cottage industry, not a mass producer. Neither does the monetary cost factor in the time spent scouring ebay for deals, cleaning them up, weighting and tuning them etc.. Although given that there are some high quality reeds to be had here, it woudn't surprise me if there was a market for second hand reed sets for accordion and melodeon players at least.

 

I do think it's a good approach for creating an inexpensive one-off hybrid instrument, as long as you are experienced enough in manipulating them and setting them up. It doesn't escape me that I take reeds from instruments that in their day contributed to the decline of the concertina industry, to turn them into new concertinas!

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The comments about "expensive woods" driving up the price of a concertina is not really accurate. There is comparatively little wood used in the body of any Anglo , or any other type on hexagonal concertina. Many people would be able to make a lower-priced concertina, if they used second-hand reeds, and taped up a bellows. This would be an interesting project. But would it make a concertina that would be around in 50 or 100 years? When I used to repair / re-tune antique instruments, some of them were very old. The ones that were made with quality materials and parts could be restored much more successfully than other instruments that had inferior designs and materials. These are the instruments, like Jeffries Anglos which, even today are in much demand. Other Anglos, like Lachenals usually had warped reedpans, and inconsistent reeds. Warped reedpans make it much more difficult to have a consistent sound as it was very difficult to have airtight reed chambers. Some reeds lacked the consistent temper of steel so that some reeds were softer than others, giving an unbalanced sound. Within one instrument, SOME of the reeds had tight tolerances and others you could "drive a truck through." Yes, it would be an interesting and challenging project. One factor that was not mentioned was TIME. To make a quality instrument it takes time, as well as a good design. That is the biggest factor in the expense of a concertina. Yes, if you are doing this as a hobby-like project, time is really not a factor, but if anyone were to try to create a business selling instruments like this, it would not do concertinas, as a respected instrument, any good. It's kind of like making ukuleles out of cigar boxes, which some people do, but, while "cute" does nothing to add to the respect of ukuleles as a musical instrument. For a while I thought ukuleles were a bit of a joke, until I saw some and heard quality ones and saw George Formby play one.

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I think this is great fun and very eccentric; it made me smile [we all need this at moment I believe].. But well done in your attempt, and remembering that all new instruments[ no doubt even Wheatstone originals] could well have started with such direct bench models to begin with.  Why not re-invent a mechanism that have already being made; its a learning process, and in itself a good way of seeing what goes into manufacturing musical instruments.  And besides you may even find a way of improving the way they work too!  

 

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On 3/3/2022 at 12:18 PM, Frank Edgley said:

The comments about "expensive woods" driving up the price of a concertina is not really accurate. There is comparatively little wood used in the body of any Anglo , or any other type on hexagonal concertina. Many people would be able to make a lower-priced concertina, if they used second-hand reeds, and taped up a bellows. This would be an interesting project. But would it make a concertina that would be around in 50 or 100 years? When I used to repair / re-tune antique instruments, some of them were very old. The ones that were made with quality materials and parts could be restored much more successfully than other instruments that had inferior designs and materials. These are the instruments, like Jeffries Anglos which, even today are in much demand. Other Anglos, like Lachenals usually had warped reedpans, and inconsistent reeds. Warped reedpans make it much more difficult to have a consistent sound as it was very difficult to have airtight reed chambers. Some reeds lacked the consistent temper of steel so that some reeds were softer than others, giving an unbalanced sound. Within one instrument, SOME of the reeds had tight tolerances and others you could "drive a truck through." Yes, it would be an interesting and challenging project. One factor that was not mentioned was TIME. To make a quality instrument it takes time, as well as a good design. That is the biggest factor in the expense of a concertina. Yes, if you are doing this as a hobby-like project, time is really not a factor, but if anyone were to try to create a business selling instruments like this, it would not do concertinas, as a respected instrument, any good. It's kind of like making ukuleles out of cigar boxes, which some people do, but, while "cute" does nothing to add to the respect of ukuleles as a musical instrument. For a while I thought ukuleles were a bit of a joke, until I saw some and heard quality ones and saw George Formby play one.

Hello,

 

Robust design is one of the things I love best about old equipment and tools. I'm definitely not trying to make an instrument to last for centuries out of duct tape, but I believe in building strong things and having a good quality of workmanship. This is an exploratory project to get a handle on the idiosyncrasies of building concertinas. I want to try different things with the aesthetic and materials, but in the long term and short term I plan on sound construction instead of "bubble gum and scotch tape", I'm just using cheaper materials while I work out the problems, although cheap isn't always inferior in suitability. I'm not planning on starting a business or anything, I just like building/understanding things and think it's cool to figure out how a less-common instrument may be built.

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