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questions about making tongues


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hello! this is my first participation in this forum, but I've being read it in the shadows for a long time. I'm from Argentina and I'm trying to design a bandoneon in 3D print technology. I hope no one thinks this is out of place. the bandoneon is a concertina too. a german one... I had read in this forum about some types of steel to make tongues (or reeds? what's the correct word in english? some people say "tongues", some people "reeds". sorry, I'm not a native english speaker), like 1095 high carbon steel. that type of steel is possible to buy here in a very thick format, and I'm probably won't be able to do the procedures to convert it to the correct thickness for a bandoneon/concertina tongue. I can get very cheap thin brass sheets, like some  0,7 or 0,8mm thick sheets. but here my concerns: is this ok? can I just cut some 0,7mm brass sheet and make a tongue out of it or do I need any procedures first? I've read in this forum people who cold hammer the brass to harden it, but a 0,7mm sheet hammered would end up being too thin, right? can anyone point me in a good direction on this matter? here the world of the bandoneon is very miserable. nobody wants to share anything about the instrument. anything. I had to disassemble my instrument and measure piece by piece in order to design it. no one helps me at all. and nobody wants to say anything about the tongues. can I cut the brass sheets and make tongues out of them or do I need to buy thicker sheets and cold hammer them first? or can I buy another kind of steel and make tongues with laser cutting? is this possible? I'm completely in the dark here


thanks a lot

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Lucalaya, you ask only about tongues, but the slot the tongue vibrates in and the metal plate in which the slot is made are also important.  So are the leather valves. 

You might be interested in this website:
https://www.harmonikas.cz/cz/sortiment#obsah

This company makes bandoneon, accordion, and concertina reeds, and there are subtle differences among these kinds of reeds.  On this website, you can obtain much information on the tongue geometry (length, thickness, width) for the various reeds in different pitch ranges. 

You might also benefit from knowing the formula that calculates the natural frequency of a vibrating cantilever, which is what the tongue is.  This formula strictly applies to tongues vibrating in a vacuum with a cross section that is constant throughout their length.

 f = 0.1615*sqrt[E*h^2/(rho*L^4)]

where the material properties of the tongue are E, or Young's Modulus, and rho, density.  h is tongue thickness and L is tongue length.

The actual vibration frequency of the tongue will be a little less than what you calculate above, because of air resistance and inertial loading. But you can use this to get an idea of say, the thickness and length that you need. 

Best regards,
Tom
www.bluesbox.biz

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thanks for your answer, Tom. I know about the harmonikas site. all the new bandoneons are made with their reeds plates. and I know that the slots, the plates and the valves are important to the sound. but I can't test the slots and plates design without something that vibrate on them. and it's very difficult to obtain specifications of the materials that I can buy. the sellers just said "a brass sheet, 0,8mm of thickness". that's it. do you think that a sheet like that, cut in tongues shape, will vibrate? or will it need to be hardened first?

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10 hours ago, lucayala said:

hello! this is my first participation in this forum, but I've being read it in the shadows for a long time. I'm from Argentina and I'm trying to design a bandoneon in 3D print technology. I hope no one thinks this is out of place. the bandoneon is a concertina too. a german one... I had read in this forum about some types of steel to make tongues (or reeds? what's the correct word in english? some people say "tongues", some people "reeds". sorry, I'm not a native english speaker), like 1095 high carbon steel. that type of steel is possible to buy here in a very thick format, and I'm probably won't be able to do the procedures to convert it to the correct thickness for a bandoneon/concertina tongue. I can get very cheap thin brass sheets, like some  0,7 or 0,8mm thick sheets. but here my concerns: is this ok? can I just cut some 0,7mm brass sheet and make a tongue out of it or do I need any procedures first? I've read in this forum people who cold hammer the brass to harden it, but a 0,7mm sheet hammered would end up being too thin, right? can anyone point me in a good direction on this matter? here the world of the bandoneon is very miserable. nobody wants to share anything about the instrument. anything. I had to disassemble my instrument and measure piece by piece in order to design it. no one helps me at all. and nobody wants to say anything about the tongues. can I cut the brass sheets and make tongues out of them or do I need to buy thicker sheets and cold hammer them first? or can I buy another kind of steel and make tongues with laser cutting? is this possible? I'm completely in the dark here

 

In concertina jargon, the word 'reed' is a bit ambiguous because it can mean the tongue alone or it can mean the combination of the tongue and the plate with a rectangular hole in it that the tongue is attached to at one end (the 'shoe' or 'frame'), together with the clamp and the screws (or rivet) that holds the whole assembly together. In Wheatstone's patent of 1844 he called the reeds "vibrating springs or tongues".

 

You might be able to find thin spring steel sold in small quantities by engineering suppliers as 'shim stock'. If you are only making one instrument as a hobby and are struggling to buy suitable new steel, you could probably salvage some from old bandsaw or woodworking hand saw blades. A clock mainspring or the recoil spring from a small pull-start engine could also work for thinner stock. You would have to do some experiments to determine how suitable it is. If it is too soft it won't keep its set well and if it's too hard it will be difficult to file and might break. Note that spring steel has a grain direction, to do with the direction it was rolled in when they made it. You should cut your tongues along the length of the material rather than across it, or it may be prone to breaking easily.

 

I only make reeds from spring steel. To make most of the pitches I start with 0.35mm stock, but at the low end I go up to 0.5 or 0.7mm. To make the lowest pitches I also add a solder weight to the tip.

 

You can buy brass sheet in different hardnesses. Unlike steel, if it's too soft you can hammer or roll it to make it harder. Even fully hard brass is much softer than hardened steel. My guess is that any brass stock you buy will probably need some extra work-hardening to make it hard enough for reed tongues. If that makes it too thin for a particular pitch, start with thicker stock, e.g. 1mm or 1.2mm and work that down. If you know a jewellery maker, they might have a machine called a rolling mill that can squish metal thinner, work-hardening it with each pass through the rollers.

 

I'm not sure laser cutting spring steel would be a good idea because the heat would affect the temper. Wire EDM is a possibility, but I would guess you don't have access to one of those.

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As can be taken from the above replies - making reeds is very  involved. Its really going to be very hard or almost impossible if you don't at least have a set of reeds which you like that you could try to copy. What I did is study historical reeds which I liked before taking steps to learn from experienced reed makers and begin to do a lot of experiments.

 

I would recommend buying some reeds if there is anything available which would be usable for your project, making your own reeds is only a choice you take if what you want is not available to buy at all, which is what many concertina makers have to do. Hopefully you can find something you can buy which will work for your needs. 

 

Probably a helpful way to think of it is "free reed instrument making is a discipline and reed making is another discipline which you would only learn if you felt you have to"

 

But if making reeds is really in your heart and you feel you really want to do it ... Do it. Enthusiasm for a topic of experimentation is a good thing.

 

 

Edited by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe
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3 minutes ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

As can be taken from the above replies - making reeds is very  involved. Its really going to be very hard or almost impossible if you don't at least have a set of reeds which you like that you could try to copy


yes, I'm 100% aware of that. I have my own instrument to copy and the plates plans of the Harmonika's factory. there is a guy who sells all kind of bandoneon parts and sells tongues, but he doesn't answer my messages. as I said, the world of the bandoneon is very complicated...

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6 hours ago, dabbler said:

Great advice has already been given but I thought I'd share this video on making a different type of brass reed tongue.  Some of the concepts might apply.

 

yes, that was the video that make me think that I could use a brass sheet, because he didn't even hammer it...

 

I found a place that sell 1070 steel, very similar to the 1095 that people use to make tongues. I'm going to try that too

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1 hour ago, lucayala said:

I found a place that sell 1070 steel, very similar to the 1095 that people use to make tongues. I'm going to try that too

 

Make sure it's supplied in spring temper, not annealed.

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Sorry to hear no one in the bandoneon world is being very helpful to you. Is the bandoneon industry rather secretive? 

 

I would also recommend C1095 in hardness condition rockwell 48-51. Then you need lots of files. Some sort of shearing tool is needed to get it into strips, that is a tricky part you might have to improvise your own as the usual lever type mounted to a bench is not suitable, other commercially available options might work.. Other simpler ways of cutting it into strips include scoring a line on the steel, clamping it in a vice and then hitting the bit hanging out of the vice very hard with a big piece of metal. (that process involves the least investment of tools anyway) 

 

Best of luck with your project, its a hard thing to do but with good dedication all things are possible.

 

 

 

Edited by Jake Middleton-Metcalfe
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Sorry to hear no one in the bandoneon world is being very helpful to you. Is the bandoneon industry rather secretive? 


yes, awfully secretive. and full of selfishness

unlike the other members of the family, such as the concertina and the accordion, the main production of bandoneons stopped during World War 2, so 99% of the instruments that circulate are 80, 90 years old instruments. there are a few people producing bandoneons right now, but at a very low pace and at incredible high prices. and Argentina is a country with constant economics problems. so we are the country that adopted the bandoneon and where people can't afford it. it's sad. there is no entry level bandoneons. the options are a new one, in the range of $4500-8000, or an old one, in the range of $1500-4000. that's impossible for most people here. I'm trying to make this 3d printing project to cover this problem. I don't know if it will be possible, but I will try. the 3d design is almost done. it was the easy part. the hardest part is this, the tongues. and I only found indifference or even attacks against my project from the bandoneon experts here. and many kind and helpful answers here. so thank you all for this

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Eddy Jay in England is making 3D printed concertinas, his website may help you.  He uses accordion reeds, initially salvaged from scrap accordions, but now bought from Italian reed makers.  If you want traditional long plate bandoneon reeds you can have these made to your specification by the Czech reed maker harmonicas.cz

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I was aware of the Edward project. buying reeds from the Harmonikas factory is abolutely out of question. the complete set of bandoneon reeds cost 900 dollars, plus shipping to Argentina. impossible. my intention is to build a cheap instrument that most people in Argentina can afford. the idea is that the plates are printed. there is a college here that developed a bandoneon with the same intention. the first model was fully printed, with the plates also printed. the most recent models use the Harmonikas reeds. that gives these instruments a much better sound, obviously, but at the cost of betraying the original idea. these bandoneons are not commercialized anyway, and as usually happens here, it's very difficult to contact someone involved in the project to ask questions... here it is that project: https://www.behance.net/gallery/26250615/Bandoneon-de-Estudio-Pichuco

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6 hours ago, lucayala said:

I was aware of the Edward project. buying reeds from the Harmonikas factory is abolutely out of question. the complete set of bandoneon reeds cost 900 dollars, plus shipping to Argentina. impossible. my intention is to build a cheap instrument that most people in Argentina can afford. the idea is that the plates are printed. there is a college here that developed a bandoneon with the same intention. the first model was fully printed, with the plates also printed. the most recent models use the Harmonikas reeds. that gives these instruments a much better sound, obviously, but at the cost of betraying the original idea. these bandoneons are not commercialized anyway, and as usually happens here, it's very difficult to contact someone involved in the project to ask questions... here it is that project: https://www.behance.net/gallery/26250615/Bandoneon-de-Estudio-Pichuco

 

Interesting photo. I would guess they are using an SLA resin printer for the reed blocks?

 

How many reeds does a bandoneon have? Harmonikas.cz is able to make reeds with a relatively low labour cost because they have invested heavily in tools like sets of punch dies, CNC wire EDM machines, profiling grinders, etc. that automate a lot of the process. Concertina makers like myself and Jake who make traditional reeds largely by hand instead invest many hours into every instrument doing painstaking work with a hand file and a microscope. If it took you say an hour to handmake and fit each reed tongue, multiply that by your hourly pay and overheads, do you still have an affordable instrument?

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Alex makes a very good point.  And looking at it from a different angle if you don’t pay yourself for you time can you afford to give up a few weeks of your usual income to devote yourself to making reeds?  And don’t forget the time it will take you to learn how to do it.

 

Another approach that would be more likely to give you success in a much shorter period of time would be to use reeds salvaged from old accordions.  Mayne these are also expensive in Argentina, but in Europe nobody wants to play 120 bass accordions from the 1930s and you can often buy them for a very small amount of money.  You will have to work on the reeds to get different notes on push and pull,  but that is possible with a very small amount of work compared with making reed tongues from sheet steel.

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14 hours ago, lucayala said:


yes, awfully secretive. and full of selfishness

unlike the other members of the family, such as the concertina and the accordion, the main production of bandoneons stopped during World War 2, so 99% of the instruments that circulate are 80, 90 years old instruments. there are a few people producing bandoneons right now, but at a very low pace and at incredible high prices. and Argentina is a country with constant economics problems. so we are the country that adopted the bandoneon and where people can't afford it. it's sad. there is no entry level bandoneons. the options are a new one, in the range of $4500-8000, or an old one, in the range of $1500-4000. that's impossible for most people here. I'm trying to make this 3d printing project to cover this problem. I don't know if it will be possible, but I will try. the 3d design is almost done. it was the easy part. the hardest part is this, the tongues. and I only found indifference or even attacks against my project from the bandoneon experts here. and many kind and helpful answers here. so thank you all for this

 

Gosh that is a tough situation. In the UK concertina production only just survived the 2nd world war, but a couple of small businesses managed to continue.. It sounds like a sort of similar situation but a bit harder for you guys in Argentina if the production completely stopped in WW2. It can be hard to revive an industry or industrial processes but not impossible.

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10 hours ago, lucayala said:

I was aware of the Edward project. buying reeds from the Harmonikas factory is abolutely out of question. the complete set of bandoneon reeds cost 900 dollars, plus shipping to Argentina. impossible. my intention is to build a cheap instrument that most people in Argentina can afford. the idea is that the plates are printed. there is a college here that developed a bandoneon with the same intention. the first model was fully printed, with the plates also printed. the most recent models use the Harmonikas reeds. that gives these instruments a much better sound, obviously, but at the cost of betraying the original idea. these bandoneons are not commercialized anyway, and as usually happens here, it's very difficult to contact someone involved in the project to ask questions... here it is that project: https://www.behance.net/gallery/26250615/Bandoneon-de-Estudio-Pichuco

Interesting to see this project. I briefly experimented with plastic 3d printed reed plates as a prototype, before I found a supplier that could print them in stainless steel for a similar cost for bulk orders - https://www.hitch3dprint.com

 

Unfortunately my reed tongue making was not consistent enough at that stage (and still isn't) in order to make a suitable sound comparison, what tests I made did not sound great, with a distinct lack of dynamic and tonal range. So I expect there are good reasons for using metal, for example the gradual cold weld that forms between the tongue and the plate and how that may affect the performance. I chose a spring tempered stainless steel for the reed tongues. I'm three reeds off finishing a small set for a miniature concertina, so I'll be posting the results on the forum sometime later this year.

 

Good luck with the bandoneon project!

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