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Quality of 20 button Anglos


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Hi,  I'm thinking of a short piece for our concertina group newsletter, but I'm not sure if I'm barking up the wrong tree.

 

I have a perception that there are very few high end 20 button Anglos around.

 

I own a decent Lachenal 20b C/G and a similar quality Lachenal piccolo C/G and have seen and played many Lachenal 20b Anglos in C/G, G/D and one in D/A.  However, I cannot recall ever seeing a 20b of "top quality".

 

This is not criticising the humble but honest Lachenal — I love mine — but I am being objective about the simplicity of the fretwork, the cheapness of the bone buttons, the typically clicky action and the economy of the standard 5 fold bellows.  These are all things that give the instrument charm and character, but the fact remains that top end 30 (or more) button Anglos such as my old Jeffries or my current Dipper tend to be smoother to play, less clicky, feel nicer to the fingers, have longer and better bellows, and look prettier.

 

I am drawing a contrast with the melodeon, where the "humble 1 row" has become a bit of a Thing, with some boxes being custom made to the highest standards.  It seems to me that the limitations of the 1 row melodeon have given it a prestige and cult following, whereas the limitations of the 20b Anglo have left it as the "poor cousin" to the 30 or more button versions.

 

However, I am aware that this may be no more than my own perception and limited experience.

 

Are there "top end" 20b Anglos out there?  How many?  is it that they are jealously guarded by enthusiasts, leaving the market awash with the more basic Lachenals, or is it that the 20b was seldom or never made to the same standards as the "bigger" boxes?

 

I am asking here about early/vintage boxes and also about modern ones.  Based on my own limited exposure to such instruments, the only modern "basic" Anglo of any quality that I can think of is the Marcus Traveller — and even that is a 21b rather than 20b.

 

I'd be interested in anything you can tell me about the history and availability of "really nice" 20b Anglos.  Thanks.

 

 

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I think you are quite correct in saying that the 20b was very rarely or almost never made to a top standard. No one ever particularly said this to me but I haven't seen a 20b that was made to the full extent of the makers abilities, I am talking about historic makers here.

 

There is nothing to say someone could not approach a professional maker today and ask for a very well made 20b but it would be an unusual request as it would probably cost almost as much as asking someone to make a 30b. A bit less of course but probably not 1/3rd less as might be implied by the number of buttons. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say.

 

 

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2 hours ago, d.elliott said:

Good grade 20k Anglos are out there, look at the current stock selection for barleycorn, Stock Number- 7750 steel reeded, fine rosewood end frets etc. 

Thank you for responding.  Barleycorn S/N 7750 is showing as a nice example of a Lachenal broadly similar to my own although with a different pattern of fretwork.  It's certainly a nice-looking Lachenal 20b, as indeed is s/n 7684 on the same site.  They are "top end" of the Lachenal range.

 

What I am querying is, were there any, say Jeffries or other makes of 20b that were a whole level higher, or has anyone out there got a Dipper 20b or other modern instrument of similar quality?

 

Put another way, if Lachenal is a "Ford Focus" and that particular instrument s/n 7750 represents the Ford Focus with the highest spec, where are the Mercedes?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Jake Middleton-Metcalfe said:

I think you are quite correct in saying that the 20b was very rarely or almost never made to a top standard. No one ever particularly said this to me but I haven't seen a 20b that was made to the full extent of the makers abilities, I am talking about historic makers here.

 

There is nothing to say someone could not approach a professional maker today and ask for a very well made 20b but it would be an unusual request as it would probably cost almost as much as asking someone to make a 30b. A bit less of course but probably not 1/3rd less as might be implied by the number of buttons. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say.

 

 

That's more or less my perception of the situation, and what prompted my train of thought.

 

The contrast in my mind is that the very limited one row melodeon (slightly less versatile than a hypothetical 10b Anglo) is available at the very high quality/bespoke end of the market, whereas the "humble" 20b Anglo (rather more versatile than a 2 row melodeon) is seen only as a stepping stone to a box with more buttons.

 

As I understand it, Kimber played all or most of his Morris repertoire on a 20b, and when it was replaced for him with an instrument with more buttons, he continued to restrict his Morris playing to the 20 button part of the keyboard, although he was happy to explore the accidental row for non-Morris tunes.

 

So by analogy, if there is a strong culture of playing 1 row melodeon based on a well established traditional style, why is there no strong culture of playing 20b Anglo based on a traditional style?

 

There is no reason why there should be, because it is music, and a hobby, and rational analysis barely comes into it, but it is a curious inconsistency.

 

 

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Some years ago, I had the pleasure of restoring for a customer a bone button C Jeffries Maker metal ended 20 key C/G anglo. Original specifications, materials and build quality were every bit as good as that of the 31 key model that I owned at the time. Both instruments originally had quite deep 6 fold bellows, but I replaced them with 7 folds, not because either of them lacked capacity with 6, but because imho they were damaged beyond repair and the cost of the extra fold was minimal.

 

I have also played and examined externally, but not looked inside, a 20 key Wheatstone Linota, which, in terms of appearance and playability, was as well made as any 31 key Linota I've played.

 

Presumably, both of these 20 key instruments would likely have been special orders judging by the small number in existence when compared to 20 key Lachenals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by malcolm clapp
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Posted (edited)

Mike, David, Jake and Malcolm.  You guys are reading my mind! 

 

I am currently looking for a top quality 20B anglo.  That is what prompted me to put a WTB 20B Jeffries in the buy and sell section. 

 

I feel that the 20B has been much maligned.  I would like to prove them wrong.  All you hear is "buy at least a 30B" and "you will outgrow the 20B"

 

I play traditional Irish music.  I'm dreaming up a recording project,  just using the 20B to highlight how capable the instrument is.

 

There is a body of wonderful traditional Irish tunes, especially from East Clare that are perfect for the 20B. 

 

Yes I have thought about asking a modern builder to make one but as you said the price would probably be crazy.  If I'm paying up I would like it to be a vintage box.

 

I currently have a 20B, rosewood ended Jones that is pretty good but as Mike said I'm looking for that "next level".

Keep your eye out for me.

 

Thanks

Doug

 

 

Edited by Doug Barr
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Hello Mikefule and thank you for opening this thread.

I am a devoted 20k player and Barleycorn customer so, over some decades, I have worked up from mahogany ended Lachenals, RW ended-, to an early Jeffries/Crabb instrument - early, basic and lovely to play.

More recently I saw a Wheatstone 20k on the Barleycorn site and thought it was too good to miss.  It is a Linota from 1929, with RW ends and metal buttons in vg condition - it plays superbly as the very best Wheatstones of that era do, and I am very lucky to have it.

So I agree with your findings:  top quality 20k anglos are rare but worth waiting for.  If you are looking you will find what you want eventually, I'm sure.

Perhaps I should add that I have owned Anglos with more keys and, for me, they have their places and uses.  But for English tunes my home is a 20k anglo, and that is where I spend many hours, and never get bored.

Best wishes to all.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, March Hare said:

...But for English tunes my home is a 20k anglo, and that is where I spend many hours, and never get bored...

I'm a 'June Hare' rather than a 'March Hare', but never mind...

 

My first instrument was a vintage 20-button C/G Lachenal - which had been restored to a state

where it was probably better than the day it came off the production line (~1895), so there are

'good' vintage 20 button Anglos out there, even if they didn't start out that way.

 

There's a story (probably apocryphal?) that Kimber was given a 30-button in his old age, but

carried on playing his 20-button because he preferred it. (Oh! I now see MF already commented

on this - let it stand...).

 

I recently acted as 'intermediary' in arranging the sale of a modern 20-button Anglo to a friend of

mine. It was an Andrew Norman 'special' - a 'non-standard' configuration (I think AN had made two

such instruments). I had my hands on it for a few minutes after the sale was completed - a lovely

instrument! So, there are 'good' modern 20-button instruments out there, but some of them are

'non-standard' configuration - which may not be what Mikefule has in mind...

 

I wonder if the low-cost instruments produced by Flying Duck Concertinas might meet Mikefule's

criteria for 'good'? I haven't got mine yet, but reviews are encouraging. (Look at the Duckling

and Dabbler models.)

 

If Mikefule does produce an item for his group's newsletter, I hope he also posts it here...

 

Roger Hare 🐇

Edited by lachenal74693
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There are heaps of good 20b out there but the cost of repair is often more than their market value, if you are fairly handy a cheap 20b can be a bargain. 

Last year I purchased a fine fretted rosewood Louis Lachenal 20 b on ebay (posted on Oct 28 last year "Lachenal or Jones"), I intended on repairing it for resale. After giving it a good clean and some substantial bellows repairs I found it to be an absolute delight to play, great tone, and very responsive, I'm keeping it ! 20220617_124036_resized.thumb.jpg.b2fb7ba864d6a95c277109f61533c184.jpg This instrument was obviously loved and played, see photo of the wear on the buttons, how many millions of tunes to wear down like that, if only it could talk !

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On 7/1/2022 at 4:28 AM, Doug Barr said:

I feel that the 20B has been much maligned.  I would like to prove them wrong.  All you hear is "buy at least a 30B" and "you will outgrow the 20B"

 

I play traditional Irish music.  I'm dreaming up a recording project,  just using the 20B to highlight how capable the instrument is

 

 

Hi Doug, I would love to hear such an album ! Put me on the list if this project see light of day. 

I also decided to focus only on 20b just because of the price difference between a 20b and 30b...it always amaze me. And also I am playing just for fun, I decide 20b is enough (or why not a 22b ;-))

 

Nice thread

 

Nicolas

 

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Hi Nicolas,  I think I bought a 20B Jones from you awhile back.  It is still going strong.  I consider it a good instrument but am looking for the next level up.  I also have been playing a Lachenal 20B Baritone in C/G. 

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On 6/30/2022 at 9:14 PM, Mikefule said:

 

 

So by analogy, if there is a strong culture of playing 1 row melodeon based on a well established traditional style, why is there no strong culture of playing 20b Anglo based on a traditional style?

 

 

There is a traditional music called Bush Music using  20 key concertinas in Australia. I can’t tell you how strong the concertina element of the music  is today but it used to be. 
 

I have seen a 20key C/G of extraordinary quality here in Australia. It came from David Levine through ebay. I put a bid on it at the time but it was won by another bloke here. It is a metal ended Wheatstone Linota. The “keyboard” part of the end design was big enough to take 30 keys but only had 20 keys. A lovely concertina. 

 

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

There is a traditional music called Bush Music using  20 key concertinas in Australia. I can’t tell you how strong the concertina element of the music  is today but it used to be...

(my emphasis)

Looks pretty active to me:

https://www.bushtraditions.org/tunes.htm

https://www.bushtraditions.org/tutors/concertina.htm...

 

Later edit: Hmm. Off-topic, but you got me interested, so I interrogated my ABC Tune book.

First approximation is that there are:

 

1046 Australian tunes in there
708 should be playable on a 20-button G/D
445 should be playable on a 20-button C/G

 

so there's plenty to go at...

Edited by lachenal74693
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2 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

 

I have seen a 20key C/G of extraordinary quality here in Australia. It came from David Levine through ebay. I put a bid on it at the time but it was won by another bloke here. It is a metal ended Wheatstone Linota. The “keyboard” part of the end design was big enough to take 30 keys but only had 20 keys. A lovely concertina. 

 

 

Likely the same one that I referred to above, owned by a fellow from Young, NSW.

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For what its worth,

 

I currently have five 20k instruments and another three two row instruments (22k and 24k Lachenal's) (plus a few others).

 

From the point of view of playabilty and quality of tone, timbre and sheer volume plus lightness my favourite is a 20k wooden ended Crabb in C/G made in 1936  of laminated wood as a copy of an earlier Lachenal, but with rivetted action and aluminium framed reeds with steel tongues. This is my main squeeze for Morris in the key of G. It is also the cheapest 20k box I have ever bought and took very little restoration.

 

My next favourite was a brass reeded early Jones 20k mahogany ended in C/G, also with rivetted action and lovely  sonorous low notes. That is now sold.

 

I have one Rosewood ended 20k Lachenal tuned to A/E that has been restored from a broken wreck, and another 22k Lachenal Rosewood in D/A. Internally the action on both of these was/is the same as the Mahogany ended ones, with a bent brass staple as the pivot point, not the best means of achieving a smooth action. They are both OK but nothing special, certainly not better than my other basic 20k Lachenal boxes in G/D and Bb/F or the ones mentioned elsewhere here.  As supposedly the quality end of the Lachenal production of 20k instruments I think their performance could be viewed as disappointing although I do enjoy playing them.

 

Possibly the best 20k Lachenal I have is a brass reeded one i made up for my grandson to learn on. This started off as a purchase of a cheap concertina just for the reeds, as this had a mixture of brass and steel reeds, (The steel reeds now reside in a 24k Lachenal). It was in better condition than I thought and needed minimal repairs to get it air tight and playing, plus some tuning and I made up a full set of brass reeds from my spares. its from about 1879 and has a nicer smoother action than most of the 20k instruments (although still brass staples) I have had and sounds quite good too.

 

So, from my point of view, playability and similar qualities outweigh the aesthetic or build qualities of the "more desirable" instruments and the relatively low cost of a basic Lachenal or similar make them good value purchases. I've tried some other 20k instruments e.g Wheatstone Anglos from their "best period" and although they were very nice, I think I would rather stay with what I have.

 

PS. I also have five East German made 20k instruments but the less said about them the better.

 

Mike

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