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Reed Design


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It seems concertina designers either learn their craft be working with someone who knows (a Master) or by research and experimentation.  (Wouldn't a design manual be nice!)  I would like to better understand reed design.  For any reed tone, there are several aspects that can be adjusted including reed length, width, initial thickness, metallurgy, and lastly - filed variations in thickness.  Assume one has the frame gap and potential air leaks all resolved.  What reed dimensions would one start with for a very responsive C in each octave?  (C3, C4, C5, C6). I expect a larger but thicker reed may be capable of sounding at a desired high pitch, but that it would be "stubborn" to start and muted.  Could one make a "stubborn" reed more responsive by filing? 

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What an interesting topic. I would certainly like to know if stubborn reeds could be made friendlier by filing or scraping, but would that not also change the pitch, and if so, could the pitch be adjusted back another way yet still keep a friendly reed?

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11 hours ago, Martin Essery said:

What an interesting topic. I would certainly like to know if stubborn reeds could be made friendlier by filing or scraping, but would that not also change the pitch, and if so, could the pitch be adjusted back another way yet still keep a friendly reed?

 

It's possible to make a reed lighter without changing its pitch. You can't go the other way. The weight of the reed affects its dynamic range. A light reed will generally respond quicker and start sounding at a lower pressure so they are good for quiet playing but run out of steam when played very hard. A heavy reed will feel sluggish if you try to play quietly but works better at high bellows pressure and can potentially reach a greater maximum volume. A very good instrument will be well balanced so it can play both quietly and loudly across its range, but that takes a fair bit of skill to achieve.

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14 hours ago, alex_holden said:

 

It's possible to make a reed lighter without changing its pitch. You can't go the other way. The weight of the reed affects its dynamic range. A light reed will generally respond quicker and start sounding at a lower pressure so they are good for quiet playing but run out of steam when played very hard. A heavy reed will feel sluggish if you try to play quietly but works better at high bellows pressure and can potentially reach a greater maximum volume. A very good instrument will be well balanced so it can play both quietly and loudly across its range, but that takes a fair bit of skill to achieve.

That is most interesting and explains a lot about the way my instrument reacts. Thank you ❤️

 

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Very near the start that article says "Reed leathers are not necessary on selected higher notes since the reed is small enough to work only in the direction of the airflow." AFAIK all reeds work only with one direction, and the reason not to bother with valves for the smallest is that the amount of air wasted through the non-sounding reed is negligible, and also possibly that a valve would interfere somewhat with the reed that does sound.

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10 minutes ago, Richard Mellish said:

Very near the start that article says "Reed leathers are not necessary on selected higher notes since the reed is small enough to work only in the direction of the airflow." AFAIK all reeds work only with one direction, and the reason not to bother with valves for the smallest is that the amount of air wasted through the non-sounding reed is negligible, and also possibly that a valve would interfere somewhat with the reed that does sound.


Agreed. 

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On 8/13/2022 at 3:41 PM, David Lay said:

It seems concertina designers either learn their craft be working with someone who knows (a Master) or by research and experimentation.  (Wouldn't a design manual be nice!)  I would like to better understand reed design.  For any reed tone, there are several aspects that can be adjusted including reed length, width, initial thickness, metallurgy, and lastly - filed variations in thickness.  Assume one has the frame gap and potential air leaks all resolved.  What reed dimensions would one start with for a very responsive C in each octave?  (C3, C4, C5, C6). I expect a larger but thicker reed may be capable of sounding at a desired high pitch, but that it would be "stubborn" to start and muted.  Could one make a "stubborn" reed more responsive by filing? 

This may or may not be of interest.These are metric measurements from the reeds in my 1917 Wheatstone Linota.

lin1.jpg

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it is often interesting to note how when you buy a concertina [most types] you can often see where they have been very slightly filed in factory in final stages.

My late father's button accordion was retuned years ago [before I had it done again later on; and not very well done either].. but that's a separate story altogether ] it had a lot of file marks when he sent it to be retuned at that time. Of course, you can only go so far before reeds could potentially crack!

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Doing more searching, I have found where others have writen that some makers are buying traditional concertina reeds from https://www.harmonikas.cz/en/ or perhaps another factory.  Can anyone say which makers and which factories?  (Not that I think outsourcing this work is bad.) It would be very beneficial to know where every maker's reeds are made.  Given the skill and training needed for this work, having factory products being used might be reassuring to some buyers.  It would also be nice if replacements might be acquired should they be needed - granting that expert fitting and tuning would also be necessary.

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Some of the makers I've gotten to know would be unlikely to reveal where they get reeds, or whether they outsource them at all. Others would be all too happy to tell you. In the end, my impression is that many makers want you to believe in the overall quality of their product so you will buy it. Reeds, while admittedly important, are only part of that.

 

Just my tuppence.

Ken

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Ken may be correct, but any information is better than none.  I would think that the likely hand tuning after receipt from the factory would distinguish a maker.  There are not many making concertinas in comparison to "hybrids" if you count the Chinese-factory brands.  Have I got all?:

Carroll - makes his own

Edgley - web page doesn't say

Ghent - page doesn't say

Holden - makes his own

Irish Concertina Co. - page doesn't say

Kensington - makes his own

Seven Mount - not taking orders

Suttner - page doesn't say

Thomas - page doesn't say

Wakker - makes his own

Wolverton - makes his own

 

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23 minutes ago, David Lay said:

Ken may be correct, but any information is better than none.  I would think that the likely hand tuning after receipt from the factory would distinguish a maker.  There are not many making concertinas in comparison to "hybrids" if you count the Chinese-factory brands.  Have I got all?:

Carroll - makes his own

Edgley - web page doesn't say

Ghent - page doesn't say

Holden - makes his own

Irish Concertina Co. - page doesn't say

Kensington - makes his own

Seven Mount - not taking orders

Suttner - page doesn't say

Thomas - page doesn't say

Wakker - makes his own

Wolverton - makes his own

 

Chris Ghent definitely makes his own reeds. Some other current makers who I believe make their own reeds from scratch include:

The Dipper family

Steve Dickinson (Wheatstone)

Willie Crook

David Hornett

Gys Mans

 

Two more makers that I don't know whether they make their own reeds:

Jose Claro

Kevin Garnier

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In the color chart of reed offerings above, they identify a range for each.  Although the progression of sizes seems regular, the range of notes/tones is not.  Some are offered with as few as 9 half-steps and others as many as 19.  I wonder why this would be so.  Perhaps the spring steel differs in thickness?

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