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Building a concertina with one kind of wood


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Hi all. 

Just a curiosity - I would like to build one some day, but not now, I've no time at all at this moment. 

I was wondering, it would be a problem to build a concertina using just one kind of wood? I mean the same kind for bellows, heads, reedplates, lever boards, reed chambers. 

I've got a good amount of old walnut slabs (about 5mm thick) my grandpa left. I suppose that this walnut it's about 90/100 years old, clean and straight (choosing the right cut). 

Thanks. 

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If I only had 5mm panels, I would expect to laminate pieces together to get the thickness needed for some components.  Walnut is quite dense, which will affect how you attach lever posts and otherwise detail the project.  I wonder, though, how using only a dense hardwood will affect the sound.

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I have a table leaf and a couple of display case rails of American Chestnut I'm saving for my future Jeff duet build.  Light, strong, decay resistant and a beautiful rich dark brown.  It's probably around 100 years old and the rail pieces have some pinholes so that was probably milled from dead or dying trees ( the leaf is clean).  It's an open pored wood that looks a lot like oak but with more contrast in the grain.  I've contemplated a single wood build ( not by me ) but even though it's properties would seem to be excellent throughout, it's relatively rare and using it sparingly for visual parts only would leave plenty of material for my contemplated line of resurrected JD instruments....😄

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/21/2023 at 12:24 PM, Frank Edgley said:

The wood used for the reedpan definitely affects the sound.

 

 

Wouldn't you be better off to use something like a plywood. or other laminated type of thing from a stability point of view?

 

I have heard from many guitar luthiers that single pieces of wood are prone to warpage, shrinkage etc. Maybe the reed pan has enough bracing to stabilize it?

 

But I would think also that using a single log/ piece would possibly have much more variation/ inconsistencies  sonically? You could easily have Hot/ Cold spots due to the nature of a single piece (knots, graining and such) .

 

Or, you could easily end up with  a "good" sounding piece or a "bad" sounding piece.  But, you would not really know either way until the build was completed.

 

 

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If a comparison with stringed instruments is permissable, then a "one-wood" instrument would not be optimal. Bowed and plucked instruments (at least, those in the European tradition) use a straight-grained softwood (mostly spruce) for the belly - the component that takes up and amplifies the vibration of the strings - and a hardwood of some kind for the load-bearing elements and the enclosure of the resonance chamber.

Yes, panels of the same wood do differ. However, I've heard that a good luthier can tell the quality of a piece of wood by just tapping it, so the quality of the finished instrument is not just hit-or-miss.

As to laminated vs. solid woods: as an Autoharpist, I have experience with both. In general, higher-quality Autoharps have solid spruce (or someties maple) sounding-boards; the less high-class ones are laminated. I personally had a favourite Autoharp that was 50 years old and had a solid spruce top. It sounded wonderful, although the sound-board was slightly wavy. Then, one day, it gave way under the tension of the strings! My replacement gigging harp has a laminated top, which (after 30 years) is still straight as a die, but just lacks that sweetness of the solid top.

As I said, I don't know to what extent this applies to free-reed instruments.

Cheers,

John

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On 2/2/2023 at 11:03 AM, Anglo-Irishman said:

As I said, I don't know to what extent this applies to free-reed instruments.

Cheers,

John

In a stringed instrument, energy is coupled from the vibrating strings to the air by vibration of some of the pieces of wood, so the properties of those pieces are very significant. In a concertina the sound is generated by the reed modifying the flow of air through the slot that the reed moves in. The dimensions of the chamber, if any, the material of the ends (wood or metal) and the amount of open area in the fretwork all have some influence, but I would expect the choice of wood to have little influence to the sound, and therefore that the choice should be governed mainly by other considerations, such as resistance to splitting and warping. I'm prepared to be told I'm wrong if anyone actually knows different.

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Why not use a good quality plywood type of board? Particularly for the ends .. then you could veneer the surface with a thin layer of wood veneer. Ply board can be bought in fine grade of finish, and I have used it as a base for making carcass for decorative boxes over the years, which I later on veneered.  

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