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chris vonderborch

Tweaking My English Concertina

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A couple of years ago, I made an ebony-ended English concertina, which I built around a pair of quite good reed-pans from a deceased Lachenal. The original Lachenal reeds were brass, and not particularly well fitted. The resulting instrument, predictably, was not fantastic, nor was it particularly air-efficient. When I examined the reeds, I could see that the brass shoes had (as usual) been punched out, but the original reed-smith had not touched them up with a file. The slots had far too much "undercut" resulting from the punching process. So I set about replacing the brass tongues with steel. I also carefully filed each slot, slightly enlarging it and, in particular, ensuring that the slots were not severely undercut; in fact, I made the slots almost vertical-sided in section. I re-assembled the concertina; it sounded awful...like it was made from packing-case material rather than selected woods!! A perusal of the reed- pans suggested to me that the chambers were too deep, particularly the bass ones. Also, the pans were not firmly embedded in the chamoise leather lining, So I blocked up the pans and shaved about 2mm off the tops of the fences, re-lined and re-fitted. Eureka!! Time to celebrate with a cold beer!! The instrument now sounds a million dollars, is air-efficient, and I am happy...all I now need to do is to make a couple of dozen steel treble reeds!!

Unfortunately for we "experimenters", I altered at least two variables at once...(1)the chamber heights, and (2) the seating of the pans. So I remain unsure which of these functions contributed most to the improvements!!

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