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Crook Concertinas

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On 3/6/2024 at 10:46 AM, Sionainn said:

@chantersandbellows have you played any of Willie's instruments yourself? Wondering how responsive they are.


I have indeed!  His concertinas are super responsive and have some great dynamic range, kind of like how Tipo a Mano reeds are compared to cheaper reeds with accordions.


Willie's concertinas can shout easily, but they can play quietly with minimal air no problem as well.  He spends a lot of time hand-tuning the notes and air pressure so they're all fairly consistently playing with each other.  His buttons are all riveted too, so there's a bit more sturdiness and consistency with the presses as well.


I haven't played many concertinas from other modern makers, but I have played a few Jeffries and Lachenals over the years, and his concertinas play a lot like his 40-key Jeffries, and on par or better than other Jeffries I've played.  I think everyone I know who's ordered from him loves their concertinas quite a lot, and I haven't seen or heard anyone struggling at sessions here when they want to play out more; the reeds and tuning all seem to handle the "push" really well.

If you watch his videos too, you can sort of see how much he's pushing to get notes out and how snappy his reeds are too (they're only really on Instagram, though).  Maybe I'll talk to him about doing a little video to highlight the instrument's action and responsiveness and all sometime so anyone wanting to order has a better idea.


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How many has he built?  Cost?  Options - different keys, drone, extra buttons?  I've read that he has a variety of choices for papers etc.


Everyone else has a website, except Jose Claro, who I imagine doesn't need one, living in Ireland and all.  Is one in the works? 

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6 hours ago, LR71 said:

How many has he built?  Cost?  Options - different keys, drone, extra buttons?  I've read that he has a variety of choices for papers etc.


Everyone else has a website, except Jose Claro, who I imagine doesn't need one, living in Ireland and all.  Is one in the works? 


He's just finished and posted 13, but I don't think that counts a few experiments, careful repairs, instrument meddling, and the 31-key baritone he made last year.  I could be wrong in that, but I've tried to keep up to date with his work as it's really fascinating and he is remarkably well informed, educated, thoughtful on each part of the process.


I think Willie would likely be able to answer a lot of this better than myself (he has an account on here and I think his email is open somewhere, but I can send it if you message me), but I'll answer as best as I can here.  Most of this may be stricken from the record if Willie says otherwise though; all of this is subject to change and effectively anectdotal from conversations with Willie over the years and me trying to be respectful to what he's shown, published, and expressed.


  • Drones
    • I think all of his concertinas have been made with a left-thumb drone that's pinned/screwed down.  The general note of choice is the typical D-drone, but I imagine a different drone note would be relatively trivial
  • Different keys
    • I believe most have been C/G (standard and baritone), but I recall at least a Bb/F that went to a wonderful player from Ireland who made a fantastic piano album a few years ago.
  • Extra buttons
    • 31 riveted buttons seems to be the standard for most of his customers, but I'm pretty sure there have been one or two that have added a few buttons.  We've had lots of discussions on button and pad placement and angles in relation to different number of buttons, so I think multiple buttons are possible.
  • Endplates/faceplates
    • He has a few designs, though I believe he's been wanting to try and do like Dana Johnson and his Kensington concertinas with keeping a few more standard options here to make life a bit easier with making concertinas.
  • Button options
    • I believe delrin, metal capped, and a linen-based polymer have been used for various buttons, and I recall discussions of experimentation with other button materials to find the perfect feel in that way.
  • Instrument size
    • If I recall correctly, a small (5 7/8" across the flats?), standard, and baritone are the main options at the moment (kept this way again for making the life as a concertina luthier easier).

Generally, the instruments all have gold stamping on the handles and parts of the leather with papers (if desired), and a more form fitting and concertina specific case design.  The overall design follows more cues from Jeffries than Lachenal, but it comes out to a uniquely "Crook" design at the end of the day.


There's no website at the moment, though we've talked about it in the past.  I think Willie still feels like he's trying to find that perfect instrument design before a website comes up (his attention to detail and devotion to the craft and getting things right can be seen in the videos that started this thread).  There is a website ready to launch (with approval) whenever he's ready if he'd like.


He's quite close to perfect (if not already effectively there) from what I can tell, but I can appreciate how wide the distance feels as you get better and better with your craft.  I'm sure even the best violin maker would admit to wanting changes with their best instrument if asked very candidly, and reading the blogs and posts of other concertina makers, it seems like there's a healthy spirit of innovation and change, even when there are so many standardized elements in the whole process.


Sorry Willie if I spoke for you a bit much, but you really have made some incredible instruments and made some incredible discoveries in everything from the right reed material to the perfect button press, and your commitment to the openness of the instrument's craft through your videos is really a wonderful contribution.

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I met Willie a few years ago when he came over to England and he's a good bloke, very thoughtful and detail-oriented. He has spent a lot of time quietly building up his skills and tools. I believe he makes all the parts himself including Jeffries-style traditional concertina reeds. Frankly I am surprised he isn't more well known yet.

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