Jump to content

Another Us Concertina Maker


RP3
 Share

Recommended Posts

Some of you may be familiar with Jeff Thomas, concertina player and instrument maker formerly from the Asheville, NC area. Well Jeff has moved to Frostburg, MD and has begun making anglo concertinas in the classical mold. You might want to check out his web site:

 

http://thomasconcertinas.com/

 

For a number of years, Jeff worked in the workshop of concert flute and whistle maker Chris Abell, and he has learned precision wood and metal working from Chris. From the pictures on Jeff's new site, it looks like he is building a nice instrument -- very similar visually to Suttner's. I have not heard or played one in person, but I would love to have the opportunity.

 

Ross Schlabach

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of you may be familiar with Jeff Thomas, concertina player and instrument maker formerly from the Asheville, NC area. Well Jeff has moved to Frostburg, MD

 

VERY pretty instrument. But alas, another new maker who's not doing G/Ds.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of you may be familiar with Jeff Thomas, concertina player and instrument maker formerly from the Asheville, NC area. Well Jeff has moved to Frostburg, MD

 

VERY pretty instrument. But alas, another new maker who's not doing G/Ds.

 

Jim,

I wouldn't count a G/D out yet. I get to play with Jeff once every month or so when he comes to Baltimore to play in a Session (he is by the way a rather good concertina player and I have been begging him to make a few recordings to put on the website). In any case, I know that Jeff is not planning on sitting on a single instrument. I know he is thinking about a 36 or 38 button instrument, but perhaps if he gets some demand he might consider doing a G/D.

 

BTW, have played his first instrument several times and it is very nice. The bellows are a bit on the stiff side, but they should play in after a while. Jeff took the instrument with him to the Catskills this year and it seemed to get a fair bit of interest and Gearoid invited Jeff to his class to show the instrument off.

 

--

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jim,

I wouldn't count a G/D out yet. I get to play with Jeff once every month or so when he comes to Baltimore to play in a Session (he is by the way a rather good concertina player and I have been begging him to make a few recordings to put on the website). In any case, I know that Jeff is not planning on sitting on a single instrument. I know he is thinking about a 36 or 38 button instrument, but perhaps if he gets some demand he might consider doing a G/D.

 

BTW, have played his first instrument several times and it is very nice. The bellows are a bit on the stiff side, but they should play in after a while. Jeff took the instrument with him to the Catskills this year and it seemed to get a fair bit of interest and Gearoid invited Jeff to his class to show the instrument off.

 

--

Bill

It looks beautiful. I second the vote for G/D though, I don't know if it's because the reeds are necessarily bigger or it's just difficult to tool up for it, but a fair number of the concertina-reeded makers don't offer G/D models. Juergen Suttner, for instance, does offer G/D tuning on his 30-button Jeffries copy, but not the 38-button or the Wheatstone Linota. I wonder why that is?

 

If I had money for a new concertina right now and Jeff offered one in G/D, I'd be there. In particular because he doesn't have a long waiting list.................yet. It could very well turn out like Dana Johnson, who apparently was flooded after posting his ads here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DavidFR

 

"It looks beautiful. I second the vote for G/D though, I don't know if it's because the reeds are necessarily bigger or it's just difficult to tool up for it, but a fair number of the concertina-reeded makers don't offer G/D models. Juergen Suttner, for instance, does offer G/D tuning on his 30-button Jeffries copy, but not the 38-button or the Wheatstone Linota. I wonder why that is?

 

If I had money for a new concertina right now and Jeff offered one in G/D, I'd be there. In particular because he doesn't have a long waiting list.................yet. It could very well turn out like Dana Johnson, who apparently was flooded after posting his ads here."

 

David, I'd venture that a G/D is not offered in the Linota version because of problems coming up with adequate chamber sizes in the radial pattern used by Wheatstone on its Linotas.

 

I'll also opine that new manufacturers start out with what they know and know should sell (C/G). Without a lot of old G/D models to copy, any new manufacturer who wants to get into G/D manufacturing has to experiment with chamber and reed sizes and any number of other challenges before they figure out just what works. They may even have to go bigger with the whole instrument to make everything work and that means a whole new set of patterns, jigs and the like. I was very lucky to have Wally Carroll take on the challenge of a Bb/F for me and the results were satisfactory way beyond our wildest imaginations -- but that stuck with the same overall size for the instrument.

 

Ross Schlabach

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Juergen Suttner, for instance, does offer G/D tuning on his 30-button Jeffries copy, but not the 38-button or the Wheatstone Linota. I wonder why that is?

A good question, since my 38 button Jeffries G/D isn't overly crowded inside. Anyone know why? Or is it just one of those "I keep telling people there's no call for it" jobbies?

 

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Juergen Suttner, for instance, does offer G/D tuning on his 30-button Jeffries copy, but not the 38-button or the Wheatstone Linota. I wonder why that is?

A good question, since my 38 button Jeffries G/D isn't overly crowded inside. Anyone know why? Or is it just one of those "I keep telling people there's no call for it" jobbies?

 

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oops, let's try that again. The 38 / 39 key Jeffries I've seen have had a number of what I'd call inboard reeds, that are out of the regular patttern. There is room for them, but remember they are short scale reeds in a Jeffries, and most of that shows itself in the reduced length of the lower reeds. The Linota's use long scale reeds and the low G reed shoe is about 2 1/4" long. By itself that isn't so much, but while from the midrange on up, chambers don't need to be longer than the reed shoes, the longer reeds like chambers that are progressively larger and deeper. I suspect that in a G/D the space would get used up pretty fast, and adding the extra 4 chambers on the left side might be harder than you might imagine.

 

As instruments get lower in pitch, the sizes of the reeds and chambers go up rapidly. In a low instrument like the G/D, you are already pushing the acoustic limits of the 6/14" box. Response is beginning to fall off rapidly, and the tone is getting dominated by the overtones rather than the fundamental. Short changing chamber size to squeeze in some extra reeds only makes things worse.

 

There also seems to be some amount of button envy going on here. Some of the folks I've known with 39 buton anglos used most of the extra notes, some of them used them for spare parts for fixing the basic 30 if a button broke or some similar mishap. There are some things that can be done with the extra notes that can be useful in some kinds of music where you really want to have certain chords available, but I'd think twice about handing over the extra cash for something I only fancied having because more buttons must somehow be better. At todays prices, I would be more likely to use the extra money to buy a better 30 button instead of an instrument that has progressively more compromises buitl into it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suspect that one's attitude to buttons beyond the core 30 on an anglo may well be conditioned by the music you play, and especially by which side of the Irish Sea that music comes from.

 

Personally I only use a couple of the extra buttons on my 38, but they are genuinely useful. I'm not wedded to them, though. I play this particular concertina because I think it is one of the nicest I have ever encountered. Whatever compromises may have been made to accommodate 38 buttons (still 10 short of the number on a standard English concertina, remember) has not affected the playability, the sound or the durability.

 

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suspect that one's attitude to buttons beyond the core 30 on an anglo may well be conditioned by the music you play, and especially by which side of the Irish Sea that music comes from.

 

 

Chris

 

I am not even sure it has to do with which side of the Irish Sea the music comes from. I think it is probably as much a matter of what instrument one started on as anything. If one started on a 30 button instrument and played that instrument for years before obtainting a 36-40 button instrument, then one is likely to still play as if the concertina only had 30 buttons. On the other hand, if one started with an instrument with more than 40 buttons then you are likely to have found some of the extras useful. Irish Arts week in the Catskills was a good example of this; Chris Droney and Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh both have instruments with more than 30 buttons. Chris Droney rarely strays from the G row on his instrument and appears to use no more than about 6 buttons that are not on the G row. In contrast, Mícheál definitely seems to make fuller use of the potential of his instrument, he definitely uses at least some of the extra buttons and might use all of them now and then.

 

--

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is probably as much a matter of what instrument one started on as anything.

There may be some truth in that. After all, John Kirkpatrick started on a 40 button, and look what happened to him. The reason I only use a few of the extra buttons on my 38 is because I started on a 30. However I do keep meeting tunes where one of the extra buttons gives me something I need. Most recently with the New Rigged Ship (English version) where a C# on the push is really handy.

 

I think the majority of players on going from thirty to greater will indeed stay in the confines of familiarity, but will start to branch out with time. Mind you it doesn't always happen. As Dan Worall points out, William Kimber never went beyond the bounds of a 20 button concertina even though he played a 30 button box.

 

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd be happy with 33 buttons out of the 40 button layout. The extras being the drone on the left and the two middle row buttons near the drone/air button ends of the respective hands.

I'd also be happy with a C/G baritone!

 

Robin Madge

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oops, let's try that again. The 38 / 39 key Jeffries I've seen have had a number of what I'd call inboard reeds, that are out of the regular patttern. There is room for them, but remember they are short scale reeds in a Jeffries, and most of that shows itself in the reduced length of the lower reeds. The Linota's use long scale reeds and the low G reed shoe is about 2 1/4" long. By itself that isn't so much, but while from the midrange on up, chambers don't need to be longer than the reed shoes, the longer reeds like chambers that are progressively larger and deeper. I suspect that in a G/D the space would get used up pretty fast, and adding the extra 4 chambers on the left side might be harder than you might imagine.

 

As instruments get lower in pitch, the sizes of the reeds and chambers go up rapidly. In a low instrument like the G/D, you are already pushing the acoustic limits of the 6/14" box. Response is beginning to fall off rapidly, and the tone is getting dominated by the overtones rather than the fundamental. Short changing chamber size to squeeze in some extra reeds only makes things worse.

 

There also seems to be some amount of button envy going on here. Some of the folks I've known with 39 buton anglos used most of the extra notes, some of them used them for spare parts for fixing the basic 30 if a button broke or some similar mishap. There are some things that can be done with the extra notes that can be useful in some kinds of music where you really want to have certain chords available, but I'd think twice about handing over the extra cash for something I only fancied having because more buttons must somehow be better. At todays prices, I would be more likely to use the extra money to buy a better 30 button instead of an instrument that has progressively more compromises buitl into it.

 

I've certainly seen some good examples of people with 30+ buttons making good use of the extra keys, but mainly for English music with melody on the right and chords on the left (mainly John Roberts/Tom Kruskal). For my own purposes I don't see much of a need right now for more than 30 buttons, as my main instrument for many years has been a 20-button and the extra ten are plenty to get used to for the moment, thank you very much.

 

I'd appreciate an explanation of the difference between long and short-scaled reeds. I've seen 30-button G/D's with radial reed layout (granted they may have been tuned down), so I don't presume that a longer reed length means you need parallel chambers.

 

Edited to fix typographical errors.

Edited by DavidFR
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd appreciate an explanation of the difference between long and short-scaled reeds. I've seen 30-button G/D's with radial reed layout (granted they may have been tuned down), so I don't presume that a longer reed length means you need parallel chambers.

 

If one were to make a set of reeds out of completely flat spring steel material, Reeds in the high G range would be even shorter than they are, and reeds in the Low C range ( say in a C/G anglo for instance ) would be considerably longer. By making low reeds that were progressively thicker and heavier at the tip, the Lower reeds could be made shorter, and by making the high reeds progressively thinner at the tip, they could be made longer. In the high end, the longer length allowed the reed to have more volume and be somewhat less touchy to tune. The shortened low reeds had somewhat less volume and could be fit into a smaller space. By adjusting your "scale" ( reed length variations from the flat reed ) you could achieve some semblance of balance for the pitch range of your instrument. ( there are a number of other reed profile and width issues I won't go into here. ) There are limiting factors in this process. Reeds with thicker and thicker tips get progressibvely more difficult to start, and high reeds can only be made so long befor the tips get impossibly thin. Within the useable range, "short scale reeds" are ones that have been chosen to be thicker in the tip in the mid and lower range, allowing them to fit more easily into a smaller box. Long scale reeds provide an advantage of easier starting and a smoother tone with more of the fundamental present in the mix.

 

Most of the difference lies in the mid range to lower notes, and in general, short scale instruments tend toward being more overtone rich in the low end and not as responsive. However chamber materials and construction can ovewhelm the advantage in responsiveness in any box and you can have exceptional and awful examples of both. All of this implies proper choicer of materials and well made reeds.

 

Another tack taken is to have reeds that when looked at from the top, are wider at the bottom and narrower at the top. Usually, this starts only very slightly in the low notes if at all, and gets progressively more pronounced as you go up the scale. This has a similar effect as does having a reed that is thinner at the tip,m but doesn't have quite the same vibrating characteristics and may have a different tonal character depending on how pronounced it is.

 

Wheatstones generally used paralell reeds, and had a few different scales for different instruments. Aeolas and Linotas used one of their "long scale" sets, while less expensive instruments used a short scale set. Given the different sorts of concertinas they produced, there probably were tons of exceptions. I don't know if Lachenal followed this with their edeophone line or not.

 

As far as I know Jeffries anglos all used a relatively short scale and tapered reed set, as well as the paralell sided chambers vs the radial plan in the Wheatstones and Lachenals. There is no size advantage in the paralell sided chambers against the radial ones. Radial chambers make it easier to fit a larger number of reeds in a pan, and most instruments provide plenty of chamber length to the center of the pan for the lowest notes. The difference in my experience is primarily one of tone as mentioned in other places with the radial layout being a bit "warmer" what ever that means. ( you know when you hear them played side by side )

 

Long scale reeds are not better than short scale reeds, just different and serving a different purpose. A well made and fit set of short scale reeds will out play a poorly made long scale set. Wheatstone chose the long scale characteristics for their better instruments, Jeffries didn't. Perhaps you are more likely to find better made reeds in better instruments, but likely an Aeola with good short scale reeds would sound and play great, just have a different tone quality. Then it is up to your personal preference for what sound you like best.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes Dana, thank you very much for the clarification. It explained a great deal about something I've been curious about for some time. Perhaps Geoffrey Crabb could enlighten us similarly as to the scale choices of his family's instruments?

 

It seems that to be a good concertina maker these days you need to be a good engineer, an excellent machinist, and a good player (or at the very least have access to some who can give you helpful and consistent feedback). My hat is off to all of our makers and manufacturers for keeping the tradition of craftsmanship alive.

 

-David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...