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I once tried to warn someone that building a concertina was a difficult job, requiring as it does the combined skills of wood worker, metal worker, leather worker, and (not least) tool builder, and got roundly insulted for my trouble. So it is with a little reluctance that I say that it is difficult. There are no build-it-yourself manuals. The best you will probably get is Dave Elliot's Concerttina Maitenance Manual, which has a different purpose and doesn't cover such issues as making bellows or cutting fretwork or making reeds from scratch or... well you get my drift. Best of luck either way.

 

Yours from inside my fallout shelter,

 

Chris

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Is there any information available for constructing an Anglo from scratch?

Chris is right. The details are different, but building a concertina from scratch is of perhaps a similar degree of difficulty to building a motorcycle from scratch.

 

And in both cases a lot depends on the quality you will accept in the final product.

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Mark,

 

I would encourage you to have a go. More makers has to be a good thing. I am going to differ with others in this thread and say that making a concertina is not absolutely difficult, although yes, there are a lot of factors, and like anything, to do it well requires a lot more work. It certainly isn't as hard as making a motorcycle from scratch, a job entailing thousands of hours, whereas a concertina total would be in the low hundreds, and fewer skills.

 

There is no set of plans for an Anglo available, but it is possible to make one without a plan. You would need at the very least constant access to a very good instrument by either Wheatstone or Jeffries to copy acutely, a friendly maker within visitable distance would be a great help also, and the advice of a toolmaker. As Chris says, you need skills in a number of areas, wood, leather, metal, but these are attainable skills. The reeds need some of the skills of a toolmaker or fitter and turner, but given time, (and motivation, which is more important than existing skills) anyone can attain these skills, and you may already have them. As far as equipment goes, the early factories were surprisingly well set up, but with a good saw, a router, a drill press, a jewellers saw and access to a small lathe, hand tools etc, you could make all the parts of a concertina given time. I suspect the key is not to be in a hurry, and anticipate it might take a couple of years if you are starting from a low skills base.

 

While I say it is not difficult, the time I have spent with Richard Evans in the last couple of years has left me with a great admiration for his ability to think things out (and his generosity and general humanity,but that's another matter), a characteristic I have come to recognise as the hallmark of a good toolmaker, and it is not a coincidence that toolmakers figure in both the historical and modern concertina manufacturing narrative. I am hoping exposure to the craft might teach me to think as clearly (and in advance, whats more, rather than in hindsight!)

 

regs

 

Chris

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It certainly isn't as hard as making a motorcycle from scratch, a job entailing thousands of hours, whereas a concertina total would be in the low hundreds, and fewer skills.

I disagree, Chris, and I'll explain why in a moment.

 

First, I want to say that I wasn't trying to discourage Mark from trying to build an instrument, just to discourage him from thinking that one can do so easily with no prior knowledge by following some simple step-by-step instructions and come out with a decent instrument the first time. If it were that easy, everybody (well, a lot more people) would be doing it.

 

If Mark wants to put time and effort into learning about concertinas and the various crafts needed in constructing one, I strongly encourage him.

 

Now about the comparison between building concertinas and building motorcycles:

Firstly, both depend on the quality of the end result. Is the skill needed to build a concertina that sounds, feels, and functions as well as a classic Wheatstone or Jeffries any less difficult than building a motorcycle to compare with a top-grade Harley or Yamaha? (I'm sure there must be better names to use as motorcycle examples, but I'm no motorcycle expert.) And how does one develop such skill? Through experience... and careful, honest evaluation of that experience as it accumulates. One important skill with concertinas is shaping the contour and curvature of the reed along its length, factors which significantly influence both response and tone. I've experienced too many classic concertinas with less-than-classic response and tone simply because somebody (usually unidentified) has done a mediocre job of "retuning" them during their history, destroying the subtleties of both contour and curvature as they did so.

 

But just as one can make a cigar-box fiddle or a whistle from a length of plumbing and a plug of dowel, one can make "primitive" versions of both concertinas and motorcycles. A competent machinist with the appropriate knowledge and well-furnished shop should be able to make a functioning, though crude motorcycle in considerably less than "thousands of hours". (1000 hours is, after all, about 6 months of full time work.) I'm sure that my brother-in-law could, though he hasn't bothered trying. He gets more enjoyment from riding them, and repairs them when necessary.

 

What skills are needed? For a motorcycle, you need a frame, steering mechanism, engine, transmission, and wheels. (A shock-absorbing suspension is desirable, but still something of a luxury.) For a concertina, you need to be able to make frame, bellows, pads, levers and other action parts, ends (including holes to accurately guide the buttons), and handles, and to be able to shape and position reeds, among other things. You need to know how to work with various kinds of metal, wood, leather, cloth, and paper/cardboard. For both motorcycles and concertinas, knowing what materials and tools to use and how to obtain them are important prerequisites.

 

Chris, how long did it take you to make your first concertina? Did you include in that estimate the time it took you to amass the knowledge and skills you used on that first project? If not, add them in and see what it amounts to. How long do you think it would have taken you to get a first acceptable instrument if you had started with no knowledge of concertinas, but something like Dave Elliott's book?

 

I have to admit that in my first response to Mark I assumed that he knew little or nothing of concertina construction or even of concertinas themselves, since I thought that if he did he should have already known that what he asked for doesn't exist. Perhaps that was unfair, and if so, I apologize.

 

As for building a first instrument:

A lot depends on two things: (1) what is meant by "from scratch" and (2) what quality the builder will be satisfied with.

..(1) If you're willing to use pre-made reeds, rather than trying to make your own "from scratch", that's a significant simplification. After all, baking a cake "from scratch" doesn't generally mean grinding your own grain into flour, nor should making a motorcycle from scratch mean that you mold your own tires, much less make your own rubber. (While finding a source for a single set of new pre-made reeds is apparently a problem, one might be able to get some from a repairer or -- if you'll accept accordion-style reeds -- by finding something at a tag-sale to take apart.)

..(2) A second assumption I guess I made -- without even thinking about it -- is that the size and action would be similar to that in classic English-made concertinas. But why? At least for a first project, a mechanism like "cheap" German anglos (including wooden levers and shared pivots, e.g.) might be just fine, and easier to produce.

 

So Mark, as long as you take the project seriously, you have my encouragement and support.

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I would say that trying to make your own reeds for a "one-off" project is expecting a lot. Most of the "vintage" concertinas made had less than stirling reeds, if you consider all the mass-produced Lachenals in existance, compared with the relatively few really good instruments like Jeffries and a couple of modern "vintage-style" instruments made by two or three makers who make their own reeds. The top-of-the-line modern Italian hand-made reeds are really good, and surpass most older vintage concertina reeds in tolerances and reed response. Even the top modern "vintage-style" makers did not start out making outstanding reeds. I've played a few of the early instruments, made by modern makers. Their early attempts were creditable, but in no way equal the reeds they made after making quite a few instruments. If your aim is to make one instrument, including the reeds , which will perform as well as some of the modern Italian-reeded instruments, or the top "vintage-style" modern makers, good luck to you. However, reed making is a skill and an art which one cannot do just "like that", especially if you come at it without a machinists background, or similar. I'd recommend using pre-made reeds, from a top-quality reed maker. Even then, you will find a LOT of work entailed. Good luck! ;)

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Jim,

 

it is true, I was reacting to replies which while not necessarily actively negative, I thought might cause Mark to drop a good idea.

 

Also, in general, rather than focus on the problems in a new and maybe complicated venture I think it is better at first to concentrate on the passion for the project, as nothing makes the assimilation of new skills easier than enthusiasm for an end result. It certainly works for me.

 

As regards comparisons of construction difficulty, making a motorcycle to any level, whether it is of a high order of sophistication or not, is a much larger job than a concertina; I would say by an order of magnitude, at least ten times as large. Here are a couple of ways to look at the situation. With a concertina there are a few places where a thousandths of an inch are an issue. On a motorcycle there are many. Concertinas may have a thousand parts but many of them are relatively similar. There are far more unique parts on a motorcycle. There is a greater number of different materials in a motorcycle. Parts of a motorcycle can be reciprocating 200 times a second and while you are probably thinking most of the reeds in your concertina operate faster than that, you are (hopefully) not sitting on your concertina at speed at the time. Even if you retreat from the "from scratch" qualification and allow all the electricals and tyres to be purchased you will be looking at a pile of concertinas before you take your first ride. I could list all the skills needed to make a motorcycle, but it would be a bore. There are so many of them. As much as I would like to accord this instrument we love extraordinary complexity, while it is complicated, compared with a motorcycle it is a smaller project.

 

There is another way in which a motorcycle is an entirely apt comparison to a concertina, and I was pleased in some ways to see you had used it. I have found amongst motorcyclists a disproportionate number of musicians, and view the overlap as evidence that both are instruments; to be ridden well a motorcycle must be "played" as much as an instrument, and playing a tune is to embark on a journey.

 

You may have gathered from this I am familiar with motorcycles, and it is true. My motorcycles have had much less attention since the day two years ago when I asked the same question Mark just did. I say when asked, my concertina took two years to make. This is in spite of the fact that it was almost all manufactured since last September. At that point I took a long look at my efforts to date and threw them out. I knew I could do better already. Because I had developed the skills on the first attempt, the second effort was quicker and more successful.

 

Because it can't be said too many times, I am indebted to Richard Evans for his advice, without which the project would have been a lot longer.

 

regs

 

Chris

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Mark,

 

I was in your position not long ago. I struggled to find info on construction. If there is a construction manual out there I couldn't find it. So I set out to design a simple square concertina which is what I prefered. The design layout was relatively easy but I still needed confirmation from a maker that my design was viable. I purchased reeds directly from an Italian manufacturer with a 30 button layout. I also designed a rivet action system but found out early that it would be tedious to get all moving parts into this box because I was unskilled at that time to produce that particular mechanism. Again I did more research and consulted a maker on an action mechanism. The next problem I confronted was the bellows and I am still in the process of construction. The bellows is built and I am waiting for leather to practice skiving and then cover the bellows. I also have struggled with the wood end plates and scroll work and destroyed one end plate yesterday with an errant cut. I am now considering outsourcing this work to a professional. I want the ends to look good and my work is at this point a bit primative. ( Any help on this from members would be appreciated) All in all it has been a year or so working only when the spirit moved me. I say plan well and give it a try!

 

Mike

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Mike,

 

if you are looking for leather in order to practise skiving, consider going to what we call an "op shop", which is a shop that sells secondhand clothes, often to the needy. You can get a womens skirt or trousers for only 5 dollars. Many leather clothes are almost unused as people buy them and don't like the feel of them. Look for something about .7mm thick. I take a vernier with me to measure it. To do the ridge run you need quite a long stretch. The back of the leather is worth a look, loose stringy nap is difficult to skive.

 

How are you cutting the end plates? A variable speed scroll saw is a good method.

 

Chris

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Chris,

 

I am using a variable speed scroll saw to cut an intricate pattern which I found out is unstable in certain areas because of the design. (My design). I have abandoned this design and am looking for a template that is more traditional. I have also now considered using metal ends but have not had time to do any research in this area. Not quite sure where to go from here but that's what makes it fun!

 

Mike

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I was tempted to make my own design first up but was deterred by the need for a whole bunch of skills in graphic design. Eventually I copied a Jeffries endplate.

 

German Silver, an alloy of nickel and copper, and the usual metal used in older concertinas, is not a difficult metal to work. A scroll saw easily handles it, although a very fine blade is a good thing. I went through about 5 blades per side. There were 70 holes per side excluding button holes and screw holes.

 

The real issue with the metal sides was not the perforations, it was the bezel. This is the small lift at the edge on the endplate, on a Jeffries of the era I copied it is only around 1mm, but it is important as it gives strength to the end. Some vintage era concertinas don't have it and I always think they look a little bland. They are also prone to ripples around the edge.

 

In the end I made up a jig (this is a common process, making a tool to do a specific job) from 16g consisting of a hexagonal male with a hexagonal female slightly larger, and pressed them together with the GS in between. This is not very clearly expressed, if you want more detail let me know (I am off to the beach in a moment, it is a beautiful summers day here, around 30 degrees C, about 86 F to you). Once the jig was made I could press an end in 15 minutes. The pressing was nothing elaborate, using a vice. In the end this part of the concertina looks slightly naive and I intend to make a better jig next time.

 

What I would like to do is be able to design a unique end in a format a waterjet cutter can read. I have played with Adobe Illustrator but it is not easy in non linear shapes. I am going to look at Autocad next.

 

If you are wondering where to find GS I found it in a jewellers supplies. Around .7mm is a good thickness.

 

 

 

Chris

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What I would like to do is be able to design a unique  end in a format a waterjet cutter can read. I have played with Adobe Illustrator but it is not easy in non linear shapes. I am going to look at Autocad next.

There are many, many more CAD programs out there that are way less expensive and vastly easier to use than AutoCAD.

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Richard,

 

I have access to Autocad, hence my seeing this as the next option to try. I would be far happier with something easier, can you recommend one..?

 

The thing I would like the most would be an ability to translate a rasterised line drawing to a vector diagram automatically, and most importantly accurately. Adobe's automatic feature was a joke, all the curves ended up with a straightened piece on the end. This meant the vector had to be created as a new layer over the raster with every curve created by hand. This is not an easy process, the word diabolical comes to mind, hard enough when copying an existing image, and I just can't do it when trying to create a design from scratch.

 

regs

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Ghent
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Richard,

 

I went looking and found a couple of shareware programmes which made a better job than Adobe. However, I think I need to be able to compensate for the minimum radius of a waterjet cutter (about .4mm). This may be a function of the actual cutting process, I will have to check.

 

regs

 

Chris

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I have access to Autocad, hence my seeing this as the next option to try. I would be far happier with something easier, can you recommend one..?

If you have access to AutoCAD and can use it without paying for it - AND preferably if you are already have a reasonable handle on it, that sounds like the say to go. If you have to learn it - ugh! It's one of the most difficult (maybe THE most difficult) CAD program out there.

 

Unfortunately I'm not able to recommend any specific program that will do what you want well as I'm my experience in the past 10 years or so has been only with architectural programs. My main program is Vectorworks which is vastly easier to use and quite a bit more powerful and flexible (not to mention a third the price) of AutoCAD. Virtually all the architects, engineers and builders I know have been jumping from AutoCAD's ship for years for other programs. In the early 90's (when I was first getting into CAD) I tried out a dozen or so programs, most of which would suit your purposes better though virtually none of them are extant (or have been bought out, merged, evolved, etc. to be not recognizable as the programs I tested).

 

I suggest Googling reviews to see which works best for creating and altering curved lines. Make sure that the program outputs in dxf and dwg. I find Vectorworks particularly good with curved lines as I can make them co-tangent and alter radiuses while fixing the vertices to adjacent arcs. One of the problems with some programs is that every time you alter a line, it disassociates with a line it's "connected" to which makes you have to move the altered line to reconnect.

 

The thing I would like the most would be an ability to translate a rasterized line drawing to a vector diagram automatically, and most importantly accurately.

I've tried several raster-to-vector programs with dismal results. And I mean totally appalling and inappropriate. I would imagine that there are better programs out there but I didn't spend any more time looking into it as it seemed that the trend was clear: R2V programs (when everything is JUST right) will convert to vector by making curved lines into a zillion teeny straight lines. At the very least you need a program that will convert to arcs (which I wasn't able to find, but that was about 4 or 5 years ago).

 

I found it much easier to import a scanned image into my CAD program and draw (CAD) right over it. That way you create what you want without having to "fix" stuff you don't want.

 

Things to keep in mind when CADing for laser or waterjet output is that all the lines must be either straight lines or arcs (no Bezier, Cubic, etc. curves), all must meet at vertexes, circles must "pigtail" in to start, and the lesser number of vertexes the less expensive will be the production of your part (the laser/waterjet equipment has to "think" at each vertex which adds an appreciable amount of time to perform the cuts).

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I think I need to be able to compensate for the minimum radius of a waterjet cutter (about .4mm). This may be a function of the actual cutting process, I will have to check.

I've found that you should CAD things as you want them to turn out - but make sure that you tell the jobber which side of the "line" to cut on. They will compensate by programing the waterjet cut offset.

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