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Lachenal v Wheatstone/Crabb Crane


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As a satisfied Crane owner I subscribe to the ingenuity of its button layout; and having committed myself to this system, which is only available in antique form, I decided it was time to buy a spare which I am currently awaiting.

 

Now, my existing Crane is a Lachenal and each row of buttons takes the form of a gentle ellipse. My new Crane will be a Wheatstone in which each row forms a chevron. The two styles are illustrated towards the bottom of this page under the headings of Crabb and Lachenal: http://www.craneconcertina.com/layouts.html

 

I don't know how much difference I'll find between them and how awkward it may be to alternate between them, but from a conceptual point of view I suspect the Wheatstone layout is superior.

 

You can appreciate, from these diagrams, that the Lachenal layout presents essentially a succession of horizontal rows, while the Wheatstone is much more symmetrical and can be 'read' diagonally. This is significant.

 

Let's say you go up the scale from the right-hand low G, i.e. G, A, B. On the Lachenal you are conscious of going first to the button immediately to the left, and then of going to the left again but one row higher, so you sort of 'step up'. This pattern is then repeated.

 

On the Wheatstone, G, A and B are in a straight line so you simply climb the scale by playing a succession of diagonals from lower right to upper left. Perhaps this difference is marginal, but it does seem more intuitive to me. I also suspect that finding the 1, 3, and 5 notes for triads will be a little more obvious.

 

As with any system I expect the differences are not significant in the longer term, but I'd be interested to know if anyone knows anything about the historical background to these layouts or anywhere where their relative merits are discussed?

 

Richard

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Hello Richard,

 

I do not know a thing about the historical background of these differences. I have no experience with a 80 button Crabb layout where the GAB are in a straight line.

 

What I see is that my pointer finger is shorter than the middle finger, and the middel finger is longer than the ring finger. So the pointer finger would have to reach out quite a bit further than the middle finger in the Crabb layout. I think the curved lachenal layout is better for my hands than the streight line phylosofy of the Crabbs and Wheatstones.

 

The lengths of fingers differ from person to person, so I think there may be people who's fingers do not differ that much in length and they may like the Crabb layout better. I would love to test such a bigger Crabb or Wheatstone (is there anyone who has a spare Crabb 80 buttons Crane in the attic that could serve as a traveller concertina for the Crane players of our forum?) :)

 

Marien

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Now, my existing Crane is a Lachenal and each row of buttons takes the form of a gentle ellipse. My new Crane will be a Wheatstone in which each row forms a chevron. The two styles are illustrated towards the bottom of this page under the headings of Crabb and Lachenal: http://www.craneconcertina.com/layouts.html

 

Interesting-- my Wheatstone Crane (from 1942) has the arc (rather than chevron) layout. When does your new one date from? I wonder if mine was made from old Lachenal stock. I notice that the Crane layout involves more stretches than the EC does. I have very large hands, so that isn't a problem. I'm still very much a beginner on the Crane and I haven't tried one other than the one I own, but I wouldn't expect a lot of difference in playability, just a minor adjustment.

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Now, my existing Crane is a Lachenal and each row of buttons takes the form of a gentle ellipse. My new Crane will be a Wheatstone in which each row forms a chevron. The two styles are illustrated towards the bottom of this page under the headings of Crabb and Lachenal: http://www.craneconcertina.com/layouts.html

 

Interesting-- my Wheatstone Crane (from 1942) has the arc (rather than chevron) layout. When does your new one date from? I wonder if mine was made from old Lachenal stock. I notice that the Crane layout involves more stretches than the EC does. I have very large hands, so that isn't a problem. I'm still very much a beginner on the Crane and I haven't tried one other than the one I own, but I wouldn't expect a lot of difference in playability, just a minor adjustment.

 

It's number 30736 in the Wheatstone ledger so I can date it exactly to 6 October 1925. Reach could be an issue. My experience to date is that getting the straps right is crucial.

 

The new machine has a B below Middle C on the right and an extra button on the outside which I think might be a Bb. On the left, it goes down to G with another button on the outside which may be another Bb. There is also an F drone button on the left mirroring the air button on the right. If my speculations are correct it should be particularly suited to playing in Bb or F. More details when it arrives.

 

Richard

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Although I have only seen a handful of Wheatstones, I have not seen one with the chevron layout - I assumed it was only Crabb who used this arrangement. All of the examples at craneconcertina.com, built both before and after yours, are the curved variety.

 

Sits back and waits for dozens of Wheatstone Chevrons to come out of dusty cupboards... ;)

 

Here's the proof!

 

wheatstone_aeola_crane_200px.jpg

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What I see is that my pointer finger is shorter than the middle finger, and the middel finger is longer than the ring finger. So the pointer finger would have to reach out quite a bit further than the middle finger in the Crabb layout. I think the curved lachenal layout is better for my hands than the streight line phylosofy of the Crabbs and Wheatstones.

 

Marien

 

I'm not sure that's true. In the Lachenal layout the index finger has to reach out to the row above the row played by the middle finger when you are going up the scale. In the chevron layout, where the buttons are effectively offset by half a row, the index finger only has to advance half a row higher than the middle finger!

 

However, this is only when going up the scale. In reality, the hightest note in a given tune could fall under any finger, and absolute finger length will only become a factor at the extreme end of your reach.

 

Richard

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After a few minutes of trying out the new concertina I can report that there seems to be little practical difference between playing the two layouts and it is easy enough to switch between them with only minimal adjustment. But I can't get used to all that air in the large eight-fold bellows! Other than that I'm just wondering if I will be able to continue to hold the new one in the air as I do with the 55-button Crane.

 

Richard

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Just measured the distance between the buttons (centre to centre). A column of 6 buttons is 50mm high on the arc layout and about 52.5mm on the chevron layout. A row of 5 buttons is about 62.5mm wide on the arc layout and 52.5mm wide on the chevron layout. The chevron layout is thus more compact, and reaching the buttons does feel easier.

 

Richard

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Hi Richard,

I think the new model Lachenal has quite a good action, although it is has hooks and levers. I suppose that it is playing smooth and all fits tight and it may be much better than on a 20b basic model mahogany lachenal anglo. Do you notice any differences in the action between the ebony lachenal and the rivetted wheatstone?

Thanks,

Marien

 

Just measured the distance between the buttons (centre to centre). A column of 6 buttons is 50mm high on the arc layout and about 52.5mm on the chevron layout. A row of 5 buttons is about 62.5mm wide on the arc layout and 52.5mm wide on the chevron layout. The chevron layout is thus more compact, and reaching the buttons does feel easier.

 

Richard

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Hi Richard,

I think the new model Lachenal has quite a good action, although it is has hooks and levers. I suppose that it is playing smooth and all fits tight and it may be much better than on a 20b basic model mahogany lachenal anglo. Do you notice any differences in the action between the ebony lachenal and the rivetted wheatstone?

Thanks,

Marien

 

Just measured the distance between the buttons (centre to centre). A column of 6 buttons is 50mm high on the arc layout and about 52.5mm on the chevron layout. A row of 5 buttons is about 62.5mm wide on the arc layout and 52.5mm wide on the chevron layout. The chevron layout is thus more compact, and reaching the buttons does feel easier.

 

Richard

 

Marien

 

The Wheatstone buttons feel a little more springy, but that isn't significant IMO and seems to be the least of the differences. I'm used to jerking the Lachenal around and pumping the bellows quite a lot. The Wheatstone certainly isn't short of air so you don't need to move the bellows much, but they take a lot more effort to move. Maybe they just need to be worn in.

 

Richard

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  • 12 years later...
On 1/23/2009 at 8:26 AM, frogspawn said:

 

It's number 30736 in the Wheatstone ledger so I can date it exactly to 6 October 1925. 

 

where can you find out the date from the serial number? trying to do some research... thanks :)

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On 1/11/2021 at 7:04 PM, richard said:

Hi Mike

 

(if you see this) You have an impressive group of "tortoise" shell instruments. Do they all share any particular quality of sound, playability or anything that distinguishes them, rather than just being beautiful and exotic (and unfortunate for the tortoises)?

 

Thanks,

 

Richard

 

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Hello, the difference with the tortoiseshell Aeolas is the tone between brass frames and aluminiumones , the brass frames being slightly more strident and the brass framed boxes sre heavier. 

Regards.

Mike.

 

PS I see someone has a 80 key crabb mine hasthe chevron button layoutwhich suits me, do find my Aeola button layout does tend to some odd notes!

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I missed this first time round, so a couple of comments now.

 

I don't see that anyone answered the question of how the two layouts arose. My understanding is that Butterworth patented the Crane layout including the arc (in 1896) and that Crabb invented the chevron pattern in the hopes of getting round the patent.

 

Interestingly the Butterworth patent doesn't give dimensions. Geoff Crabb's diagram (referenced above and now to be found at http://crane.concertina.org/layouts.html) shows that the vertical spacing is consistent at 10mm (which my limited experience would confirm).

 

The lateral spacing is a different matter altogether. Geoff shows the Crabb chevron at 12.5mm spacing - narrower than the half-inch (12.7mm) spacing on an English concertina. The one Crabb with chevron layout I had was 15mm. I also owned a Crabb with the Butterworth arc spaced at 15mm. 

 

However, 15mm isn't necessarily standard either. I owned an early Crane and Sons instrument with 14mm spacing. On the basis of that and my experience with the English concertina I had my Holden Crane made at 13.5mm spacing. At the other extreme another member of this site has a Wheatstone (Butterworth arc) with 16mm spacing of the inner columns and 15mm to the outer columns. I believe he specified his new Holden at 16mm throughout. (And I'm sure he'll say if I've got this wrong!)

 

From my experience with all these different layouts and dimensions, it really isn't an issue swapping from one to another.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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