Paul Hardy's Lachenal English Concertina - 32801

Pictures of Lachenal 32801 Before Restoration

LHS Top RHS

Description of Lachenal 32801

It is hexagonal with 48 well-worn coloured bone keys. The ends are rosewood or mahogany fretwork. The bellows are 5-fold black with decorated bellows papers. It is an English concertina, which means that it produces the same note when a key is pressed, regardless of whether the bellows are going in or out. The other main type of concertina is the Anglo, which gives different notes according to bellows direction, like a mouth organ does.

On arrival, the apertures in the fretwork which should have the serial number and the makers name were empty, and there was a coarse material baffle behind the fretwork instead of the original leather. However, inside is a label giving maker as Lachenal, and the number 32801 is stamped on both the reedpans and the action frame. This would date it to about 1894.

My time with this concertina

The instrument was bought in September 2020 from Ewbank's auction through Invaluable. With shipping it cost about 300. Condition on arrival seemed to be OK, (considering its age of more than a century), but it had obviously not been played in decades. One key was stuck down. There were various notes not sounding properly. At least two of the endbolts were broken, and one barely meshed.

I replaced a broken spring, and generally cleaned the instrument It then became sort of playable, though still in major need of fettling, as several notes are very wheezy or way out of tune. The reeds are steel, in brass shoes. It was not tuned to modern concert pitch of A=440, but to old London philharmonic pitch of A=452, with several reeds a long way off. At that stage, it was clear that further work would be needed, including retuning, replacing all or some of the pads, which look original, and at least some of the valves, many of which have drooped as the instrument has been stored on end for decades.

More Pictures of Lachenal 32801

Reeds in Reeds out Action
Padboard Inside baffle

First Pass Fettling

The initial task was to sort the broken endbolts, and I negotiated a set of new endbolts and rectangular nuts to be made using three originals as patterns. I then used six of these to give a new consistent set of bolts for one end, and used a removed bolt to replace the broken one at the other end.

I produced a makers label based on that from a similar age Lachenal, and a serial number, and added them in the appropriate apertures.

One interesting observation is that the bellows papers are the Lachenal "Art Nouveau" pattern, suggesting that the bellows are not original, but replacements from the 1920s or 30s. They seem basically airtight.

When I started to investigate the out-of-tune reeds, I discovered a significant problem, in that many of the reeds were rusty, particularly on the face of the reed facing the valves. I applied a fibreglass pencil to remove the rust, and retuned the reeds in an initial pass to within 5 cents of concert pitch on my tuning jig.

The next problem was some notes not starting, and a couple of others where adjacent reed was sounding. I replaced the worst offending curled valves, and put a shim on a corner block to improve the chamois seal. This made the instrument almost playable.

The next step was to tune the reeds more thoroughly, based on observation of deviation while in the instrument. I've done this, so all are within 5 cents of ET. There are a few that would benefit from more reed profiling to get them to start easier, but the instrument is now playable. It will improve with play.

On the cosmetic front, I've removed the coarse grey baffle material, which looked like old felt blanket, and replaced it with damask red material on small cork spacers.

The result is an instrument which is quite playable considering its age, and will improve with playing in.

Pictures of Lachenal 32801 After Restoration

LHS 2 top 2 RHS 2

Do you know anything more about this concertina ?

Use paul at paulhardy dot net to send me an email message if you know anything about this instrument.


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