Paul Hardy's #10 Lachenal English Concertina - 57544

Pictures of Lachenal 57544

rhs side
Right Side Old Bellows

Description of Lachenal 57544

It is hexagonal with 48 coloured bone keys. The ends are rosewood or mahogony fretwork. The bellows are 5-fold black. 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.

One one end, in an oval aperture in the fretwork can be read "Lachenal & Co, Patent Concertina Manufacturer, London". The aperture on the other side which should have the serial number is empty. However the number 57544 is stamped on both the reedpans. This would date it to about 1919. Interestingly, the bellows are stamped with 55936, which would be from about 1914, so maybe they were a swap from an earlier machine.

Another oddity is that it has Wheatstone compact thumbstraps, rather than the original ones which would have gone to thumbscrews over the edge.

My time with this concertina

The instrument was bought in August 2014 from Michael J Bowman auctions through the Invaluable web service. My winning bid was 190, but with commissions and shipping etc it cost about 250.

Condition on arrival was OK, (considering its age), but it had obviously not been played in decades. There were various notes not sounding in one direction, and the bellows were very stiff. The reeds are steel, in brass shoes. It is tuned to modern concert pitch of A=440.

On further investigation, the bellows leather was very dry and brittle, and two gussets had cracked, leaking air. I applied neatsfoot oil to the leather of the gussets (three applications a week apart), and mended three gussets and two corners with skived leather patches. I also replaced a few pads and filled a small hairline crack in the padboard. It then became playable.

Over time, the dryness of the bellows leather led to some more gusset and hinge cracks, so I did some more bellows gusset and hinge patches. I also replaced the missing 57544 number to its aperture on the LHS, and tweaked the tuning of a couple of aberrant reeds. It now needs playing for a while to see if the bellows lose their stiffness, or whether it is time for replacement bellows - the current ones have lasted for some 90 years, and bellows are considered consumable items, so they've done quite well!

More Pictures of Lachenal 57544

Reedpans Bellows LHS
Reedpan Bellows LHS

New Bellows for Lachenal 57544

This instrument was loaned to a beginner, and as expected, with play, the bellows developed new leaks. I again patched dry cracked leather gussets, and it limped on again and was loaned to a new beginner. By late 2020, it was becoming clear that the original bellows had passed their use-by date. Mind you, if anything being made now is still being used and giving pleasure a hundred years from now I'd be surprised!

So in early 2021, I bought a replacement bellows kit from Mark Adey of Concertina Spares, and replaced the original bellows. I chose green leather and papers. The photos below show the result, and the machine is now much more airtight and playable.

New Bellows New Diagonal
New Bellows Diagonal View

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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