Paul Hardy's #18 Wheatstone Concert Treble Concertina - 11689

Wheatstone 11689 picture Wheatstone 11689 picture Wheatstone 11689 picture
Left Hand End Side Right Hand End

Description of Concertina 11689

It is hexagonal with 48 keys. The ends are rosewood or mahogany fretwork with a moulded edge, and with fancy nickel silver inlay patterns. The bellows are green Moroccan leather and and highly decorated, with a green and gold papers on each segment as well as gold tooling. Buttons are flat-topped metal (Nickel?). The thumbstraps are good green leather, gold-tooled. The reeds in this instrument are nickel-silver, rather than the brass or steel used more commonly.

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.

In one end is a serial number, 11689, which dates it to 1861. At the other end can be read:
BY HER MAJESTY'S LETTERS PATENT
C WHEATSTONE
Inventor
20 Conduit St, Regent St
LONDON

The serial number 11689 can be looked up in the Wheatstone sales ledgers now online at www.horniman.info as being first sold on 7th October 1861. The ledger page lists it as being sold to 'Clusiol'?, for the sum of 12 pounds 12 shillings (12 guineas). This is the most expensive concertina on the page, the cheapest being an eighth of the price at 1/11s/6d, so it was a top of the range instrument for its time. Wheatstone's 1859 advertisement has a brief mention of their 12 guinea concert model "as used by Sig. Regondi and Mr. Richard Blagrove.", who were the top performers of the time.

Initial state of this concertina

The instrument was bought via the Internet from an auction by Cheffins in Cambridge. It seemed in a very good condition considering its age. One note (low G#) was sticking open. One thumbstrap was tearing at the attachment loop. When I got it home, I opened it up and you could see that the valve leathers were drooping and will need replacing, because it had been stored in its box on end for many years. The pads were original and now thin, so will need replacing. The reeds initially looked in good condition,and the chamoix leather seals were clean, indicating that it had not been played much, and never in smoky pubs!

Wheatstone 11689 picture Wheatstone 11689 picture Wheatstone 11689 picture
RH Reedpan RH Action RH Interior
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LH Reeds LH Valves RH Valves and Reeds
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RH Baffle Register Box

Tuning and Pitch

Checking note pitches against a tuning app showed most notes to be about 20-30 cents sharp compared with modern concert pitch (A=440), It does look to have been tuned down, probably by an accordian mechanic, as some of the reeds had been centre scratched rather than filed. It was probably originally in old London philharmonic pitch of A=453, and crudely pulled down to Society of Arts pitch. The various A notes seemed to be multiples of 222.5, so A=445, which is apparently the modern interpretation (for ET) of the Society of Arts reference of C=528. Indeed middle C push was exactly 528 (the pull is odd/warbly).

However, it was not in equal temperament - G# and Ab were quite different, as were D# and Eb. In general, the flats are sharper, and the sharps are flatter than ET. So it was probably originally in a meantone temperament, likely quarter-comma meantone. I like the fifth-comma meantone centred on A that I applied to another old instrument - see its page which has a detailed description of what and why. I decided to use this same tuning here.

Initial Restoration of this Concertina

I opened up the RH end to fix the sticking note - with some difficulty, as two of the three fine wood screws holding the end together were rusted in place - not surprising after 160 years! Cleaning the bushing hole, wiggling the lever, and resetting the spring were sufficient to get the note working.

After some discussion on concertina.net, we concluded that the reeds are not brass but nickel silver - which I was surprised to find has no silver in it - usually 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. They are less tarnished than brass reeds would be after 160 years! See section below about pitch.

I started doing the basic fettling to get it playable:

Further Restoration

Once all notes sounded, and were close to target pitch, I did some further fettling:

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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