Paul Hardy's #18 Wheatstone Concert Treble Concertina - 11689
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|
20 Conduit St, Regent St
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!
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:
- I replaced all the drooping valves, and some of the others that were thin or twisted. The remainder seemed OK.
- I replaced all the pads
- I strengthened the thumbstrap leather
- I started the retuning process, noting the pitch of each note, and then filing the reeds to an initial approximation, usually a few cents sharp
- I embarked on a second cycle of tuning, noting the pitch of each reed inside and outside the instrument,
so that I can get each note to match the 1/5 comma reference table.
- This resulted in an instrument that could be played, but had various odd note characteristics.
Once all notes sounded, and were close to target pitch, I did some further fettling:
- I replaced more valves, as they were stiff.
- I continued the retuning process, checking the pitch of each note, and identifying any more than a couple of cents away from the 1/5 comma meantone reference.
- For these reeds, I noted the pitch inside and outside the instrument,and filed the reed to raise or lower by the requisite number of cents. I checked with the reed installed and adjusted again if necessary.
- I also identified any reeds that were slow to speak, or distorted in sound.
- For slow to speak reeds I adjusted the set of the reed, so that the reed tip was just high of the slot. This affects the tuning, so another round of check and file is required.
- For oddly sounding reeds, my first try was replacing both valves for that button, or sliding a foil down the side of th reed tongue to clear any burrs.
- The instrument is now pyalable and will improve over time as it is played.
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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