Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Prospects of an upgraded Concertina

This was my current concertina. It is a Lachenal 20 button C/G Anglo. It dates from late Victorian times so is a bit precious. It has a lovely tone and plays beautifully. The problem is that it can only play in two keys - C and G.  This makes it very restrictive for playing a lot of the music written between 1900 and 1950 as these often use other keys or lots of "accidentals". The way out of this was to acquire a 30 button concertina - thus giving me all of the required extra note. However, these are normally snapped up by players of Irish music, which uses concertinas as a regular part of the line up in the bands. The result is that there is quite a jump in price to a 30 button, let alone a concertina to match my existing one.

I have had to close down my model railway for the foreseable future so I came up with a "cunning plan". As I couldn't use all of my model railways stuff but was playing my concertina every day, why not dispose of all it and use the funds for my other active hobbies - playing the concertina and making scale plastic models.

The selling of the N gauge stuff went very well - apart from owing EBay £300.00 in fees! It was a shame as I had only bought it all this year but there we are. Suddenly I could look at buying a £750 Lachenal 30 button concertina. 

With my new found finance, I went down to Canterbury to spend £750 and pick up a Lachenal 30 button and then went on to Faversham where they have a very nice model shop. I bought a complex model kit of an A1J Skyraider in 1:32 - it is nice having a large stash fund!

Playing the concertina showed that there were problems with it so, on instruction, I contacted Mike Acott, our local concertina expert. He fixed some of the issues but others soon reared their heads so I arranged to have it returned with a full refund. So far, not so good. On advice from Mike, I contacted Chris Algar, who seems to be the biggest source of traditional concertinas (rather than new ones). I was determined to get a traditional one as, again under advice from Mike, I wanted to avoid a new one. New ones have compromise reeds and don't sound as nice as the older ones that have proper concertina reeds. The £750 concertina was a Lachenal, like my 20 button but had mahogany ends and brass reeds so sounded a bit softer.  Chris didn't have anything in that range so I had to look at spending extra money and get a steel reeded Lachenal. There is always a demand from Ireland for these instruments so the price reflects that demand. There were two that I felt were right but the both cost £1,300! I could only do this by part exchanging my 20 button. I was sad to do this but it was the only way that I could go and keep some stash money behind.

Chris lives in Cheshire, some few miles north of Stoke-on-Trent so it was a bit of a hack. I left home at 7am and got back at 6.30pm! Chris gave me £400 for my 20 button which represented a 33% profit. I have been told that buying a new concertina is like buying a new car - you lose money on it the moment that you buy it - but buying an "antique" concertina is an investment. 

I now have a superb Lachenal 30 button concertina. It does have mahogany ends but has been polished so it looks like my old one. It has bone buttons and steel concertina reeds. Having had a look inside, I have found out that the serial number is 124088 - my old one was 74298 (c1885) - so that puts its manufacture somewhere around 1900. 

The only visible differences between this and the old one are the 30 buttons, of course, and less intricate fretwork so this is one of Lachenal's cheaper models. Getting a true rosewood with full fretwork would have cost another £400 - £500  and wouldn't sound any different.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Family heirloom - I hope

It was my brother-in-law (and sister-in-law)'s 25th wedding anniversary recently. I was asked to make a present for them so I chose a Jolly Red "Love Birds" kit. This took a few months to make as it had 24,336 stitches, including having to work out the words for the names and date.

Anyway, it was done in time. I used a cushion interior and a fat quarter of fabric from "The Cheap Shop - Tiptree" and made it up on my trusty John Lewis sewing machine.