04-May-2016 14:09

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The round-ended reed beds in use after 1848 were stamped out using specially made fly press dies, and moreover were produced in just a few standardized sizes.From about 1845, the reed pans of all Wheatstone concertinas had a circular paper pan-label affixed to their inner face which has all of the note names and 'note frame' or reed bed sizes printed upon it to guide the outworkers as to which size of bed was to be used for each note.Brass reed tongues became standard from about 1848, supplanting the use of nickel-silver, though various formulations of brass and bronze had been used in earlier concertinas, with even gold and silver reeds used in Wheatstone's symphoniums.Steel 'vibrators', as reed tongues were called, were first introduced by Wheatstones at the request of concert virtuosi such as Blagrove and Regondi: such reeds kept their pitch well and produced much more volume, and were to become generally available as an option on all Wheatstone instruments from the early 1860s onwards.The survey below lists the many changes to Wheatstone's initial design and indicates how the combined influences of both fashion and genuine technological improvement led to the many changes in the original design of the concertina.One of the last 'early' design features to be finally superseded in the development of the basic English concertina was the use of square-ended reed beds, which ceased to be used from instrument no 1775, sold in February 1848.These early, hand filed reed beds resembled those of the first Demian style of akkordion and were each individually fitted into hand routed slots in the reed pans.

The layout of buttons, the arrangement of reeds and reed pans, levers and pallets, and the method of construction of the ends, action boards, pans and bellows henceforth changed little over the next century.

The Wheatstone factory production ledgers record instruments with solid gold buttons and fittings being produced to special order at seventy guineas, and in 1848, the only known ivory-ended instrument was produced, again to special order.

[PLATE 6] However, the Wheatstone firm and their many imitators and competitors soon began to produce variants and 'improvements' to the basic 'English' design, to say nothing of dozens of new systems and compasses of anglo and duet concertinas, examples of most of which are now in the Concertina Museum Collection.

Upon the introduction of their 'Aeola' in 1898, Wheatstones devised a new 'long scale' format of reed bed, of slimmer, narrower form and with a proportionately longer reed tongue, which was considered to offer improved voicing, tone and attack.

It was for their baritone, bass and contrabass concertinas that Wheatstones produced their largest reeds, with thick rectangular brass reed beds usually screwed directly to the flat surface of the reed pans or to the underside of the action board.

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In many cases, these large reeds were affixed to specially constructed organ pipe-like chambers, to enhance or modify the tone produced.

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