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 Post subject: Button box or Concertina
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:01 pm 
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So now that I can finally work out a couple of tunes on the whistle and flute I'm casting about for an instrument that I can both play tunes on and sing along with, as applicable. I find I'm attracted to the concertina sound and have been thinking about picking up a beginner Anglo 20 or 30 button. I've done the research and know that the Rochelle is well regarded and a good value for a rank beginner, so I've been both looking at that, and at a barely used Hohner D40 available locally at a very reduced price (though I have to admit that I'm tempted by an older renovated Lachenal on e-bay for a lot more...).

However my wife picked up a vintage Hohner, steel reed, 2 row button accordion a couple of years back at an antique auction. I checked it out last night and all the buttons work, reeds sound (though some are a little hesistant) and the bellows holds air. There is no real marking for what key it is in, but the face plate needs some repair, so I'll probably yank that off and clean and lube the works as seems appropriate. Perhaps the key info will be inside. The button box is most likely a student grade instrument, as the scrollwork seems to be painted on.

Anyway, what is the general consensus: go with the bird in the hand, or look for something more concertina-like? Is the buttonbox worth enough to try to trade it off against a concertina? I guess it is hard to tell if it would be appropriate for ITM without knowing the keys, but I also enjoy many other types of Trad, so I guess it doesn't matter that much.

Thanks for any advice.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:54 pm 
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The keys will probably be stamped on the reed blocks. Usually following German conventions, which can confuse the unwary (H = B, B = Bflat, Cis = C#, Es= Eb, for example). Otherwise the easy way to ascertain the tuning of the instrument is to check what note is produced on each row when you press the 3rd button down from the chin end while closing the bellows.

If it is really a vintage machine the reeds might be of very good quality. However by the same token the instrument might need a good deal of work on the reeds, valves and wax to bring it into good playing condition. Lubrication ought not to be necessary so be careful with that WD40 or whatever. Can you post a photo of it, and the insides?

Steve


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:14 pm 
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Latticino wrote:
There is no real marking for what key it is in

Each row should give you a chord triad (arpeggio) on the push. That will tell you what keys the rows are tuned to. Typical are D/G, C/F, G/C for non-Irish tuned boxes.

Your description sounds like a Hohner Pokerwork, which they're apparently calling a Vienna Model 2915 nowadays. A friend of mine plays an older one retuned to B/C, and it's quite nice.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:51 pm 
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Thanks for all the terrific info guys. Sorry I'm not very technically inclined from a music theory standpoint, so I wouldn't know a chord triad if I tripped over one. Still, using my chromatic tuner I was able to tell that this button box is in C/F. Guess it isn't an Irish tuned box, unfortunately.

I opened the front grille, which as you can see from the pictures is a bit damaged, but did not see any easy access to the reed blocks. For now I'm going to leave well enough alone on the button box. It probably could use an overall tuneup, certainly some new leather, and possibly a bit of attention to general cosmetics. From what I can see I think MT is right and it is a pokerwork. Are these worth anything? If I can get my wife to part with it (now being used as a display item only) I'd love to trade it off on a reasonible beginner Anglo concertina.

Image
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Thanks again

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:00 pm 
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To examine the reed blocks you need to pull out the bellows pins on the treble side. They are just glorified nails. Grasp the heads carefully with a pair of pliers and pull. Sometimes on older boxes you can pull them out with your hands.

As to what it's worth - not a huge amount. I don't know what this model in this tuning might fetch on eBay but unless you can vouch for it being in excellent condition, esp. the reeds, wax and valves, I'd be surprised if you got more than $350 for it and maybe no more than $100. They are plentiful so you could easily see what similar instruments are going for.

BTW it is definitely an older style of Pokerwork, maybe from the 1940s or even earlier. There are people who know about the history of Hohner models on the forums at melodeon.net I would ask there if you want to know more.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:45 am 
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Latticino wrote:
The button box is most likely a student grade instrument, as the scrollwork seems to be painted on.


If it's a pokerwork, I see via Mr Google that they're going for around $800, after an overhaul.

And here's squeezebox virtuoso John Kirkpatrick playing one. He's about as far from 'student' as it's possible to be, so they can't be all that bad.

Image

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:02 am 
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s1m0n wrote:
If it's a pokerwork, I see via Mr Google that they're going for around $800, after an overhaul.


But the thing is you could easily spend several hundred on a full overhaul. People looking to buy a box such as this that needs attention or is not in tiptop shape - esp. if it's not in a popular tuning - want it for parts, or to do up and make a profit on, which is why they won't bite unless the price is very low.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:13 am 
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Yep. Pokerwork. Depending on where you're located, the Button Box in western Mass or Michael Usui (Irish Dancemaster Accordions) in Florida can give a throrough and trustworthy assesment of the instrument and a range of options for getting it playing right. Michael is a great reed man and tuner who really knows the Irish box. Good Luck!
BW


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:25 pm 
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Again, thanks for all the feedback and advice.

I'm not really looking to get a lot for the box, would prefer a trade for an acceptably playable Anglo Concertina if possible. Certainly realize that a C/F instrument here in the states, in the condition this one is in, is not worth anything like the $800 range a new pokerwork commands. Of course this is an older, German made instrument with steel reeds, if that makes a difference. I know the Pokerwork will need a tuneup, and a replacement front grille, at least to be useful. I'll have to see if I can get to the reeds to blow them off and/or clean them to see if I want to go thru the restore effort myself.

I'm going to take a look at a used newer Hohner D40 this evening. I know it won't be anything special, but that may be all I need to see if the concertina box bug bites. Of course I'd prefer to trade the button box for a similar vintage concertina, even one in rough cosmetic shape, but understand if no one is interested.

Thanks again for all the tips. If I decide to keep it I may have to check out the Button Box in Western Mass. That is likely the closest to me.

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