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Author Topic: Old Three Stop Saxony Project  (Read 1583 times)

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forrest

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Old Three Stop Saxony Project
« on: May 12, 2011, 03:12:37 AM »

  In a recent moment of weakness, I faltered, and bought an old German made three-stop box. Not one of the rare and highly esteemed ones, but one of the cheap (but cheerful) common gaudy ones that seem to flow endlessly from the past. It appeared in good condition, and all notes working, on my doorstep for $45 US plus freight. I do like a challenge though, and I am always ready to attempt to produce a silk purse from a sows ear.
   Initially, it was leaky around the pallets, had many weak sounding reeds, and a few jingly ones as well. The growl box flappers were all loose and crazy, but the tones sounded good. Upon opening, I was welcomed by three sets of brass reeds on long zinc plates. I had worked on this type of reed plate before in an old Lange Chemnitzer concertina, and when all setup and tuned, it sounded grand. I was hoping for the same here.
   The new arrival was in the key of G, pitched at about A=433 according to Dirk's. There was enough regularity in the tremolo on the MM reeds to re-establish the original beating pattern. The thirds were tuned to about -14, almost in Cajun territory. I decided to stay with the old German tuning  to keep from filing away at the delicate brass reeds as much as possible. One downside of multireed plates is that if you botch a reed, then you have to make a new tongue, and fit it to the plate, (or go without).
   Overall, the case and bellows aren't so bad....very light construction, though. Woodwork is neatly done, mostly softwood construction, pieces well fit, and.......mitred corners! ;) Next on the agenda: rebuild and re-gasket the growlbox, remove reedplates, clean, remove keyboard and check pallet faces, etc. etc. Will update as I go. Below are some of the 'before' pictures......
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forrest

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Re: Old Three Stop Saxony Project
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2011, 11:22:27 PM »

Since originally posting, I have had some time to work on the box. Upon removal of the growl box, I found that it was only fastened to the case by two tiny screws and two tiny metal pins, or brads. Not exactly the best way to attach a piece that withstands the tension of pulling bellows apart with the energy of a fast jig. Also, the original yarn gasket was beyond performing its function. Having a piece of adhesive backed cork in my pile of goods, I sought to make a new gasket by first taking a rubbing of the growl box (see pics) and transferring the result to the cork, and then cutting the pattern. The adhesive backing was then removed and the gasket carefully aligned with the telltale pattern on the growl box, and stuck down.
   I also removed the old flapper valves, and by careful carving with a razor sharp chisel, was able to remove the old glue and wood debris and get a clean surface for new flappers. I made those using thin pieces of poplar faced with a layer of soft leather. Note the areas of the growlbox in the pics where the fasteners had split the perimeter of the box in a couple of places. I was able to locate and drill two more holes for added screws to attach the growl box back to the box. My leftside repair was a bit quick and dirty, and I tried to duplicate the original flappers, not having a better design at hand. This being a rather cheap box allows me to attempt some remedies that I would not necessarily use on a more valuable instrument. Call it a form of triage, perhaps (:). Upon re-assembly,
I was happy to note reduced air loss thru the box.
   Next project......multi-reed plates  :P
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forrest

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Re: Old Three Stop Saxony Project
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2011, 05:22:19 AM »

Time for a bit more on the bargain restoration.......brass reeds on long plates :P. As it turns out, the only thing holding the reed plates in place were the bent nails. Whatever the adhesive had been (appeared almost to be shellac) was totally crisp and dried up. After removing the plates, I was grateful that all reed tongues were still there. The leathers were actually still quite pliant and soft, so in the interest of saving my new leathers for my Hohner project, I decided to re-use the old ones. However, if you are refurbishing a fine old instrument and wish it to have a nice long run with your repairs, I would recommend new leathers.
In this case, I simply re-fastened any loose ones, replaced a couple of dodgy ones, and combed out the remainder with a small tool made from a paperclip (see pics).
   Since the barriers between reed chambers was so narrow, it took some head scratching to figure out how to wax the reed plates back in. My only other long-plate fix was an old Chemnitzer concertina that had leather gaskets under the plates. After planing off the top of the "reedblock" to remove the old adhesive material and get a flat surface, I decided that a thin bead of wax on the barriers would probably work for placing the plates cold, and after some light compression, wax the perimeter. It was a gamble, but it worked out fine. While the plates were off, I was able to correct any jingling or misalignment of the reed in its slot, and was able to pre-set them to a certain degree. Unfortunately I had no way to really sound the reeds when they were out of the box.
   With  the reeds back in the box, I also did some work on compression. The bellows were actually in pretty decent shape, some leaking around the old yarn end-gaskets, which I replaced with some thin closed cell foam tape. I also went over the treble keys, having removed the keyboard from the right side. Fortunately, the leather facings were in good shape, not dried out or rotten, so I was able to raise the nap a bit using a very soft child's toothbrush. After replacement and assembly, I was able to adjust and align them so that they sat flat against the exit holes.
   Having repaired the left end, serviced valves, waxed the plates, adjusted pallets and replaced end-gaskets, all of a sudden this instrument was pretty air-tight! After hearing the sound of the brass reeds, I decided that, since this is an old curio more than anything, I could not see my way clear to bringing it up to A440, as this would have entailed filing about 20 to 30 cents off of each and every reed.  And, it was risky; if I ruined a reed, I would have to fashion a new tongue and rivet it onto the plate. This was certainly beyond the scope of my project. So I set out to spot-tune it back to it's original tuning.
  The brass reeds are a bit different to work with being soft and thin. Some looked as if they were mangled a bit during manufacture.  This was a relatively cheap and cheerful model, more at home in the hands of an amateur in his home parlor than out gigging in the dance halls.
   I found the most difficult part of working with these reeds was getting the proper set. It took much fiddling to get some reeds to speak well, and after all, they are pretty crude by modern standards, or even compared to the old Hohners and Universals. The end result yielded pretty good response and volume, and of course they were never as loud as steel reeds.......but there is a haunting sweetness about them.
The box has become quite playable, and I am working on a strap fixing method, being unable to tolerate incessant yanking on my thumb joint. Hopefully next post I can perhaps post a tune..... :||:
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 05:26:03 AM by j.w.forrest »
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Ray

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Re: Old Three Stop Saxony Project
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2011, 04:58:01 PM »

Very interesting, thanks for sharing (:
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OldDog

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Re: Old Three Stop Saxony Project
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2011, 12:29:35 AM »

Keep up the reporting. It's more interesting (to me, anyway) than a lot of the usually posted pictures of the expensive stuff.
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forrest

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Re: Old Three Stop Saxony Project
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2011, 03:49:28 AM »

Finally had some free time to devote to this old box, and a bit left over to learn this tune (late) for TotM. So as promised, here's a video:

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_DM5m5n150

   The box is fun to play, and has some good qualities: it's very light, I love the sound of the brass reeds, they are  bright and crisp. The button action is not too stiff for me. The bad stuff: being a cheap box built for the bargain level, the materials are rather flimsy. Lots of flowery paper and cardboard here. The reeds took quite a bit of fiddling to sound decently, and the entire assembly is as delicate as a butterfly, not likely to stand up to sessions at the local watering hole. In addition, since it's somewhere between 80 and 100 years old, it's getting a bit fragile.....I've already got a hole in a bellows corner! So, I would not advise buying one of these for any other purpose than a decorative item (that may or may not produce a tune) ;)
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