Tuning Tool

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Pipemajor
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Tuning Tool

Post by Pipemajor » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:47 am

This may be of interest to UK members who are into tuning and mainaining their own instruments.
I was mooching around the local ALDI store a couple of days ago and saw they had small battery operated engraving tools- a bit like a small Dremel tool. Comes with 2 bits- a small pointed one and a ball ended one. At £4.99 with a 3 year guarantee it seemed cheap enough so I bought one to see if it was any good for tuning reeds.
I tried it on an old scrap bass reed and it works a treat.
With the needle point you only need the slightest pressure on the reed and it is very gentle to use but works efficiently. The ball ended tip takes a wider line and may not be so useful, but it certainly seems more gentle than using needle files and scrapers.
Just my twopence worth. {}

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debra
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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by debra » Sat Jul 14, 2018 12:58 pm

Italian accordion makers cringe at the idea of attacking a reed with anything like a dremel. But some other makers even use dremels in their factory. So who knows who is right...
I don't always like to use scratchers (scratching is essentially the only way to lower the frequency of a reed on the inside, without removing the leather or plastic valve). A file is good for upping the frequency but often awkward to use for lowering the outside reed because valves and other reeds are in the way, so I end up scratching there too.
I do use a dremel on occasion when the frequency is off by so much that it would require excessive scratching. It is then a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.
I would either user the metal engraving attachment or the sandpaper attachments of a dremel. Never the "milling stone" attachments as they generate too much heat locally.
Nothing is ideal. It is sad to see that no reeds are produced that can be "adjusted" rather than tuned by filing or scratching (which you cannot keep doing indefinitely).
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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by Pipemajor » Sat Jul 14, 2018 2:31 pm

I would agree with you on the use of Dremel as I think they are too powerful for reed adjustment, but this one is powered by 2 AA batteries so, if you press too hard, it just stops.
I've found that about 90% of the reeds in need of adjustment on my accordions are too sharp and so, this is ideal for flattening a reed but I wouldn't try it to sharpen a reed. I'll stick to my Swiss files for that.

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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by landro » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:36 pm

The inexpensive copy (electric) of the " Dremel" and is exactly what I use to trim my toe nails.
Mine has a speed control and might be just be fine for valve tuning .I`m gonna give it a whirl at the next opportunity.
I think that 2 AA battery one might even be better.

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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by jollyrogeraccordions » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:58 am

A battery/low voltage pen sized engraving tool with small bit is good for lowering the pitch of large reeds and does less damage than umpteen scratches, esp where the pitch has to come down a lot, and is very quick compared to filing/scratching. Or you can stroke the waist of the reed with a file, crosswise. Scratching is good for small adjustments. Avoid using the sandpaper drum on a Dremel. It's impossible to control accurately - you can’t really see where you are putting it. I see lots of reeds butchered by such a tool.
I never use an engraving tool to raise the pitch, it messes up the tip of the reed. File every time.

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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by debra » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:12 am

jollyrogeraccordions wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:58 am
A battery/low voltage pen sized engraving tool with small bit is good for lowering the pitch of large reeds and does less damage than umpteen scratches, esp where the pitch has to come down a lot, ...
One thing to wonder is why it would ever be necessary to change the pitch a lot, unless you are changing the overall tuning of the instrument down (for instance from 442Hz to 440). If the pitch of a reed has gone up or down a lot something is wrong. Only yesterday someone (a professional bayan player) came to me with two notes that had "suddenly gone up a lot". I immediately said that this cannot be a problem with the reeds. It must be an issue with the leather valves. A reed does not suddenly go out of tune by a lot unless it is about to break (which thankfully is rare). Sure enough we opened up the bayan and two reeds had been bent down when he had taken out a reed block before and put it back in. I replaced the valves (they had been in the bent position for too long to quickly flatten them again) and the tuning was fine again.

For "normal" tuning the required adjustments should be small enough for the scratcher + file methods, but I can certainly see a use for the engraving tool (I will watch the Aldi advertising here) for the odd case where a larger change is needed and a narrow tool is needed as well.
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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by Pipemajor » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:55 am

In my particular case, my 2 CBAs were bought (very second hand) in France and were both at least 15 cents sharp on the straight reeds and anything up to 40 cents sharp on the musette reeds. Obviously I had checked all the valves beforehand . I wanted them to be at 440hz so I have had a mamoth task bringing them all down to a more acceptable (to me) level, although I have found it most enjoyable and almost therapeutic. I have always found pleasure in fixing things rather than throwing them away. Probably stems from my previous life as a computer engineer in the 70s when real computers were 6 foot tall 3 phase monsters built by the Americans and were prone to breaking down at the slightest opportunity.
Getting back on track, I wish I had had the engraving tool when I first started tuning them. It would have saved me a lot of time.

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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by Morne » Fri Jul 20, 2018 7:33 am

jollyrogeraccordions wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:58 am
Avoid using the sandpaper drum on a Dremel. It's impossible to control accurately - you can’t really see where you are putting it. I see lots of reeds butchered by such a tool.
I actually recently found that sanding drum to be useful - when it's not attached to the Dremel!
With the sanding belt mounted on the drum you can approach the bottom of an (external) reed from above, which in some cases might be easier or quicker than trying to get a file in there. You can probably cut the sandpaper roll in half in case you're worried about scratching the adjacent valve.

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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by debra » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:08 am

Pipemajor wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:55 am
In my particular case, my 2 CBAs were bought (very second hand) in France and were both at least 15 cents sharp on the straight reeds and anything up to 40 cents sharp on the musette reeds. ...
That just means the instrument was tuned to 444Hz. This is "a bit high" even for a French instrument. Sadly an increasing number of mostly professional musicians and instrument makers consider that there is no value in having an international standard and they choose to tune higher anyway. 442Hz is common. I am working on a Crucianelli that is at least 443Hz but I am only tuning it down to 442Hz. With 442 it does not sound extremely bad when combined with 440 instruments and there are many players with 442 so there should be no problem in finding a home for the instrument where 442 is appreciated. Anything higher does not go so well with other instruments.
Tuning down from 444 to 440 is a lot. You need to be careful to not weaken the reeds and thereby the sound of the instrument too much. Reeds are produced for a certain tuning, but obviously to create the tremolo they are already detuned in the accordion factory to achieve that.
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Re: Tuning Tool

Post by jollyrogeraccordions » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:32 am

"One thing to wonder is why it would ever be necessary to change the pitch a lot, unless you are changing the overall tuning of the instrument down (for instance from 442Hz to 440). If the pitch of a reed has gone up or down a lot something is wrong."
This of course is true, but there are all sorts of reasons why the pitch might need altering more than a few cents e.g. on old instruments that have been 'tuned' previously before the valves/wax was refreshed first; or on recovered/refurbished reeds moved from one instrument to another; or indeed on diatonic instruments where pitch altering is quite common. In most cases removing the reeds/revalving and reassembling generally fixes a lot of the issues and a bit of spot tuning is all that is required.

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