Keshlam's Main Squeeze:

Lemme show you some baby pictures...

(Maker's mark)
Here's a closer look at my latest (and as-yet-unnamed) acquisition: a Jeffries 38-key Anglo Concertina. If you want to get still closer, try clicking the images. Then use your browser's Back button to return to this page.
(Jeffries, Left
side) Here's a view of the left side of the instrument. If you compare this with the pictures of Darth on the previous page, you'll immediately notice that a third row of buttons has been added. That change permits a much greater range of harmonic possibilities. What may not be obvious to someone who doesn't play the instrument is that there are four other new buttons as well. Two of these at the top of the inner (C and G) rows, one in the middle nearest the hand strap, and one near the top of the strap where it can be played with the thumb.
And here's the right side. The thumb button here is normal; it's the "wind valve" present on all Anglos. But there are still four additional buttons beyond the ones added by the third row: Two at the top of the C and G rows, one at the bottom of the C (center) row, and the centrally placed one closest to the hand strap. (Jeffries, Right side)

One thing I like about these pictures -- especially the huge close-ups -- is that you can see the white circles of the air valves behind the metal grille. When a button is pressed, it lifts one of these valve pads, allowing air to flow to the two reeds in that chamber. A pair of one-way valves -- simple flaps -- within the chamber allows only one reed to sound at a time, depending on which direction air is flowing -- thus permitting each button to play two notes. (Or one, if the two reeds are turned to the same note.)

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

The next question that many folks, including other concertina players, are likely to ask is "So what do all those buttons do, anyway?" Here's an annotated close-up of each keybord. The notation here is that the upper note is played on press and the lower one on draw -- so "C/D" means the button plays a C when I squeeze and D when I pull.

(Apologies for the blurred text -- that's a result of the "viciously agressive" image compression I'm using to try to keep this page down to a tolerable size.)

(Jeffries keyboard, left side) Once again, let's start with the left hand. Most of this, including the thumb button's playing F/C rather than a drone, is fairly standard for Jeffries instruments according to Levy's book (though he only describes a 31-button Anglo, not 38). I've circled one exception, where the C# is unusual.

Some instruments offer a Bb at that position. But the additional buttons at the top (right) of the keyboard provide two high Bb's and a low one (perhaps a bit excessive?), so yet another would be superfluous.

Paul Groff reports that:

... in most original (not retuned) Jeffries concertinas this button is A/D#, not to be confused with the Eb of the next higher button on the accidental row (C#/Eb). As originally tuned, the D# was tuned to a slightly lower pitch than the Eb. The D# would be used for a harmonious B major chord on the draw (B, D#, F#), and the Eb for a harmonious Eb major chord (Eb, G, Bb, on the draw, accidental row), among other uses. Substituting the D# for Eb, or vice-versa, on an original-tuning, unequal-temperament Jeffries will create a harsh "wolf tone." When concertinas are repitched to A = 440 and retuned to equal temperament, as is often done these days, many tuners don't know what to make of the apparently duplicate notes, both on the draw and in close proximity. Perhaps this is why yours was given A/C#. Of course it could have been original to that concertina, as customized or experimental layouts were common.
Paul suggests that one way to find out what the original note was might be to examine the brass reed frame. If the reed was retuned, this may still have the original note stamped on it.

(Jeffries keyboard, left side) And here's the right side. The circled key is B/F# on some instruments (including Darth). This deprives me of a high F# on draw, which was somewhat more frustrating to me, since it interferes with playing the top end of the G scale and I had one arrangement that wanted that note (though I've since reworked it to use a lower F# instead). Jason O'Rourke and Paul Groff both say that the version shown here seems to have been standard for 38- and 39-key Jeffries anglos.

Jason says, "If you're playing Irish music, this extra G# on the draw makes life a lot easier when you're playing in keys such as A maj or E maj, because the other G# is awkward to reach". Paul agrees, adding: "Some 30 key Jeffries and early Crabbs and Ball Beavons also have the draw G#, paired with a press F# or F. More common for a 30 key Jeffries is F#/F, often in the middle octave (the F# an octave lower than in the B/F# key found in that position in most Lachenals and Wheatstones). The high B is not a note most players need very often. The high F# you have already, on the press, on your solo "inside" button, right side. If you prefer it on the draw, as I do, e. g. for combining as an octave with the index finger draw F#, simply swap the little F# draw reed for the F press reed and it will be F/F#. Play it by bringing the right ring finger in close to the handrest."

The Dating Game

Jeffries, unlike some of the other manufacturers, never put serial numbers on their instruments. This makes figuring out when a given instrument was made something of an expert's game.

Here's what I've been able to learn so far, in the order I discovered it:

  1. Anglo concertinas were invented around 1850.
  2. Jeffries went out of business in the 1920's.
  3. "Big Nick" Robertshaw, author of the Concertina Spotter's Guide, reports that after Charles Jeffries turned the business over to his sons (approximately 1920), instruments were stamped with "Jeffries Bros". Earlier instruments are marked "Chas. Jeffries", "C Jeffries", or simply "Jeffries".
  4. Neil Wayne -- concertina collector, proprietor of the Free Reed Press/Free Reed Records (and of a bed-and-breakfast in Derbyshire) -- suggested checking the internal surfaces of the instrument, such as the reed pans, to see if any dates or ownership information has been written thereupon. A very few were in fact signed by Jeffries himself. This particular instrument carries stamps on the reed pans and on the right-hand action box, saying:
    Musical Instruments
    Neil reports that even today Bermondsey is an antiques-market area, but that Whitten was a dealer in old and second hand instruments operating there in (approximately) the 1930's.
  5. Paul Groff said that to the best of his knowledge, "instruments with the characteristics of yours (stamp etc.) were made ca. 1890s to 1905."
Which puts my instrument's original manufacture date somewhere between 1890 and 1905. Obviously it's been maintained since then, but this is probably an accurate dating of most of its components.

"Who Was that Masked Man?"

(Many thanks to Neil Wayne for letting me quote his research!)

The earliest days of Charlie Jeffries are somewhat of a mystery. He does not appear to have been an ex-Wheatstone man, but a "new" maker, based in the West end of London, in and around Kilburn and Paddington. According to Henry Joseph "Harry" Crabb, interviewed in the early 1970's,

"Charlie Jeffery (sic) was a tinker in the 1870's who used to go round with a barrow mending pots and pans. When he didn't get any tinkers' work, he used to busk on the concertina: People would say 'we like that, can you get us one made?' -- so that's how he got started. He came to my grandfather (John Crabb, 1831-1908) for making them, then he eventually started assembling them himself. My grandfather used to make the parts and he had somebody else to make the reeds. Gradually he accumulated enough knowledge to do it himself."

This is confirmed by Tommy Williams, a Lachenal employee who knew Charles Jeffries and his sons in the 1920's --

"Charlie Jeffries -- he used to be a tinker -- had never been taught anything, most extraordinary, as he turned out the finest anglos, an instrument that no other maker could equal. He used the hardest steel, and very solid construction. It was Harry Crabb's grandfather who made them for Jeffries -- he done the woodwork -- but later on, the first Charlie Jeffries became independent. There was four sons -- the last one dies some time back, and the ones he turned out was shocking!"

His eldest son was also named Charles, and there were sons William and Tom Jeffries also in the business.


Web-hackers may be amused to hear that I shot most of the pictures on this page the cheap way: I just put the 'tina on top of a flatbed scanner and let the computer look at it directly. There are a few odd shadows as a result, but I saved both time and cash by not going through traditional film. It's surprising just how good the depth of field of a scanner can be!
Walkabout Webmaster: Joe Kesselman / (sic!)