Unpublished interview with Bob Tedrow  and David Knowles, Wall Street Journal writer.

1. What got you started making concertinas?

    Bad Luck?   I should have invented a new replacement heart valve or something of a more practical nature.   I have been building and tinkering with musical instruments since I was a young boy.  My departed grandmother Belle played the piano in a hot stride style, drove a 1954 MG TD and was a talented artist.  She smelled of turpentine and cookies.     I drive a 1928 Model A Ford and carry a mildly carcinogenic air of gasoline, lacquer and mahogany dust. Perhaps I can blame my  inclination to music, benchwork and wire wheels on her, but I suspect a large part of my interest in building concertinas is a mix of mild obsession and a lack of fiscal responsibility.   Than being said, the concertina is a marvelous and fascinating piece of 19th century history.   What other instrument combines reeds, springs, levers,  fancy woodwork, clever  leatherwork,  beautiful tone, lovely old time appeal and flexible musical utility with the  portability of a six pack of beer?

2. How long have you been making them?  
    I traded a violin for an old Wheatstone concertina sometime in the 80's.   The concertina had been rode hard and put away wet one too many times and was in very poor condition.  Of course I took it apart right away and did the best I could to repair the leaks in the bellows and make new pads.  I had been working as a woodwind repairman for several years at that point.    I am loathe  to report that I took every reed and spring and lever out of that concertina, soaked the evicerated remains in a bucket of water to see how the woodwork and bellows were built and recorded the dimensions of each piece as it slowly fell apart.  I used this information to build several bad concertinas.  Each concertina I built was less bad, then gradually tolerable.  After several hundred attempts and twenty years of practice, I am pleased to report my concertinas are performing reliably and musically all over the world.

3. Can you describe your philosophy as a craftsman? You mentioned not using any machines, etc.

Perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration.  I do make use of electricity to power my table saw, scroll saw, drill press, joiner etc.  I do not own computer driven cutting machines.  All the parts of a concertina, and there are hundreds of them, are assembled and adjusted by hand.  Each lever and spring is carefully balanced so that it feels positive and correct.  All the reeds must be tuned and set by hand, there are over one hundred reeds in some of my instruments.
All the fretwork in the top is cut by hand with a scroll saw.  Of course the leather bellows are built by hand.   One of the benefits of working  by hand is that I can build instruments to any dimensions or design to suit myself or a customer.  I work slowly and carefully and would no doubt be fired quickly from any factory production line.  On the other hand, I still have all my fingers.  I have managed to keep all ten of them out of harms way in the shop.  Not all woodworkers can say that.

 I build musical instruments and send them to places I will never see.  I build them to last for one hundred years.  I like to know they are in kitchens and pubs and porches all over the world.   It's also a nice way to say hello to my great great grandchildren one day.

4. Why is a concertina a good instrument buy for tough economic times? You can fudge this one.

I will say the concertina is easily learned and easily played.  To play it gives you a standing invitation to join every social circle.  It's companionship is irresistible.  For accompanying singing, its mellow harmony has so superior.  By golly.

5. How many concertinas do you make each year?

I can manage to get out maybe 24.  Not very impressive I am afraid.

6. Who are some of your clients? Any notable musicians? Or people that our readers may have heard of? If not, no worries.

Hmm.  famous concertina player is a  oxymoron.   I built an instrument for Matt Hensley of Flogging Molly,  Jeff Taylor, a Nashville studio player has used one of my instruments on some records with Ricky Scaggs.  Most  of my instruments end up in the hands of professional people between the ages of 45 and 55 who live near large bodies of water, no kidding.   I have concertinas in notable places all over the world.

7. Can you describe your opinion of Wheatstone concertinas, or other makers of note? Is there an ultimate concertina you aspire toward making?

 May I list them? Wheatstone, Dipper, Crabb, Suttner, Herrington, Morse, Marcus, Norman, Edgley,Carroll, Thomas, Johnson, Wakker.  I am deeply flattered and honored to be mentioned in the same breath as all these fine living craftpersons, who share my interest and enthusiasm for an instrument that has been played by thousands since  its invention  in the early 1800's.