Down-wires

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Down-wires

Postby TerryMcGee on Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:39 pm

Hi all

Interested in hearing opinions on the perceived merits or otherwise of various down-wire materials. I'm aware of solid stainless-steel rod (or, if you prefer the term, wire), flexible stainless-steel multi-strand cable, and carbon-fibre rod or tube. Perhaps there are other contenders? What do we like, or dislike, and why?

Terry
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Re: Down-wires

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:18 am

I have encountered all three. One of the big problems with most down wires is extraneous movement, effectively shortening the wire. In my experience, the worst from that point of view is the flexible, multi-strand cable. Particularly when playing a trill or tremolando that involves an acceleration as you play it, at some point you will hit that point that makes the wires jump way out of line. The braided cable is easy to install, though not necessarily so easy for somebody onsite to repair. That, for me, eliminates that choice. I have seen some really terrible examples, in once case with the cables visibly flapping all over even in the playing cabin. Ridiculous!

In some situations, we are stuck with long vertical runs to the top tier of the frame. That is a particularly nasty problem when the trebles have been placed at the top of the frame. They are the most sensitive to the "drag" introduced by the mass of long wires. In that application, carbon fibre rods provide the best answer. They also can slop around at times, but nowhere near as much as braided cable. It is critical, however, that somewhere along the line there must be a connection that allows some play. Many carillonneurs use a technique that relies on some "play" at the bottom of the stroke, and if all the connections are rigid, you run the risk either of the note not sounding at all or holding the clapper fast to the bell. The first (so far as I know) carbon fibre setup was Chambery (Paccard), and they discovered that problem. By making one connection allowing play, right where the horizontal wire connects to the clapper, they solved that problem. Berea College (a Verdin installation using carbon fibre rods), all the connections are rigid, and at the 2003 GCNA congress, I heard several players mash or deaden notes because of that. (My particular technique involves a close adjustment, and making a point to get right off, so I don't have problems with that carillon.) I do have one reservation, though: the connected depends on the hardware at the ends (where it connects to other parts) being fixed with epoxy glue. If something strips or breaks, there is no such thing as a quick emergency fix! You need a whole new rod and hardware, and conditions that are "just so" for the epoxy to set.

I have seen one carillon where hollow but rigid aluminum tubes were used from turnbuckle to umbrella. The tended to bend, and also made a bit of their own noise. Forget that answer, and it wouldn't be practical to do a long run with that.

That leaves solid wire. That can work well if it has enough wire guides and is a stiff enough grade of wire. There is also the issue of joints where wires are hooked together. Percival Price pioneered putting in rigid connections - a sleeve with two setscrews. You fed the straight end of the two wires in, and tightened the setscrews. More recently, Gideon Bodden has done something similar, also using heavier grade of wire, 4mm (about a #7 wire in US standards). In his connection, the horizontal connection is done with a synthetic braided material called Dyneema, which is pliable but does not set up a vibration. That works very well, and on carillons where he's applied it, makes the trebles ring out noticeably better than before. If I were ordering a new carillon, that is what I would request.

I look forward to seeing what others say!
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Re: Down-wires

Postby TerryMcGee on Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:46 pm

Woah, thanks for the very fulsome response, John. Like you, I'd be keen to hear from others. As we know, carillons vary enormously, and differing situations may call for different solutions. It's good to be able to discern the underlying principles, AND discern how much influence they are having in different circumstances.

John is clearly not happy with flexible cable, which is what we have at Canberra and Sydney. I'm very interested to hear more views in favour or against that option.

I take John's point about repairing carbon fibre if a breakage occurs. Anyone with a lot of experience with carbon fibre down-wires able to tell us whether that is a real issue or is breakage something that doesn't actually happen? The weight saving is certainly impressive, about 1/6th of the weight of stainless steel. Any idea what diameter tubing is typically used? Tubing or rod? I imagine if tubing is used, joining lengths would be as simple as gluing in a dowel of the same stuff at the joints? And if rod, gluing the two ends into a carbon fibre sleeve?

John, with Percival Price's approach, the sleeve with two set screws, am I right in assuming the two sections of wire end up end-to-end, rather than side-by-side for a bit? Otherwise I'd imagine you could just overlap the ends and put on a pair of swage fittings. Percival's aim, I imagine, is to keep the forces in line rather than to encourage flexing?

Terry
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Re: Down-wires

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:07 pm

What I have seen at Berea and Chambery (Verdin and Paccard, respectively) was carbon fibre rod, not tubing. IT was maybe (guessing - not measured) 3/16 of an inch, maybe more.

I never had a conversation with Percival about his intentions on those linkings. That was what was in place (now long gone) when I was a student at Michigan. The wires were end-to-end, yes. I would guess that the intention was to eliminate the sloppiness of the overlapping loops, as wire guides still addressed keeping them straight up and down. (I don't see any way to avoid those, despite the drag they inevitably introduce.)

This actually opens another can of worms! There are a couple of alternative forms of transmission that eliminate nearly all the mass from the action, one of which involves braided cables passing over pulleys. The ones I've played on are *awful!* I like having a bit of weight to "throw," and in fact rely on being able to get a key to follow through on its own once I've started it for rapid playing, loud and soft. The pulley & cable actions I've run into don't do that well at all. (They also just feel cheap!)
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Re: Down-wires

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:15 pm

One of my consulting jobs was the La Porte carillon (2004 Petit & Fritsen). P&F seemed to want to use flexible cabling for down wires. I insisted on solid wire. When installing, though, they wired three notes (not near each other, scattered) with cables to see if I could tell, and what I thought. I identified one correctly, but it wasn't easy to tell. Once they did tell me, I had an interesting experience with them. That carillon is beautifully engineered, and the cables weren't causing problems there the way the other cases I describe do. The most apparent difference is that the cables "softened" the sensation at the key of what is happening at the clapper. With a solid wire, I am aware of the behavior of the clapper as it contacts the bell, which helps me control soft playing, as well as tremolos and trills. The braided cables seemed to absorb or suppress that nuance, so I couldn't get the same level of control. Incidentally, that sensation is also very helpful when adjusting turnbuckles.

I do know that when I was discussing the carbon fibre rods with Philippe Paccard, I mentioned my concern about the difficulty of repairing them, and at the time he agreed with me about that. On one of their jobs (Concord College, Athens, West Virgina) they had a problem with a couple of those connections coming undone, so Philippe had them re-do all of those. So far as I know, they have held ever since, but again, if something happens, you are *really* out of luck!

So, from my point of view, the carbon fibre rods are an excellent solution when the carillon design is faulty, with too-long vertical connections needed, but (and this overlaps with your other question) if the trebles are no more than 10 feet above the belfry floor, and the highest part of the frame is no more than maybe 25 feet (therefore no more than 20 feet of down wire length to the floor of the belfry), you don't need carbon fibre rods. I'd be interested, though, to hear from others. I know Paccard was convinced that that was a superior solution, and made that a pre-requisite for using their pneumatic automatic player system (which acts on the keys of the console, rather than involving additional hammers). Paccards also share my opinion about putting the treble bells close to the console!
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Re: Down-wires

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:20 pm

Oh, the joints - not sure what Verdin did, but Paccard drilled the ends of the rods, and glued in metal parts that were threaded. Other connections then screwed into those threads. They made all the rods to size, so there were no joints from one rod to another. I think the latter was the same at Berea also.
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Re: Down-wires

Postby TerryMcGee on Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:48 am

I am contemplating an experiment at Canberra - replacing some number of the flexible cables with stiff wire to gauge the carillonists' reactions. If you were to contemplate such an experiment, how many wires would you change? Would it be enough to swap just one to see if it has promise? If so, which one? Or, say a mid treble, a tenor and a bass? Or do you think to do a fair test you would need to do more? Would it be better to have a small group, say five adjacent notes, or more telling to space them out across the clavier?

How would you brief the carillonists - are there potential differences you'd want to draw to their attention, or should they simply go about their business and see how it impacts them?

Thoughts?

Terry
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Re: Down-wires

Postby FrancesNewell on Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:53 pm

If you're going to use stiffer wire, I would suggest 5 adjacent notes in the upper range first.
Hopefully, your carillonneur would still be able to play a smooth line after they adjust to the difference.
Please warn them! Give them a chance to pick a piece that they'd be willing to take a risk with.
Then you can get their reactions!
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Re: Down-wires

Postby TerryMcGee on Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:36 am

Warn them? Where's the fun in that?

Oh, OK, if I don't want to be found floating face-down in Lake Burley Griffin, bound with flexible down-wires and weighted down with old counterweights!

Thanks for the suggestion, Frances. Any other suggestions?

Terry
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Re: Down-wires

Postby JohnGouwens on Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:48 pm

I disagree! Do not warn them. I think you'd need to change several, so you can factor out the other variables from note to note. I'd put them in a range that is played a lot - and have some larger and some smaller. Six should do the trick. I'd favor "white key" notes that get more use. From the second octave (well, OK, at Canberra, the top of the second octave), e, f, and g (above "middle c") and in the next octave (second-highest), f, g, and a. Leave it for a couple of weeks, THEN tell them you changed some, and ask if they can tell which ones without looking. You can even give them a clue about it being white-key notes in the middle two octaves. If they can't tell, THEN tell them which ones, and try to get their honest reaction. They really should test these with trills and tremolandi, by the way, as that's where the flexible cable is least effective.
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