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#1 kevin toner

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 08:59 AM

When it strikes it can make the buttons feel tacky and needs to be cleaned off to resume playing!

What do you do to keep [metal] buttons clean from finger grease/oil/perspiration build ups?

I have a 56 key Aeola with nickel plated ends with silver(?) capped buttons. I am playing frequently at present and have noticed that a slight build up occurs after around 2 hours of playing. The leather also gets tacky if not cleaned every now and again.

I used to use alcohol swabs, but found these to be tedious and of little help, needing to go through lots.

I have since been cleaning with mild soap, making sure there are no drips before applying and this means I wash my hands at same time as instrument every 2 hours or so, trusting that I’m doing the right thing. I make sure I put little lateral strain on the buttons in order to minimise the wear and tear that I know I'm causing from playing - I've been having to make the odd internal adjustment too to stop some buttons sticking recently and hoping that this has not been caused by a combination of playing method and cleaning. [off the subject: I know I'll have to have an overhaul at some point even although the instrument is sounding fantastic thanks to Dipper&Co's last service for Danny my Granddad during the 80s. I'm learning/practising advanced sheet music (phrasing, bass and treble clef too) for various 1930s song standards, which can cause strain on the keys en-route to finding the best fall into place fingering to suit. Once the song is learned/familiarised there is little strain then put on the instrument - would be good to have a separate practice instrument for such cases perhaps.]

After a google, I sourced the following words or products: unscented lanolin; light paraffin grease; goo gone; silver polish cloth, but these may not be a great substitute for my [mild soaping] solution.

Also, here’s what the Nick Rail Music website says on trumpet cleaning:

“Cleaning and Polishing the Outside

Just use a clean dry cloth to keep the outside of the instrument clean. There are lacquer polish cloths available that are okay to use which are treated with a wax that cleans and shines and won't hurt the finish of the trumpet. If you are careful, you can also spray a polish such as Pledge&#reg; lightly on a cloth and then use the cloth to polish and remove any stubborn stains on the body of the horn.

If the instrument is silver-plated instead of brass-lacquered, you can use a silver polish cloth to keep the outside shiny. Before you polish a silver horn, especially if you haven't given it a bath recently, take the time to wipe the outside off with a cloth lightly dampened with rubbing alcohol. This removes the oils of the perspiration from your hands and any dirt that might be on the surface and makes the actual polishing go a lot quicker.”


I am fairly satisfied with my routine now, but do look forward to hearing about any other such experiences suggestions thoughts or recommendations!

Kevin
Ps I use a Belvoir tack cleaner wipe on the leather every 3 months or so when I feel it's due. I'd probably be less sparing with them if they were cheaper.

#2 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 02:34 PM

The button caps of a Wheatstone Aeola are (usually) made of Nickel Silver although having said that I have one Wheatstone that makes the tips of my fingers black after a little playing whcih could suggest Silver tips to the buttons.My other Wheatstones and almost every other one I have played do not have that reaction, with me.

I have never had your problem, even after playing all day except when the weather is very hot and I get sweaty or I have got sticky fingers caused by such things as Beer.

Your problem sounds unusual and I wonder if the "residue build up" is due to a reaction between you and the instrument. Some people are more acidic in their skin secretions and this can cause rapid tarnishing of some metals. Perhaps it is possible that a very rapid tarnishing could cause verdigris but I would not think so.


I would suggest that instead of a "silver polish cloth" you could obtain a Brass polishing cloth which would do a better job on the Nickel Silver. Other than that a rubbing-alchohol on a cloth sounds sensible. You could also try a Barrier Cream on your hands if you suspect it is a reaction between you and the Concertina.

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 17 January 2012 - 02:38 PM.


#3 Theo

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 02:49 PM

After a google, I sourced the following words or products: unscented lanolin; light paraffin grease; goo gone; silver polish cloth, but these may not be a great substitute for my [mild soaping] solution.


Never apply anything like lanolin, paraffin grease or any other oily or greasy material to the concertina.

If the concertina is one that has been in use for many years since it's last overhaul it may be that the buttons and bushings are loaded with dirt from years of playing. In that case it will need to be taken apart, bushings replaced, and buttons cleaned and polished.

#4 Dirge

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 04:08 PM

I also have hardly any trouble here. A couple of times a damp cloth to scrub between the keys, but not for a long time now, so I'd be ready to believe Theo's theory of clogged filthy bushings needing replacement. If it's right they've probably got some grit in there that will wear the buttons too.

I didn't see if your 'box has wood ends but I'd be wary of alcohol if so; if they're french polished as I'd guess the alcohol will dissolve the polish.

#5 kevin toner

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 06:16 PM

Excellent 3 replies,

Thank you so much!

I should point out that what dirt or sweat or grease is there is practically invisible, but when the slightest trace of tack is felt it puts you off - I'm glad none of you have had this trouble. I also wanted to say that I sweat much less than the average person, but miss going to gym to increase this quality even further as that might lessen sweat if it's an issue. That said, and adding sweat into the discussion, my hands are getting a fair work out in order to play the pianist not concertinist in terms of playing what is on the sheet music to the tee, which is my fault for choosing to go in that direction. Perhaps climbing exercise, if any, is called for, as it's quite a strain on the hand muscles.

However, back to the main issues again:

Dirge, it's OK they're nickel plated ends, though I'm glad you've made that point for those owning wooden ends.

Theo, there's indeed greater darkness on the sides, albeit almost unnoticeable. I think it is possible that the grease may be tracking up from the bushings if they're dirty, thanks for saying so, I used to think the tackiness was travelling from the leather thumb straps due to long periods of skin contact with these, but now I'm not sure what gets tackier first between the thumb straps or the odd button - my soaping regime as I said tides me over for long periods of playing before it appears.

Geoff, again, excellent diagnostics! Yes, beer would indeed cause the same effect except much worse, as what I've been experiencing is much more subtle. I will try the brass version polishing cloth and/or the rubbing-alcohol with cloth as either of these may beat the soap routine! As mentioned above, it's not a great deal of residue, but merely enough of a trace that occurs to distract playing. I will certainly not rule out your suggestion of skin reactions albeit decades of dirt build up as suggested by Theo is likely to be a prime suspect in my case - I have not yet said that Danny was a smoker of thick black X tobacco. However, there was never any obvious sign or effect on the instrument as it had always looked very clean, especially after the overhaul, and nor did any of his very long hand-shakes during party get togethers ever yield anything but pure dryness, that's not to say that the smoke at parties (and from his own pipe smoking in general) might have got into the instrument and lingered in between the parts.

Perhaps previous smoke and an accumulative subsequent build up of minute levels of sweat might help explain why [if] the bushels are finally transferring any tackiness up the buttons where it can be felt and possibly spread during playing. I am inclined to overrule that the slight tackiness, when it arises, is from me as it seems to occur only on a certain button or maybe 2 to start with - I have't been observant enough yet to know whether or not it occurs to particular buttons.

Again, many thanks for sharing your thoughts and advice. I hope to report back on the thread if more comes to light in the future.

Kevin

#6 kevin toner

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 07:05 PM

Geoff,

The 1915 Wheatstone catalogue does say "silver keys", but I'm inclined to believe, going on most of your description, that they are likely to be nickel silver.

I know what you mean by blackening finger tips after playing [you say on silver] over a long practice session. It's happened to me on my Wheatstone, but it was in fact a once off over a couple of days or so. Funnily this happened when I played guitar as frequently as concertina a couple of years ago, but it hasn't happened since and it may be to do with avoiding the guitar, which I have wanted to do anyway to refrain from hard fingertips on the one side and so I can concentrate on the one instrument.

I can't explain why the blackened fingertips during that certain period would occur with nickel silver buttons too. During this time, I noticed a bluish blackening of the water rinsing off my hands and had thought that it was something my hands had soaked up or had absorbed as it wouldn't rinse away straight off. My other theory that I can offer is that it might have been caused by the build up of leather dirt in tandem with not ever cleaning the instrument and therefore perhaps taking its toll by tracking onto the hands. I can't remember now but it might have been this that got me onto the Belvoir Tack wipes for the leather and for keeping my instrument clean – or cleaning one's act up one might say!

So that's 2 theories from my experience, but they probably won't apply to yours.

Kevin

#7 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 03:27 AM

Ah Ha ! The heavy Tobacco smoke could be the cause of much stickiness. I vividly recall being asked to tune a Concertina that had so much Tar on the reeds, from constant use in smoke filled Bars that many notes were flat of pitch. I scraped off this residue and all was back in tune. This could account for the greasy Bellows too.

I find that certain buttons on my Englishes need to be fingered at such an angle, sometimes at about 30° to horizontal, when playing complex or extended chords. If you feel that you are causing too much lateral stress on the buttons this could indicate that certain notes have badly worn Bushes; you might sense the button moving side ways. I would definately concur with Theo that you should get your Concertina 'serviced'.

The Wheatstone catalogues do say 'silver keys' but the 's' of silver is not a capital so perhaps it is just a nod to the fact that Lachenal metal keys did have Silver tips .

My blackend finger tips only occur on a pre 1900 Wheatstone, and it only takes five minutes of playing to show up, which would suggest that they made a sublte change to their button alloy on the later instruments.

#8 kevin toner

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 07:36 AM

Geoff,

Concur with you almost entirely on all your points, except Danny didn't really expose the instrument to smoke - parties were extremely occasional, i.e. post overhaul in the 80s. My Lachenal ca1896 New Model shows the signs you are highlighting - I'm scared to touch it, but I'll have to to keep it in good condition or for when I decide to focus on high pitched classical or even perhaps reels, which don't require below the fiddle range, etc.

However, I’ve finally cracked the source of the tackiness, i.e. for my particular situation with the Wheatstone.

Discussing this with you all has got me thinking and into investigating a little bit deeper to come up with the answer.

As I write this I can feel cool air around my fingers because they’ve been warmed up by 30 minutes of playing and as the heating is off, meaning around 12 deg. on average for the season. I can also feel a slight perspiration or condensation (?) on my hands alone straight after playing.

I’ve just cottoned on why I think I have seen the Salvation Army playing slow renditions of Silent Night with a cloth at hand during the freezing cold: points of contact - especially holding down notes for long durations - warms the buttons between cooling because of being a highly conductive material – and this presumably attracts the perspiration that needs to be wiped off, i.e. relative to the temperature difference between hand and instrument.

I believe the buttons that are affecting me first are the most used buttons especially when playing common extended semibreve notes depending on what piece of music I’m focussing on.

Putting the heating on won’t help unless I’m willing to fork out a grand on it along with a reliable humidifier to help protect the instrument. Count me out!

So Brass polishing cloth and the rubbing alcohol doused cloth here I come!

Kevin

Edited by kevin toner, 18 January 2012 - 07:40 AM.


#9 Alan Day

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 08:20 AM

Ah Ha ! The heavy Tobacco smoke could be the cause of much stickiness. I vividly recall being asked to tune a Concertina that had so much Tar on the reeds, from constant use in smoke filled Bars that many notes were flat of pitch. I scraped off this residue and all was back in tune. This could account for the greasy Bellows too.

I find that certain buttons on my Englishes need to be fingered at such an angle, sometimes at about 30° to horizontal, when playing complex or extended chords. If you feel that you are causing too much lateral stress on the buttons this could indicate that certain notes have badly worn Bushes; you might sense the button moving side ways. I would definately concur with Theo that you should get your Concertina 'serviced'.

The Wheatstone catalogues do say 'silver keys' but the 's' of silver is not a capital so perhaps it is just a nod to the fact that Lachenal metal keys did have Silver tips .

My blackend finger tips only occur on a pre 1900 Wheatstone, and it only takes five minutes of playing to show up, which would suggest that they made a sublte change to their button alloy on the later instruments.

Do you remember the old Black Horse days Geoff we could not even see to the end of the room for smoke.
Al

#10 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:36 AM

[quote name='Alan Day' timestamp='1326892810' post='132178
Do you remember the old Black Horse days Geoff we could not even see to the end of the room for smoke.
Al
[/quote]


Oh yes Al,

I recall those wonderfull nights at The Black Horse with the fondest of memories. The smoke, well I was one of the culprits, but the Beer was superb!
All these little pleasures we are denighed in old age.

Of course the days of the Coal fires would have blackened the insides of Concertinas, and our lungs too!

#11 Rod

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:56 AM

When it strikes it can make the buttons feel tacky and needs to be cleaned off to resume playing!

What do you do to keep [metal] buttons clean from finger grease/oil/perspiration build ups?

I have a 56 key Aeola with nickel plated ends with silver(?) capped buttons. I am playing frequently at present and have noticed that a slight build up occurs after around 2 hours of playing. The leather also gets tacky if not cleaned every now and again.

I used to use alcohol swabs, but found these to be tedious and of little help, needing to go through lots.

I have since been cleaning with mild soap, making sure there are no drips before applying and this means I wash my hands at same time as instrument every 2 hours or so, trusting that I’m doing the right thing. I make sure I put little lateral strain on the buttons in order to minimise the wear and tear that I know I'm causing from playing - I've been having to make the odd internal adjustment too to stop some buttons sticking recently and hoping that this has not been caused by a combination of playing method and cleaning. [off the subject: I know I'll have to have an overhaul at some point even although the instrument is sounding fantastic thanks to Dipper&Co's last service for Danny my Granddad during the 80s. I'm learning/practising advanced sheet music (phrasing, bass and treble clef too) for various 1930s song standards, which can cause strain on the keys en-route to finding the best fall into place fingering to suit. Once the song is learned/familiarised there is little strain then put on the instrument - would be good to have a separate practice instrument for such cases perhaps.]

After a google, I sourced the following words or products: unscented lanolin; light paraffin grease; goo gone; silver polish cloth, but these may not be a great substitute for my [mild soaping] solution.

Also, here’s what the Nick Rail Music website says on trumpet cleaning:

“Cleaning and Polishing the Outside

Just use a clean dry cloth to keep the outside of the instrument clean. There are lacquer polish cloths available that are okay to use which are treated with a wax that cleans and shines and won't hurt the finish of the trumpet. If you are careful, you can also spray a polish such as Pledge&#reg; lightly on a cloth and then use the cloth to polish and remove any stubborn stains on the body of the horn.

If the instrument is silver-plated instead of brass-lacquered, you can use a silver polish cloth to keep the outside shiny. Before you polish a silver horn, especially if you haven't given it a bath recently, take the time to wipe the outside off with a cloth lightly dampened with rubbing alcohol. This removes the oils of the perspiration from your hands and any dirt that might be on the surface and makes the actual polishing go a lot quicker.”


I am fairly satisfied with my routine now, but do look forward to hearing about any other such experiences suggestions thoughts or recommendations!

Kevin
Ps I use a Belvoir tack cleaner wipe on the leather every 3 months or so when I feel it's due. I'd probably be less sparing with them if they were cheaper.


Sticky/tacky metal buttons ? Wash and dry your hands thorougly before each session and the problem should rarely arise but if needs be gently clean the heads of the buttons thoroughly with a soft clean cloth moistened with just a little surgical spirit or white spirit. That's my proven recipe !

#12 kevin toner

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:29 PM

Rod,

Thanks for sharing that. Your remedy is almost what I'd already been doing bar the spirit! I've now already gone out and bought surgical spirit and muslin cloth to come into line with your approach, which I feel positive about. I'm hoping that no stuff is tracking from the bushel as previously suggested, i.e. until it's overhauled further down the line [I would need a spare before doing this, which may further influence this date].

I've went one step further and taken the Nick Rail cleaning advice for brass section instruments, which Geoff has concurred with. Maybe that's 2 steps further as I got both a silver cloth (for the Lachenal) and a [micro] polishing cloth for the Wheatstone's nickel silver plating. Dipper&Co. did re-plate the Wheatstone in the 80s and it still looks like it was done yesterday bar a little matting around the untouched parts of the most played area of buttons, which hopefully the polishing cloth will help reduce. As for the Lachenal, I'll let you know on the thread if I see a magical rejuvenation from using silver cloth when I get round to this within the next week or so. [postscript] Could've also said that the reason for cloths outdoors (by SA bands) in the cold would be primarily to stay dry from the increase in vapour drips caused by the breath, although I still suspect that finger perspiration will also be more noticeable in winter too.

Again, thanks for your feedback.

Kevin

#13 kevin toner

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:13 AM

Erratum:

Freudian Slip on my previous posts - Dipper&Co. should have read "C & R Dipper" [viz. Colin and Rosalie, whom I believe have recently co-developed the 'Franglo' with an excellent French player.]

Kevin

#14 kevin toner

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 06:52 AM

I've now used my new products on the Wheatstone (using a polish cloth); and the much lesser used Lachenal (using silver cloth for buttons only and polish cloth for the metal plated ends).

With the polish cloth there’s a slight improvement in the shininess of the Wheatstone although the Lachenal end plates (never re-plated) are much duller in spite of an amazing difference noticed on its buttons as follows - albeit I’m more appreciative of performance over appearance!

Despite the latter being older by approx 16 years, there’re extremely sharper tiny Kevin faces reflecting back at me on the 59 button caps [1 cap-top eroded] corroborating Geoff's point that they're genuine Silver. The [rarely played] piccolo range buttons are however slightly duller regardless of polishing effort, but still sharper than the Wheatstone's nonetheless. On the Wheatstone, which gleams in a different way, there's instead a frosted picture effect version of my face on the 56 button caps.

[off the subject: I hadn't realised how much my Wheatstone buttons had gone out off perpendicular alignment compared to the very perpendicular Lachenal buttons - I'd better get a spare Wheatstone quick-smart to have this one serviced and to spread my practising across more than one in respect of the fine instrument that I've inherited!]

Soap as previously explained Vs Surgical Spirit (or rubbing-alcohol) doused on cloth:

I've started doing the latter from the previous night and the results seem to be equally satisfactory. I'm going to stick with the latter unless it becomes apparent that I have to revert. I'll investigate the barrier cream too and will keep an eye on how I react with the Lachenal.

Kevin

#15 kevin toner

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 07:03 PM

Very much on top of things now and not even having to use the rubbing-alcohol doused cloth very much at all!

Dirge, I'm being very careful now not to make contact with the wooden part (ebony finish on the perimeter of the ends) as I thought I noticed a little more wear than usual (ie slightly worn off lacquer and stain) at the point of contact with the legs perhaps due to the contact with the alcohol - although this might be simply paranoia.

To track back to Geoff's point on approaching some buttons at 30° execution and how this may cause bushel wear, I've a further question regarding this below and wondered if it might have the following effect on buttons prone to sticking as follows.

Apologies for veering off the subject!

I'm noticing that applying lateral pressure on one button appears to move the rest of the buttons in tandem, which doesn't occur with the Lachenal, but that this is probably exacerbated when applying rotational pressure on buttons when playing - it's difficult to determine on close inspection during playing as it is such a minute movement. The movement between the internal board and the bushelled plate probably assists stick-prone buttons to stick in the following scenario i.e. when exerting rotational and/or lateral exertion on buttons - causing all buttons to shift relative to their holes due to the slack caused either by the [presumably] worn bushels and/or if the board is too loosely-fit. Whatever of these 2 things is causing this minute movement is a worry in terms of its potential effect on the lever arms over time.

While sorting out a particular bar of music in practise on the Wheatstone at present, I'm holding down 2 extended semibreves while performing an [at least] octave length glissando and noticing a sticking button within the gliss. just below one of the held semibreves. By sorting my choice of fingering, this helps me not to rotate on the semibreve while pressing on it at an angle and therefore may lessen the chance of the aforementioned board-to-plate displacement. I believe that I'm preventing this particular button from sticking by using the best fall-into-place fingering possible. This button was badly sticking earlier before I removed one of its felt washers to help.

[I've probably created a lot of initial wear by not having organised a fall-into-place fingering regime in my earlier sight-reading approach, where I settled for what ever fingering came naturally. That was also before I decided to introduce bass clef into my playing. This and the challenge of speed and the quest for comfort (ease of playing) were the reasons for rectifying my approach, which will incidentally help to reduce potential stresses on the instrument.]

The moral of the story - for me - is to mitigate lateral and/or rotational pressure on buttons. The fact that all the buttons equally move when one button is moved is probably a good sign that everything is tight on the button board, but could someone please confirm if the movement between the internal button board and the bushelled plate is a sign of bad bushel wear and/or an unacceptable level of looseness around the button board and whether or not it matters?

Kevin

Edited by kevin toner, 23 January 2012 - 07:12 PM.


#16 SteveS

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 07:14 PM

Dirge, I'm being very careful now not to make contact with the wooden part (ebony finish on the perimeter of the ends) as I thought I noticed a little more wear than usual (ie slightly worn off lacquer and stain) at the point of contact with the legs perhaps due to the contact with the alcohol - although this might be simply paranoia.

Alcohol is a solvent used in French polishing - in normal use I'd not get alcohol anywhere near a concertina.

#17 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 02:26 AM

Kevin,
I think that the Button Bushing Board of your Aeola should not be moving under lateral pressure and therefore the screws (or rivets) that hold it into place are loose. The fact that all the buttons move when sideways force is applied to one button does not only show that the board is not held firmly but must cause an amount of uncertainty of fingering.

I assume that you are using four fingers, at times, now that you are adding some Bass Clef notes.

The very first thing I would do is get that Concertina serviced.

Geoff.

#18 kevin toner

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 03:35 PM

Geoff,

Thanks, you're correct. The bushel backing plate is loose/moving.

In answer to your question - yes, very much using both the fourth fingers too. Thanks again for all your advice.

Kevin




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