This thread is intended for folks like me: total concertina newbies who have recently gotten a Jackie from Concertina Connection. While this box has a good sound and plays easily enough, it does have some durability issues that will manifest themselves after a relatively short time. I've had mine about 2 weeks now, probably putting about 30 hours on it, and already I've had to open it up twice. I suspect that I'm not alone in this, so I'm posting this to give some confidence to those who are afraid to do their own minor repairs.
First off, check out this video by Daddy Long Les where he's got his Jackie taken apart. This will show you what's inside better than I can explain it.
Now that you're familiar with the general anatomy, here are key details:
- DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN THE SCREWS. The wood is all very soft so there's a real threat of stripping threads.
- USE THE CORRECT SIZE OF SCREWDRIVER. The screw metal is very soft so there's a real threat of wallowing out the heads if your screwdriver is the wrong size or not applied forcefully enough down into the screw.
- The concertina consists of 3 main assemblies: the central bellows and the 2 nearly identical end assemblies.
- The end assemblies are each attached to the bellows by 6 small Philips screws and washers, and come off the bellows as units
- When reassembling the ends to bellows, fasten the screws as you would the lug nuts on a car tire, in a star pattern working them all slightly tighter over several sequences. This is to make sure the end fits evenly and snugly on the bellows. Otherwise you get air leaks through the joint and the concertina won't play well or at all.
- The end assemblies consist of 2 major parts held together by 2 tiny Philips screws on the underside:
- The outer black end cap to which the strap and rest are attached
- The action, which consists of the reeds, valves, buttons, springs, and rocker arms all mounted on 1 big mass of various wood pieces all glued together.
- Just undo the 2 tiny screws enough to separate the end cap from the action, without removing the screws from the action. This helps prevent losing them.
- Without the end cap attached, the buttons are free to wobble around and have a tendency to fall off their rocker arms, have their tails come out of their holes, and otherwise not be where they should be. This makes reassembling the end cap to the action a frustrating, fiddly process, the most difficult single thing in the whole process. Fortunately, the buttons all seem to be identical so if several fall completely off, it shouldn't matter which rocker you put them back on.
- The ends of the thumb straps are held in place by a knob that screws into the edge of the end cap. To adjust the strap, unscrew and remove this knob, stick it through a different hole in the strap, and screw it back into the end cap.
- Jewelers Philips screwdrivers of several sizes
- Needlenose pliers
- Magnifying lens or glasses (depending on your eyesight)
- Lok-Tite or similar product to keep nuts on bolts
1. Straps or Rests Coming Loose
The straps and rests are attached to the end caps by tiny countersunk Philips screws with nuts and washers on the inside. These nuts tend to loosen or come off completely. When the nuts come off, they will rattle around inside the action but can be shaken out the sound holes. Be careful not to lose them.
To fix: Remove the end with the loose part from the bellows. Remove the end cap from the action. Reassemble the strap/rest fasteners using Lok-Tite. While you're in there, tighten up and apply Lok-Tite to all other strap/rest fasteners so you don't have to do this again. Getting a screwdriver on the strap screws will require unscrewing the strap-adjustment knob.
2. Stretching Straps
The thumb straps are made from some very cheap fake leather, basically a roll of vinyl with some spongy white fabric inside. This quickly stretches, especially if you play with the concertina on your knee and only move 1 end of it routinely. If you're already on the last hole provided and the strap is too loose, poke a new hole with an ice pick. You don't want or need a very big hole because the strap knob's shaft is only a couple millimeters wide.
The rocker arms can easily pivot side-to-side as well as up-and-down. Thus, when finagling the buttons into proper formation for reassembling the end cap to the action, it's possible that pushing a button sideways will push its valve the same amount in the opposite direction, which can cause the valve not to completely cover its hole. So before putting the cap back on, be sure all the valves are properly covering their holes.
Once you've managed to get the end cap back over all the buttons at once and have the action seated fully into the end cap, you can no longer see any of the action nor even the holes and valves. Therefore, before screwing the end cap back onto the action, test each button for proper springiness. If it springs back up and stays straight, then it's on its rocker arm OK and all SHOULD be well (unless you've moved a valve sideways, which you can't see). If the button has no spring, then you have to take the end cap back off and put the button back on its rocker arm.
It's a good idea to only remove 1 end assembly from the bellows at a time. This way, you can be sure you put the end back on the bellows with the same orientation as before. This is important because the screw holes don't line up if you've rotated the end assembly relative to the bellows. If you must remove both ends at once, apply some masking tape to the bellows ends where the thumb straps go, so you can properly orient the end assemblies when you put them back on. Also write on the masking tape which end is left and right.
As mentioned above, make sure there are no gaps between the end assembly and the bellows. When reattaching the end assembly, get all the screws in the end assembly until their tips are flush with the bottom of the end cap before placing the assembly on the bellows. Make sure the end cap is oriented correctly and then partially tighten all the screws in a star pattern as with lug nuts until fully seated.