The first problem I encountered was reeds that were slow to speak. Rather than return the concertina to The Music Room I sought the advice of Concertina Connection via email and received a helpful reply from Wim Wakker a couple of days later. No instructions were given for opening up the concertina so I’ll describe that now for those with no past experience. First of all use a methodical approach, keep things laid out in order and the same way up to avoid confusion when putting it back together, there’s not a lot to dismantle so there shouldn’t be a problem. There are only five main sections to this type of concertina – the bellows, two action/reed boards and two fretted ends.
Before you start make a list of the notes you need to work on and whether the problem is with push, pull or both. I put a thick towel on the kitchen table to protect the instrument and prevent it from skidding about and put the concertina on end with the top (thumb straps) away from me. Six screws fix the end onto the concertina, these are wood screws that screw into the timber of the bellows frame rather than the more usual end-bolts that screw into brass inserts. The wood screws just nick the edge of the action board on the inside before going into the bellows frame. A no.2 Phillips screwdriver is needed here, don’t use a Pozidrive because they don’t fit properly and may damage the screw head. If you don’t know the difference between the two or think it doesn’t matter, stop now, send the concertina to a repairman and buy a tin whistle to keep you amused while it’s away.
Slacken the six screws, there’s no need to remove them completely, just spin them with your fingers until there’s no resistance then carefully lift the end from the concertina and set it aside. This way all of the screws remain in the same position, it may be a little over cautious but that’s the way I like to work. You are now faced with the action board, a thin piece of plywood with a piece of MDF glued to it. The levers and buttons are mounted on the MDF. What you can’t see at this stage is that the reed banks are mounted on the back of this board projecting down into the bellows. Carefully lift the action board straight up away from the bellows, because I’m me I pencilled a small arrow on the top of the action board and a similar mark inside the bellows frame to avoid silly mistakes when reassembling. The first thing you’ll notice is that the buttons are much harder to identify now that the end has gone and they’ve flopped all over the place! If only I’d thought to write ‘2nd row third from left’ instead of ‘A’! The following paragraph is a direct quote from the email.
Locate the aluminium plate that corresponds with the button. You’ll see a steel reed and a foil valve on each plate. The visible steel reed is for ‘push’, and the reed underneath the valve is for ‘pull’.
You can adjust the gap at the tip of the reed a little to prevent it from choking. If the problem is with the ‘push’ reed, pull the tip of the visible reed up a little (ca. 0.5mm) if it is a ‘pull’ reed push the tip (with a small screwdriver) of the reed behind the valve down a little. Repeat until corrected.
The points I would add to this are:
Be careful lifting the ‘foil’ valves, it’s a plastic foil and looks as if it may kink easily, lift it, don’t fold it back!
The reeds are spring steel and require a little more force than you may think to adjust. Move the reed tip gently and examine the position, if there’s no visible difference repeat using slightly more force and check it again. When you are satisfied that a slight adjustment has been made move on to the next reed, when they have all been adjusted reassemble the concertina and test it. Note any remaining problems and repeat the whole process until all is well.
Do not over-tighten the end-screws, I tighten them with my fingertips on the shank of the screwdriver rather than gripping the handle, no more than a quarter of a turn after all slack has been taken up. Tighten the screws sequentially in diagonal opposites, rather like cylinder head bolts.
My final point is that I’m no expert at this and will be happy if someone with more experience steps in to correct any mistakes I’ve made.
edited to include the recently released Elise Hayden Duet to the top of the post (cheers ragtimer!)
Edited by tallship, 27 July 2009 - 12:57 PM.