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Leather dressing for bellows


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To pre-empt the usual call, don't use neatsfoot oil...

 

Use of this oil means minor repairs are sometimes not possible because new glue has difficulty adhering, consequently even a small problem can mean new bellows. It is also associated with mould.

 

Neatsfoot sounds cute and traditional, but animal fat and kerosene is probably a better description. It is made from rendered feet and shin bones of calves, often with up to 50% paraffin oil added. It was not recommended for leather because of superior preservation qualities as much as ease of application, as fats from that part of cattle have a lower melting point, making it easier to spread.

 

If the makers of your bellows are still around, ask them for advice, but a good question is, why do you think they need a dressing?

 

Chris

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I recall, very clearly, that old Harry Crabb impressed on me " do not put anything on the Bellows" i.e. any dressings, polishes, wax etc.

 

One of the main problems with Neetsfoot oil is that it lubricates the fibres of leather,sometimes to such an extent that these fibres can start to slip appart. A horrible thought, having two halves of your Concertina, one in each hand!

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Any recommendation for a dressing to keep the bellows leather soft and flexible?

Yep.
Play the instrument.

Not a joke. It's a common observation that a well-played bellows remains (or on a new instrument, becomes) more supple, while one left unplayed for a long time can become (or remain) stiff. And there's many a concertina with bellows more than 100 years old which plays excellently, yet has never had anything applied to it.

 

Note also that the leather in a good concertina bellows has a special finish (I've heard the word "lacquer" used, but I don't think it's the same sort of stuff used to lacquer wood), which is protective as well as decorative. I would expect oils, detergents, etc. to be more likely to damage the protective finish than to help in preserving the leather.

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To pre-empt the usual call, don't use neatsfoot oil...

 

 

I'll echo that. Neatsfoot oil is a dressing for leather that has to be water resistant, eg horse tack, boots. Can be very useful if you plan to play your concertina in the shower, but you would also have to find a suitable waterproofing for the wood, card, felt and metal parts.

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Didn't Dave Elliot say Meltona shoe cream?

 

I don't know about shoe polish, but I used a "natural" leather balsam, honey-based, that was good for shoes and leather jackets. My Stagi Anglo had stiff bellows when it as new, and I thought this might supple it up and keep it from cracking.

 

It was a catastrophe!

 

After a while, the bellows started collapsing on the pull, and holes developed at the corners. The leather balsam had weakened the glue that held the card stiffeners and leather of the bellows together. Repairs were unsatisfactory, because the leather didn't take the new glue properly.

 

There was a happy ending to the story: I gave up the struggle and ordered a new bellows from Concertina Connection. This improved the performance of the concertina almost beyond recognition!

 

I didn't have access to Concertina.net at that time, so nobody warned me. You have been warned!:angry:

 

Cheers,

John

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The leather balsam had weakened the glue that held the card stiffeners and leather of the bellows together. Repairs were unsatisfactory, because the leather didn't take the new glue properly.

 

Yes, the best reason not to use any kind of dressing is that it will tend to do that, especially on a traditionally-built instrument that has hide glue, or even a flour and water paste, holding the bellows together... :(

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The leather balsam had weakened the glue that held the card stiffeners and leather of the bellows together. Repairs were unsatisfactory, because the leather didn't take the new glue properly.

 

Yes, the best reason not to use any kind of dressing is that it will tend to do that, especially on a traditionally-built instrument that has hide glue, or even a flour and water paste, holding the bellows together... :(

 

In principle, I agree with everyone who has said that any kind of dressing is to be avoided. However... faced with ancient, crispy gussets, I have found that a judicious and sparing application of Connolly Hide Care cream on the inside can work miracles. The main constituent is lanolin, which, after all, was used to keep the leather in good condition while it was still on the sheep.

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I asked the same question here when I first got my concertina almost six years ago and got much the same advice as has been given in this thread. I took it and my concertina has played in very nicely without doing anything to the bellows - except brushing off the dust and, of course, playing it.

 

Geoff

Edited by Tootler
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Didn't Dave Elliot say Meltona shoe cream?

 

I don't know about shoe polish, but I used a "natural" leather balsam, honey-based, that was good for shoes and leather jackets. My Stagi Anglo had stiff bellows when it as new, and I thought this might supple it up and keep it from cracking.

 

It was a catastrophe!

 

After a while, the bellows started collapsing on the pull, and holes developed at the corners. The leather balsam had weakened the glue that held the card stiffeners and leather of the bellows together. Repairs were unsatisfactory, because the leather didn't take the new glue properly.

 

There was a happy ending to the story: I gave up the struggle and ordered a new bellows from Concertina Connection. This improved the performance of the concertina almost beyond recognition!

 

I didn't have access to Concertina.net at that time, so nobody warned me. You have been warned!:angry:

 

Cheers,

John

 

 

I don't know which brand of leather balsam you used, John - you must have been unlucky - but a certain well-known concertina maker recommended this brand to me; Belvoir Leather Balsam. It says it is made from a special blend of beeswax and lanolin to preserve, protect and nourish leather and the deep penetrative action, keeps leather in perfect condition. He applied some to the bellows on my Edeophone EC over a year ago, using a soft cloth, and they are still in perfect condition.

 

Chris

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  • 2 weeks later...

I play a circa 1850 French accordeon. I had to replace many of the gussets right away due to being cracked or split. After seeing more go after a few hours of playing I made a point to go out and find Meltona shoe cream, that exact product, and used it on the remaining gussets and leather edges. It appeared to restore a lot of life back into the dried out leather and a year later a few of the original gussets are still intact. Maybe other products would have worked but I found Meltona to be a good recommendation if you feel you need to put something on them. Dave Culgan

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