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What is this and how should I take care of it?


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Greetings! I know this is not a concertina, but I saw something very similar posted here once under a discussion of a "flutina" and I seemed to me that the folks here would likely be able to identify this instrument that I inherited, and give me some sense of its rarity and so on. There is a little missing veneer on the bottom, and I have two pads that have fallen off. You can see in the images I've attached that several of the pearl keys have come off, and there is a missing nail on one of the odd sliding keys (they seem to be drones) on the sides of the keyboard. It still plays, though I recognize that I shouldn't really be doing that. It has a reed setup like a harmonica, where the compression stroke gives you the tonic notes, and the expansion gives you the dominant. I am certain there is an official term for that, and my inability to use it reveals my ignorance, alas.

 

I wonder whether I should reattach the pearl keys and pads (use a dab of Titebond, or hide glue?), and replace the missing brass nail with an equivalent. I'm a string musician, and have built and restored stringed instruments, but I hesitate to do anything to this since it is in near-mint original condition. It sure seems to be in good condition for something this old. I appreciate any information or advice...thanks!, Paul

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I use the term old French accordeon, but find that most people refer to them as flutinas. The way I understand it at one time, when these instruments were current, the ones that had the pallets enclosed in the casework were commonly called flutina (contraction of flute and concertina maybe) based on the tone, but that the manufacturers never labeled them such. Accordeon melodique, or accordeon diatonique maybe. I try to use appropriate materials for working on mine, and I suppose hot hide glue would be what was used to hold the pearl key tops to the wood. I had trouble with the glue joints though, I couldn't really open them up to clean them up before gluing and several of the hide glued ones failed after a few hours of playing. These i have reglued with titebond and none have come loose.

 

I don't think these are that rare since I see them for sale on ebay all the time. What seems to be rare is anyone playing them much. From the numerous mentions in 19th cent. books, periodicals, etc. they must have been very popular in their day. It is probably a little rare to find a survivor in good enough condition to be played for hours on end without having some issues with the bellows. Mine came cheap from ebay in more or less playable condition after freeing up a few non-speaking reeds and gluing the key tops. With playing time though came the need for bellows repairs, particularly the diamond gussets in the bellows corners. I had to learn to repair these to keep mine as a player. You mention that the action re. push and pull is the opposite from other melodeons. Maybe this is why they are not played as much. I had started to learn to play an old melodeon that I had but stopped playing it when I started playing this French accordeon because I realized I couldn't handle both systems and would be forever confused.

 

If you are into playing it fix it up a little. Get the drones working, they really fill out the sound and give it a unique voice. I took some general advice I found here re. using a product called Meltona shoe cream to feed some moisture into dried out leather in the bellow's gussets and top runs. That seemed to be a good thing and had I done it sooner I might not have lot as many gussets to tearing. As I play out more and more I run into folks that mention that they have one, or more of these in their collection, but I've only met a few that say they play them at all.

 

For technical advice re. reeds, valves, bellows, etc. I think you may be better off here than at melodeon.net, these accordeons have much in common with concertinas. I'm by no means an expert and in fact a rank beginner when it comes to free reed instruments but congratulations on your inheritance. I must say that I really love playing mine and learning new tunes and songs, coming from a strings only playing experience, I find the sound of the brass reeds intoxicating and amazed that I can play a musical instrument this old. I do fear that someday I will pull it into pieces but in the meantime I'm really enjoying the ride. Dave C.

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Dave C--

 

Thanks for your suggestions. I was worried about those gussets, which at the moment seem to be in great shape, but I think that wouldn't be the case if I started playing this much. I appreciate the inspiration to get it into solid condition, which I intend to do. Thanks again...Paul

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