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Concertina repair scope


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I’ve been interested in concertinas for ITM and folk music accompaniment for some time, and have recently “taken the plunge” with the purchase of a Hohner D-40. Trying to plan ahead, and beginning to notice some of the limitations in the D-40 (though I’m sure it still has plenty to teach me), I’ve been searching for an alternative and finally located an antique 30 button (un-named, but most likely a budget Latchenal). Unfortunately this instrument is in rather poor condition and most likely in need of significant repair before being able to be used. While waiting for shipment I have taken the step of purchasing Elliot’s repair text and searching the internet for information on concertina repairs in the hope that I will be able to do some of the renovation myself. I’m pretty handy, have a decent selection of tools to work with, and have successfully reclaimed a handful of antique wooden simple system flutes to date.

 

I have a couple of questions to pose to the experienced renovators to avoid going down the wrong path:

 

As a rank beginning player, should I even be considering making repairs given that I’m not completely sure what the end product is supposed to behave like?

 

The concertina I have on the way (see pictures below) appears to have significant damage to the ends. Would it make sense to attempt to repair these, or should they just be remanufactured and replaced in kind?

 

After initial inspection, should I attempt to do some of the simpler repairs myself, and then pass on the box to someone more knowledgeable for the fine work of bellows, springs, tuning, pads… or would it make more sense to just send it off for everything? Needless to say I’m trying to be economical. If I had the wherewithal I would have just purchased a good modern hybrid.

 

I know it isn’t really possible to give a repair estimate from a picture, but is there a general order of magnitude for the cost of overall repair of an Anglo in this poor condition (assuming reeds are at least all still there and no woodworm or destroyed reed plate)?

 

Are there any specific newbie concertina restorer mistakes to avoid doing (aside from trying to clean the bellows with solvents and the like, or losing track of which endplate screw is which)?

 

 

 

Thanks in advance for any advice.

 

 

 

 

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Just to give you some encouragement before true experts chime in, this concertina looks like a perfect one on which to learn a few maintenance skills. If you are "handy" or are willing to learn none of this is beyond your ken. Everyone here started somewhere, most without Dave Elliott's book to hold their hand. You will get good advice here, have a go...

 

Chris

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Coming from another rank amateur at reed instrument repair I would say go for it. You will in time find out what you are capable of and what might be a stretch. I have been thoroughly enjoying playing a 150 year old instrument that I bought quite cheap on ebay. Although not in bad condition I had to make some bellows, valve, and reed repairs right away just to be able to play it and a few more over the past year and a half I've been playing it. I'd say I was successful in that I am now enjoying the instrument and I have better idea of what I can do. Make a reed from scratch - probably not. Improve the tuning a bit - done that. Replace bellows gussets - my repair is not real pretty but it is functional. I made the determination right away based on what I saw on ebay that my instrument was not particularly rare, or valuable, and this lessened apprehension I felt about doing harm. One thing I have tried to do "right" is using appropriate materials and glues (hot hide and shellac) and I suppose all of my repairs are reversible, though I can't see anyone ever caring enough to do so. Good luck. And Meltonian shoe cream - good stuff!

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One of the most scary things for me was imagining how I could ever make a bellows. Then I came across Bob Tedrow's marvellous instructions on that topic MHere's a link.

 

I think you couldn't go far wrong if you had a go at that and made yourself some tuning bellows, as I did. Then you can take a few reed frames out of your instrument and have a go at tuning them. (Start with the notes you're least likely to use :D )

 

Then, I reckon, another cost saving exercise would be to make some pads and see how easy it is! Finding good, dense felt has been the most difficult thing. Make a sandwich of thin acid free mount board, dense, thin felt and thin, smooth leather. I first used spray adhesive, which doesn't saturate the felt. Then get yourself a 15mm wad punch (loads on ebay) and a hammer, and a piece of hardwood and start whacking out your pads.

 

The one thing I've found from these amazing people on the forum is that there are so many different ways of doing things and the best method is whatever you find to be the best method. I got very hung up on the "right way", the "right glues", the "right materials" but, providing you are true to yourself and your own conscience, I don't think you can go far wrong.

 

All you need is some expert advice, and there's plenty here, and a large pinch of salt!

 

Go for it, and good luck.

Andrew

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Thank you all so much for the extensive and heartfelt advice. After reading the encouraging posts here, and getting David Elliott's excellent book, I'm feeling a bit more confident regarding essaying the repairs to the instrument. As a mechanical engineer I appreciate the complex, elegant mechanisms that makeup a concertina (though on the other hand, I can't help wondering about the potential for things like teflon ball and socket joints and 4-bar linkages...). Rest assured, my plan is to attempt to repair in kind as much as possible.

 

After looking at David's book, I can also see the relative elegance of the English system's mechanism in relation to the Anglo. The radial pattern and relatively equal length levers certainly make more sense to me from a design standpoint. However, the general impression I have gotten from a variety of sources is that an Anglo is more appropriate for the type of music I am looking to play. So it goes.

 

I think I have most, if not all, of the tools necessary to work on the concertina, but will certainly need to source replacements for pad material, gusseting, felt and the like. I do have a pretty complete set of wad punches, so the tip about self manufacture of pads is much appreciated.

 

My concertina is due to arrive tomorrow. Needless to say I'm pretty excited. I'll probably post here again asking for help as new questions come up during restoration. Thanks again for everyone's assistance.

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Got the concertina today. On the plus side, and there is just barely a plus side, there is a Lachenal style number on it (152236) which puts it in the early 1900's, and I don't see any evidence of woodworm (so far). On the negative side, the handles don't say "steel", so most likely brass reeds, the bellows move a small amount, but seem to be frozen open. Poor repairs have been made to a couple of the bellows gussets, and the wrapping around the bellows end connection with vinyl electricians tape, I can only loosen 5 of the 6 end screws on one side and 4 of the 6 on the other, so taking the ends off to repair is difficult. The fretwork is badly damaged, and the action boxes and pad board are sprung. May have bitten off more than I can chew on this one :(

 

We also just got a rescue puppy, so am a bit distracted with that as well.

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Got the concertina today. On the plus side, and there is just barely a plus side, there is a Lachenal style number on it (152236) which puts it in the early 1900's, and I don't see any evidence of woodworm (so far). On the negative side, the handles don't say "steel", so most likely brass reeds, the bellows move a small amount, but seem to be frozen open. Poor repairs have been made to a couple of the bellows gussets, and the wrapping around the bellows end connection with vinyl electricians tape, I can only loosen 5 of the 6 end screws on one side and 4 of the 6 on the other, so taking the ends off to repair is difficult. The fretwork is badly damaged, and the action boxes and pad board are sprung. May have bitten off more than I can chew on this one :(

It doesn't seem so bad - believe me I've seen worse. There do appear to be quite a few jobs to do to bring it back to playing order.

IMO just take a methodical approach to all of the jobs that need to be done, don't rush and resist the temptation to dive in, and ask on this forum for help - there's loads of accumulated experience here.

I'd suggest make a list of all of the jobs you feel need to be done. Keep this list in mind for a few weeks, and the tasks won't seem so overwhelming - in your mind you'll eventually figure out how and which order to work on them.

Edited by SteveS
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Finally got the right hand side open. Did end up breaking off the head of one endbolt, but I don't suppose this will be completely impossible to replace. Are they ever just screwed directly into the wood? I don't see any kind of end bolt nut at all, though the end bolts do show signs of being screwed into some kind of brass nut (perhaps below the surface of the bellows frame?). Fortunately I was able to remove the headless end bolt, so at least I have a pattern to work from if I'm going to try to remachine one. End bolts themselves appear to be steel, not brass. Is that typical, or perhaps they are nickel silver???

 

Vinyl tape made it tough to remove the padboard, but once that was taken off it wasn't too hard to lever it off. The good news now is that I have STEEL REEDS :D in screwed on brass shoes (typical Lachenal style hook and post mechanism as well). The bad news is that one pair is missing :angry: . That is going to be tricky to replace. Counting keys it appears that the two reeds missing are for the last key on the second row (E/B ). Coincidentaly there is a pad missing from this location as well, but I doubt that the previous restorer would have removed the reeds for that reason, as the open holes would have worked like an open air valve. Can't honestly imagine why they would have been removed,but guess that is something else to add to the list.

 

All pads and valves are shot (only to be expected I guess), but so far springs are still good. Quite a bit of slop in the holes the keys fit into in the padboard, but none broken so far either. IF I can get the face reassembled I am considering bushing all the keys as well. Also reedpan has a fairly profound dish to it, but I would guess that is the result of pressure over the years on a thin piece of wood supported only on the edges?

 

Rather daunting project so far. Think the first order of business is going to be repair to the main cabinetry. Appears that virtually all glue joints have given up the ghost. Not sure whether the face will be repairable. Since it isn't particularly nice wood, perhaps I should think about replacing it altogether?

 

One small piece of vinyl tape on the inside fold of the bellows as well. Clearly someone has been inside this box since it was built. Mr Google says that vinyl tape came out in 1946, so the repairs must postdate this at least.

 

Sorry of the long post. If you have read this far I applaud your patience.

Edited by Latticino
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May have bitten off more than I can chew on this one :(

 

We also just got a rescue puppy, so am a bit distracted with that as well.

I'm sure the puppy would be happy to help you with the chewing.
;)

 

She is 8-weeks old, and bidding fair to be a great chewer indeed. Rescue dog, so no real idea of what kind of mixed breed, though foster caregivers said Rat terrier and bulldog mix...

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Finally got the right hand side open. Did end up breaking off the head of one endbolt, but I don't suppose this will be completely impossible to replace. Are they ever just screwed directly into the wood? I don't see any kind of end bolt nut at all, though the end bolts do show signs of being screwed into some kind of brass nut (perhaps below the surface of the bellows frame?). Fortunately I was able to remove the headless end bolt, so at least I have a pattern to work from if I'm going to try to remachine one. End bolts themselves appear to be steel, not brass. Is that typical, or perhaps they are nickel silver???

Steel end bolts - threads have rusted making them difficult to remove from the brass receiver plates. I've seen bolts screwed directly into the wood of the bellows frame on some cheaper instruments. Brass receiver plates can be located flush on the rim of the bellows frame or in a slot cut into the bellows frame.

 

Vinyl tape made it tough to remove the padboard, but once that was taken off it wasn't too hard to lever it off. The good news now is that I have STEEL REEDS :D in screwed on brass shoes (typical Lachenal style hook and post mechanism as well). The bad news is that one pair is missing :angry: . That is going to be tricky to replace. Counting keys it appears that the two reeds missing are for the last key on the second row (E/B ). Coincidentaly there is a pad missing from this location as well, but I doubt that the previous restorer would have removed the reeds for that reason, as the open holes would have worked like an open air valve. Can't honestly imagine why they would have been removed,but guess that is something else to add to the list.

Strange that someone would bother to open it up and leave reeds out - unless they were planning to replace them. Recovered reeds may be had from repairer suppliers.

 

All pads and valves are shot (only to be expected I guess), but so far springs are still good. Quite a bit of slop in the holes the keys fit into in the padboard, but none broken so far either. IF I can get the face reassembled I am considering bushing all the keys as well. Also reedpan has a fairly profound dish to it, but I would guess that is the result of pressure over the years on a thin piece of wood supported only on the edges?

IMO fix all the other jobs before deciding what to do with the reed pan - it may not be necessary to do anything with it if it's doing its job.

 

Rather daunting project so far. Think the first order of business is going to be repair to the main cabinetry. Appears that virtually all glue joints have given up the ghost. Not sure whether the face will be repairable. Since it isn't particularly nice wood, perhaps I should think about replacing it altogether?

You're doing fine so far. In my repairs I always start with the wood work. In the meantime I can source my replacement parts and polish the metal fittings.

 

One small piece of vinyl tape on the inside fold of the bellows as well. Clearly someone has been inside this box since it was built. Mr Google says that vinyl tape came out in 1946, so the repairs must postdate this at least.

Ah yes the vinyl tape - never works on concertinas.

Edited by SteveS
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