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Softening leather gussets?


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I have a nice Lachenal English in the process of tidying. It clearly hasn't been played for a while and, whilst it is very airtight, I'm a little concerned that the bellows gussets and bottom bindings are a bit hard. Is there a good way to soften this leather without affecting the glue? I have heard of people using olive oil on old leather furniture. Or possibly Linseed oil?

Andrew

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Andy,

You want to stay away from oils and applications that readilly penetrate the leather. The danger is they will saturate the underlying bellows card and compromise it's glue and even the card's laminations.

 

I've sparingly used Fredelka formula formula product which comes in a paste with a beeswax foundation. I've also heard Belvoir leather restoritive mentioned as another good product to use sparingly (another paste).

 

I apply using a Q-tip swab stick and make sure to wipe any inadvertant excess off in a minute or two. Less, in this case, can mean more and better results.

 

I've seen good, new bellows ruined by over application of conditioners so the watchwords are "use sparingly" and "conservative application".

It will take a little time for the leather to absorb an application or two so "patience" can be another guide word.

 

Greg

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Andy,

You want to stay away from oils and applications that readilly penetrate the leather. The danger is they will saturate the underlying bellows card and compromise it's glue and even the card's laminations.

 

I've sparingly used Fredelka formula formula product which comes in a paste with a beeswax foundation. I've also heard Belvoir leather restoritive mentioned as another good product to use sparingly (another paste).

 

I apply using a Q-tip swab stick and make sure to wipe any inadvertant excess off in a minute or two. Less, in this case, can mean more and better results.

 

I've seen good, new bellows ruined by over application of conditioners so the watchwords are "use sparingly" and "conservative application".

It will take a little time for the leather to absorb an application or two so "patience" can be another guide word.

 

Greg

Thanks for that Greg. I haven't done anything yet so in the light of what you have said I think I will avoid it altogether.

Andrew

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With regard to putting anything on old dried out gussets I posted this almost a year ago. "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 Meltonian 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."

 

Over this past year those few remaining intact gussets split and had to be replaced but I do not blame my application of a dressing. In fact, as I mentioned in my post, the untreated ones fared much worse than the treated ones. Dave Culgan

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post-1103-0-86636300-1334961226_thumb.jpgThis method has worked for me on concertina as well as melodeon gussets. Disclaimer: Your results may vary!

 

I have used two different leather products with very good results, both a thick liquid leather dressing. One is Lexol, the other is Bee-Natural Leathercare "Leather Amore". As mentioned above, the key is to apply very sparingly!

 

I use an artist's touch-up brush, which is quite small, bristles about 1/4" to 3/8" long. A cotton swab is way too big, i think. I put a small amount of the dressing into a shallow container. Probably a bottlecap full is enough to treat all of the folds. First, very gently open the bellows wide enough to get access to all of the gussets, without straining them (especially an old dry set). Then, using a clean soft camelhair or sable watercolor type brush, gently whisk out all the dust, grit, and other foreign matter that collects between the folds. Good hygiene is important. After all the dust and grit has been swept out, you can apply the dressing with the small brush, using the tiniest amount that the brush will take. Dab the brush gently on the gusset, concentrating on the central area and where the hinging occurs in the folds. Try to avoid where the gussets overlap or are glued onto the card beneath. Never just slather the liquid onto the leather...err to the side of stinginess!

As you may have guessed, this is a tedious process, and might take a couple of hours to do thoroughly. Patience is a virtue. Make sure the bellows can remain at least partially open during and after the application, so that no folds or wrinkles will collect too much dressing. You don't want to be making any puddles! After you have given everything an initial coat, let the bellows sit for a half hour or so, and then very gently, exercise the bellows in and out a bit. You may notice right away that there is a bit more extension than there was before. Also, using the soft eraser end of a pencil, gently prod some of the gussets to test flexibility. You may find that gussets that were as stiff as cardboard are now actually behaving like hide again. I often play the instrument for a week or two and then repeat the process, after which, I figure I have done all I can. After treatment, let the bellows be somewhat open for a day or two (in other words, not packed into a case).

Edited by twisper
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With regard to putting anything on old dried out gussets I posted this almost a year ago. "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 Meltonian 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."

 

Over this past year those few remaining intact gussets split and had to be replaced but I do not blame my application of a dressing. In fact, as I mentioned in my post, the untreated ones fared much worse than the treated ones. Dave Culgan

 

Thanks Dave. Meltonian seems to be well recommended by several people.

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post-1103-0-86636300-1334961226_thumb.jpgThis method has worked for me on concertina as well as melodeon gussets. Disclaimer: Your results may vary!

 

I have used two different leather products with very good results, both a thick liquid leather dressing. One is Lexol, the other is Bee-Natural Leathercare "Leather Amore". As mentioned above, the key is to apply very sparingly!

 

I use an artist's touch-up brush, which is quite small, bristles about 1/4" to 3/8" long. A cotton swab is way too big, i think. I put a small amount of the dressing into a shallow container. Probably a bottlecap full is enough to treat all of the folds. First, very gently open the bellows wide enough to get access to all of the gussets, without straining them (especially an old dry set). Then, using a clean soft camelhair or sable watercolor type brush, gently whisk out all the dust, grit, and other foreign matter that collects between the folds. Good hygiene is important. After all the dust and grit has been swept out, you can apply the dressing with the small brush, using the tiniest amount that the brush will take. Dab the brush gently on the gusset, concentrating on the central area and where the hinging occurs in the folds. Try to avoid where the gussets overlap or are glued onto the card beneath. Never just slather the liquid onto the leather...err to the side of stinginess!

As you may have guessed, this is a tedious process, and might take a couple of hours to do thoroughly. Patience is a virtue. Make sure the bellows can remain at least partially open during and after the application, so that no folds or wrinkles will collect too much dressing. You don't want to be making any puddles! After you have given everything an initial coat, let the bellows sit for a half hour or so, and then very gently, exercise the bellows in and out a bit. You may notice right away that there is a bit more extension than there was before. Also, using the soft eraser end of a pencil, gently prod some of the gussets to test flexibility. You may find that gussets that were as stiff as cardboard are now actually behaving like hide again. I often play the instrument for a week or two and then repeat the process, after which, I figure I have done all I can. After treatment, let the bellows be somewhat open for a day or two (in other words, not packed into a case).

 

Very good description Twisper. Thanks. I might give Lexol a try.

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