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Torn Bellows - A Way To Make It Air Tight Again?


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Suppose I have a leather bellows with torn leather which is not air tight (okay, I have),

 

i can make it a beautiful patch work on the in- and outside. I once did but new holes came up when pushing the newly patched bellows - the air creating another route to escape from the dark without noise.

 

Is there a way to prepare the leather - to strengthen the old leather and to make it air tight again?

I once heard that (for calf skin drums or banjo heads) you can use oil that horse people use for horse hoofs. It should make old leather flexible and stronger, it works for my old Djembe, but I am not aware of how this could affect air tightness.

 

Is there anyone here who can tell if there is a method to make old bellows air tight again, or is the advice simply to replace the bellows?

 

Marien

 

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Is there anyone here who can tell if there is a method to make old bellows air tight again, or is the advice simply to replace the bellows?

 

Marien

 

From my limited experience as a restorer (I'm sure that some of those much more qualified will provide much more well funded and useful responses):

 

The issue is not only the leather. Sometimes (especially if previous attempts at patching with aggressive glue or tape adhesives have been undertaken) some of the cardboard cards that provide the bellow skeleton are affected as well (punctured/brittle/ripped etc). If it's only leather work it can be accomplished (but you should really invest some time and effort in it; eg a jig to fix the bellows in would be a tremendous help, and you should be able to skive leather and handle hide glue), and those really ambitious will also be able to replace the odd unsalvageable card, but from a certain point a replacement bellow will be the better choice. It really depends on the degree of deterioration...

Edited by Ruediger R. Asche
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A friend brought me the leather bag for his bagpipes, which had a puncture hole in it, and asked me to fix it. I went shopping at the thrift stores for some similar matching leather (often found in the women's purses section), brought it home and cut out a patch to cover the hole. I was surprised how well it worked. First, I sanded the leather on both surfaces, then applied contact cement (stays flexible), then applied a second coat after the first dried, let it dry till it just barely lost it's stickiness, then clamped it for a day and night.

 

Not sure this works on concertina leather--you'd have to find a clamp with the right reach. If the leak is on a corner or edge, you might have to get creative. But I've seen leather patches overlaid there before...in pictures of concertinas for sale. I would think the outside would be the best place for a patch. Thin leather too so it doesn't interfere very much with closing the folds.

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once the leather has started to 'de-nature', to dry, crack and go powdery. (sounds like me actually). then replace the bellows.

 

Bellows last 80 plus years, so they will earned their rest.

 

Dave

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Thanks for the replies,

 

Rudiger´s method is what I used for a younger concertina bellows. I used very flexible and thin goatskin leather, I took from it an old women´s glove, cut small pieces to cover the edges and skived it with a sharp fiddle making knife. It was the perfect material to cover small openings in the corners of an old Lachenal bellows, and afterwards the repair wasn´t visible at all.

 

This is less then is needed for the torn bellows I was talking about. There Dave´s coment is more appropriate.

The bellows I was talking about is about 100 years old and it is still the original one.

I guess that some day my concertina skin will have to be replaced. Leather lifts and strange fluid masks will no more be of any help.

 

Marien

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