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Silber And Fleming 24 Button: To Repair Or Not, Help And Advice Requir

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24 key Silber & Fleming concertina: to restore or not restore, help required

I recently “won” (as they say) a 24 key Silber Fleming anglo concertina on e-bay. It resembles a Lachenal but has some significant differences, although it is very similar to the one illustrated in the Concertina Museum as specimen C-304. The keys are marked 1-10 on both sides with the extra keys on the left as G#A and right as C#D. One # sign acting for both notes I assume, as I would expect B flat and E flat respectively.

Superficially the pictures showed some holes in the bellows and some low keys indicating broken springs and the usual rubbish leather wrist straps and missing knurled nuts to adjust the straps so I thought it worth buying to see if it was possible to refurbish to playing condition as my first restoration project.

Following its arrival and a visual appraisal, I removed the first end bolt and it came out easily, followed by the two pieces of mahogany forming the side of the key box that the bolt went through. Then the pads and leather discs tumbled out of the hole, those that were not wedged in the springs, together with the corner pieces and bits of spring. Being optimistic I proceeded with dismantling. No matter how careful I was, all the end bolts sheared, either the heads came off or they broke further down the shaft. It took me two days of careful work to get the end bolts out sufficiently to remove the ends and get to the action. I did have to resort to drilling out some of the bolt heads. All end bolts were steel and, apart from the first one, had heavily corroded within the wooden parts/sides, so I had to resort to some mild heat and a drift to get the corroded parts out of the wooden sections, leaving more broken bits in the captive nuts for later. Having removed the ends and the sides of the action box the (cardboard) action plates fell off complete with levers, keys, springs and the remaining loose pads etc. this was the same on both sides. The instrument was never fitted with supporting pillars between the ends and action plate. Surprisingly, none of the (bone?) keys or levers are damaged. No woodworm either, however its (original?) wooden box has some worm holes and is in rubbish condition, although I do have some ideas about how to salvage and improve it.

The reed pans were in reasonable condition and still well fitting. Shoes are brass as are the reeds, which are held in by two bolts. Reed shoes are marked with the note. The pans and action boards are numbered 18273

The green leather bellows are not too bad, the gussets appear to be whole, some repairs needed on a few corners, perhaps a rebind in places, may suffice temporarily, but they are old and the internal card is beginning to denature and become powdery. Some lost pads, sampers and other bits were also wedged inside the bellows. These extraneous bits look like new, not dirty and showing no wear, so I am presuming they were dropped during assembly and left there.

Further investigation and appraisal shows that the glue has dried and is no longer effective in all areas. The air button spring is broken and is of a different size to the other springs. Some levers are fitted with two springs. The end bolts are different length and diameter to Lachenal end bolts and the thread pitch and count is also different. I've not had time to measure the shaft diameter with a micrometer yet or count the TPI, but end bolts from my Lachenal Anglo and Wheatstone Model 21 don't fit, they are too large diameter and too short!

I have also carefully raised the chamois leather from the inside of the reed pan box to expose the captive nuts, which are simple flat brass plates drilled and tapped and inset into a hole the width of the wood and then glued in place, the tapped hole lining up with the holes for the end bolts. I managed to remove one as the wood holding it in was so damaged by iron corrosion if fell apart. Use of a blow torch and a clamp on the metal screw end got the stump of the end bolt out.

I could not have got this far without using David Elliotts book on concertina maintenance. I now have to work out if it is worth trying to restore this 'tina, and I have some questions the Concertina.net community may be able to help with to enable me to make up my mind.

  1. Assuming new end bolts of the correct size are not available I will have to fit what I can get hold of. I am fairly sure that the captive nuts for these will be too large for the size of wood I have, but I may be able to redrill and tap and existing captive nuts. Where would I get a suitable tap from? Unless you know of a source for end bolts of the correct size?

  2. Are springs of a thicker/stronger material to normal concertina springs made and available? Who from? I only need one for the air button. I need more springs for some of the other keys but these appear to be similar to those I know are available. Would one from a melodeon fit? ( I don't want to take my Erica apart to find out).

Costs for these would also help if known.

If I decide to go ahead and repair I have also been thinking about the additional buttons and the accidentals. Why would anyone need two G#A buttons and reeds on the left? To my way of thinking it would be better to have one of these as an A push E pull reversals on this side ( I use the A push on the accidental row quite a bit on my 3 row) and on the right instead of two C#D# change, these to an F# push C or G pull. Any advice as to what might be better than what I have or propose would be appreciated?

I don't suppose anyone has an inkling as to the age of the concertina? I know the Silber Fleming factory/department store burned down in the 1860's and were bought out in the 1880's, but none of that helps with dating.

Does anyone have a working Silber Fleming Anglo? How does it play and sound? I know there are others out there as questions have been posed in 2010 and 2002 on various forums about them.

Thanking everyone in anticipation


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It sounds like you've got a big project on here. I'll try to stick to your two questions.


You may be into replacing all the bolts for example from Concertina Spares; you can get drills taps and dies from www.modelfixings.co.uk but you're unlikely to match completely the original diameter and pitch of the bolts. You can get new M2.5 bolts and screw type inserts from Peter O'Connor (advertises on ebay as sandylaneman) and this will be a lot easier than trying to recreate the original tapped brass plate design unless you're trying to aim for total originality.


The usual set-up for air buttons is to use two springs rather than try to just use one strong one. Is there a reason you wouldn't be able to fit two springs? Concertina Spares might be able to make you something up in a larger wire diameter than their normal phosphor bronze or in steel or with a couple more coils - that should give you more resistance but I'd go for two springs first.


Is it worth the restoration? Not if you're looking to make your fortune!


Good Luck


Alex West

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Thanks Alex,


I take your points about the end bolts and fixings. Originality was not an option really but i do like to conserve as much as possible. My concern was the mahogany (no veneer) of the reed pan box is only 6mm thick and drilling it to insert self tapping inserts is likely to thin the sides to an extremely weak thinness and thus lead to cracking/loss of the mahogany and ultimately a new box being required. I think I'll try Model Fixings as you suggest in the first instance, once I have measured the end bolts for TPI and procured some. With such a large number of turns per inch I don't think that variation in pitch will be much of a problem. I do need to measure to make sure the bolts are long enough. The steel end bolts are 1" 5/16 inch or 33 mm (31 mm for my lachenal and Wheatstone but 35 for my Marcus, although with these the shaft length is the same as the steel, i.e. the head size is larger) and 3/32" thick and approximately 44 turns per inch.


I was resigned to having to use two standard springs for the air button, there is plenty of space for them. I have to get some more springs anyway as several are broken plus a few spares may come in handy. I'm definitely not looking to make my fortune. the intention was to find a winter project for those dark hours when I can't get in the shed and I have had enough of practice. It will make a change from scanning and cataloging my family photograph collection (back to about 1870). Eventually I hoped to be able to make something live again that is playable; enjoyment and an intellectual and physical challenge is almost as much a priority as cost.




Mike Jones

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