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Found In A Cupboard

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I am very glad to have found this place, I am in dire need of advice and help. I have to say right away that I have no musical background, and no experience of any musical instruments least of all concertinas.

While clearing out a cupboard at her father’s my partner Sandy came across an old concertina in its case that she had never seen before, on questioning her dad he said “oh you can have that, it was my grandfathers”

This old instrument has probably not been out of its case for more than fifty years, as neither her father nor grandfather ever learned to play, Ok she thinks, time I learned play, can you repair it for me? No problem I say, you can learn anything from the “wib-wob”

Well what we found was this …………

A Jefferies concertina from about 1890 – 1900,


I told Sandy that it may be quite valuable and restoration by an amateur may slightly devalue it, she said “oh good when its working I’ll have a nice instrument to learn on and its value is irrelevant as it was great grandfathers”!
Ok I need a little help and advice please, I have done a fair amount of research on the wib-wob and also read Dave Elliot’s book and we have decided to go ahead and do a full restoration. Despite my earlier statement I am very confident that I have the skills to do the work to a high standard.
This is the plan
End plate and action pan :-

  • Repair some veneer chips.
  • Structural repairs to joints. Q. is it a good idea to reinforce the corners with small fillets? Pad clearance may be an issue here. Q. considering the age should I use modern wood glue or hide glue?
  • Replace everything, except, lever arms, pivot posts and keys. Q. I want to remove the pivots to reduce the side movement of the arms should I refit them with a little glue?

Reed Pan :-

  • Clean and de-rust reeds. Q. is there any rust remover that is safe to use, and any way to stop the reeds rusting in the future?
  • Replace all valves.
  • New gasket. Q. anyone know a source of good quality leather?

Bellows ends :-

  • Replace missing reed pan supports.
  • New gasket. Q. see last question

Bellows :-

  • The bellows seem to be in remarkably good condition with no apparent leaks but a bit stiff and very dry. Do they look original? Q. Once Sandy starts playing and considering all the rest of the work to be done would it be better to replace the bellows with new? Would this make the instrument easier to use?

Tuning :-

  • Errr ………….find an expert!!


I know this is a rare find and quite valuable but are we right to completely restore it?


I’m sorry this is such a long post but I hope to avoid as many errors as possible, the only way I can do that is to pick your brains!
Many, many thanks

Many, many more photos here




Edited by spresto9
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Congratulations - that's a very lucky find, especially knowing the family history.


From the photographs, it doesn't look as though the instrument has been played much at all and the cupboard has protected it well - I've seen plenty worse! By the looks of the reeds, it's a CG - have you found out whether it's in concert pitch or not?


On to your questions:


Repairing the veneer can be quite tricky - the likelihood is that it isn't ebony but an ebonised wood and it's very fragile - are the chips really that significant?


The joints don't look too bad - the end action boxes don't take any significant load which would cause them to spring apart so reinforcement isn't usually necessary. No reason to use hide glue unless you want to be able to remove it and disassemble the parts in future. There's a prooduct called Chair Doctor which is a thin aliphatic resin glue designed to get into small cracks. I've found that to work pretty well in this type of application perhaps with a bit of light clamping.


A tiny bit of sideways movement in the levers isn't a problem and unless the rivet holes are worn oval (sufficiently that you should replace the whole lever assembly) why not leave them alone? If you were thinking of removing any slop by tightening the rivet (ie hammering), I'd suggest that you could cause more problems with a tight joint than you currently have with a slightly loose joint. If you did need to remove a lever assembly for any reason, you shouldn't need glue to secure them back in.


Replacing pads, springs, bushings etc is a "normal" service job but it can be tricky to get everything lined up and working again afterwards. You need a lot of patience!


Rust, what rust? These reeds are pretty clean - certainly compared to others I've seen. What light rust there is on a very few of the reeds will likely come off in the tuning. A light brush with a fibreglass pen can remove wha rust there is but this is mostly cosmetic. It's not wise to use a chemical cleaner or oil.


Why does the gasket need replacing - is there any leakage of air? Why remove it if it's doing its job?


Not every corner had a reed pan support originally; in some cases, the pan support is not actually in the corner as it can clash with the reed. You do look to have one or two missing but when you replace them (pretty obvious where one has been glued before) you may find that any leaks you had from the gasket are no longer there


Bellows do look original and in good condition but one or two of the internal cloth hinges seem to have come unglued. Theses need to be glued back down as this joint is critical to the bellows integrity. I use a vinyl wallpaper paste - a weakish PVA. The stiffness will ease with use, but you could use a good wax show polish on the exposed leather to help the dryness. Don't be tempted to use anything solvent or oil based as these could dissolve the glues holding the bellows together. You probably don't need to contemplate bellows replacement and even if you do eventually need a new set, that can be completely independent of the other work you're getting done


For tuning and voicing, you should definitely find an expert. There are a few in East Anglia and one or two in Essex including Steve Dickenson in Stowmarket who still makes new concertinas and does repair and re-furbishment as C Wheatstone & Co - easily found through Google. Steve can also supply you with any materials (leather, valves, springs, pads, bushings etc) you need. There are other sources for materials and parts, including Concertina Spares and any of the makers - either UK based or further afield


Best of luck!


Alex West

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In my opinion you should decide first, if you want to keep and play it or sell it. As it is you should get between 2.000 and 3000 Pound for it. As a buyer and player I would always prefer to decide myself, how and by whom it should be restored! Don't try to do it yourself! Such a fine instrument deserves a professional job - which can cost between 500 and 1000 Pound.

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I'm inclined to agree with OLDNICKILBY. Having tried myself on restoration jobs myself, I can assure you that unless you have a very good craftsmanship's Intuition, the first concertina restoration one tackles is a good candidate for a throwaway Job, so you should really go for a cheapo first. The one you have found appears to be a treasure cove, so treat it with the utmost respect and appreciation of both its material and immaterial value. David Robertson is certainly a very trustworthy address for a professional restoration.


Edit: Concertinas are deceptive. They give you the Impression that they are easy objects to deal with and work on, but they aren't. Lots of trap doors you can fall into!

Edited by Ruediger R. Asche
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Agree with the previous posts. This is a rare and valuable instrument. If you try and sell it as a restored instrument the first question a buyer will ask is for the name of the restorer. Concertina resoration is somethiong that amyone with good manual skills can learn but this is definitely not the instrument to learn on.

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Agree with the previous posts. This is a rare and valuable instrument. If you try and sell it as a restored instrument the first question a buyer will ask is for the name of the restorer. Concertina resoration is somethiong that amyone with good manual skills can learn but this is definitely not the instrument to learn on.


Given that the OP (resp. his partner) wants to (in any event) keep and (hopefully) play the instrument, he might be in need of advice primarily to avoid damaging the instrument...

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I bought a concertina that looks exactly like what you have. It plays great as is with no repair needed, rust and all.


Do you play? Probably not. I suggest you find a good player in your area and have them evaluate it.


A complete overhaul may be totally unwarranted. I could be wrong about that, but I would advise you to procede cautiously with the maxim in mind... if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


So, if you don't know how to determine if it's broken, put it in the hands of someone who can.


The reeds for instance could be cleaned in their shoes with paper money to see if that minimal cleaning helped them to sound clearly. Sorry I'm not describing this completely, but the paper treatment works 90% of the time and is minimally invasive. Reseating the reed shoes by pulling them out and putting them back in is another 90% case solved technique. But even those treatments IMO would only be applied to problem reeds and the rest left as they are.


Lovely Jefferies 38 button photos, btw. Makes me just drool with pleasure to see them. What a treasure.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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I agree with Jody. It may have never been played much and if it has been handled with care, and well protected and stored, it may require negligible attention. I can't see the necessity to have started stripping it down at this stage without first having established what it is capable of as it stands.

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Since a couple of people have been kind enough to mention my name, may I say that you're very welcome to bring it to me for assessment (no charge) - and you'll be able to compare it with my own 38-key Jeffries, which, to my shame, has had no restoration work done for the last 20 years!

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I started panicking as soon as it turned to "... but I'm going to give a go at doing an amatuer restoration anyway."


If you found an old pocket watch that was worth £5,000 you probably wouldn't say "well, I'll get a book on clockwork, get in there with some tweezers and see what I can do." :o

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Please listen carefully to everything written above !!I


I think we would all go into mourning, if you attempted

anything yourself.


The previous posts are wisdom speaking, borne out of

years of experience by seasoned concertina players.


You are one lucky person to come across such a concertina.

Edited by Noel Ways
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The only kind of restoration that ought to be done to this instrument is what would put it in good playable condition. From the look of it it is in pretty darn good shape. Beyond tuning, making sure the action is working properly, ( and I doubt that, given the age of this particular instrument, the rivet holes have been worn oval since you say nobody really played it for two or more generations.) new pads and valves, anything else you ( hopefully not you ) do to it won't increase it's value and much more likely will decrease it. You may be an instrument making prodigy, but you don't learn on a valuable instrument like this. Cosmetically the instrument is in great shape. The condition of the bellows makes me think it was played very little given how old it is. I don't even think I'd try to polish the ends outside rubbing them down a bit with a jewelry polishing cloth. The etched surface could be polished a little like that so they wouldn't feel rough to touch, but you would be better off leaving the patina. Dave's book is not a restoration manual, and spending the money to get the basics done by a concertina pro will give you a fine instrument as good as most concertina musician professionals own. With fine old instruments, you don't try to make them look new. You learn to love them as they are. You are very lucky to have found an instrument of this quality. Treat it with the respect and humility such a gift deserves.

Dana Johnson

Edited by Dana Johnson
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