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drying out a concertina played in the rain

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Even if you play a concertina under an umbrella it is going to suck water in. After a very wet Morris Federation  day of dance recently,  I  had"lost" several notes and one sounded continuously. The problem was the leather valves sticking - and then eventually drying out in contorted ways. It has taken me a week to sort out all the problems, which I did partly by very gently re-damping the offending valves and stroking them flat while they dried.  Two questions arise...

1.  Does anyone have a better way of solving this problem? Next time should I take the instrument apart as soon as possible to do repairs, t=rather than waiting more than a day before I could get it home? Should I try to dry it out faster to protect the reeds, or slower to protect the valves?

2. I hate the number of times I have taken the ends of the concertina off and re-assembled them during this process. Is there a shortcut to reassembly in order to check out whether or not a reed "sounds" ? No only is it time-consuming, but I also worry about  what mutiple unscrewing and rescrewing is doing to the threads on the screws.



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4 hours ago, Theo said:

Don't play in the rain.

If you must play in the rain then get a whistle, harmonica, trumpet or any other waterproof instrument.




The method of repair would depend upon what parts became moist, how moist, and whether they molded, warped, cracked, corroded, stiffened, delaminated, or otherwise failed. Hygroscopic moisture can persist a very long time in tight spaces beneath screw heads and tight seams causing problems down the road. Forcing it to dry might cause it to dry unevenly causing other problems.  If you have a nice instrument that you'd like to preserve, I'd consider getting into a shop for a thorough go over. 


To add to the list of instruments for the rain, I'd like to add spoons, washboard, and voice.  


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33 minutes ago, david robertson said:

When I used to play for the Morris, I found that a simple plastic carrier bag solves the problem. Simply insert hands

through the bag handles, and play the concertina inside the bag.

Our lead (melodeon) player wears a transparent plastic cagoule - very stylish, doesn't muffle the music too much, and

our splendid  musicians uniform can still be clearly seen... 

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In  recent conversation  with  an  older  generation  accordion  repairer , here in France , the matter of  the amount of humidity  that  accordions  were subjected to during  public dances came up.Enthusiastic dancers  perspire hugely in warm halls.  This man had  a lot of note books  from his father who had tuned  and repaired accordions  on the mediteranean  coast  from 1940  until  the early '70's.  These high humidity levels  were  thought, by the father, to be responsable  for  a lot of the rust  on the reeds  which  put instruments out of  tune  .  


During my years  in County Clare  one  person  called to me for  help  with her  Jeffries anglo, which  had  suddenly  gone completely off the boil.  On opening it up  the  amount of rust on the reeds  was  incredible, having stopped  many of them from working   completely.  When she said she'd been  busking  most of the summer at the Cliffs of Moher, well that was the reason  for the  destroyed  reeds.  The  salty  mist which invades  those cliffs  during  on shore  breezes  had all but destroyed  the reeds.


So,  as well as agreeing  with those above who suggest  not playing in the rain  I would  strongly  advise  to dry  the reeds    by, at least,  blowing air through  ( playing every reed  ,in a dry  warm room  after  such an  event.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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5 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

Or this might happen



Yep  that's  what  the Jeffries  played at the Cliffs of Moher looked like.... well perhaps not quite as  bad as this.


Another  point;  when  people imagine  the romance  of  playing  a few hornpipes (or accompanying sea songs )  on the deck of  a  sailing ship, just think what the salt air will be doing  to your steel reeds!!

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Back to topic, 


The one think I would NOT do is to strip the instrument to let it dry out in bits. The reed pans and the pad boards may want warp once damp, if they are all nicely bolted together then odds are that as they dry out (naturally) they will all stay stable and matched together.  At most  put silica gel sachets around the instrument, and in a nice dry environment play the thing to cycle dry air through the reeds and the bellows. Leaving the instrument holding moisture will risk corrosion and internal bellows fungus, a nasty white strands of musty stuff.I have seen it in bellows, on felt-work, coating woodwork and it is not easy to treat.

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Seems to me it's a triple (at least) problem with conflicting solutions.  You want to dry the metal parts quickly to prevent rust, but dry the wooden and leather components slowly to prevent warping and/ or cracking.  As a tennis player from the wooden racket, gut string era,  we wiped and dried our strings and used a racket press ( having failed to obey Theo's cardinal rule).  As d.elliot says above, I would first ( upon returning to your warm , dry and cozy flat, cottage or castle) play it dry.  go through all the keys repeatedly.  The surface moisture should dissipate before it soaks in to the valves and bellows and the valves should be held flat by air pressure when not being played. You could then fashion a stiff brace for each end that screwed or bolted to a hidden set of holes under the end plate rim (requiring it's removal. I'm reluctant to say that the end plate bolts themselves would be up to it).  Alternatively, purchase an instrument made from moisture resistant materials for outdoor gigs.

Edited by wunks
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22 hours ago, adrian brown said:


God Chris, that's awful - did you really have to post that, mate, it's quite put me off my lunch ?


... but like a disaster tourist, I'm terribly curious to know, so do tell all...



There is a story, it is not really mine to tell, I'll write and ask the owner if they mind. I can tell you the concertina is now in one piece and plays well.



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From the owner

" Just a short backstory just in case its helpful.I bought it at the Brisbane Antique Centre, Annerley on the way to a job. It was in a glass display case in its leather square box with the label ‘Victorian Accordion, $350”. I had a look and it was obvious it was a basket case, its hazy now but I think it was even in two pieces. The Jeffries endplate with the double stamped F had my attention. So, haggled for 300 cash and got it. I was familiar with Jeffries from listening to Cathy Custy when she was in Melbourne years ago and always had the hankering, concertinas were on my radar for years but such rare birds. That was a lucky day,  I’ve never seen another one! Probably doesn’t happen much anymore with the interwebs and Ebay, though I did see a Rudall and Rose flute on Gumtree once, so who knows whats under peoples beds."


He sent it to Richard Evans, who gave it a new set of reed tongues, new bellows, reattached the veneer (which is original in that wood) and gave the ends a redo.

" I think there was more work in the restoration than building one of his own Concertinas from scratch.. I remember when I collected it he was a little philosophical about all the work gone into voicing and tuning some of those reeds that he knew would more than likely never, ever get used. Richard wasn’t sure on a date of manufacture, possibly around WW1."



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