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Steven K.

Concertina repair: pad/valve that won't close

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Recently, my concertina began to act up. I have an old 20-button Lachenal, which was playing fine up until a day or so ago. It sounds like one of the pads won't shut. So when I push or pull the bellows there is a note that constantly sounds whether the button is pressed or not. I live in an old NY apartment with radiators. There's no real way for us to control them, so it gets very hot in the apartment. I'm assuming the intense high heat is probably the cause of this and the lack of humidity in the apartment overall. Does anyone have any recommendations for me to get this instrument back into playing shape? Thank you in advance for any guidance or suggestions.

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I would say, just loosen the glue holding the pad, apply new glue whilst attempting to open and cose the pad several times in order to fasten it in the appropriate angle, then of course wait for the glue to harden...

 

This is what I did with both of my 20b Anglos upon receiving them, and it did the trick.

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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Hi Steven,
- I have an old Lachenal too. When a note either fails or plays constantly, I simply give it a several bashes with the heel of my fist - which dislodges particles of dust from the reed, which makes it work fine again. I have opened it up a few times, but that's tedious.
- When I shock it (cushioned by the heel of my fist), I hold it at different angles, and press the button OR leave it closed, giving  variety of conditions for the particle to be released from.
- This method may horrify a few members, but I've done it successfully for years

- Early next year I hope to totally replace my concertina with an electronic one, the Concertina Nova, that doesn't have all these physical complexities and problems. My colleague in Vietnam, Nguyen Vo, is building for me in Ho Chi Minh City. It will have a good quality concertina voice, plus any other suite of notes the user wants to upload as .WAV files. Still has bellows, but eventually I want to eliminate the need to back-and-forward interrupt the playing and unbalance the concertina.

- You/anyone can follow that project on Facebook at the 87-member Concertina Technology group I operate. http://bit.ly/2P0y24x

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24 minutes ago, Bruce Thomson said:

eventually I want to eliminate the need to back-and-forward interrupt the playing and unbalance the concertina

 

Albeit not willing to let my free reeds go for just a sample of their sound anyway, I nevertheless feel like pointing out that bellows movement and control is essential for generating the concertina tone, before any „unbalancing“ it‘s about shaping the tone (and thus an electronic device called concertina would have to emulate that in the first place IMO).

 

Back to the topic, the little maintenance issues can all be confronted by the ordinary player, no reason to quit the vintage instrument, just seek advice like here, or consult Dave Elliott‘s manual...

 

Best wishes - 🐺

 

Edited by Wolf Molkentin
grammar

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I also have owned a 20b lachenal for just a couple of months, and more than once and on different buttons, a note sounds all the time with no button pressed. It looks like the button is lifted slightly. I’ve found this is caused by the U shaped pin that holds the rod down has lifted a little too far out of its holes, then the spring pushes the rod and pad up, leaving a gap under the pad. Just pushing the U shaped pin back into its holes has fixed it for me, and settles the button back to a better height.  It happened again yesterday, i plan to dab some glue in the U-pins holes to try to keep it down.

Sorry, I don’t have the terminology down yet. Is glue (superglue?) the right thing to keep these pins from popping out? 

Gren

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You wouldn‘d need superglue to fix the „hook“, any basic water-soluble craft glue would be sufficient (and less of an issue).

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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If the note sounds continually, you need to open up the concertina and see what the cause is.....It will involve the pad in some way. ....or possible the fulcrum coming loose and rising. Once you see what's happening, it shouldn't be too difficult to come up with a solution to the problem. One word of advice to inexperienced repair persons: Never do anything which cannot be undone.

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This time of year all sorts of annoying things can happen to a concertina as the central heating turns on and the instrument dries out.

 

Chances are as Penn mentioned the hook, or 'U' which is a fulcrum point for the action arm is coming loose from the action board.  This can result in the pad not closing all the way due to alignment or negating the closing power of the spring.  A tiny dab of white glue in the hole(s) where the 'U' or the hook or in the case of rivet action, the pivot, resides will help hold it in place.

Perhaps better is to fashion a small shim from a wooden toothpick and place this in the hole before pressing the hook or pivot back in place.  Does not hurt to "rough up" the tang(s) on the hook, 'U' or pivot before gluing and/or shimming.

 

When concertinas get played in environments where the relative humidity is less than 50% their wood parts tend to shrink.  Spaces between seals can get bigger; metal parts, like a 'U' or pivot, or reed shoe stay relatively constant while the wood around them contracts.  This can make the wood hole or slot they are pressed into bigger (contracting in this case means "pulling away" from the cut edges) allowing the metal parts to come loose.

 

But please take the additional step of making sure you do not continue to pump dry air (humidity less than 45%) through your concertina.  In effect you are "kiln drying" your instrument from the inside out!😯  (Yes, I know.  No kiln involved.  Just trying to get your attention😊  But you are actively pumping dry air through the instrument)  A small, room humidifier will help if activated and placed in the area where the concertina gets played most often.  If your concertina is showing symptoms of drying out (loose reed shoes, lose of air, misbehaving buttons) it may take a few weeks of humidity enrichment to help the situation.  In a lot of cases the symptoms abate as the wood of the instrument "re-hydrates".

 

Greg

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Thanks for all the replies. I'm new to the concertina realm and have only braved taking an end off once. I think I may take the patient longer approach and try to humidify the room. I'll also try getting a case humidifier to see if that will help things along as well. 

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1 hour ago, Steven K. said:

Thanks for all the replies. I'm new to the concertina realm and have only braved taking an end off once. I think I may take the patient longer approach and try to humidify the room. I'll also try getting a case humidifier to see if that will help things along as well. 

Steve,

You will no doubt have to be brave and open up your concertina to be sure of what is causing the problem and affect its cure.  (Adding humidity will help prevent future problems but not "push" the 'U' or pivot back in if that is the problem,)

 

Th Carroll Concertina site has a number of repair videos.  While your particular problem may ot be specifically addressed watching the videos will probably make you feel more familiar and at ease with the procedure of opening up your concertina and prepare you for what you;ll find.

 

https://www.carrollconcertinas.com/repair-resources.html

 

Keep us posted.

 

Greg

Edited by Greg Jowaisas

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I'd echo Frank's caution - before leaping to conclusions about the cure, have a good look around to see what's causing the problem. 

 

If it's the pad failing to close it's unlikely to be something stuck in the reed (so bashing the concertina, however gently isn't the cure - and in any case, there are gentler ways to remove dust from reeds).  The logical answer is that there's something preventing it closing - which could be:

  • something physically in the way
  • a misalignent of the lever mechanism (which might be the staple rising)
  • friction in the action mechanism either at the lever pivot, at the button where it passes through the fretwork (unlikely with a Lachenal 20 buttin but possible)
  • a weak or poorly performing spring

There may be other issues associated with the above but the cure will depend on the problem. If it's a weak spring, then removing and regluing the pad isn't necessarily going to fix it.

 

If it is the humidity, waiting until spring probably isn't an option!

 

Alex West

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Another two possibilities:

 

Low humidity can also cause a reed pan to crack which can lead to a note or notes sounding all the time.   

 

If its an old concertina then pads may have had the felt layer destroyed by moth larvae, resulting in the pad failing to seal.

 

As others have said the first step is to discover which of the many possible causes are responsible for the problem.  Only then can you choose an appropriate remedy. 

 

You can learn something without taking the concertina apart from just observing the button attached to the problem note.   When released does the button return to the same height as it's neighbours, or is it higher or lower?   Does it feel similar to the others, or is it softer or harder or feel like there is extra friction, or does it seem to get stuck part way through it's travel?

 

 

 

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I don't have the serial number on the concertina, but it looks fairly old. I bought it in August and started playing on it September. It played fine up until this past week. I believe this Lachenal had been refurbished and had bellows work done on it. The bellows were quite airtight. About a week ago I noticed that there was a LITTLE loss in the air-tightness of the bellows, but the single note was still not sounding by itself. That only happened within the last couple days. I am hoping it isn't some sort of a cracked reed pan or worse like you've all been mentioning. I'll be the first to admit I have absolutely no experience in tinkering with concertinas or knowing much about their anatomy. In any event, I'll try opening it and maybe sending pictures if I need further assistance. Thank you all again. 

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Don‘t worry and go ahead! Issue may very well be just a loosened pad. As soon as the junction is flawed there will be  movement and swiveling sideways, fostered by the „hook“ action, but no positioning back to an airtight position.

 

In this probable case you will notice, and easily fix - otherwise you will at least know what has happened.

 

Best wishes - 🐺

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I found out the issue. The note that was sounding was on the d/e G-row of this 20 button anglo C/G Lachenal. When I took apart the left end, I noticed that the fretboard and the keyboard (not sure if that's the right word for it--but basically where the valves, pads, and buttons are connected to) are bowed. Not sure if that's from the temperature impact or what. But when I squeeze them together I see light coming through the valve for the d/e button. I tried tinkering with the U-hook a little to fix it, but I seem to still have a gap no matter what. So now since I've diagnosed the problem, what do I do?

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It sounds like you have a pad out of alignment (pads are round made with card, felt and leather in a sandwich). You will see that the pads have a circular ring round the pad holes to help set up pad alignment. Make sure that the key is vertical and check the pad against the circle. Also check if the pad is fixed as firmly to the leather bead on the end of the lever arm as all the other pads are on theirs. If not then remove the pad, set the key to vertical using the fretted cover to align things, slip the pad into back into place using the circle as your guide. Pop the cover back on and ensure that the alignment is still good. If it is then re-glue the pad back to the lever arm..

 

Dave

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