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MatthewVanitas

Best way to address a jammed draw reed on a hybrid Italian concertina (Frontalini)

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I finally fixed my button-wrangling technique and got the Frontalini back together... and promptly found out that one single reed isn't sounding at all. The reeds visually looked fine, I didn't see any damage when I opened the box. Is it likely the reed just has a bit of dust or something? When I draw and push the button, I don't get any feel that air is flowing at all, so it's not a missing or broken reed, it's a reed "frozen" in place somehow.

 

How do I "unfreeze" one reed while not damaging it or the valve? Do I understand right that a "draw" reed would be one with the valve away from me as I look at the reeds from the bellows-side of the box?

Frontalini2.JPG

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As you have had the action apart to refit the buttons, have you checked that the button, although refitted, is actually opening the valve?

 

Mike

 

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Are they waxed-in reeds?  Looks like it from the photo.

 

I am just now struggling with servicing waxed -in reeds on my Beaumont.  If you need to remove a reed to get at the underside reed then the only way I have found is to use an Exacto knife to slice through the wax before prying out the reed.  Once you have fixed the problem then you can simply press the reed back in again to check that everything is working.  Then you need to rewax the reed so that it does not later fall out.  

 

This might require some ingenuity on your part.  Accordion techs recommend removing all of the old wax and replacing with new - but that assumes that you have some new wax on hand and the tools to do it.  I am using a controllable temp soldering iron with a knife tip set at it its lowest temp - 200C.  You probably do not have one of these or some new wax.

 

Warning!  I have not tried this technique! 

 

How about heating a knife blade on a stove element and using that to re-melt the existing wax.  You do not really have much to lose apart from some burnt fingers!   The wax seems to start to melt at a round 70C so you do not need to get the knife point red-hot, but you do have to work fairly quickly as the wax solidifies in a few seconds.  You will probably not get as nice a looking job as the original, but it should be functional.

 

(Accordion folks who know what they are doing are welcome to chime in and diss my proposal).

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, MatthewVanitas said:

The reeds visually looked fine, ... Is it likely the reed just has a bit of dust or something

 

I bet that’s it. How carefully did you look?

 

First of all, make sure you’re looking at the correct reed (push vs. pull). The push reeds face the bellows and the pull reeds face the buttons.

 

If you can remove the reed plate and hold it up to the light, look carefully along the entire border of the reed, making sure you can see “daylight” all the way around it with no interruption. If there’s the smallest gap in the light, it may well be a speck of dust (or an insect, as I once found). Take a strip of newsprint and use it like dental floss to free it up.

 

If you can’t remove the reed plate (and I just read Don’s post, above, which appeared as I’m typing this) you can try the newsprint thing empirically. If the problem is the pull reed and you can’t get at it with newsprint, try pressing on it with a toothpick from under the valve flap and blowing through it to free up anything that might be caught there.

 

Edited to add:

 

I just re-read your question. It looks like you are correct, the “draw” reed, which is the silent one, is the one hidden by the valve. But you still may be able to do the toothpick thing described above. If you don’t press too hard and actually deform the reed, it should come back right into place when you let go.

Edited by David Barnert
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Posted (edited)

Try David's suggestion, and anybody else's ideas, first.  Removing and replacing waxed-in reeds is a PITA!

 

I have just stumbled on this video of a woman in Italy assembling a large reed block in far less time than it takes me to replace a single reed.

 

 

Edited by Don Taylor

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As a repairer of accordions as well as concertinas I can say that taking the reed out of its wax is bed is normally the last resort.

 

Silent reeds like this are almost always just a result of some airborne dust jamming the reed. Moving it with a toothpick as described above is the first thing to try and is usually successful.  I always use a thin metal tool rather than a toothpick because it is possible for the tool to slip sideways and you don't want to replace airborne dust with wood fibres!

 

If depressing the reed is not effective the next method is to make yourself a reed hook from a piece of piano wire.  This is inserted under the tongue of the push reed and twisted underneath to raise the hidden reed tongue.  Just raising and releasing the hidden reed should be sufficient.   You may even hear a tiny click as the reed tong acts as a miniature guillotine and cuts through a fibre that was jamming the reed.

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Thank you, Theo. And might I add that a bent (or unbent) paper clip might serve in a pinch for either the toothpick or the piano wire.

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I was fixing three stuck reeds in a Hillier harmonium recently, the problem sounds very similar to this. I found bits of grit (possibly plaster from the wall, or just old woodworm dust) blocking up the problematic reeds, and simply twanged them manually a couple of times to remove the bits. These were lumping great thick brass reeds mind, so they might react differently to finger-twanging than your little accordion reeds. You wouldn't want to snap them.

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Update: it took more figuring out than I anticipated to identify the right reed in the block, but I gently sproinged it a couple times and whatever little bit of dust was block it came free, and we're back in business.

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