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What is used to make the bellows black?

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Noticing some wear on the corner of my bellows, most often on the knee, I see a faint trace of wood coming through. So how do I fix that? Before I get tips on better posture, I already learned that one by just resting the very corner of the bottom on the knee when needed. IOW I practice sensible holding of my lovely Crabb C/G Anglo.


What is used to make the bellows and wooden frame black?


Is it dye? or is it paint?

Would boot polish be a good substitute?


Thank you for any help.





Edited by Notemaker
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I assume you are referring to the leather in the bellows and around the end frames? The leather is generally purchased dyed.. When I made my bellows earlier in the year the valleys were from undyed sheepskin skiver (lack e goat skin leather in the rest of the bellows.


You describe that you can see the wood coming through the bellows - this must be on the end frame and would imply through the leather is thinning. Perhaps you should consider reinforcing it be glueing on new end runs.

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I've got a very similar issue by the sounds of it. I've used the furniture clinic for wood restoration before and their products were very good, though haven't tried the leather products yet. I was thinking of buying a repair kit - https://www.furnitureclinic.co.uk/leather-care-products/leather-repair has anyone had any experience with using leather fillers on concertina bellows?

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I suspect that the leather used to make the bellows is vegetable tanned, which has a brown colour. Some leather dyeing processes (after tanning) only colour the surface layer and with wear, the colour can wear through, revealing the "natural" leather colour beneath. 


I would not recommend boot polish - it is a surface wax which will soon transfer from the bellows to you!!!

There are leather dyes available, but the surface needs to be cleaned to remove any oils and waxes before applying the dye - and the colour may not match perfectly  with the original. 

If there are no holes or splits in the leather, it might be best to leave well alone and accept it as the patina of age and use.

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I have used black resolene on leather bellows.  I was very happy with the result:



For the wood I plan to use a french polish with a blackening agent in it.  I have some 'Black Polish' by Liberon:



I have not tried this yet - this will be a winter project.


I once had a concertina that had been blackened (badly) with shoe polish - it was really difficult to remove it.

Edited by Don Taylor
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In the US Tandy's Leather Supply is a good source for aniline dyes.   Depending on where you are Michael's and other craft stores sometimes carry the common colors.   Feibings is a the brand they sell.  I used it professionally in the 70s on shoes, purses and belts etc.  It is a liquid you put on with a dabber or, in the case of small areas with a brush.      It may soak in areas differently and leave the slightly bronze effect Alex West mentioned.   If this is the case a top coat like he mentioned would be good.


If it were my concertina I'd ask if it were a cosmetic or structural issue.  It sounds like you may be dealing with leather wearing away if you are seeing wood underneath the leather. That would imply something more comprehensive than just coloring the spot.  (Again, I'm not sure if this is what you are describing.)  You might want to post pictures to get the best advice.  There are lots of folks on this forum with restoration experience.

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Remember that any way or similar treatment may make it difficult to get a future repair to work, it may well cause glues not to take to the old leather . Alex also talks about a low solvent shoe polish, this is also important to prevent existing glued joints from being effected. 


From what Notemaker says, it is not a colour problem, but a loss of leather thickness. The only answer is to over -wrap the bellows frames, and if the issues is apparent on the bellows folds, then to over bind each of the bellows folds.






















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  • 1 month later...

Thank you each for helping, and for the super expert solutions, until reading which, I had no idea how to fix the wear spot.


I am somewhat delayed, because of the crazy Covid19 thing and not finding time to make the picture - I use a Macro Lens & Tripod.  So, yes! it is indeed a fabric / leather thing, not wood as the photo shows.


Because my lovely Tina did not have any such blemish when first I seen it,

I will be applying the appropriate cure, and revising my posture, which I suspect is the source of the injury.


On another thread an attempt to relate some of the surprising and wonderful happenings around this grand Crabb C/G Anglo Concertina that happened since the instrument came back to me from Greg Jowaisas; renovated, and playing like new. But that is another story.


Again sorry for the long delay.


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Hi Notemaker,


Since the last posts I decided to rebind my Crabb for its sale, on Dave and others advice on this post that other leather fixes could be problematic. I'd be interested in knowing how you get on. I enjoyed your other post you refer too, and wonder if a rebind would mask the pleasant smell of the bellows you refer to.



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