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I have an Crabb Anglo concertina that belonged to my Grand Father. I'm 74 so you have an idea of how old it is!

What maintenance should I do on it, in particular the leather bellows?

Advice appreciated.

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Bellows don't need any maintenance apart from brushing off dust and keeping the the whole instrument away from extremes of heat and cold and from dampness and extreme dryness.   Do not apply leather dressings, they can do more harm than good.

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If the leather is that old, there is a likelihood that the leather is very dry. If that is the case, the leather would crack and if the bellows previously appeared sound, it would quickly degrade if played, even a little bit. With all respect to others who may have a differing opinion, I would use a small artists brush and apply a small  amount to the gussets and corners, wiping off any excess. Stay away from any glued joints. It may be that the bellows cannot be saved, but there are repair persons who make very fine replacement bellows, in any case.

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I would support Theo in this debate,

 

If the bellows are dry and are cracking, then they are already  beyond repair, if they are not quite that bad then playing them may help but their 'life' is expired. If you use leather oils and waxes then they will spoil your clothing, and the carrier medium will soak into the leather  and weaken glue joints. Even if you do not get glue failure then the contamination will mean that any future bellows repair work may be prejudiced because the new glue will not take. The only medium I would use is a dab of shoe cream applied as and where Frank suggests, but with extreme caution.

 

 

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In old leather what people call drying is often degradation caused by decomposition of tanning chemicals left in the leather as well as absorption from atmospheric pollution especially from coal burning and similar high sulphur fuels.  The same stuff in the air that tarnishes silver does a job on leather over the years, weakening the fibers to the point of breaking.  Some tanning methods produce leathers that last centuries, but the modern age and chemical revolution weren’t much concerned about longevity, book binders were, but for most other people, price was the important feature.  Recently actual “archival” leathers are becoming more available.

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