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Bellows Papers...aesthetic only?

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Greetings!  New concertina player with a question.  I've been learning on a "gifted" Stagi 20 button and I'm getting ready to commit to an intermediate instrument.  My question concerns bellows papers.  Do the bellows' papers have any use beyond making the instrument aesthetically pleasing (yes...I like the look of them!)  Do they protect the bellows in any way or add/detract from the music?  Has anyone regretted adding the papers to their concertina?


I've enjoyed and learned so much from reading these forums.  Thanks to all!

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I bought a Bb/F Anglo from Crabb many long ears ago. Tho old bellows needed replacement and for the new set I was given the option of papers or plain. I opted for plain and never regretted it. 100 pounds cheaper was fine by me. It has also been handy to have this Bb/F box look different from the others I play, at a glance. 


There is one advantage to having papers on an old instrument that needs bellows maintenance and repair. Bellows wear and tear can often be fettled by adding a bit of very thin leather to patch a leak. If the patch is on the inside then less cosmetic care is needed, but if I'm adding a bit of leather to the outside, then I want to make it look as seamless as possible. By cutting the outside patch to make it butt right up to the paper edge, the patch edge kind of disappears and you can hardly see it, even when looking closely. Without the contrasting value of the light colored paper, that patch would be much more visible. I've spent many happy hours patching an old Anglo bellows to keep it alive for another decade or five.


I remember...

  • One day in Wiltshire, I was looking over Rosalie Dipper's shoulder as she was patiently cutting out bellows papers with a scissors from a printed sheet. She had such a sure hand, that it sort of looked like she was knitting. I asked her, "Surely that task could be automated with some kind of punch? Mm?"
  • She looked at me with a sharp and a withering eye and bragged to me in no uncertain terms, that "Our concertinas are completely hand made." She then went on to explain that in their business, instrument sizes were variable and hand cutting the paper trapezoids was really the only practical way to go. Also, she said that she preferred the hand made look, where each paper was ever so slightly unique in shape. Those Dippers. Such craft-person-ship. Go for the granular! 
Edited by Jody Kruskal
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The bellows backing is the color of the cardboard, so I put the leather itself, leather patterned paper, or patterned paper on top (because leather is more expensive than paper).

I have used a variety of papers and fabrics (Liberty Print) when repairing gussets. I used fish glue to attach the paper.



*If your concertina's gusset is made of synthetic leather, expect it to degrade and pit in 10 years due to moisture in the air.
When you do that repair, you can change the paper.

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