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Only whistle sound on mid e pull

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My 1910ish metal sided English Wheatstone is not sounding on the pull for the middle e.  I’d like to try to fix this without sending it away for repair. Any advice, thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

If I do this it will be the first time I’ve tried to do my own repair so I’m quite nervous about opening her up. 

thank you in advance. 

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Go for it, and don't be afraid of taking a traditional English concertina apart. They were designed by an engineer to be maintainable. Undo the 6 bolts on that end. I would stick them in some expanded polystyrene in hex pattern so you can put the same one back in its own hole in case they are different.


The pull reeds are the ones you can see. Put your thumb through the hole in the reedpan, and pull - if it hasn't been apart for a while you might have to pull hard, but it will come - its only the chamois leather sticking.


Identify the duff reed - they will be labeled on the other (push) side, but you can also work it out by pressing the button and seeing which hole opens.


Likely causes are:

1) the reed shoe coming slightly loose in the wooden slot - push it home firmly. If it happens again, then a sliver of paper is enough to keep it in place.

2) a spec of fluff stuck between the reed and the shoe. Blow it out, or run a corner of paper down the side of the reed.

3) the leather valve (on the other side) having got misplaced or sucked into the slot - flatten it out with a screwdriver.


Reverse the process to put it together - note you can test the reed before putting in the bolts, just by holding the end in place while pressing the button and flexing the bellows.

Edited by Paul_Hardy
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I wrote most of this before Paul’s post, above, appeared. It looks like we agree. I’ll finish it even though I now see you’ve successfully solved your problem.


- - - - - - -


I am not an expert concertina repairer and I do not know what is causing the whistling sound you describe, but I’ve taken my Wheatstone concertina apart for minor repairs enough times to give you a few ideas to get you started.


If you haven’t already got Dave Elliott’s Concertina Maintenance Manual, it’s a good thing to have around.


If the concertina is acting normally (not making any sound on gentle tug on the bellows) when no buttons are pressed, then the problem is unlikely to be in the action box (the chamber you can see if you look in through the fretwork). That’s good news. You don’t want to open that if you don’t have to. But you will have to take the end off to access the reeds, where the problem likely will be found.


Before you do, consider that you will want to replace the six end bolts into the same holes they came out of, in case one or more has been replaced in the last 100+ years with a slightly different size bolt. What most people do is take a paper cup, turn it upside down and punch six holes in the bottom in a hexagonal pattern. Make a mark between two adjacent holes to represent where the label on the concertina is.


One by one, remove the bolts on the side where the problem is (never remove both sides at once) and place them in the appropriate holes in the paper cup. You should now be able to remove the end, although it may be sticky and require some tugging. Don’t force anything and don’t try to insert anything (like a butter knife) to pry it open.


Now you’ve got the end in one hand and the rest of the concertina in the other. Keep track of how they are oriented.


Look at the exposed surface of the end. A wooden plate with a ring of holes around the edges. The holes are occluded by pads on the side you can’t get at (inside the aforementioned action box). Press the button for the offending middle e and note which hole opens up (a lever attached to the button lifts the pad from within the action box).


Now look at the open surface of what’s in your other hand. A ring of chambers, and in each chamber is a reed and a flap valve. There is a hole in the center of the board (the reed pan), through which you can insert a finger and remove the pan. Don’t do that yet.


Your problem is on the pull, and the reeds you can see are the pull reeds. The push reeds are on the other side, opposite the flap valves. Identify which reed corresponds to the hole that opened when you pressed the middle e button.


Do you see anything different about that reed and how it fits into its place compared with all the others?


I will describe the two most likely causes of your problem, even though neither typically causes a whistling sound.


One is that the reed may be only loosely inserted into its dovetail joint. This usually causes weakened “fluffy” sound. Remove the reed pan (again, keeping track of which way it will need to go back in) and notice that all the reeds (on both sides) are held in place by dovetail joints that they can slide out of by pulling them away from the center of the reed pan. Is the middle e reed perhaps a little loose? If so, press it in with a finger and that may solve your problem.


The other possibility is a piece of dust (or a small insect) caught in the reed preventing it from vibrating. This usually causes the note to go completely silent. With the reed pan removed, slip the reed out of its dovetail joint. Hold it up to the light and see if you can see light along the entire length of the two long and one short edges of the reed tongue. I there is an obstruction, run a thin piece of paper (newsprint works well, or currency) between the reed tongue and the reed shoe (like dental floss) to remove the offending particle and then replace the reed (firmly) into the dovetail slot.


Before putting it all back together, I like to go around the edges and make sure ALL of the reeds are firm in their slots, giving each a little press with my thumb. Then replace the reed pan, reposition the end where it belongs and replace (but don’t tighten, yet) the bolts into the holes they came out of.


Turn each of the bolts a little, until you can feel them engaging with the buried nuts they fit into. Then tighten one of them until you just feel it starting to get tight and do the same with all the others, but skipping one or two as you go around, so you don’t tighten two adjacent bolts in succession. Then go around again tightening all the bolts (again not tightening two adjacent ones in succession, but not “too tight.”

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