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Action Lubrication

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Hi gang,


I recently got an aged Bastari 30 button to replace my old Hohner. <I'll continue after the hissing stops>


It is well tuned, the tone is pleasant, the speed isn't lightening fast, but neither am I, but there are a couple of problems with the action. On a couple of notes in the "G" row, which has the shortest throw between the button and the pad, there is a sporadic sticking problem. When they stick, and I pull the ends and push the buttons in question, I can feel a bit of resistance not found in the other neighboring keys. I can also hear a bit of a scritchy sound which I assume to be spring generated. I have piles of experience with piano actions, but this is entirely differrent. I have slid the buttons a hair farther up the shaft to let them move more freely through the hole in the end, and sort of gently wiggled the shaft back and forth on its pivot. Every time I tinker with it, it does a bit better for a while, but I was wondering if any sort of lubrication is recommended. The thought of unleashing oil, even in a cheapo concertina puts me off. It's so pretty and clean in there, and oil attracts filth.


Any suggestions? <Apart from getting a better concertina--I'm working toward that end, but times are hard>


Thanks a million for any help,



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First off, what is the condition of the rubber sleeves holding the buttons to the arms?

Generally in the older instruments this needs replacing.

However, I quote from C&S Vol. 2, No. 1.

"There is an additional problem that will cause tipping and sticking buttons on the G row of the 30/36 button Anglos. Because the valve arms on this row are so short, the button attachment point is very close to the tip of the valve spring. There are two problems that can occur due to this. One, if the end of the spring that is bent in a hook shape around the valve arm is not lying close to the arm, the rubber sleeve of an adjacent button will snag on it. The hook should be U rather than V shaped. (Fig. 4) The spring wire can be bent in closer to the arm by carefully pinching it together with the needle nose pliers.

The other problem on the G row, particularly on the buttons in the middle of the row, is that the end of the spring pushes the button away from it, causing the button to tilt. (Fig. 5) In fact, to be correctly positioned, these buttons need to have the rubber sleeve over the end of the spring. This calls for some modification to ensure that once positioned, the button will stay in place. Gently work the putton to the correct position on the arm using the tip of a small screwdriver to push the rubber sleeve over the tip of the spring. Then using some stiff string, put a Clove hitch around the arm, snug against the rubber sleeve (I use heavy waxed sail thread) to hold everything in place. (Fig. 6) Continually check the process of adjusting the buttons by fitting the end plate on the frame. When assembling the end plate and the frame it is helpful to use to nails as pilot studs (on opposite sides of the frame) instead of the wood screws. When everything fits together correctly, and the button is at the right position on the arm, make sure it stays that way by applying a drop of Elmer's Glue All on the string on both sides of the arm."


Sorry I don't have scanner yet to be able to include the figures.



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Hi Jim,


I strongly suspect that your problem has nothing to do with lubrication but can't remember too much about Bastari innards so will offer no specific advice.


As Regards lubrication, your instincts are spot on!

Neither piano nor concertina actions should ever see the oil can.

Oiling pivots will at best lead to a sticky build up of grime and dust and at worst, with repeated applications, the oil will migrate down the pivot uprights and soak into the wood of the action board eventually causing the wood to relinquish its grip on the stems of the posts which can become loose and fall out. Re-fixing posts in oil sodden wood is no simple task.


The only lubrication I ever use is a very light rub of candle wax on lever arms where they pass through the button bushing and occasionally a minute puff of finely powdered PTFE on slightly sticky felt bushings in the endplate, though there are probably others here who would disagree with even that level of 'lubrication'.





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Thanks for the information, Geo and Dave. I don't really know what the rubber sleeves should look like, and what constitutes worn out ones. These are pale blue, and still seem appropriately rubbery--not hard and stiff.


Any info on where one might find such rubber sleeves, if I do deem them necessary? I assume their major role in life is to keep the buttons from sliding around on the valve arm.


Thanks again,



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The pale blue sleeves indicate that the original rubber tubing has been replaced by model aircraft engine fuel tubing. Sometime back there was a Bastari on eBay that had that done to it. Was yours that one?

It looked like an OK job to me, but I could not be sure from the pictures.

Anyhow, they should last for some time.

I will look for the tubing source & part no.



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No, Geo, I didn't get that one. I bid on it a few times, following someone's recommendation on this site, but the price got too rich for my blood.


I stumbled onto another via a concertina group on yahoo, and the seller told me he'd gotten it from an accordian repair guy inthe Pittsburg PA area, who had reconditioned it. In general, it's in excellent condition, but there is that wee sticking problem which I must address until I figure out how to save enough bucks to buy a nice handmade box. I am thinking about Edgley/Morse/Tedrow/Herrington, but we'll see what the future brings. It would be nice to lay my hands on the various models to see what fits them, and how the sound compares. As I've indicated before, I do live on the moon--Moontana, that is. Concertinas are thin on the ground out here. Heck, everything is thin on the ground out here.


Thanks for your help and advice,



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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi, Jim

I too, recently acquired an aged Bastari 30-b and, not surprisingly, have an identical problem. On top of that the buttons come out of their holes out of line and often don't close up completely, allowing the reed to sound when I'd rather it shut up. Incidentally, this is true of my 20-b Stagi, also. Others have told me that it is just inherent with the instrument. That's what I get, apparently, for not saving up longer!

I have adjusted the rubber bushings just under the button itself; on mine there were grooves worn in the rubber where it met the lever itself. By rotating the rubber bushing 180 degrees, I was able to alleviate some of the problem. What remains is how to deal with the slow lever response. It seems to be located in the pivot where the lever rocks up and down. Even with a magnifying glass I can't determine whether it is compressed, thus inhibiting the action, or if it just needs a good cleaning. Action, especially on the G row is sluggish. Also, some of the other lever pivots seem to be too loose, allowing the lever to move side to side. Lifting the finger off the button lets the lever travel back into place, but out of line, sometimes overlapping another valve cover, then slopping back into place, with a loud click. NOT an artistically satisfying experience!

Looking at Don Nichols' concertina site has been vastly useful in figuring out what's what inside the box, but frankly, I'm stumped as to how to approach the problem. Any further input on this would be kindly regarded.

Maybe we need a support for Bastari/Stagi owners, you know, "I'm Rob and I own a Stagi--(Group) "HI, Rob!"

I used to live in Arlee, MT. Thin on the ground is an understatement!

So, group, any further suggestions (besides getting an upgrade)?


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I'll post an article I wrote awhile back. I think that the old, older the better, Bastaris deserve recognition.

Common Repairs

The 30 button Bastari/Stagis will eventually have a problem with the rubber bushings, or sleeves, holding the buttons to the pad levers. The rubber will eventually get hard and the pad lever will wear a groove in the rubber where it bears on the lever. Thus the buttons will cock in their movement and tend to stick in their holes of the endplate. The first thing to do is to use model airplane fuel tubing rather than surgical tubing for the replacement. I use Aerotrend “Blue Line” silicone (www.aerotrend.com). I have experimented with two sizes of tubing; 3/32” ID (part # 1003,)and 1/8” ID (part # 1005). The 3/32 has an OD of 7/32”, while the 1/8 ID’s is ¼”.

Either size will work, but I have found that the smaller seems to be best. There are some places where there can be a clearance problem with adjacent levers, so the smaller OD has an advantage.

In order to get the best performance from the buttons one must understand the mechanics of the action. When pressing the button it should travel perpendicular to the end plate. However the valve lever moves in an arc, so the attachment of the button to the pad lever must act not only as a hinge, but the attachment to the button shaft must have some flexibility to move slightly along the axis of the lever as well. Otherwise the button would also move in an arc and bind in the endplate. With this in mind the length of the sleeve should be just long enough to hold the button on the lever. Too long a length will hold the button too tightly to the lever and not allow any motion along the lever. It should not be enough to let the button slide on the lever, but shift a little using the flexibility of the tubing. Again, too long a length will compress the tubing limiting that flexibility.

While replacing the sleeves, it may be noticed that some of the lever arms have been bent sideways as a result of the cocking of the buttons. Also, the arms themselves may wobble due to the U bracket holding the axle being too wide. A good quality pair of needlenosed pliers will be necessary to effect the adjustments.


The potential dismantler must use a proper fitting screwdriver. The preferred type is what is

called “hollow ground”. A standard flat screwdriver has tapered sides, and often the end is

often not absolutely flat and square either, even when new. The optimum way to make one is

with a grinding wheel, hence the name hollow ground. However one can make one with a fine

toothed file. The trick is to draw the end of the screwdriver along and over the file (which

should be securely mounted in a vise) rather than moving the file against the screwdriver. I also

found that if I clamped the shaft of the screwdriver in visegrip pliers and moved the

screwdriver against the file by means of the visegrips hanging below and against the file I was

able to get the best results. Further, I hardened the tips, since nothing is more damaging to a

slotted screw head than a screwdriver with a soft tip. There are commercial chemicals for

hardening, but heating the tip cherry red and dousing in oil is adequate.


Bellows leaks are generally not that big an issue. By using liquid electrical tape (page 566, West Marine catalog), repairs can be readily effected, with a light coating on the inside of the bellows. If there is a large crack or tear, the trick is to lightly saturate a piece of handkerchief cloth with the liquid tape, then apply to the inside, after taping a piece of food plastic wrap to the outside in order to keep the goo on the outside. A simple jig is in order to keep the bellows extended during this operation. (see attached)



Another source of leaks is the gasket material around the bellows end where is fits to the reed and action frame. A recommended replacement for the common “string”, is self-adhesive, closed cell vinyl foam weatherstrip, 1/8” (T) x ¼” (W), available from your local hardware store.

Cleaning the reeds is best done with a strip paper drawn between the reed and the plate.

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I ran into a Stagi recently with the same problem. It was owned by don Sineti of Mystic Seaport, The Morgans, etc. I'm not a great player, but I usally produce something recognizable as music. On Don's Stagi, everything I played seemed to be accompanied by a series of random, legato notes caused by stuck keys. Attempts to use a free finger to somehow close the open key only made it worse.


The most mortifying part came when Don picked the thing up and whipped through a couple of chanties in the English style. I guess this reinforces Jim Lucas's contention that a good player can overcome almost any shortcoming of the instrument.

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"...A good player can overcome almost any shortcoming of the instrument..."

Yes, some truth to that, and also knowing ones' own instrument and its' idiosyncrasies will do a lot for the player and the box. I do notice that my humble box does improve with play. I wonder what effects temperature, humidity or other subtle things, (northern lights, astrological influences :D ) have. Buttons tend to stick less the longer I play, and the lateral clacks smooth out as I work the box more. For such a mechanical object, this strikes me as kind of odd, although we all know that all instrument have definite quirks that defy base mechanical explanation.

Anyway, any merit to the temperature or humidity theories?



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